Friday, April 24, 2015

Author Beth Ferry

Happy Friday! I'm driving to New Richmond, Wisconsin, today after school in order to attend the St. Croix Valley Reading Council meeting tomorrow morning. If you looked inside my car right now, you would see three audio books (Pluto, Strider, and Ralph S. Mouse), an elephant, a bear, a turtle, a whale, and three tote bags filled with books. A copy of Beth Ferry's Stick and Stone is inside the Little Elliot, Big City bag. 

It just so happens that Beth Ferry is today's special guest. She dropped by to chat with me about Tom Lichtenheld, her forthcoming picture books, reading, school libraries, and her favorite word. I wrote the words in orange, and she wrote the words in black. Thank you, Beth! 

Stick and Stone tells the story of the power of friendship. It’s a fun twist on the childhood rhyme and shows how one word or one act of kindness can not only make a difference, but can even make a lifelong friend.

Illustration Credit: Tom Lichtenheld
I think Tom Lichtenheld’s illustrations are Terrific, Outstanding, Magnificent! His creativity might very well be unsurpassed. I love his energy, his use of color and his entire style. He came up with many different possibilities for the story and each one was better than the last. He brought Stick and Stone to life in a way an author can only dream of.

Land Shark, Pirate’s Perfect Pet, and Swashby and the Sea are my upcoming titles, releasing in July 2015, Fall 2016 and 2017 respectively.

Land Shark (Chronicle Books) is illustrated by Ben Mantle and tells the tale of a shark-loving boy who cannot be converted to a dog-loving boy no matter how much his dog acts like a shark. Or can he?

Pirate’s Perfect Pet (Candlewick), illustrated by Matt Myers, follows a pirate’s journey as he searches for the perfect pet.

And Swashby and the Sea (HMH) is the story of an unlikely friendship between a retired pirate and his new neighbors.

As you probably noticed, I have an affinity for pirates, pets and alliteration.

Elena Giovinazzo and I are great friends! She is smart, enthusiastic, dedicated and an absolutely brilliant agent. She challenges me to write the best stories I can and works tirelessly to find them the right home.

Click here for more behind-the-scenes information. 
School libraries are playgrounds for the mind, where the cold never bites and the wind never blows and it never, ever snows except in your imagination.

Download the Stick and Stone activity kit. 
Reading is Essential with a capital E, which also stands for Excellent, Empowering, Entertaining, Educational, Exciting and Enjoyable.
Mr. Schu, you should have asked me what my favorite word is. It’s, wait for it, - Anticipation. It’s wonderful to have good things to look forward to – especially new books!

Borrow Stick and Stone from your school or public library. Whenever possible, please support independent bookshops. 

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

The Case of the Missing Carrot Cake by Robin Newman and Deborah Zemke

I am always on the lookout for great early readers. When I find one, I want everyone to know about it. Robin Newman's The Case of the Missing Carrot Cake is one of the best early readers I've read this year. It is hilarious and has a fun twist at the end. 

Robin dropped by to chat with me about Wilcox, Griswold, dogs, school libraries, and reading. I wrote
the words in orange, and Robin wrote the words in black. Thank you, Robin! 

The book trailer for The Case of the Missing Carrot Cake is DY-NO-MITE! Cynthia Nugent at Rascal Media did an amazing job on the trailer. For more info about her work, please go to

Detectives Wilcox and Griswold are two hardboiled mouse detectives, working their beat from a shoebox at the back of Farmer Ed’s barn. They are MFIs, Missing Food Investigators, and on their seminal case, they’re on the hunt for Miss Rabbit’s missing carrot cake. (Note: The names of the animals have been changed to protect the good guys.)

Illustration Credit: Deborah Zemke 
Deborah Zemke’s illustrations are AWESOME!!! Never in my wildest dreams did I ever imagine that my characters could be so irresistibly adorable. Her illustrations blow me away!
Download a reading guide
My English Cocker Spaniel, Madeleine, is ever-hungry, ill-mannered, spoiled rotten, and the most-beloved member of my family. She is a hoarder of tennis balls and rubber ducks. A world-renowned food vacuum, she can often be spotted scouring the streets of New York. Madeleine also loves to swim, but her favorite activity in the whole world is picking up her boy from school. (Ironically, this English Cocker Spaniel was born on the Fourth of July.)

Madeleine is named in honor of our late Cocker Spaniel, Cookie, and in tribute she’s named after madeleine cookies and the character of Madeline.

Explore Robin's website. 
Reading is like having your own special magic wand. It can transport you to places near and far; introduce you to characters that are dear to your heart; and make you laugh when you’re having an incredibly bad, horrible, no good, very bad day.

Did you know writing for kids is the best job in the world?

School libraries are extremely under-appreciated. They should be treated like the Holy Grail and funded accordingly. I still remember my grade school library. It was located in the basement in a windowless room next to the cafeteria. And I also remember the librarian. She had these amazing super powers. She always knew exactly which books you would like and she would have them waiting for you when you walked in the room.
Take a look inside Creston's Spring 2015 catalog. 
Mr. Schu, you should have asked me about my next Wilcox & mystery. It is The Case of the Poached Egg, illustrated by Deborah Zemke (Creston Books, Fall 2016). Penny, the egg, has been poached! Not poached as in boiled, but poached as in egg-napped. Was foul or fowl play involved? Detective Wilcox and Captain Griswold are scrambling to crack this case before they have an omelet on their hands.



   Image Source: Wikipedia




Proceed with caution. Suspects considered dangerous.

I am giving away a copy of The Case of the Missing Carrot Cake

Rules for the Giveaway 

1. It will run from 4/22 to 11:59 PM on 4/23. 

2. You must be at least 13. 

3. If you win, please pay it forward. 

Borrow The Case of the Missing Carrot Cake from your school or public library. Whenever possible, please support independent bookshops. 

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

The Water and the Wild Blog Tour | Five Super Secret Behind-the-Scenes Tidbits

I am turning over my blog for the day to K.E. Ormsbee! It is all yours, K.E.! 

I was nineteen when I first outlined what would become The Water and the Wild. It was the summer after my freshman year of college, and I was working full-time at an ice cream shop. When I wasn’t whipping up frozen treats for swim teams, I was daydreaming about a fantasy world called Albion Isle and scribbling down my ideas on napkins. That was Summer 2008. 

A bunch of writing and rewriting went into that story in the seven years that followed. And you don’t spend seven years working on a book without developing some interesting factoids along the way. Now, for the first time ever, before a live studio audience (okay, no, but I’ve always wanted to say that), I’m thrilled to share those SUPER SECRET BEHIND-THE-SCENES TIDBITS with you, the marvelous folks of Watch. Connect. Read.

Tidbit One

Lottie Fiske, the heroine of the story, lives in a boardinghouse on Kemble Isle, a fictional island off the coast of New England. However, in my first drafts of The Water and the Wild, Lottie lived in York, England, a city I visited and fell in love with during my time studying abroad. Before visiting the city, I had Google Map stalked it and determined that Lottie lived on a real street, St. Paul’s Square. When I visited the square with my long-suffering friends, we discovered this sign in the neighborhood commons:

My friends and I had a good laugh about what very stuffy individuals must have petitioned to place the sign there. I knew precisely who would do such a thing in my fictional world: Lottie’s unsympathetic guardian, Mrs. Yates. Eventually, I would move Lottie westward across the Atlantic, and St. Paul’s Square would become Thirsby Square, but the sign itself remains part of the book. 

Tidbit Two

Fife Dulcet is one of several characters Lottie meets and befriends on her journey. He’s one of my very favorite characters to write and holds a special place in my heart because I first created him when I was twelve years old. The project I was working on at that time sputtered and died out, but Fife lived on in my imagination and over time developed many more definitive characteristics. When I first wrote Fife into The Water and the Wild, I reconsidered his name, wondering if it sounded just a little too odd. Around that time, I became obsessed with the band Guillemots and discovered the lead singer’s name was Fyfe Dangerfield. (Can we pause for a moment and just appreciate how epic a name that is?) I took this to be a sign, and the name Fife stuck. 

Tidbit Three

Three very important characters in The Water and the Wild all belong to the same family. Their surname, Wilfer, is a tribute to my favorite Charles Dickens novel, Our Mutual Friend.

Tidbit Four

The Wilfers live in a grand estate called Iris Gate, which is home to—you guessed it!—a bunch of iris gardens. I chose irises because they were and remain my favorite flower.

Tidbit Five

Yet another name tribute in The Water and the Wild is the character Dorian, who plays only a small part in book one but is my homage to one of my all-time fave writers, Oscar Wilde. Fortunately, Dorian is significantly less unpleasant than his namesake, Dorian Gray. 

So, there you have it! Five now-less-than-secret tidbits about The Water and the Wild. Hope you’ve enjoyed and that, should you join Lottie Fiske on her journey, these little facts make the read extra fun! 

I was born and raised in the Bluegrass State. Then I went off and lived in places across the pond, like England and Spain, where I pretended I was a French ingénue. Just kidding! That only happened once. I also lived in some hotter nooks of the USA, like Birmingham, AL and Austin, TX. Now I'm back in Lexington, KY, where there is a Proper Autumn.

In my wild, early years, I taught English as a Foreign Language, interned with a film society, and did a lot of irresponsible road tripping. My crowning achievement is that the back of my head was in an iPhone commercial, and people actually paid me money for it.

Nowadays, I teach piano lessons, play in a band you've never heard of, and run races that I never win. I likes clothes from the 60s, music from the 70s, and movies from the 80s. I still satiate my bone-deep wanderlust whenever I can.

I am giving away a signed copy of The Water and the Wild

Rules for the Giveaway 

1. It will run from 4/21 to 11:59 PM on 4/22. 

2. You must be at least 13. 

3. If you win, please pay it forward. 

Borrow The Water and the Wild from your school or public library. Whenever possible, please support independent bookshops. 

Monday, April 20, 2015

Video of the Week: Becky Anderson Sits Down with Katherine Applegate

The one and only Becky Anderson interviewed the one and only Katherine Applegate about The One and Only Ivan and Ivan: The Remarkable True Story of the Shopping Mall Gorilla. I may have blushed when Katherine mentioned me at 14:06. Thank you, Katherine and Becky! You both mean the world to me. 

Do you live in the Chicagoland area? You don't want to miss Lifeline Theatre's production of The One and Only Ivan. 

Borrow Katherine's books from your school or public library. Whenever possible, please support independent bookshops. 

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Last Week Told Through Vines


The Lou Grant Show!  


Beverly Cleary celebrated her 99th birthday on Sunday, April 12! 


Jarrett J. Krosoczka and an enthusiastic fan played a drawing game at Anderson's Bookshop. 

Jarrett drew characters from Platypus Police Squad


May is Deborah Freedman's month! 


What did third graders check out? 


I found a copy of Instructor Magazine in my mailbox. Yay!

Steve Urkel and Ed Grimley posed with Trapped! A Whale's Rescue. 


Kohl's Cares about kids!

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Happy Saturday, Mr. Sharp! | Kohl's Cares Edition

Dear Mr. Sharp,

Happy Saturday! The sun is shining here in Naperville! It finally feels like spring. I hope you have a great day taking advantage of today's marvelous weather. 

Your friend,


Click here to watch Mr. Sharp's video. 

A Sick Day for Amos McGee by Philip C. Stead; illustrated by Erin E. Stead

And Then It's Spring by Julie Fogliano; illustrated by Erin E. Stead

Bear Has a Story to Tell by Philip C. Stead; illustrated by Erin E. Stead

If You Want to See a Whale by Julie Fogliano; illustrated by Erin E. Stead 

I am giving away a copy of If You Want to See a Whale and a Kohl's Cares whale plush. 

Rules for the Giveaway 

1. It will run from 4/18 to 11:59 PM on 4/19. 

2. You must be at least 13. 

3. If you win, please pay it forward. 

Friday, April 17, 2015

Author-illustrator Maya Christina Gonzalez

I am excited to share with you my interview with award-winning author-illustrator Maya Christina Gonzalez. Her passion for children's books practically jumps off the page. 

I wrote the words in orange, and she wrote the words in black. Thank you, Maya! 

I wrote Call Me Tree/Llámame Árbol because when I lived in the deep woods, trees were my friends until I too considered myself a tree! Trees aren’t just my friends, they’re also great teachers. They teach me how to grow in the deep dark, how to dream big and become tall as the sky! They also teach me that everyone belongs and everyone is different and that’s an awesome thing! Trees pretty much rock!

Click here to download the activity guide. 
The illustrations for Call Me Tree/Llámame Árbol were yet another chance to do something I totally didn’t know how to do! Often when I make art for a book I want to do something I barely know how to do, like take a thousand photographs of stuff in my room and collage them into my paintings like in Nana’s Big Surprise by Amada Irma Perez or do charcoal and ink drawings while keeping the rest of the paper pure white! Like in I Know The River Loves Me by ME! Or how to draw and paint a jaguar or a toad or a kingfisher like in Poems of the Iguazu by Francisco Alarcon. I love doing things I don’t know how to do. In Call Me Tree I combined watercolor, ink and color pencil. I painted the entire book at one time instead of doing it spread by spread. I had no idea if it would all work out and it totally did! yay!

My Colors, My World, Laughing Tomatoes, and From the Bellybutton of the Moon are just a few titles of the over 20 some books that I’ve created. Some I’ve written like My Colors, My World and some have been written by authors from my community, like Laughing Tomatoes and From the Bellybutton of the Moon by Francisco Alarcon. I’ve done 5 books with Francisco. I love his poems!

We need diverse books but even more than that we need diverse authors and artists who can tell us stories about their lives and experiences from their perspectives. Everyone has a story to tell and all stories are important because all stories are connected. I want to hear more stories from the folks we don’t get a chance to hear from as much! 

I think San Francisco is one of the best places in the world to live. I live between the Castro and the Mission Districts. The Castro is a historically gay community and the Mission is historically Latino. There is so much history all around me! For example in the Castro there are large brass plagues embedded in the sidewalk that tell the history of LGBT folks throughout time! Writers, artists, dancers, philosophers, politicians, activists and more! There are also plagues that tell the history of the original people, the Native Americans who lived on this land, the Ohlone/Costanoans before it was taken over by the Spanish and ultimately the whole city of San Francisco. Just two blocks from my apartment is the Mission Dolores Church that is the oldest original intact Mission in California and the oldest building in San Francisco. History, stories, the past mixes with the present and everything in between all around me! and then of course there is the ocean just over the hill! I love it all!

Picture books are one of the coolest ways to tell a story! I think that pretty much sums up my feelings there! Terribly convenient for someone like me who both tells stories and makes art!!! and for kids!!! the coolest people on earth!

Reading is one of the trippiest things on Earth! It still slightly blows my mind that I can put squiggly lines on paper and someone else can know what I’m thinking, even what I’m feeling just by looking at them and figuring out what they mean. And they pretty much mean the same thing every time someone looks at them. Excuse me, is that magic or what?!

Mr. Schu, you should have asked me about the book  I KNOW THE RIVER LOVES ME! I always hide secrets in the art of my books! In Iguanas in the Snow there is an iguana on every single page! In Laughing Tomatoes I hid my very first secret. I’ll give you a clue, someone unexpected is winking at you from me, like a private joke between us! The cool secret in I KNOW THE RIVER LOVES ME is that the river told me the story! Yes, you read the squiggly lines right! The river told me the story! I was visiting one of my dear friends the river and while I was sitting there I heard a story. At first I thought it was my imagination, but it didn’t completely sound like my imagination and then I realized it was my dear friend the river telling me a story inside my head. I wrote it down, but I wasn’t planning on creating a children’s book anytime soon so I thought it must be a grownup book of some kind. But when I got back to San Francisco my editor called me in a pickle. She desperately needed someone who had a story to fill an empty spot in her publishing roster and lo and behold, the river had just told me one! So that’s one of my ‘secrets’ in that book. There are more, but that one is my favies!

I am giving away one copy of Call Me Tree/Llámame Árbol

Rules for the Giveaway 

1. It will run from April 17 to 11:59 PM on April 18. 

2. You must be at least 13. 

3. If you win, please pay it forward. 

Borrow Maya's books from your school or public library. Whenever possible, please support independent bookshops.