Prosperoby H.G. | SEATTLE CHARLES JOHNSON retired five years ago after more than three decades in academia. His most recent posting was as a teacher of English literature and creative writing at the University of Washington. But it is his prowess as an author, rather than his lengthy academic career, that has brought him into the public eye.

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Virtuoso: Charles Johnson Pens Collaborative Children’s Book“I’ve never believed in boxing people or things into little, convenient cubicles,” says Charles Johnson, 65. A recently retired University of Washington English professor, he’s the illustrator and co-author, with his daughter Elisheba Johnson, of the new children’s book The Adventures of Emery Jones, Boy Science Wonder: Bending Time.

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Where Are the People of Color in Children’s Books?Of 3,200 children’s books published in 2013, just 93 were about black people, according to a study by the Cooperative Children’s Book Center at the University of Wisconsin. Reading came early to me, but I didn’t think of the words as anything special.

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‘Emery Jones’: the adventures of a scientific whiz kidOriginally published Monday, February 24, 2014 at 3:03 AM Greg Gilbert / The Seattle Times There’s a new kid in town and he’s a boy science wonder. He can outfit his house with enough gadgets to be the envy of Bill Gates and travel through time, build a multilingual robot and deck the house out with solar panels.

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Emery Jones Gets Great Reviews

In the News

seattlechannel2Art Zone (click for video) “It’s about bullying, it’s about friendship, it’s about time travel.”

Crosscut with Robin Lindley (click to read) “A new hero for our time.”

International Review of African American Art (click to read) “Street cred for science geeks of a darker hue.”  —Toni Winn

Mark Steiner Show (click for audio) Charles Johnson interviewed on The Mark Steiner Show (audio)

Parent Praise

bigstock-Happy-Man-And-Child-Isolated-O-7381291“My son told me how much he likes the book. He said, ‘It’s really well written. I like the characters.’ A literary critic at 8 years old.” —A father

“He went to bed still reading the book and was sleeping with it in his hands.” —A parent

“Many thanks for the joy you’ve helped add to my son’s learning.” —A father

Blogger Reviews

bigstock-Woman-At-Work-31259372“Emery Jones and other superheros, who happen to be black, can help bridge the diversity gap in children’s publishing.” —

“Diversity is not promoted as an issue but is presented indirectly through
well-rounded and quirky characters.” —Allison’s Book Blog 

Author Reviews

bigstock-Close-up-of-African-man-typing-31171979“A rollicking good read” —David Guterson, author of Snow Falling On Cedars

“You have a hit!” —Angel Harper

“A riveting, exhilarating, and enriching read!”—Tonya Bolden

“A fast-paced story with real family relationships, science, history and positive characters.” —Sharyn Skeeter

“My prediction is that in twenty years  it will not be uncommon to hear a scientist say as a kid, s/he was a fan of Emery Jones.”  —Brian McDonald

“A great adventure tale, complete with monsters, journeys, and narrow escapes; it’s a story of a heroic boy who is gifted at science; and, like all great children’s writing, it is a tale of wonder.” —Marc Conner

“A time-traveling lark written with energy and illustrated with terrific, deceptive simplicity, this hysterically funny story of young genius has serious things to say about friendship,  bullying, identity and the power of imagination.” —Steve Barnes


Emery's AdventuresMy name is Gwen, but everybody calls me Gabby, because that’s what I’m not. I don’t talk much unless I’ve got something really important to say. And what I want to say right now isn’t about me at all. Well, not exactly. It’s more about what happened to us—and you— this school year because of some bullies.

But I’ll get to that in a minute.

The important thing you need to know is that it wasn’t easy being Emery Jones. People told him he had too much imagination. Can you believe that? Everyone from his parents to people at school said he ought to be medicated. What if they’d done that to Beethoven or Isaac Newton? The Lunch Lady said imagining things and being nosey would get him in trouble. I guess she was right. After Principal Jackson confronted her about bad food on the school’s menu, she barred Emery from the cafeteria for the rest of the year.

If that wasn’t bad enough, the other kids thought he was a little weird. He was always reading and got as bony as a starved cat because he’d forget to eat when his head was buried in The Journal of Mathematical Physics. I enjoyed the fact that he was forever tinkering with things; taking them apart to see how they worked, and putting them back together again differently, like the time he remade my plastic hearing-aid so that it was so strong I could pick up on what people were saying way across a room. (Of course, I don’t turn it up that high most of the time because I don’t like listening in on folks without their permission.) Without it, I can’t hear anything. It’s like my ears feel stuffed with cotton. My parents made me learn sign language. Emery learned it, too, so he could talk to me.

The problem was that he never seemed able to leave well enough alone. Being his good friend, I let him know whenever I thought he was getting too far out there, or showing off by telling you the day of the week going back to 2001 if you give him a date. I told him when he needed a reality check.

Isn’t that what friends are for?

Maybe that’s what I should have done a couple of months ago when Mr. Tiplightly, our science teacher, asked the question that got us into so much trouble and turned our world upside-down.

When ten-year-old genius Emery Jones accidentally sends Chippy 190 million years back in time, he’s not sure he can reverse the process—or if he even wants to. Chippy, his crew of bullies, their teacher, and even Emery's dad don't seem to understand Emery's genius. Will Emery Jones risk traveling to the Triassic Period to rescue a bully like Chippy? You never know what can happen when you have the brains and the technology for bending time…