Saturday, March 31, 2012

Newbery Challenge: The Cat Who Went to Heaven

Was it worth driving 560 miles (round trip) to shoot a Newbery Challenge video with Colby Sharp? Absolutely! It is way more fun when we chat about the books in person. Thanks, Colby!

The Cat Who Went to Heaven

OK, this is a scary image. (For the record, a friend put the "I Love My Cat" magnet on my car as a joke.)

Travis is a man with a plan: TO GIVE EVERY NEWBERY MEDAL-WINNING BOOK A NEW COVER. He designed the cover on the right.

Nancy Harrow turned The Cat Who Went to Heaven into a children's jazz puppet show.

Borrow The Cat Who Went to Heaven from your school or public library. Whenever possible, please support independent bookshops.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

An Interview with Author-Illustrator Julian Hector

Julian Hector wrote and illustrated The Gentleman Bug, a picture book I could read every day and never tire of it. It is strange to compare myself to a bug, but I am the human version of The Gentleman Bug. He is a book-loving insect who shares my passion for libraries and literacy. If you have not read it, please do me a favor and check it out from your school or public library. While you're at the library, go ahead and check out all of his picture books. They are gentle and well-crafted gems.

Now, it's time for the main course...

As you know, I am a huge fan of The Gentleman Bug. You've probably been asked this question a gazillion times, BUT what gave you the idea for writing and illustrating The Gentleman Bug?

Julian Hector: The Gentleman Bug started as a sketch, drawn several years ago. I didn't have a story idea, but I liked the character and felt that it had some picture book potential.
While waiting for a story idea to come to me, I filled several sketchbooks full of characters and settings in an effort to give The Gentleman Bug a world to live in. Later on, after my first book, The Little Matador was released, my editor and I got together to brainstorm new picture book ideas - she really liked The Gentleman Bug and pushed me to come up with a story. In the end, I really just wanted a story that allowed me to feature all of my favorite characters and locations from the original world building sketchbooks, and, as you can't have a gentleman bug without a lady bug, a light romance felt appropriate. The addition of the library was a play off of one of my earliest ideas, where I thought that it would be fun to tell a story about a group of feral bugs who learned how to read and become civilized.

I love your book trailer for 10 Scary Animals: A Field Guide. Book trailers are extremely popular in my school library. Why do you think so many readers are drawn to book trailers?

Julian Hector: Hmmm, I mean, most readers have always had a desire to experience books beyond their printed form, and I think that, coupled with our internet enhanced hunger for content, has created the perfect environment for book trailers to thrive in. Also, I think that the excitement around movie trailers - which have become their own art form, and where even the trailers themselves have trailers in the form of the 'teaser trailer' - has helped to fuel a kind of general trailer excitement.

10 Scary Animals Trailer Storyboard

What art medium do you like best?

Julian Hector: Pencil and paper.

What inspired you to create picture books? Is there a picture book you love to reread?

Julian Hector: I can't really point to a single thing that inspired me to create picture books. I think that my isolated, son of biologists, surrounded by animals and mountains of drawing paper upbringing helped to groom me for this life. There are a lot of creative types who say that their profession chose them, and I think that sentiment could apply to me, too. I entered design school wanting to be an architect, but slowly realized that writing and illustrating was the more harmonious and least painful thing for me to do - though, I would really love it if someone asked me to design a concert hall or Guggenheim satellite location.

I love to reread The Story of Ferdinand. It's my "if there was a fire in your apartment and you only had time to grab one book" book.

Can you share what you're currently working on?

Julian Hector: I can! I'm slowly finishing the illustrations for a bilingual, Spanish/English fairy tale anthology for Harper Collins, and I'm working on two of my own picture books; one about a scorpion, and the other about a mouse who is half tricycle, and I'm working on a short internet-based picture book written by Leslie Muir (author of C.R. Mudgeon), which she and I are giving away for free in a couple weeks.

Author-illustrator Julian Hector was born in Los Angeles, grew up in rural Texas, and graduated from Parsons the New School for Design in New York City. His debut picture book, The Little Matador, was published in 2008. Julian lives in Guthrie, Oklahoma, and you can visit him online at - Bio taken from here.
Julian Hector illustrated Monday is One Day.
Julian created these images for the 10 Scary Animals trailer.
Borrow Julian's books from your school or public library. Whenever possible, please support independent bookshops.
I'm giving away two books: The Gentleman Bug and C.R. Mudgeon.
Rules for the Giveaway

* The giveaway runs from March 28 to 11:59 PM on March 30.

* If you win
The Gentleman Bug OR C.R. Mudgeon, I will send you an email.

* You must be at least 13 to participate.
* Please pay it forward. :)

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Me Want Pet! by Tammi Sauer and Bob Shea

Browse the children’s section of your favorite independent bookshop and you will find quite a few exceptional books in which the main character desperately wants a pet. Well, let's see... Petunia wants a skunk. Prudence wants the pet of her dreams. Zelly Fried wants a dog. And, in our hilarious picture book of the day, Cave Boy "want pet." You see, he is tired of playing with rocks, sticks, and a club. What's a prehistoric boy to do? Why, naturally, he takes matters into his own hands and searches near and far until he finds a ...

How does Mama react to Cave Boy's new pet? "He too big. Where he sleep?" Uh-oh! Cave Boy tries again. This time he brings home a...

How does Papa react to his son's new pet?
"Make me sneeze! No can stay!" Poor Cave Boy! Should he try again? This youngster is not a quitter. He searches and searches until he finds a...

Will Mama, Papa, and Gran let Cave Boy keep a dodo bird? You'll have to head on over to your public library to find out.

Me Want Pet. By Tammi Sauer. Illustrated by Bob Shea. Simon and Schuster, 2012. Grades K-2.


1. I feel bad for not revealing how things turn out for clever Cave Boy and the baby dodo bird.

2. Tami Sauer's comical text and Bob Shea's bright and bold illustrations will make readers laugh out loud.

3. It is perfect for one-on-one sharing and storytime.

4. You can never have too many "I want a pet" books.

5. Me think it good book. ;-)

Rules for the Giveaway

* The giveaway runs from March 26 to 11:59 PM on March 29.

* If you win
Me Want Pet!, I will send you an email.

* You must be at least 13 to participate.

* Please pay it forward. :)

Monday, March 26, 2012

Happy 20th Anniversary to the Magic Tree House Series!

Dinosaurs Before Dark (Magic Tree House #1) has captivated elementary school readers since July 28, 1992. I need to create a tally chart at the beginning of the 2012-2013 school year to keep track of the number of students whose first book-related question or statement refers to the Magic Tree House series.

Where are the Magic Tree House books? Did you know I love Jack and Annie? Have you heard of the Magic Tree House? I only read books about Jack and Annie. I read all of the Magic Tree House books over the summer. My mom wants me to check out a Magic Tree House book. I need Magic Tree House number 31
I am not exaggerating. :)

I think my students will enjoy the following video in which Mary Pope Osborne, Will Osborne, and Natalie Pope Boyce reflect on their best-selling and award-winning series.

Thank you, Mary Pope Osborne, for getting beginning readers hooked on a series. is an interactive space for fans to play games, read excerpts, and watch videos.

The Magic Tree House Teachers Club contains a wealth of information.

"My readers are the reason this series exists." -Mary Pope Osborne

"What's happened is over 15 years it's just steadily grown. Every child still thinks he or she is the first to discover it. I like having the kids read and not turn to a DVD. I want them to have to work at reading to get the story. I feel the musical requires that same use of imagination — it's ephemeral." -Mary Pope Osborne

"I think most children's authors would tell you that one of the most rewarding parts of being a children's author is getting letters from children; and the letters are so rich and so funny." -Mary Pope Osborne

Magic Tree House: The Musical is not currently on tour, but you can visit the official website to subscribe to the "Magic Tree House: On Stage" newsletter. While you're there, listen to selections from the show.

A Perfect Time for Pandas (Magic Tree House #48) will be released on July 24, 2012.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Backseat A-B-See by Maria van Lieshout

Every road trip needs an atlas, a mascot, and, of course, an assortment of top-notch picture books and must-read middle-grade novels. As summer approaches, my friend Donna and I start brainstorming travel companions and creating a list of books every bookseller and librarian across the country should know about. I sent Donna the following text message moments after reading Backseat A-B-See.

For Backseat A-B-See blog post


Thankfully, Donna agrees with me that Backseat A-B-See needs to come along on our next reading road trip. We came up with 26 reasons why it is perfect for your next road trip, too.

ATTENTION-getting format

BOLD illustrations


DYNAMIC design

ENTERTAINMENT for the entire family

FUN, fun, fun for all ages

A GREAT way to introduce road signs

HIGHLY engaging

INCLUDES an informative author’s note

A JOY from A to Z

KIDS will read it over and over

LENDS itself to car games

MOMS will appreciate it

NEEDS to be read aloud


PERFECT for long and short trips

QUITE possibly the best road trip book for young children

RICH colors

SIGNS never looked so appealing

TEACHES and entertains

UNIQUE book spine


VISUALLY stimulating

YOUNGSTERS will find it fresh and exciting

ZOOM on over to an independent bookshop to pre-order a copy.

Backseat A-B-See. Written and illustrated by Maria van Lieshout. Chronicle Books, 2012. On sale April 11, 2012. Final copy sent from publisher.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Newbery Challenge: Hitty: Her First Hundred Years

Mr. Sharp and I kick off the 1930s with Hitty: Her First Hundred Years.

Head on over to Mr. Sharp's blog to hear his thoughts on Hitty. Also, watch his "The 20s in Review" video.

Newbery Medal, 1930

At least Hitty never encountered a shark.

You can buy your own Hitty Preble doll and booklet for $27.00. The seller guarantees that Hitty slept overnight in the Preble house.

Travis Jonker is attempting to re-cover every Newbery-winning book. He designed the cover on the right.

Borrow Hitty: Her First Hundred Years from your school or public library. Whenever possible, please support independent bookshops.

Friday, March 23, 2012

A Fabulous Friday Morning with Kevin Henkes

Oh, what a glorious and memorable morning my kindergartners and first and second graders spent with Caldecott Medalist Kevin Henkes. He is one of the most genuine and creative people you will ever encounter. He took us through how he creates a book--from typing the words on his typewriter to submitting the manuscript to his editor. Everyone oohed and awed as he drew Kitten in her classic pose, Penny holding a marble, and mice expressing various emotions. Kevin's enthusiasm will inspire dozens of kids to create art and write stories. Thank you, Kevin Henkes, for reading your 44th book, Penny and Her Song, to us; we look forward to reading your 45th book, and your 46th book, and your 47th book, and...

After an author-illustrator visits our school library, I always encourage students to self-reflect and share what they will remember about the experience five years from now.

*"Kevin Henkes was very nice to me."

*"He is an amazing artist."

*"He shared with us that there will be two more books about Penny. I want to read all of them."

*"I wish Kevin Henkes could visit our library every single day."

*"Mr. Kevin Henkes did an amazing job reading Penny and Her Song."

*"I enjoyed everything about his visit. I will remember it for a long time."

*"I wonder if I will ever met him again. I hope I do."

*"He is the best author and illustrator."

*"Penny and Her Song is an excellent book. I will read it over the weekend."

*"Kitten's First Full Moon is the best picture book ever created. It was fun seeing him draw Kitten."

*"I liked when he drew for us. My favorite illustration is Kitten. She looks just like the kitten in the book."

*"Mr. Henkes told us that art is all around us. I am going to look for art."

*"Kevin Henkes is awesome and fun."

*"My favorite part was when he read us Penny and Her Song. I'm happy he made three more books about Penny."

*"Kevin Henkes is a good writer."

*"I think it is interesting that he comes up with ideas when he is in the shower and working in his garden."

*"I liked seeing that he works in his attic."

*"I met someone who won the Caldecott Medal. Cool."

*"I liked that he told us how kids inspire him when they send him their artwork."

*"His details are very cool."

*"He is a smart person."

*"He draws beautiful pictures."

*"He’s always loved drawing. He has been an artist since he was a little boy."

*"I like his sense of humor."

*"Kevin Henkes is super smart and very talented."

Borrow Penny and Her Song from your school or public library. Whenever possible, please support independent bookshops.