Posted by: Kathy Temean | September 26, 2019

Book Giveaway: EXPERIMENT #256 by Marty Kelley

Marty Kelley has written and Illustrated a new picture book titled, EXPERIMENT #256, published by Sleeping Bear Press. If you missed last Saturday’s Illustrator Saturday, Marty was featured, here is the link.

Sleeping Bear Press has agreed to share a copy with one lucky winner. All you have to do to get in the running is to leave a comment. Reblog, tweet, or talk about it on Facebook with a link and you will get additional chances to win. Just let me know the other things you do to share the good news, so I can put in the right amount of tickets in my basket for you.

Sharing on Facebook, Twitter, reblogging really helps spread the word for a new book. Thanks for helping Marty!

If you have signed up to follow my blog and it is delivered to you everyday, please let me know when you leave a comment and I will give you an extra ticket. Thanks!


Ian is wild about science experiments and for his latest (number 256) he’s building a jet pack for his dog, Wilbur–the leftover parts shouldn’t be anything to worry about, right? When Wilbur dons his new pack and blasts off, he leave a swath of chaos in his wake and nobody is happy, Wilbur least of all. What’s a budding inventor to do?



Experiment #256 started out as a couple I jotted down in my sketchbook.

I built a jet-pack for my dog,

From parts found in a catalog.

I honestly have no idea where it came from, but I have learned not to question these delightful little thoughts that dance through my brain so often.

I began working on an idea for a rhyming picture book about a young inventor who builds a jet pack for his dog. Like every book, it had its starts and stops and when I finally finished it, it was pretty rough, but I liked the concept.

I created a roughly illustrated dummy of the book, making pencil sketches for each page and assembling it into a book-ish form.

I shared it with my agent who got back to me quickly to report that she didn’t like it at all. She thought the rhymes seemed forced, the couplet format I had chosen seemed better suited to a book for much younger readers, and the story seemed too long and labored.

Naturally, I took the news well and was delighted to start all over again.

I reworked the story, tightening, cutting, and revising. I did keep the couplet format, which I thought moved the story quickly.

And then I sent it back to her.

And she still hated it for many of the same reasons.

Naturally, I took that news well also and was, once again, delighted to do the entire thing over. Again.

I cut, polished, reworked, and revised, all the while muttering about how my agent just didn’t understand my obvious genius.

I brought the new, amazing, brilliant, tight manuscript with my rough illustrations to a meeting with an author friend. We had coffee and looked over each other’s work.

When she finished reading my new, rhyming masterpiece, she turned to me and asked, “So, is this supposed to rhyme or something?”

I was crushed.

Of course it was supposed to rhyme!

But that was the final nail in the coffin of the rhyming version of this book.

Her innocent question changed the entire direction of the text. It obviously wasn’t working. My agent understood perfectly. I had just been too stubborn to listen to what she was saying.

I went back to my studio and pulled all the text out of the book. I pored over the pages of illustrations and was struck by the fact that the story was very, very visual. It really didn’t need words. It was a simple story and the illustrations carried the reader through the pages, explaining what was happening.

I was giving a talk to a group of school librarians and they very kindly indulged me by looking at my pictures without text. I asked them to narrate the story as I shared images only.

They got it.

It was working!

I did want to add some words, so, after many trials and errors, I decided on a format that I really enjoyed. Each page was written by the main character in the form of notes in his science journal. The notes added some humor to the illustrations, which still carried the bulk of the narrative.

I shared the completely new version of the story with my agent and she loved it.

She sent it out to several publishers. One made on offer on the book, but required that the ending get changed. They found the original ending “too mean-spirited”.

It was, essentially, the punch-line of the entire book and I was very reluctant to change it. We worked together to come up with an alternate ending that we both could live with, but I didn’t love it.

Negotiations sort of fell apart and my agent and I decided to find another publisher for the book. When we sent it out, we sent it with the new ending and the new publisher loved the book. After they made an offer on it, I approached the editor with the original ending that I still liked better. She thought it was hilarious and offered the brilliant suggestion to use both endings.

It worked perfectly and everyone was happy.

I started work on the book in 2015 and it finally hit bookstores in 2019. It was a long journey, but I’m glad I took it.


Marty Kelley has been a second grade teacher, a baker, a cartoonist, an animator, and a drummer in a heavy metal band, but by far his favorite job has been writing and illustrating seven children’s books. His picture book, Twelve Terrible Things, received a star in School Library Journal and a glowing review in The New York Times by none other than Lemony Snickett. Author Christopher Moore (Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff) called it, “An inspired work of dark humor.” Visit

Marty, I love this book. It is so much fun and the illustrations are gorgeous. It is so clever, parents will never get tired of reading this book to their kids. Thank you for sharing your book’s journey with us. I’m so happy to have it in my collection of books. Good luck!

Talk tomorrow,



  1. I loved reading how this story became a book. What a fascinating peek behind the creative curtains! Good luck, Marty!


  2. This book sounds perfect for my oldest.


  3. Oh, what a book journey! Thanks for sharing the highs and lows. And you got to keep the ending you liked (well, adjusted). Congratulations! Sounds fun and funny. I follow this blog by email. 🙂


  4. I love hearing the stories of how books came to be. Thanks for sharing. This book sounds incredible. I can’t wait to read it.


  5. I loved reading about Marty’s work as an illustrator, and this book looks like one that kids will love!


  6. What an interesting journey for a very fun book. Congratulations, Marty!


  7. This book looks like so much fun and I think kids will love it. Thanks for sharing your interesting book journey too. Congrats! 🙂


  8. Love this art and story!


  9. I love Ian’s persistence, and yours! Congratulations on pivoting and publishing your latest picture book.


  10. I love this book and received a copy from the publisher. Great to hear the backstory…so glad you persevered, Ian! The “notes” on each page are brilliant. Worth all the rewriting!!


  11. No need to enter my name.


  12. What a fun book! I have a family of “scientists” and can’t wait to add this to our book collection, although I’m not sure if our dog will appreciate it… Thanks for sharing your journey, Marty. I follow your blog every day, Kathy 🙂


  13. This is such a fun book. I loved it. No need to enter me in the giveaway. I have already read it. Thanks for an interesting post.


  14. This sounds hilarious! I’m looking forward to sharing it with my grandchildren. I love the backstory of the making of the book. It reminds me that persistence is the key to writing. Thanks for sharing it Marty. Kathy, I follow your blog every day!


  15. How fun is this book? I love the inventiveness, and the illustrations are incredible. I love the STEM “do it yourself” theme too


  16. This looks so adorable! Can’t wait to read it! Posting on twitter too 🙂


  17. So fun, Marty and LOVE the art. Thanks for sharing!


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