Artsy-Fartsy reviews

Children’s Reviews

“It was the funniest book I have ever read. The illustrations are hilarious. It is better than Diary of a Wimpy Kid.” – Tavis

“You wrote a good book. I hope you make another.” – Derek

“Our class read Artsy-Fartsy and it was funny and great. I like it a lot.” – Lexi

Artsy-Fartsy is AWESOME! You put a whole bunch of humor in it. The illustrations are funny. I will definitely put this book on my list of books to buy.” – Ben

Artsy-Fartsy is hilarious. It’s really great for a 3rd grader to read.” – Alex

“I really enjoyed the book. The illustrations are really good. I really like the ‘A’ gallery that you put in there.” – Trent

“I really liked your Artsy-Fartsy book. I would put it on my Top 10 list.” – Zach

“We loved it!” – Maya

“I love your book Artsy-Fartsy a lot. I like the part where Aldo puts the book in his pants.” – Diego

“The ‘A’ gallery was funny. All of the characters were very funny in the story.” – Destiny

“I thought Artsy-Fartsy was a great book. Every time we had to take a break reading it, I kept on thinking about what was going to happen next.” – Anna

“The book was very hilarious. It made us laugh out loud. You have the best characters ever!” – Sebastian

Artsy-Fartsy is the best book I have read. It is a very hilarious book.” – Mattias

“I love Artsy-Fartsy, it is a super fantastic book! I can’t wait for Bogus to come out so I can read that book too!” – Siana

“I like how you made the book like a real journal, and how the cover and back cover look.” – Maya

“I like your book so much and I think you should write another book. I would read it. I think you could be a worldwide author.” – Lauren

“I like your book. It is funny. My favorite part is when the girl colors on the book.” – Lexie

“My class and I loved Artsy-Fartsy. It was the best book of 3rd grade.” – Tanner

“I like Artsy-Fartsy. I like how his grandma is outgoing. I also like when they make booger potion.” – Brandy

“I really liked your book. I got it for Christmas. My favorite part was when they found the girl and her sister who took their book. The sister said his hair looked like a sea sponge. That was funny. You did good at drawing and writing. I’m giving a copy of the book to my friend.” – Joshua

Artsy Fartsy, by Karla Oceanak & Kendra Spanjer is a fun, creative, and funny comic novel. When Aldo’s artsy fartsy grandmother gives him a new journal to sketch all of his ideas over the summer, Aldo is not exactly sure whether being artsy fartsy is cool or not. His favorite activities are watching TV, playing video games, and reading comic books and none of those activities require much energy or imagination. Aldo finally decides he might have just a tiny bit of artsy fartsiness in him and agrees to give the journal a try, but then his neighbor suggests that he should try writing in his sketchbook too! When is a kid supposed to get any time for relaxation over summer break!? In this first book in the alphabetical comic series we get introduced to the characters, learn a lot of cool new “A” words, and get to solve a mystery with Aldo and his best friend Jack. This 2009 Book of the Year Award finalist and 2010 Colorado Book Award finalist is sure to appeal to graphic novel lovers and Diary of a Wimpy Kid fans. I can’t wait to read the next book…Bogus!” – Maya McQueen

“Although this book was full of amazing details and some very funny sections, there was one thing about the book that really stood out to me—the illustrations! In fact, almost half of the book was illustrations, since technically, it is a comic novel. In my opinion, the illustrations in this book told an amazing story on their own.” – Avery Katz, Boulder County Kids

“One reason I liked this book was because Aldo’s favorite things to do are read comic books, watch tv and play video games with his friend and he hates sports and I thought that was funny. I think many other kids would like this book because it is fun to read, it is interesting and because there is a small mystery to solve.” – Anonymous, B&N book review

“I learned that when you are  drawing or doing art, it’s not about being exact, it’s about expressing  and being creative about what you’re drawing personally. I learnt that when the boy is clue-less about what to draw, Goosy tells him that and all about what art really is.” – Charis, 5c class blog

Adult Reviews

“I immediately found both the story and illustrations to be a delight, regardless of age. For the kid who is just a little off-center but doesn’t care all that much, Aldo Zelnick is a soulmate with family, friends, and neighborhood who are totally believable. Retired teachers will applaud the “A” Gallery at the back of the book as an innovative way to increase vocabulary right in the book itself. Kendra Spanjer’s whimsical illustrations are an abolutely perfect fit for the narrative. Looking forward to spring and Bogus, and many more sagas of Aldo by Karla and Kendra.” – Virginia Shelton

“We got Artsy-Fartsy last week and my son (who thinks he has better things to do than read) has not put it down since. He devoured the Wimpy Kid books but said he likes Artsy-Fartsy better because it’s funnier. I like it better because it makes kids think. It’s fun to hear giggles coming from the family room and my son is NOT watching TV.” – Katie Maguire

“What a fun read about a little boy who doesn’t quite fit the ‘normal’ stereotypes. This book can be read from beginning to end, or can be picked up and just enjoyed for the humorous illustrations and captions. The Word Gallery is as entertaining as the book and your kids will never know there is a hidden vocabulary lesson.” – J. O’Hara

“I want you to know that my grandsons—especially Cole, the 8-yr-old, absolutely love Artsy Fartsy!  I’ve never seen him so engaged in a book.” – Deanna Ludwin

“I loved Aldo and his adventures in this delightful new series! I laughed out loud constantly as I read the book, both at the witty comic drawings and the characters’ comments and antics. But what I really loved was Aldo, who is completely himself, even when he doesn’t quite fit in. I was surprised how endearing the characters became—not only the kids, but the adults as well—and how eager I am to follow their lives and adventures. Run, don’t walk to get your copy of Artsy-Fartsy. It’s a winner!” – Christine Goold

“Just heard back from the third-grader to whom I gave the book.  Evidently she couldn’t put it down.  Her mother made her hand it over the first night she was reading it, and she finished it the second night. She loved it.” – Chris Goold

“The story is endearing for grown up readers. Younger readers will easily identify with Aldo. Both young and old will laugh throughout the story. Kendra Spanjer’s illustrations effectively shift between the styles of Aldo and other young artists. Artsy Fartsy is the first novel in a 26-book series. I am eagerly awaiting the second installment of Aldo Zelnick, Bogus, expected in spring 2010!” – E. Lozen

“Greg Heffley and Ellie McDoodle, move over—Aldo Zelnick is here!” – Mary Lee Hahn, teacher and A Year of Reading children’s lit blogger

“I can’t rave enough about Artsy-Fartsy. I admit that I had my doubts when I learned that the word “fartsy” was in the title. I was worried that the book might have potty humor (not that young boys wouldn’t love that), but I am thrilled to say that this book was very clean and appropriate for kids of all ages. Artsy-Fartsy has a little bit of everything…fun pictures, interesting storyline, a little mystery, and memorable characters. And it also has a something that will appeal to parents—a good message. Oh yeah, and the book is also educational in that it teaches new words and even has a glossary in the back. As a mom, I really can’t ask for much more from a middle grade novel.” – Julie Peterson, Booking Mama children’s lit blogger

Karla makes a guest appearance on Booking Mama’s Kid Konnection feature to talk about How Graphic Texts Help Kids (Boys, Especially) Become Better Readers.

Artsy-Fartsy gets an A for AWESOME from this family! Identifiable characters and page-turning shenanigans beg kids (and parents) to build a fort, grab a flashlight and keep reading long past bedtime.”-Becky Jensen, mom to twin troublemakers Jake and Dane

“The other night I caught my 8-year-old twins giggling on the living room couch as they took turns reading Artsy Fartsy aloud to each other. And one morning I found Artsy Fartsy on their nightstand with a headlamp resting on the cover from the previous night’s under-cover reading. That’s a true badge of honor in this house. We’re now reading it together before bedtime so I can get in on the fun. Dane said to me yesterday, ‘Do you know there’s another one coming out?! Can we get it?’ I think it’s important to share the specifics when someone makes an impact. You guys hit this one out of the park.” – Becky Jensen

“As soon as my son saw Artsy-Fartsy, he had to crack it open. It was completely irresistable. Luckily, I was able to pry it out of his hands (after he fell asleep) long enough to read it myself. Thanks for creating a book kids can love!” – Julie Prince, Off to Another Page children’s lit blogger

“A clean, intelligent read that will attract younger and older readers with ease. Love it and share it!” – Danielle Smith, There’s a Book children’s lit blogger

Karla and Kendra make a guest appearance for an interview/conversation on There’s a Book.

“My two girls (9 and 7) loved it, especially the parts where a girl finds the sketchbook and draws in it. As a parent, I like this book because it’s not quite as sarcastic as the Wimpy Kid series; it feels more appropriate for younger kids. Plus, it has a good message—that it’s okay to be into drawing or rocks or baking even if other people make fun of it. This is going to be a series, from A to Z, and my girls are already asking for the next book.” – Launie Parry

“I received Artsy Fartsy yesterday in the school mail. I am the media specialist at a local elementary school. This book is fabulous, and I want to read it to ALL my classes! I love the vocabulary, humor, everything! Wonderful job!” – Sandy Schierman

“The other night I caught my 8-year-old twins giggling on the living room couch as they took turns reading Artsy Fartsy aloud to each other. Then one morning I found Artsy Fartsy on their nightstand with a headlamp resting on the cover from the previous night’s under-cover reading. That’s a true badge of honor in this house. We’re now reading it together before bedtime so I can get in on the fun. You hit this one out of the park. Great job.” – Becky Jensen

“Artsy-Fartsy gets an A for AWESOME from this Dunn family! Its identifiable characters and page-turning shenanigans beg kids (and parents) to build a fort, grab a flashlight and keep reading long past bedtime.” – Becky Jensen, Dunn mom of Jake and Dane Johnson, 3rd grade

“ABSOLUTELY love the book! I haven’t read the whole thing (yet), but I have skimmed around it. It is a true gem! Both of you deserve a pat on the back, for a job well done.” – Chet Halvorson

“When the book arrived all my kids read it and couldn’t put it down! They actually liked it better than Diary of A Wimpy Kid. They are all looking forward to the next book!” – A. Tranchitella

“Oh, Aldo, where have you been all our lives? This very clever, well-designed book combines sensational art from Aldo’s own point of view with relatable kid-ventures AND manages to be educational, what with all those fancy (Aldo-defined) words. Sure to be a favorite of boys (even those who don’t like to read), but girls will enjoy it, too. Parents and teachers are encouraged to a look into the zany, sweet and sometimes gross world of Aldo (“booger potion”???). You may well find yourselves tearing through it first, before you hand it off to your kids!” – CraftWriteTrai

“I settled into a comfortable chair and started reading … and reading. What a terrific book! I loved everything about it—the handwritten text, the story, the wonderful illustrations, the appendix of difficult “A” words, and the beautiful cover.” – Martha Roden

“Thank you for the Artsy-Fartsy book. Our students will love it. Looking forward to the next ‘letter.'” – Penny Alexander

“One of our regular customers bought one for her daughter off my recommendation and then came back in and said her daughter loved it.” – Ronda Willmot, owner of BookEnd

“Thanks for Artsy-Fartsy. I thought it was a great idea  to incorporate new vocabulary into the story to make it interesting and educational. The story made me think of some of my fondest childhood memories, too. The author is really good at relating to kids. We’ll be looking forward to the next one.” – Beth

The first book in an alphabetical series, Artsy-Fartsy is a comic novel starring a 10-year-old Colorado boy who is given a sketchbook by his grandmother to record all his ‘artsy -fartsy’ ideas. What ensues is a funny, appealing cartoon story with lots of opportunities for Aldo’s artsy-fartsy journaling and doodling. Even though being artsy is uncool, Aldo fills his sketchbook with funny, flip, zingy drawings and ideas and makes some headway in figuring out just who he really is after all. The wonderful “A” Word Gallery in the back only makes its audience anticipate the next cool book in the Aldo Zelnick epic series.” – Midwest Book Review

“My students and I are really enjoying Artsy-Fartsy. I think the children can identify with Aldo. I introduced Artsy-Fartsy to the other fourth grade grammar and composition teacher and she has used the book as well. We like to use good literature in our teaching, and this year we used Artsy-Fartsy to emphasize ‘voice’ to our students. We also asked the students to identify thoughts and emotions used in the story. We are looking forward to the continuing adventures of Aldo, his friends and family”. – Carol Gorman

“I wish all publishing houses and authors were as well-prepared as the ones at Bailiwick. Karla Oceanak and Kendra Spanjer have done an incredible job with advance publicity and dipslay materials for their book and followed through with a wonderful signing event. We only wish that we had more space for all the parents and kids who attended their well-planned, entertaining signing. Our store would have them back in a heartbeat and hope to do an event for their next release.” — Jacqie Hasan, Manager, Old Firehouse Books

“I was completely charmed by this novel. The drawings and text have the quality of simultaneously being appealing to children and also amusing for adults. A big strength here is in the development of the characters. This is wonderful, since this is going to be an A to Z series and we’ll have plenty of time to get to know them better. These are individuals with staying power. With the sketchbook comes a wonderful, not-overstated message of allowing Aldo to be himself and follow his creativity. Bravo!” – Jean Hanson

“My daughter was immediately drawn to this book. It is fun, clever, entertaining, and even a bit educational. Plus it has a great message: Don’t be afraid to be yourself. We have but one question: When’s the next one coming out?” – V. Mackinnon

“Karla Oceanak delivers an entertaining story full of humor, true-to-life characters, and a bit of a mystery. Spanjer’s accompanying illustrations complement the storyline with literal characters sketches (including Goosy, Aldo’s free-spirited grandmother, and Timothy, his sport-loving older brother). I’ll admit that I was a bit concerned that there might be some bathroom humor in the book, with a title like Artsy-Fartsy.  Fear not, there’s nothing offensive!  In fact, artsy-fartsy is one of the fifty words beginning with the letter A that Aldo introduces to his readers.  They’re used naturally in the storyline, not forced to fit, and are included in a fun illustrated glossary in the back pages of the book. Three people in my family read the book—my 7-year-old daughter, 12-year-old son, and 40-something Mom; we all got something different from it:  daughter enjoyed new vocabulary and word games (goodbye in six languages, pangrams for typing practice), son enjoyed an artistic protagonist (like him), Mom enjoyed giving it her stamp of approval.  We’re all looking forward to the next book, beginning with B, it’s Bogus!” – Dawn Rennert, sheistoofondofbooks blog

“Aldo Zelnick is a newcomer to the graphic novel lineup. He’s an artist, and good in school, but not athletic like his brother and has a flamboyant artist of an grandmother who encourages his artistic side. Aldo struggles with how to deal with the negative connotations of being a male artist and also discovers that girls can be friends too in this title, the first in his new series of “sketchbooks”.  This unpretentious story speaks to kids without being gross or preachy and would make a great sell to those Wimpy Kid fans. I love how the author stealth-fully works in some great vocabulary under the guise of a retired English professor who the boys confide in.   My only worry, this title has a underlying “A” theme, does that mean she’s planning on writing 26 of these?!?!” – Melanie Nicholson, South Sound Book Review Council

“I read Artsy-Fartsy to my third-grade class. They were so engaged in the story and the illustrations. Every time I put down the book, they would groan, ‘Please! Can’t we read some more?’” – Stephanie Rittman, teacher

“It was a fun book, like getting a glimpse at a ten-year-old’s view of life.  The humor was fun, the illustrations added to the humor, and the addition of interesting a-words makes it even educational.  I think tweens and younger kids will get a kick out of this, and probably incidentally learn new words too.  Even the definitions at the end were fun to read (instead of being dry and boring).” – Melissa Baldwin, One Librarian’s Book Reviews blog

“I am so impressed with Artsy-Fartsy! It is genuinely funny, entertaining, and educational. The personalities of even the minor characters are developed well, and the plot lines all come to satisfying conclusions in an artful way.” — Leslie Patterson, author and former children’s librarian

“A perfect summer vacation book.” – Sarah W., B&N Parents and Educators blogger. Read the whole review here.

“A new classic.” Gloria Tiller, Kazoo Books, in her 5/23/2011 Top 100 Kids Books Survey

“Meet Aldo Zelnick, the main character who leads us into a new comic novel series beginning with ‘Artsy Fartsy.’ The story offers the message that it’s OK to be into things that other people may make fun of. Author Karla Oceanak and illustrator Kendra Spanjer created a character that those ages 8 to 13 years old can identify with. The book helps youths believe they are not alone if they like drawing or other activities rather than sports. ‘Artsy Fartsy’’ is really funny and even has a mystery attached to the plot. Highly recommended.” – Nancy Hansford, local book reviewer for The Coloradoan, article appeared Jan. 17, 2010.

Indiebound’s Bestsellers List gives Artsy-Fartsy an honorable mention! Download the PDF.

Artsy-Fartsy made the 2010 Otowi Station staff pick: click here to see. Staff member Ellen at the Otowi Station Bookstore calls Artsy-Fartsy “an excellent choice for reluctant middle-grade readers as well as voracious readers.” Artsy-Fartsy was one of the three children’s books picked by the staff for the best of 2010. Ellen also praises the use of the vocabulary in the books and can’t wait to get her hands on Cahoots.

“Aldo illustrates his summer vacation, wacky friends, and loving family in this charming comic novel that blends text with illustrations on every page. Engaging and entertaining, the story and drawings in this book will captivate both enthusiastic and reluctant young readers. This first installment in an A-to-Z alphabet series includes a glossary of words to help kids broaden their vocabulary.” – Tattered Cover bookstore’s Between the Covers blog

WTS Toy Review 5-star certified: “Overall our Moms and Dads, but even more importantly their kids, just loved Aldo Zelnick and Artsy-Fartsy! It’s absolutely adorable, fun to read, and super cute to look at. The story is compelling, the style is eye-popping and our review team all ended with the same question: “When is the next Aldo Zelnick book coming out!?””

Creative Child magazine gives Artsy-Fartsy Seal of Approval in holiday toy issue

The Horn Book mentions Artsy-Fartsy‘s Mountains & Plains 2010 Regional Book Award

May 2010 SCBWI’s Good News mentions Artsy-Fartsy as a finalist for the Colorado Book Award

Shelf Awareness (Sept. 14, 2010) and Bookselling This Week (Sept. 16, 2010) mention Artsy-Fartsy as Mountains & Plains regional book award winner

Moved from, originally posted June 25, 2010: “Artsy-Fartsy won the Colorado Book Award and the Mountains & Plains Booksellers Association Regional Book Award! At the Colorado Book Awards ceremony in Aspen on June 25, Artsy-Fartsy won the award for juvenile fiction. The awards “recognize outstanding contributions by Colorado authors and illustrators.” Nice plaque and shiny gold stickers! On the same day, we learned that Artsy-Fartsy had beat out 7 large press titles for the Mountains & Plains Booksellers Association Regional Book Award in the children’s chapter book category. This award honors the most outstanding book set in the 12-state region. Creative Child magazine also bestowed Artsy-Fartsy recently with its Seal of Excellence. And last month, Artsy-Fartsy took the bronze in Foreword Reviews Book of the Year Award contest in juvenile fiction. BOTYA honors the best books published by independent publishers from across the country.”

Originally posted March 16, 2010: “Artsy-Fartsy has been named a Book of the Year Award finalist by Foreword Reviews in not one but TWO categories: juvenile fiction and graphic novels. The contest honors the best books published by independent publishers from across the country.” Link to 2009 finalist categories

Originally posted Dec. 6, 2010: Artsy-Fartsy makes the IndieBound Books Winter 2011 Kids’ Next List

Artsy-Fartsy wins 2010 Colorado Book Award for juvenile literature

Colorado Country Life

Artsy-Fartsy accolades:

“Check out the map on the home page of We’re keeping track of where the first copies of Artsy-Fartsy are going, with the hope of filling in the entire map of the United States as soon as we can.” [originally posted Dec. 8, 2009. Note: map not on homepage anymore.]


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