Thursday, March 15, 2018

Caldecott Honor Artist Thi Bui

Click here to watch the 2018 ALA Youth Media Awards.
I asked Matthew Cordell, Elisha Cooper, Gordon C. James, Thi Bui, and Jason Chin to answer two questions and to finish two sentence starters. 

Congratulations, Thi!  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 and cheering for you?

Thi Bui: My immediate thought when the phone rang was, “No one I know calls me this early,’ and I hung up without looking or thinking! And then I remembered what day it was and said, “Oh no!!” and tried to call back. Luckily they called again and I was of course very honored and grateful, but also pretty embarrassed and still not quite awake.

What does the Caldecott mean to you? 

Thi Bui: It’s a huge honor. I remember the stickers on books when I was a kid. It means our little book will find its way to more readers. It means quiet books about quiet lives and underrepresented people are getting a little louder.

Please finish these sentence starters: 

Reading is a vehicle for your mind to travel so you can live other lives and gain knowledge, experience, and insight that might not be available to you in your regular life.

School libraries are like chapels on the front lines. They offer refuge and guidance in a place that’s accessible to kids.

Borrow A Different Pond from your school or public library. Whenever possible, please support independent bookshops. 

Monday, March 12, 2018

Book Trailer Premiere: Sometimes You Fly by Katherine Applegate and Jennifer Black Reinhardt

Hello, Katherine Applegate and Jennifer Black Reinhardt ! Thank you for dropping by to celebrate Sometimes You Fly! I’ve had so much fun sharing it with educators over the past month. It makes me smile from ear to ear every single time I read it aloud.

Katherine, what planted the seed for this perfect picture book?

Katherine: Well, one of my many superpowers is my talent for making mistakes. (Apparently, it’s not something you outgrow.)  Of course, making mistakes is how we learn. But when you’re growing up, facing milestone after milestone, we often forget that before any accomplishment come lots of false starts and stumbles.

I wrote Sometimes You Fly to celebrate the highs and the lows we all face when growing up. (And while being a grown-up!)

Jennifer, what was the MOST FUN thing about illustrating Sometimes You Fly?

Jennifer: Imagining what life events could quickly communicate a whole story evolution for a character in a single page turn---- and pulling from personal family memories to do so. You said ‘thing’ so I guess I’m supposed to stop with that one. But it really was the whole entire project and the opportunity to create visuals that would enhance Katherine’s beautiful prose.

Katherine, what ran through your head the first time you saw Jennifer Black Reinhardt’s gorgeous illustrations?

Katherine: I believe I said something along the lines of:


This book was so dependent on the page turn, on the detail, on the expressions of the children as they struggle and rejoice. Every single illustration will make readers smile.

Jennifer, what would we see if we walked into your studio right now?

Jennifer: You would see a lot of quirky, eclectic antiques and collectibles. The walls are covered with artwork that I love, by my mom, grandmother, daughter, friends, and fellow illustrators. Piles of books and tons of inspiration!

Katherine and Jennifer, how will you celebrate Sometimes You Fly’s book birthday on April 3, 2018?

Katherine: With a cake (although it won’t be as pretty as the one that begins and ends SOMETIMES YOU FLY)!

Jennifer: With a huge toast and thank you to Katherine, Jennifer, Christine, Cara, Marietta, and everyone at Clarion, HMH. They are the team that allowed me the privilege of illustrating this book and I am very grateful. Of course there will be cake and maybe I should fly a kite on April 3? On second thought, kite flying is an event in my life that rarely ended well… I’ll stick with the toast!

Please finish these sentence starters:

Sometimes You Fly’s book trailer…

…gives you a taste of the gorgeous illustrations that make the book such a delight. (Katherine) 

…gave me goose bumps when the bird flew across the screen! (Jennifer) 

Before the…

…book, there are endless rewrites! (But it’s worth it.) (Katherine) 

 …Cake was the original title for the book and I’m happy that we didn’t need to put pastry on the cover. (Jennifer) 

Look for Sometimes You Fly on April 3, 2018. 

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Newbery Honor Author Jason Reynolds

Click here to watch the 2018 ALA Youth Media Awards.
I asked Erin Entrada Kelly, Derrick Barnes, Jason Reynolds, and Renée Watson to answer two questions and to finish two sentence starters. 

Congratulations, Jason! Everyone loves hearing about THE CALL. What ran through your head when the phone rang? 

Jason Reynolds: Well...nothing really went through my mind besides excitement. It's always a weird thing. The phone buzzes, and my stomach leaps into my throat. There's also this weird calm. This weight lifted. I don't know, it's hard to explain. And when I answered and found out it was the Newbery Committee and that they were awarding Long Way Down, I secretly thought they were making a mistake but didn't want to say anything just in case they didn't know what they were talking about. 

What does the Newbery mean to me? 

Jason Reynolds: It just means that I have so much more work to do. I'm grateful for it. To be given one of the highest honors in our industry is incredible. But it only makes me want to work harder to make something better for our children. 

Please finish these sentence starters: 

Reading is a conduit to wholeness. 

School Libraries are physical databases of potential. 

Borrow Long Way Down from your school or public library. Whenever possible, please support independent bookshops. 

Monday, March 5, 2018

Cover Reveal: Pay Attention, Carter Jones by Gary D. Schmidt

Hello, Gary Schmidt! Welcome back to Watch. Connect. Read.! Thank you for stopping by to share the cover for Pay Attention, Carter Jones! Who is Carter Jones?

Gary Schmidt: First things first: Thank you for having me back!

Carter Jones is a sixth grade kiddo who has lost a lot—in fact, at the beginning of the novel, he doesn’t even know how much he has lost.  But he’s smart, hopeful, not too awful to his sisters, and he loves baseball.  And he’s been to the Blue Mountains of Australia!

I love James Lancett’s colorful cover illustration. Please tell us about a few of the objects featured on the cover.

Gary Schmidt: It’s a great cover, not at all what I expected—which is why authors—or at least, this author—isn’t generally consulted about the cover.  There is, mysteriously enough, a cricket bat (instead of a baseball bat), and army goggles and a marble—not to mention the wide-eyed dog and the curious shoes that are at the very bottom of the cover.  He’s taken things that are about to be very important in Carter’s life and mixed them all together—which is, of course, how we live much of our lives: everything mixed together. It’s brilliant!

What three words best describe Mr. Bowles-Fitzpatrick?

Gary Schmidt: Arrogant.  Gentlemanly.  Complicated.

Please finish these sentence starters:

Carter’s family is in trouble, no one more than Carter himself.

School libraries are the salvation of the world—and I am not being hyperbolic at all.

Mr. Schu, you should have asked me whether I play cricket or not. Or whether there is any character in the novel that appeared in another novel. Or why this one took so very long to write. Or whether I’ve ever been to the Blue Mountains of Australia. (I have.)

Look for Pay Attention, Carter Jones on February 5, 2019. 

Sunday, March 4, 2018

Newbery Honor Author Derrick Barnes

Click here to watch the 2018 ALA Youth Media Awards press conference.

I asked Erin Entrada Kelly, Derrick Barnes, Jason Reynolds, and Renée Watson to answer two questions and to finish two sentence starters. 

Congratulations, Derrick! Everyone loves hearing about THE CALL. What ran through your head when the phone rang? What were you thinking about when the Newbery committee was clapping and cheering for you? 

Derrick Barnes: I had never seen that area code before, but I knew that there was a chance that at least one of the committees would be calling. There was just no way of me knowing which one. I was hoping and praying that at least one of them would call. When the chair of the committee said that she represented the Newbery, I almost passed out. It just blew me away. Newbery!? What!? It's every children's book author's dream to win a Newbery or at least receive an honor. When I heard the committee on the other end of the phone clapping I just thought about all of my other friends who had won big literary awards and now it was my turn. It was so surreal. My name was finally being called.

What does the Newbery mean to you? 

Derrick Barnes: It means that my name and my work will forever be a part of this exclusive lineage of fine American contributions to literature. That can never be erased. I take my body of work very seriously. I want to leave behind a legacy of books that were actually trying to say something. Books that will live with children forever as a source of inspiration.

Please finish these sentence starters: 

Reading is essential for the development of a child's social skills. It broadens their vocabulary. It allows one to experience the world without moving one step. It allows you the opportunity to converse with people from different walks of life and equips them with the verbal and intellectual skills to master whatever career they choose to embark upon. Reading feeds a hungry imagination.

School libraries smell good. Books upon books upon books, filled with entire worlds and characters that we wish were real. The amount of information between those pages is limitless. A comfortable, well furnished school library feels like home.

Borrow Crown: An Ode to the Fresh Cut from your school or public library. Whenever possible, please support independent bookshops. 

Friday, March 2, 2018

Cover Reveal: First Generation by Sandra Neil Wallace and Rich Wallace

Hello, Sandra and Rich! Thank you for returning to Watch. Connect. Read. to share the BEAUTIFUL cover for First Generation. Please tell us about the individuals featured on the cover.

Sandra Neil Wallace and Rich Wallace: As a teenager, Martina Navratilova defected from a communist regime after competing in the U.S. Open. She went on to be an all-time tennis great and a passionate defender of women’s rights.

Madeleine Albright fled from the Nazis with her family during World War II and came to the U.S. as a refugee. She became the first female Secretary of State in American history.

Halima Aden grew up in a refugee camp in Africa. When she moved to the U.S., she was surprised to see no women who looked like her in fashion magazines. She is the first Hijabi to appear on the cover of Vogue and is an outspoken voice on issues of social justice.

Yo-Yo Ma is a renowned cellist and the leader of the Silkroad Project, which fosters cultural connections throughout the world.

NBA basketball star Dikembe Mutombo has been called the world’s most generous athlete for his many humanitarian projects.

All are U.S. citizens. First Generation also features scientists Ahmed Zewail, Maryam Mirzakhani, and Adriana Ocampo; artists Diana Al-Hadid and Willem de Kooning; journalists Jorge Ramos and Cheryl Diaz Meyer; plus entrepreneurs, activists, and many more.

What is the best thing about writing nonfiction for young readers?

Sandra and Rich: Real people help kids see that they’re not alone and that others have experienced the same things in life and can help guide them. History gives young people perspective on how we humans have navigated life to this point. We love bringing historical figures to life for kids, especially those whose lives provide a template for doing good in the world. Writing nonfiction is a matter of digging into archives, scoping out original sources, conducting interviews, and sorting it all out.

Which books do you recommend to young readers who want to learn more about the trailblazing immigrants and refugees featured in First Generation?

Sandra and Rich: There’s an extensive bibliography of books and websites in First Generation, but here are a few: Yes, Chef by Marcus Samuelsson; My Name is Celia/Me llamo Celia: The Life of Celia Cruz by Monica Brown; On a Beam of Light: A Story of Albert Einstein by Jennifer Berne.

Please finish these sentence starters:

Agata Nowicka’s illustrations are brilliant, modern, captivating.

School libraries are where every writer we know first found their spark, and where every kid can feel welcome and find a book they’ll relate to.

Mr. Schu, you should have asked us about Sandra’s experiences as a “First Gen” herself. “My mother and grandmother are refugees from Yugoslavia (now Serbia) and World War II concentration camp survivors. They inspired us to write First Generation. So did Barbadian American Barbara Young. Like my grandma, Barbara is a home care worker. If Barbara hadn’t convinced lawmakers to pass the Domestic Workers Bill of Rights, millions of home workers would have no employment rights.

“I thought of these women as I waited nervously to take my own U.S. citizenship test in 2016. Lining the walls of the immigration office were photos of movie-star immigrants. But where was Barbara Young? We thought kids ought to know about Barbara and the many trailblazing immigrants and refugees who are changing America for the better and positively impacting our lives.”

Look for First Generation: 36 Trailblazing Immigrants and Refugees Who Make America Great on September 4, 2018. 

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Book Trailer Premiere: Anybody’s Game: Kathryn Johnston, the First Girl to Play Little League Baseball

Hi, Heather Lang! Welcome back to Watch. Connect. Read.! Happy book birthday to Anybody’s Game: Kathryn Johnston, the First Girl to Play Little League Baseball! How will you celebrate your book’s birthday today?

Heather: Thank you, Mr. Schu! I’m doing lots of fun things to celebrate today. First, I’m so happy to be back here on your blog to launch my Anybody’s Game book trailer into the world! I had so much fun making this trailer with some very special baseball fans. 

Today I’m actually at a writing retreat, so I‘ll be celebrating with writing friends. This is very fitting, because without the constant support of my writing community, there might not be a book.
Also, in honor of Kathryn and all the other women who have blazed trails, I’m launching a Women’s History Month project today with author Kate Hannigan. It’s called #31Women31Books. Every day in March we are tweeting about a remarkable woman from history and the picture book biography that shares her story. And be on the lookout for some awesome giveaways!

When did you first learn about Kathryn Johnston?

Heather: I first learned about Kathryn in 2010. At that time my four kids were knee-deep in Little League baseball and softball, and this brought back such fond memories of my own childhood. Like Kathryn Johnston, I was obsessed with baseball and would play catch in the yard with my dad and brother almost every night.

I knew I wanted to write a book about women in baseball, so I did some research. I was surprised to learn about the many struggles women faced, and I was so inspired by those brave women who fought to play the game they loved. I couldn’t imagine my childhood without baseball and what it must have been like for Kathryn to be shut out because of her gender. That deep emotional connection is what drew me to her story.

Please share three facts about Kathryn.

Kathryn was intensely passionate about baseball. By the way, at 81 she is still cheering for her favorite teams, throwing out first pitches at baseball games, and hoping to get called up to the Yankees!

Kathryn was determined. She threw left-handed, but her family didn’t have enough money to buy her a lefty mitt for her right hand. That didn’t stop her from playing. She would catch the ball in her left hand, take off the mitt, then throw the ball. She played that way until the coach lent her a lefty mitt in the middle of tryouts.

Kathryn had guts. She knew she could make a Little League team if she were a boy, so she cut off her braids and tried out as a boy. She signed in as her favorite comic book character “Tubby” Johnston. It also took a lot of courage to ignore all the insults from kids and adults.

Please finish these sentence starters:

Cecilia Puglesi’s illustrations are perfect for this story! Her retro comic book style is spirited and lively and brings you right back to 1950. Her art is also a wonderful nod to Kathryn’s favorite Little Lulu and Tubby comic books.

Baseball is anybody’s game! Did you know it wasn’t until 1974 when Little League Baseball finally changed its rules to allow girls to play? At the same time they started a softball league. This change happened because of brave girls and women like Kathryn, who challenged the system to follow their passion.

Mr. Schu, you should have asked me if I ever met Kathryn Johnston.

Yes! Kathryn was so generous and helpful, answering my many questions and reliving her Little League days with me. At the end of March I’m going out to her hometown (Yuba City, California) to celebrate with her. We’ll be sharing the book at her local library and a few schools nearby. I can’t wait!!

Please visit for more information about Kathryn Johnston and women in baseball, and follow Heather on Twitter @hblang.