Friday, February 23, 2024

Q&A with Jon Chad


Photo by Gina Gagliano



Jon Chad is the author and illustrator of The Solvers: The Divmulti Ray Dilemma, The Solvers: The Shrinking Setback, two new graphic novels for kids focusing on math skills. He lives in Sacramento, California.


Q: What inspired you to create The Solvers?


A: The work that I make seeks to present nonfiction concepts (history, science, and, in this case, mathematics) in a way that is imaginative and engaging. I’m really passionate in my belief that there doesn’t need to be a delineation between “learning” and “a good story.”


I use different narrative frameworks throughout the years in order to help elevate a topic and compliment it. The stories can be fun and fanciful, but they need some sort of connective tissue with the topic at hand.


For example, I made a book about the periodic table that was structured as a dungeon crawler. The reader was made to feel like they are entering and exploring the periodic table, and discovering all the mysterious elements within. The connective tissue in making a periodic table book that is framed in the story of a surfing competition might have been a harder sell.


When I started working on the Solvers, I thought about the sort of role that math plays in our world, and how I might find a narrative framework that connects to that.


Without a knowledge of math, humans could never build skyscrapers, figure out how to withstand the incredible pressure of the deep sea, chart the movement of the stars, and so much more.


The versatility and power of mathematics in itself really feels like a sort of superpower. It made sense to me to use superheroes and traditional superhero stories as the narrative device to couch mathematical instruction into.


When I was creating the Solvers’ world, I was inspired by different superhero teams like the Power Rangers, the Justice League, and the Sailor Scouts from Sailor Moon. The world of the Solvers has stakes, but is profoundly campy and silly. It’s a world where being who you are and being open to learning are the most powerful traits you can possess.


Q: Did you focus more on the text or the illustrations when you began to work on the books?


A: Overall, I spent far more time working through the story visually. I like to say that I write my outline with pictures.


I start by taking a couple large pieces of paper and drawing little 1” by .5” sketches of what each page in the book might look like. I’m not aiming for any high level of detail with these initial sketches; I’m just trying to work out how many panels a page might have, what the pacing of a certain moment might be, etc.


I’m a visual thinker and learner, and it’s easier for me to parse the whole book when I can look at groups of sketches for pages and move them around, make the sequence longer or shorter, etc.


Making sure that I work out the design of my characters was another big part of my initial work on the books. Over the course of many, many sketches the characters’ expressions, their body language, and their personalities began to emerge. That informs parts of the story, and I found myself going back to a couple scenes and tweaking things.  


Q: Who do you see as the perfect audience for this series?


A: I see my perfect reader for this series as someone who loves math, someone who struggles with math, or someone who loves stories about superheroes!


I also think that these books will connect with readers who are more visual learners. The visual language of comics is very successful at relaying information to readers, and can be used to pace out and explain ideas in a fundamentally different way than prose resources, or spoken instruction.


Q: What do you hope kids take away from your books?


A: There’s three things I hope kids get out of these books. First, I want readers to have a better understanding of the why (is it useful), the when (do we use it), and the how (do we do it) of the mathematical concepts that I cover in the books. I want them to be able to see the value in these concepts and how math will intersect with their everyday life.


Secondly, I hope that these books will give readers confidence wherever they are in their math-learning-journey. I purposely made my characters imperfect when it comes to their knowledge of math.


Sometimes the Solvers fail to see the value of the concepts, or don’t slow down and take their time when solving equations. They get the answers wrong sometimes, but are always eager to learn from their mistakes.


I really wanted to make sure that the books are crystal clear that you can be a part of the Solvers adventures even if you are still struggling with the concepts, since the Solvers struggle with them too, sometimes!


Lastly, I want them to have a fun time with the story. I know I’m not pulling the wool over the eyes of the readers. They aren’t going to read the book and think, “hold on a second…I just learned something!?”


The learning is front and center. Part of the unspoken agreement I feel like I have with the readers of my books. I won’t try to fool them, and in return for them trusting me and coming along for the ride, I’ll deliver an interesting story.


Q: What are you working on now? Will there be more books in the series?

A: I became a stay-at-home dad a little more than a year ago now, so the time that I have to work on writing and comics is much different than it was when I started on these books.


With the time I have I’ve been in ideation mode, and am working on some more nonfiction stories as well as something about my experience growing up very hairy and the ensuing conversation with masculinity that it created with myself.


I would love to make more Solvers books, and have a lot of fun ideas of how I can relay the math in interesting, visual ways! There’s also a lot of lore about the world of the Solvers that I would love to get into; parallel to all the cool math topics there are out there.


Q: Anything else we should know?


A: Thank you so much for your wonderful questions! Readers can stay up to date with what I’m up to by following me at Instagram @jonchlaunch, or check out my website at


--Interview with Deborah Kalb

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