We are
Matthew Swanson
and Robbi Behr. 

We’re looking for an agent partner to help shepherd and shape the next stage of our careers as children’s creators, literacy advocates, and unlockers of human potential. 

Let’s start with
the books

So far, we’ve published two middle grade series and three picture books with Knopf and MacKids—and two earlier books with Little Brown and Chronicle. We have a standalone illustrated novel under contract with Knopf.

Our primary love is hybrid middle grade, and our sweet spot is character-driven, high-concept stories that lead with humor and land with big ideas and heart. So far, we’ve told realistic tales of imaginative kids, but our future projects lean toward the epic and fantastical.

We have a new illustrated middle grade series ready to pitch—in which a boy named Jack is not allowed to go home until he earns an unspecified number of badges from an infinite number of oddly themed summer camps (think Wayside School meets The Good Place)—and we’re working on a picture book that directly quotes the ideas and dreams (hilarious, wrenching, and weird) of kids we interviewed in all fifty states.

Plus two other middle grade series and a nonfiction memoir in development.

from Infinity Lake

Our books have been honored by the ALA, recognized by Bank Street and the CCBC, and selected by Amazon editors. They’ve received six starred reviews, have been included on seventeen state book award lists, and all but one was named a JLG “Gold Star” selection.

Our books and literacy projects have been featured on/in The Drew Barrymore Show, The Washington Post, Forbes, People magazine, LinkedIn’s Hello Monday podcast, Publisher’s Weekly, and a New York Times blog, among many other national media outlets.

BOOKS CAN BE LADDERS AND LIFELINES

As much as we love making books, our even greater joy is using them to connect with others, and especially to help kids unlock their own creative agency.

To that end, we spent the 2022-2023 school year on the Busload of Books Tour, traveling 34,000 miles in a colorful, tiny home school bus with our four kids, two dogs (and no bathroom), visiting Title I (under-served) elementary schools in all 50 states, giving free assemblies and donating hardcover books to 25,000 students and teachers. It was the best year of our lives.

In partnership with Washington College, we used the Tour to gather data for the first-ever, large-scale research study of how author/illustrator visits impact elementary student attitudes about reading, writing, and drawing. (The results are thrilling and await publication, pending peer review.)

We’re planning to do another fifty-state tour in a few years, and for now are continuing our Busload of Books work by serving twelve Title I schools each year (in partnership with First Book and Build-A-Bear Foundation). 

POTENTIALLY INSTRUCTIVE EPHEMERA

  • We self-published 68 books over ten years before selling our first trade project.
  • Matthew applied to six MFA programs and received seven letters of rejection.
  • We spend five weeks each summer smelling very bad while running a small, off-grid commercial fishing operation on the Alaskan tundra (catching 75K-100Klbs each year).
  • We’ve recorded and posted a one-minute-video every day for the past eight years. Many people say it brings them joy.
  • Our son Jasper might be the first and only child to attend kindergarten in all 50 states.
  • We’ve given hundreds of presentations, including main stage talks at ICON7, Mom 2.0, RISD’s Entrepreneur Mindshare, and UCONN’s art school convocation.
  • We’ll be speaking at Masters of Scale in October (last year’s lineup included Bill Gates and Tyra Banks).
  • Last week we gave a free, virtual assembly to 16,000 Title I students and teachers. We were once flown to Houston for a bookstore event no one attended.
  • Matthew once appeared in an NBC miniseries with Martin Sheen and Patty Duke. He played a character named “Matthew” who almost gets punched in the opening credits. 
  • Our past jobs include: t-shirt designer, college admission officer, focus group moderator, data entry “specialist,” live-in caregiver, marketing copywriter, potato salad scooper, communications consultant, door-to-door children’s photographer, and chief of staff to the president of an art school.
  • Robbi is half-Japanese (and half raccoon).
  • Matthew can blow bubbles through the hole in his right eardrum.

In stirring conclusion

We’re not yet as famous as we plan to be eventually. Long-term dreams involve selling preposterous quantities of books, advancing research and programs that transform literacy access, and founding a free Montessori preschool for our community’s most underserved kids.

 

Here’s what we can offer right now: a consistent stream of strong and respected work, a growing following of enthusiastic readers and educators across the country, visibility and momentum from our literacy project, relentless attention to quality and detail, a unique (and marketable) creative dynamic, a joyful and collaborative approach to work and life, and upcoming opportunities to amplify awareness of our books and message.

We know our best work and greatest impact lie ahead. We’ll need an excellent partner to help us thread needles and make the most of opportunities. We’re looking for someone we can trust, truly enjoy working with, and march with for the long haul.

From all we’ve read online and heard from our friends, we think it could be you.

If you’ve made it this far and are interested in setting up a call to find out, so are we.

All best,

Matthew and Robbi