Wednesday, September 3, 2014

The Pout-Pout Fish Goes to School Song Reveal and an Interview with Deborah Diesen

Dear Teachers and Librarians, 

Happy Wednesday! I know many of you kicked off the 2014-2015 school year yesterday. (I'm looking at Travis Jonker, Colby Sharp, and Niki Barnes.) Which books are you reading aloud to your students this week? 


May I offer some unsolicited advice? Louise Loves ArtThe Story of Fish and Snail, and The Pout-Pout Fish Goes to School are three perfect picture books to read aloud during this week. After you read aloud The Pout-Pout Fish Goes to School, please share Gordon True's song with all of your students. I'm premiering it in 3, 2, 1...




Such fun, right? Wait! It gets even better. Deborah Diesen dropped by to finish my sentences. I wrote the words in red, and she wrote the words in black. 

Best,


-John 

The Pout-Pout Fish books have been fun to write!  When I wrote the first book (The Pout-Pout Fish), I didn’t know then that the story would become part of a series.  But I’ve thoroughly enjoyed getting to know Mr. Fish and his friends even better through their further adventures.  I loved going deep in the ocean with Mr. Fish as he helped his friend Ms. Clam find her pearl (The Pout-Pout Fish in the Big-Big Dark), and I had fun going back in time with Mr. Fish to his very first day of school (The Pout-Pout Fish Goes to School).  I can’t wait to explore what they’ll do next!

Dan Hanna’s illustrations brought Mr. Fish’s pouty tale to life!  I’m not a very visual person, so when I was writing The Pout-Pout Fish, I had only a general notion of what Mr. Fish looked like.  But when I saw Dan’s art, I said, “That’s it!  Exactly!”  Dan captured Mr. Fish perfectly.  Dan Hanna brings the world of Mr. Fish alive for readers through his use of color, expression, and funny details.  I’m so grateful that he and I get to work together.


Gordon True wrote amazing music for The Pout-Pout Fish and for The Pout-Pout Fish in the Big-Big Dark. Everyone who hears his music can’t help but sing along!  I’m so excited that he’s written music for The Pout-Pout Fish Goes to School, too.  I know it will be amazing!!

Did you know that when I’m bored, I get out my rhyming dictionary and browse?  I do.  I always find something interesting, fascinating or inspiring.  I think everyone should have a rhyming dictionary.  They’re a delight! 



Dan Santat and I worked together on the book Picture Day Perfection, which is a funny, non-rhyming story about a seemingly disastrous school picture day.  I was very lucky to be paired with him.  He’s extremely talented, and very prolific.  I love his art – in the Picture Day book, and in all his other books, too.

Whenever I visit a school library I feel immediately at home.  Each school library has its own character and unique contents, but all school libraries share a welcoming and encouraging energy that warms the imagination and opens the mind.  School libraries are the place I’m most drawn to when I visit schools!


Picture books are a unique blend of text and art that are more than the sum of their text and art parts.  Each picture book is an experience for its readers -- of sound and color, of words and images, of characters and plot.  Kids love picture books.  Adults love picture books.  And what’s not to love?  They’re wonderful.  The world needs them.

Reading is an entryway for each of us into the stories of others, and into our own stories as well.  Reading expands us and makes room within us for finding who we’re meant to be.


Mr. Schu, you should have asked me what my favorite word is.  I like it so much, it hangs on the wall in my home office:

This word, and a kajillion other lovely and intriguing words, can be found in my number one most favorite book of all:  The Dictionary!



Thank you so much for having me here today, and for hosting the reveal of Gordon True’s new song!

Thank you, Deborah! 



Borrow The Pout-Pout Fish Goes to School from your school or public library. Whenever possible, please support independent bookshops. 

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

The And Two Boys Booed Trifecta

Blogger and teacher-librarian extraordinaire Travis Jonker tweeted that someone should start a blog that focuses on furniture found in picture books. Once he convinces a blogger to take off with this idea, I would encourage him or her to focus on clothes found in picture books, too. I would suggest poring over Sophie Blackall's gorgeous illustrations. She would inspire multiple posts. Doesn't she draw the coolest furniture and clothes? 



Speaking of Sophie, the Nerdy Book Club, Colby Sharp, and I are celebrating Sophie Blackall, Judith Viorst, and And Two Boys Booed. We hope you enjoy jumping from blog to blog. 




I wrote the words in red, and Sophie wrote the words in black. Thank you, Sophie! 

When I received the manuscript for And Two Boys Booed I dropped everything I was doing and read it! For starters, even though I’m really good at saving presents until my birthday, I can’t resist reading a manuscript the second I receive it. And this was a manuscript from one of my favorite authors in the world! Judith Viorst is funny, and smart and inventive, and when you read her stories you know – without a doubt – that she gets what it’s like to be a kid.



The flaps inside And Two Boys Booed make me laugh. There was so much in Judith’s story that I wanted to show and I couldn’t fit it all in the pages, so that’s why I made the flaps. I wanted to see our boy waking up. And I needed to know what was in his pocket. And to squirm with him as he stood up and sat down and stood up again. And most of all, I really wanted to see the teacher clap. I can happily clap her hand for a long time. My studio mates caught me once. I’d been there chuckling for about ten minutes.  (It’s perfectly okay to laugh at your own jokes.)



The boy in And Two Boys Booed has a pair of lucky blue boots and pants with cool pockets. I had a lucky pencil once, which I always used for tests in school. And then one day I lost it. And I had to take a test without it. And you probably know what happened, because, as my daughter just told me, this happens in a key episode of Arthur. I totally aced the test! And I realized I wasn’t completely horrible at doing stuff, lucky pencil or no lucky pencil. Except for the things I am completely horrible at, like throwing a frisbee. And trigonometry.



If I were in a talent show I would fold a fitted sheet! It would be amazing! Unfortunately no-one has ever asked me to display my extraordinary fitted sheet folding talent.




 Picture books are good things. They are fun to read, and really good fun to make, and when we’re little they show us what the world is like. Then, at the same time as picture books show us what family means, and what it’s like to go to school, and which animals have sharp teeth, they also unlock our imaginations, and show us dragons and fairies and animals driving cars.


I still have my favorite picture books from when I was a kid, and my son, who is fifteen, keeps his on a shelf by his bed. You know, just in case he wants to visit Alexander, or Max and the Wild Things, or The Tiger Who Came to Tea.



Reading is what I do when I’m going to give myself a treat. Or when I’m homesick, or bored, or in bed with the flu. Or when I really ought to be doing chores, but just...want...to...finish...one more chapter. I read when I’ve run out of ideas, or when I want to learn about what people looked like before there were photographs. I read to feel what it’s like to be someone other than me. And sometimes, even though there are a gazillion books I haven’t read yet, I reread old favorites, because it’s like visiting a dear friend.




School libraries are full of funny, sad, strange, interesting books you haven’t read yet. And librarians waiting to point them out to you. If you’re lucky, that is. Some schools don’t have libraries. Some schools don’t have any books at all. I visited some schools in Rwanda this year, where the classrooms were each getting a little shelf of books. The children had never, ever seen or held a book before. They turned the pages and looked at the pictures. They were beyond excited. Up until then they had learned to read from dull sentences written on a chalk board. Can you imagine?

I remember my own school library as a warm, cozy place, the only room with carpet in the whole school. Once our whole class had a sleepover in the school library. It was the most thrilling thing that had ever happened.



Mr. Schu, you should have asked me if I would come and visit your school. And I would have said, Yes, please, may I? I am working on a Book About Everything. And because it’s about Everything, I need lots of kids’ help. And I only have two kids. So...

Sophie, we would have a lot of fun! 



I'm excited to read Colby Sharp's interview with Judith Viorst. Please head over to his blog to see what he asked her. 


"I spent a great deal of my childhood up a tree with a book. My brother was usually in the tree next door, also with a book." -Sophie Blackall | Click here to read her entire nerdy essay. 



Video of the Month: A Conversation with Kate DiCamillo

Kate Dicamillo, our current National Ambassador for Young People's Literature, chats with Lisa Von Drasek about reading. 

Monday, September 1, 2014

Which book trailers are you playing this week, Mr. Schu?

My students checked out 1,529 books and placed 237 books on hold during the first full week of school. I started new units with every class, wore a different #kidlit sticker every day, gave away two boxes of books, and told the first and second graders that Jon Klassen and Mac Barnett are visiting our school library in October to celebrate Sam and Dave Dig a Hole



I plan on playing the following book trailers this week. Maybe you'll play some of them for your students, too. Happy watching! Happy reading! Happy smiling! 


This Orq. (He Cave Boy.) by David Elliott and Lori Nichols  


Circle, Square, Moose! by Kelly Bingham and Paul O. Zelinsky 



Telephone by Mac Barnett and Jen Corace





Captain Underpants and the Tyrannical Retaliation of the Turbo Toilet 2000 by Dav Pilkey





The Angry Little Puffin by Timothy Young





Nightmares by Jason Segel and Kirsten Miller




The Nuts: Bedtime at the Nut House by Eric Litwin and Scott Magoon





Star Wars: Jedi Academy: Return of the Padawan by Jeffrey Brown




Flora and the Penguin by Molly Idle




The Imaginary by A.F. Harrold and Emily Gravett




Sisters by Raina Telgemeier




Quest by Aaron Becker 

Sunday, August 31, 2014

The Little Elliot, Big City Trifecta








The Nerdy Book Club, Colby Sharp, and I are celebrating one of the best books of 2014: Mike Curato's Little Elliot, Big City. Adorable Elliot is not a stranger to this blog. I premiered his book trailer, took him on my road trip, and read his story to my kindergartners and first graders. If you haven't already read Little Elliot, Big City, I hope today's trifecta inspires you to buy a copy from your favorite independent bookshop. 


Before you head out on a little adventure to read Mike Curato's nerdy essay and Colby Sharp's post, please take a look at how Mike finished my sentences. I wrote the words in red, and he wrote the words in black. Many, many, many thanks, Mike! I adore Elliot and look forward to ALL of his future stories. 


Little, Elliot, Big City tells the story of friendship and perspective through the eyes of a little polka-dotted elephant with a great big heart.

The illustrations for Little, Elliot, Big City are the pieces of art that I always wanted to make. They are pencil drawings that I scan and color in Photoshop. For Little Elliot, I like working in a muted color palette to add to the nostalgia of the period.

Mike created this window display for Books of Wonder
Elliot’s apartment can be a bit challenging for him, since he’s so small. You’ll often find him climbing something. Elliot discovered a new purpose for his favorite books; when he’s not reading them, he’s usually climbing them.

Yahoo! Merrymakers is making a Little Elliot plush! There is no release date, but expect to give him a hug sometime next year. Here’s a photo of an early prototype:


Cupcakes are one of the five basic food groups...right? Regardless, they are the main staple of white polka-dotted elephants.

Picture books are my dream, and now my reality!



Reading is vital.

Mr. Schu, you should have asked me where does Elliot live? Well, many people assume that he lives in Manhattan, but he actually lives in Brooklyn and commutes to Manhattan for his treats, just like me!



Mike Curato has the fortune of possessing a designer's brain, an illustrator's heart, and an artist's vision. You can find him on any given day walking around the city eating a cupcake (or thinking about it).


Macmillian is giving away a copy of Little Elliot, Big City, a Little Elliot tote bag, and stickers. 

Rules for the Giveaway 

1. It will run from 8/31 to 11:59 p.m. on 9/1. 

2. You must be at least 13. 

3. If you win, please pay it forward. 



Borrow Little Elliot, Big City from your school or public library. Whenever possible, please support independent bookshops. 



Head on over to the Nerdy Book Club's blog to read Mike's essay. 


Don't forget to visit Colby Sharp's blog


Tuesday, August 26           
Wednesday, August 27     
Teach Mentor Texts | @mentortexts
Thursday, August 28        
 Read. Write. Reflect. | @katsok
Friday, August 29               
Kit Lit Frenzy | @alybee930
Saturday, August 30         
 Daddy Mojo | @daddymojo
Sunday, August 31             
The Trifecta:
Sharp Reads | @colbysharp
Watch. Connect. Read. | @mrschureads
Nerdy Book Club | @nerdybookclub
Monday, September 1 

Miss Print | @miss_prin

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Newbery Honor Challenge: 2005

Dear Mr. Sharp, 

You're posting your 2003 Newbery Honor Challenge video today, and I am posting my 2005 Newbery Honor Challenge video. We will be back on the same page next week. 


I hope you have a fun three-day weekend. 


:) 


-John 


P.S. I accidentally said Flora and the Flamingo instead of Flora and the Penguin. I'm sure I'll make that mistake many times. 

 


Click here to watch Mr. Sharp's video



Newbery Medalist Russell Freedman talks about his name. 


Listen to Marian Anderson sing "America (My Country, 'Tis of Thee)." 


Borrow The Voice that Challenged a Nation: Marian Anderson and the Struggle for Equal Rights from your school or public library. Whenever possible, please support independent bookshops. 

Friday, August 29, 2014

Author-illustrator Melissa Guion

Happy, happy, happy, happy Friday! I'm celebrating the end of a busy and rewarding week with author-illustrator Melissa Guion. She dropped by to discuss penguins, school libraries, riding a bicycle, and reading. I wrote the words in red, and she wrote the words in black. Thank you, Melissa! 


Baby Penguins Everywhere! and Baby Penguins Love Their Mama! are my first and second books. Between them, they earned exactly zero starred reviews, but they are my proudest achievement. I’m grateful to be making books and I hope to do it for a long time.

I created the illustrations for Baby Penguins Love Their Mama! twice. I work traditionally, so when a finished painting needed to be changed, I did it all over again.



The best thing about penguins is their dignity.

School libraries only LOOK innocent.



Picture books are for everyone.


One of my favorite things is a song my friend Kurt Dahle wrote for Baby Penguins Everywhere.  I meant to use it for a book trailer but didn’t have time to make one. Matthew Winner had an interesting suggestion, that I invite students to create a video set to the music. Maybe I should do that!



Reading is like riding a bike, which my daughter is learning to do as I write this.  Hard at first, but once you can do it, you enjoy it for the rest of your life.

Mr. Schu, you should have asked me to do this a long time ago. Just kidding. I’m so glad we met.



I am giving away one copy of Baby Penguins Love Their Mama! 


Rules for the Giveaway

1. It will run from 8/29 to 11:59 p.m. on 8/31. 


2. You must be at least 13. 


3. Please pay it forward. 




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