Sunday, February 7, 2016

Friday, February 5, 2016

February Activity Calendar



Happy Women Inventors Month! Happy National Pet Dental Health Month! Happy Black History Month! Happy Library Lovers' Month! Happy, happy, happy Friday! I love celebrating book birthdays, authors, and month-long celebrations. LibrarySparks' activity calendar is a wonderful resource to help you and your students keep track of what's going on throughout February. 




Wednesday, February 3, 2016

A Guest Post by Julia Denos

Happy Wednesday! I am honored to turn over my blog for the day to the super-talented Julia Denos. Thank you, Julia, for sharing the book trailer for Swatch: The Girl Who Loved Color


Click here to read about the making of the book trailer. 

What a thrill to be here at Watch. Connect. Read. Swatch is SO excited to meet everyone, and I hope your readers have fun meeting her too! This is a book about creativity, love, and freedom, and how those things work together to make beauty in our lives. 

This is also a book honoring color, so it wouldn't be right if I didn't credit my co-author, the color Yellow. Here's how we wrote the book together:

One afternoon, a girl showed up in my imagination and told me her name was Swatch and that she was a COLORTAMER. 

"A color...what?" I asked her.

I pestered Swatch with that question for the next three years, while I worked on other books. As an artist, I lived in deep relationship with color. From my own experience, I knew that colors (and girls) were wild forces of Nature. Neither one of us were very tameable at all. This would be tricky.


Who was Swatch? What did she want to say? Why couldn't I capture her wild story? After a hundred or so drafts, the colortamer still wouldn't budge. So I put it all away: my sketches, my notebooks, my papers, and pens. And THEN! On an ordinary evening in the studio, it happened. I walked by a tiny sketch still pinned to the wall, which I'd forgotten to clear away: A little girl holding tight to a blob of Yellow crayon. 

"Hold on," said a voice I hadn't met yet, as I walked out of the studio.

It wasn't Swatch's voice. It was...Yellow's!

In all these years, I had never considered asking a color to tell me the story! So I ran right back into my studio and the entire book unraveled backward from that single line. Yellow told me the story of Swatch in its own wild way.


In my attempt to write a story about a colortamer, I had forgotten how to be a storytamer, which is about letting a story (another wild thing) be free to speak for itself. Yellow reminded both Swatch and me, that if you want to make a masterpiece, if you want to tame anything at all, you have to get out of the way and let it tame you."



Look for Swatch: The Girl Who Loved Color on March 15. 

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

The Snappsy the Alligator (Did Not Ask to Be in This Book) Trifecta

The Nerdy Book Club, Mr. Colby Sharp, and I are celebrating Snappsy the Alligator (Did Not Ask to Be in This Book). We hope you have fun jumping from blog to blog. 


When I received Julie's manuscript... Let’s just say that I had a difficult time remaining calm and believing that it was real. The tone and humor spoke straight to my soul. I couldn’t stop thinking about how fun it would be to draw. I loved all the cheeky back-and-forth banter between Snappsy and the Narrator.  I immediately felt like Julie Falatko was a kindred spirit and that I had been handed a gift.



I created the illustrations by first making a lot of drawings with brush and ink of the different parts of each composition. Next I added watercolor to these. Then, I scanned them into the computer and pieced everything together. Finally, I tweaked it digitally, punching up the colors and making all the necessary touch-ups.



Make sure you take off Snappsy the Alligator's dust jacket...What? I have no idea what you’re talking about. I don’t know anything about the top-secret case cover, although I imagine if there was 
one it would be cool.  



If you visited my studio it would look much cleaner than it does now because I would want to make a good impression on you. I work in the basement of my apartment, which feels nice and open because it gets good light and the walls and ceiling and floor are all white. For the most part it’s clean except when I’m in the thick of things. I have a drawing table as well as a table for computer stuff. I also have a couple sets of flat files where I keep my work that’s near and dear to me. Then there are shelves with my stash of art supplies and other mementos and artifacts that have special significance. It’s very much my private spiritual refuge. A place where I can surround myself with things I love and go into my own world.



Picture books are a marriage of words and pictures that offer a window of exploration and self-discovery. The words and pictures work independently, but also build upon one another to carry the reader into the realm of imagination, replete with possibility. Not a bad place to visit if you ask me.


Reading is what you do when you look at a picture. Reading is what you do when you walk down the street and encounter the world around you through your senses. Reading a book is like stepping into a picture and rolling it around in your mind. 


Mr. Schu, you should have asked me...,”So Tim, what's next for you after Snappsy?”  To which I would have answered, “My debut picture book as an author and illustrator called Moo Moo in a Tutu comes out in early 2017 from Balzer + Bray. It’s a hilarious (if I do say so myself), one-of-a-kind friendship story between an adventurous cow and very loyal duck. I also illustrated a middle-grade series written by Tom O’Donnell called Hamstersaurus Rex about a quirky class pet that undergoes a transformation and helps defend a loyal sixth-grader from a werewolf-obsessed bully. That comes out in fall 2016 from HarperCollins. Finally, I’m working on a picture book written by Mark Riddle called Margarash, which is about an unusual friendship and the different parts of ourselves that make us who we are.  Publication is scheduled for fall 2016 by Enchanted Lion.”




"Snappsy the Alligator (Did Not Ask to Be in This Book!) is about an alligator who is having an ordinary day until the narrator of the book starts making up lies. Is Snappsy really going to eat fuzzy bunnies and innocent chickadees? Nope. But the narrator decides a menacing main character would make the book more exciting." -Julie Falatko | Click here to read the full interview. 


"Is all reading important? You bet. Because you never know which words will steer your life in a new direction." -Julie Falatko | Click here to read more. 


Borrow Snappsy the Alligator (Did Not Ask to Be in This Book) from your school or public library. Whenever possible, please support independent bookshops. 

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Caldecott Honor Artist Christian Robinson

Click here to watch the ALA Youth Media Awards Webcast. 

I asked Sophie Blackall (Finding Winnie), Bryan Collier (Trombone Shorty), Kevin Henkes (Waiting), Ekua Holmes (Voice of Freedom: Fannie Lou Hamer, Spirit of the Civil Rights Movement), and Christian Robinson (Last Stop on Market Street) to answer two questions and finish one sentence starter. 


Today is Christian Robinson's turn to shine. Thank you, Christian! 



Mr. Schu: ​Congratulations, Christian! Everyone loves hearing about THE CALL. What ran through your head when the phone rang? What were you thinking about when the Caldecott committee was clapping for you?

Christian Robinson: Okay, so this is how it went down. I was asleep when the phone rang at about 3:40 am PST. I live in San Francisco. My boyfriend lying beside me quickly awoke to stop the ringing. He's a teacher and is usually up way before I am. Thinking his alarm was going off, he reached for his phone and fiddled with it for a while. At which point I recognized it was my ringtone, which is the Harry Potter theme song. As I reached for my phone, my heart was pounding, sweaty palms, million thoughts racing. It said Boston, MA on the phone so I knew that was a good thing! Everything is kinda blurry after that. I remember trying to sound like a functioning human being, but I’m pretty sure I had that groggy morning rasp to my voice and just kept repeating: "Oh, wow! Thank you! Oh, wow! Thank you."

A few minutes later I got a call from the CSK committee, and after that a call from my agent Steve informing me that Matt had won the Newbery. It was a very good morning.



Mr. Schu: What does the Caldecott mean to you?

Christian Robinson: I love donuts, glazed are my favorite. Being able to make pictures for a living is like a glazed donut. The Caldecott is like sprinkles on top of an already awesome food. This might be the best analogy ever written! What I’m trying to say is that I’m already living my dream, being able to tell stories with pictures and work with kids. The Caldecott is an encouraging stamp of approval that will hopefully allow me to continue doing what I love.

Please finish this sentence starter: 

School libraries are a playground for the mind.



Borrow Last Stop on Market Street from your school or public library. Whenever possible, please support independent boookshops. 

Friday, January 29, 2016

Caldecott Medalist Kevin Henkes

Click here to watch the ALA Youth Media Awards Webcast 
I asked Sophie Blackall (Finding Winnie)Bryan Collier (Trombone Shorty)Kevin Henkes (Waiting), Ekua Holmes (Voice of Freedom: Fannie Lou Hamer, Spirit of the Civil Rights Movement), and Christian Robinson (Last Stop on Market Street) to answer two questions and finish one sentence starter. 



Today is Kevin Henkes's time to shine. Thank you, Kevin! 




Mr. Schu: Congratulations, Kevin! Everyone loves hearing about THE CALL. What ran through your head when the phone rang? What were you thinking about when the Caldecott committee was clapping for you?

Kevin HenkesAny time the phone rings at 5:30 a. m. my first thought is that something terrible has happened. By the time the committee was clapping, my brain was catching up and was starting to realize what was actually happening. And, of course, I was thrilled.



Mr. Schu: What does the Caldecott mean to you?

It means a much longer life for my book.  And that's  a wonderful thing.



Please finish this sentence starter: 

School libraries are essential. 



Borrow Waiting from your school or public library. Whenever possible, please support independent bookshops. 

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

A Conversation Between Lisa Graff and Lauren Castillo

You are in for a BIG treat today! Lisa Graff and Lauren Castillo dropped by Watch. Connect. Read. to discuss the cover for their forthcoming picture book, It Is Not Time For Sleeping. I cannot wait to celebrate this beautiful picture book on November 1. Thank you, Lisa and Lauren! :) 


Lisa Graff: So! Lauren! Tell me about this gorgeous cover! How did it come about? Did you know right away generally how you wanted it to look? Or was it more of a process?

Lauren Castillo: Ohhh, I am so relieved to know that you are pleased with the cover! I have to say, I was pretty nervous to work on the art for our book. This is the first time that I have illustrated a picture book by an author who happens to also be a good friend. With every book I illustrate my hope is that the author will be happy with the art, of course, but I really REALLY wanted you to be happy.

So, about the cover:

I did have some specific thoughts very early on about how I wanted it to look.

A few years ago, around the same time you shared the manuscript for IT IS NOT TIME FOR SLEEPING with me, I found an old gem from my childhood collection called KINDNESS IS A LOT OF THINGS, written by Edith Eckblad and illustrated by Bonnie and Ruth Rutherford. That jacket image and design stayed with me, and I imagined a similar looking cover for our book. 

When I was close to finishing up the interior art last fall, I did some quick scribbles and sent them along to Jen (Greene) and Christine (Kettner) with a note that said something like, “ Lisas story is so classic, and I think the cover should feel like a bit of a throw back.”

They agreed — YAY.









But the road to winning over everyone at Team Clarion/HMH was just a little bit longer. . . :)

The original idea of a vignette on the cover stuck, but we probably put together a dozen+ different versions before landing on the right one.

Here is a sampling.





So, what I've been wondering is: Did you have an image in your head of what the cover of this book would/should look like? Im always curious how it is for a picture book author to hand over their story to the illustrator. I imagine it being some combination of thrilling and terrifying.


Lisa Graff: Oh, wow, I love seeing all those sketches! You know, what strikes me seeing the different versions you were working on is how perfect the one you landed on is--this fabulous balance between the defiance of the title and the fact that you want parents to know that in the end, the boy actually WILL go to sleep. :)

To answer your question, I really didn't have an image in my head of what the cover would be. To be honest I'm not a terribly visual person--I always have a sense of what I think the tone should be of a book, and maybe the color scheme, but in terms of the illustrations themselves I don't have much in my head. So it's really been a delightful surprise to see what you come up with. Every time, I've thought, "Of course! That's PRECISELY what it should look like!"

This has been a really fascinating experience for me, being the first picture book that I wrote. I worked on several picture books as an editor at FSG (some with you!), and so that gave me a taste of what it was like to start with a text and then see the art develop, but it's different when it's a book you've written. I think it really works in my favor that I'm not able to conceptualize art for the book before an artist is attached, because that way I'm able to look at the art more objectively as it fits the book, instead of comparing it to whatever idea I had in my head. One of the things that I loved so much that you did with this book was how you made the palette on each page get progressively darker and darker as the story goes on and bedtime gets closer. That probably seemed like a no-brainer move for you, an artist, but for me, I thought, "Oh, that's GENIUS!" Because it really sets the stage in a subconscious way for bedtime.



Was there anything you tried with this cover, or with the interiors, that you thought at first would work but that you had to change in the end?

Lauren Castillo: As far as interior art goes, this was one of those rare times where I could visualize just about every spread on first read of the story. Looking back at my original thumbnail sketches, they are pretty darn close to what youll see in the final art. 
I think the cover image was the trickiest piece of this picture book puzzle. I showed you a bunch of the earlier cover comps we came up with, but there were others. After my first few attempts at trying to get the vignette image right, I had abandoned the idea. Tried a couple other totally different cover options, but they werent feeling right either. I was a bit stuck, but fortunately we have a great editor and art director. Jen and Christine stepped in with some wonderful thoughts and suggestions. We revisited my initial idea, and eventually found a way to make all the pieces fit together nicely. HOORAY. Oh! And we even snuck a surprise on to the case cover. I love it when that gets to happen.

Btw, Im happy that you noticed how the palette slowly darkens with the passing of time in the story. It was something I thought of when I was playing around with color samples early on. Because the book takes place in a very limited space (basically only three rooms), the challenge was keeping that space interesting. I thought that showing the progression of time by using a darkening & increasingly limited color palette worked well both visually and conceptually.


I'm very glad to hear that your first picture book making experience has seemed to be a happy one. Does this mean you will plan to write more? Because I would LOVE to illustrate another Lisa Graff book. Just sayin'.

Lisa Graff: That awesome wallpaper makes me want to redecorate ALL my rooms! :)

I would absolutely love to do another Lauren Castillo picture book in the near future! All I need now is a good idea....



Look for It Is Not Time for Sleeping on November 1.