Thursday, May 31, 2012

Random House Launches "Choose Kind"

The following information is taken directly from Random House's press release. What a brilliant project! Thank you, RJ and Random House!

Random House Children’s Books launches Choose Kind (, a campaign to encourage students, educators, families, and readers of all ages to combat the nationwide rise in bullying with every day acts of kindness, it was announced today by Chip Gibson, President and Publisher. The initiative was inspired by WONDER (Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers), the debut novel by R. J. Palacio, which tells the story of Auggie, a fifth grader with a facial deformity who attends a mainstream school for the first time.
“WONDER has inspired us, and captured our hearts entirely,” said Gibson. “The outpouring of enthusiasm from book lovers and educators moved us to share the poignant message of this novel with a wider audience. I am proud to give them, and anyone around the world, the opportunity to discover the story and to pledge with us to Choose Kind.” is the online home of the campaign, designed as a next step for the ardent supporters of the novel who have been asking for additional resources to use in sharing WONDER and its message with families, schools, and communities across the country. Each section of the site offers an interactive user experience.

  • SHARE: Fans can contribute a post, ranging from personal experiences of being bullied to moments where they wished they had stood up for someone else.
  • SIGN THE PLEDGE: Pledge to Choose Kind in an effort to end bullying, and print a certificate to display.
  • THE BOOK: Watch the trailer for WONDER, read reviews, and find links to the novel’s social media channels.
  • THE AUTHOR: Read about R. J. Palacio, and how to connect with her on Twitter and Tumblr.
  • RESOURCES: A Digital Toolkit of stickers and Web badges, as well as links to other anti-bullying efforts such as the It Gets Better project and the National Education Association’s Bully Free: It Starts with Me.

Additionally, the campaign will have a global footprint with full support from Random House UK, which will publish WONDER for adult readers on June 6th, 2012, following its release as a children’s novel in March.

“Celebrating those who have made the choice to be kind—not always an easy thing to do when you’re a kid!—is the best way to raise awareness to this very simple fact: kindness is a virtue whose ripple effects can literally change the world,” says WONDER author R. J. Palacio. “One child at a time, one person at a time, there’s no greater antidote to bullying than the steadfast refusal of children, teachers, and parents to accept a culture where bullying is tolerated.”
WONDER, a New York Times bestseller, was an instant hit with readers of all ages, garnering praise from Entertainment Weekly, The New York Times, and NPR’s Morning Edition, among others. Number one New York Times bestselling author Nicholas Sparks raved, “WONDER touches the heart in the most life-affirming, unexpected ways, delivering in August Pullman a character whom readers will remember forever. Do yourself a favor and read this book—your life will be better for it.”

A word-of-mouth sensation from the start, with its Twitter hashtag, #thewonderofwonder, the book has also been the topic of countless blog posts from parents, teachers, and librarians praising its ability to relay a universal message from the story of one unique boy. Clara Beatty, a nine-year-old girl with Treacher-Collins Syndrome, was already reading WONDER when the Associated Press spoke with her and her family for a recent feature. Her parents Janet and Eric were impressed with Palacio’s skill in realistically portraying Auggie’s experience, noting “As a family with a child of facial difference, WONDER gives an amazingly accurate view of our world from a number of perspectives. We are hopeful that this story raises awareness of how being kind can be powerful.”

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

Book Trailer of the Day: Nanny Piggins and the Wicked Plan

The Adventures of Nanny Piggins ( Little, Brown & Co., 2010) has been in my to-read pile ever since I heard Ilene Cooper rave about it during a Booklist booktalking session. I vow that it will be my first summer #Bookaday selection. After all, I must read it before Nanny Piggins and the Wicked Plan hits shelves on July 10, 2012 .

Thanks to author-illustrator Dan Santat for the link.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Please Join The One and Only Ivan Book Club!

It is no secret that fourth-grade teacher Colby Sharp and I are on a mission to tell everyone about Katherine Applegate's The One and Only Ivan. We give Ivan shout-outs in #nerdbery videos, exchange multiple messages per week about Katherine's pitch-perfect storytelling, text each other about our plan to get Ivan into readers' hands, and, most importantly, discuss how Ivan is on its way to classic status.

Colby and I created an Edmodo group for a small group of fourth- and fifth-grade students to discuss Ms. Applegate's masterpiece. I smiled whenever I read their thoughtful and serious discussions. Message after message stressed how The One and Only Ivan touched their hearts and minds. Ivan's story inspired them to learn more about the real Ivan and become ambassadors for a future award winner.

As a culminating event, our book club connected with Katherine on Skype. She talked about Ivan for fifteen minutes, discussing her research and writing process. After her inspiring and informative presentation, our students asked thoughtful questions. Her responses were articulate and brilliant. I wish you could have seen my smile.

As soon as the Skype session ended, my students thanked me over and over for including Katherine and Colby's students in our book club discussion.

Colby and I look forward to a similar experience with you on June 27.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

An Interview with Author Kate Messner

Today's the day Colby Sharp, Nerdy Book Club, and I celebrate the one and only Kate Messner. We hope this terrific trifecta inspires you to pick up one of Kate's fine, fine books at an independent bookshop. Happy reading, watching, and connecting!

Before you read my interview with Kate Messner, please watch Kate's segment during the Scholastic Librarian Preview. You'll need to fast forward to 17:19.

*Mr. Schu: I celebrate new books every week. What are you most looking forward to on Capture the Flag’s book birthday?

Kate Messner: Well, CAPTURE THE FLAG’s birthday on July 1st will also be my son’s 16th birthday – so mostly, I’m looking forward to our family cake-and-cookout celebration and taking him to get his learner’s permit and out driving (yikes!).

The next day, I have an afternoon book signing at The Bookstore Plus, a terrific independent bookstore on Main Street in Lake Placid, NY. They’re happy to take orders from far-away readers, so if anyone would like a personalized, signed copy of CAPTURE THE FLAG, or any of my books, they can just call the bookstore at 518-523-2950 any time before July 2nd to order.

*Mr. Schu: Most of Capture the Flag takes place in two locations: the Smithsonian Museum of American History and the Washington National Airport.

a. Did you conduct research at the Smithsonian?

Kate Messner: Yes! When I first started working on this book, I realized very quickly that a heist story needs a plausible explanation for how the thieves got away with the goods – in this case, the enormous flag that inspired our national anthem. Exactly how would one go about stealing a gigantic historical treasure from the Smithsonian Museum of American History? I figured the best way to figure it out would be to talk with the person in charge of the flag exhibit, so I called up the Smithsonian and asked how one might go about stealing the original Star Spangled Banner (hypothetically speaking, of course!).

The curator of that exhibit, Jeff Brodie, was absolutely fantastic, once he figured out that I was a legitimate children’s author with only good intentions. He invited me to spend a morning with him at the Smithsonian before it opened. My family came along, too, and together, we all prowled shady hallways, rode freight elevators, and brainstormed how my fictional bad guys might be able to get away with their heist. While I hope the details of the flag’s security system are plausible and realistic, they aren’t the real security measures in place to protect the flag. (I promised the Smithsonian that I wouldn’t write a how-to guide for actually stealing their stuff!)

b. You provide such detailed descriptions of the cavernous baggage room. Were you given a private tour?

Kate Messner: Whenever I can, I love to do site visits to experience the settings in my books, but this was one situation where that simply wasn’t possible. Airport security measures mean that strict rules are in place to control access to those behind-the-scenes baggage areas, so I had to rely on interviews with people who work in baggage handling and online videos that show how it all works. There was one really great TV news report about the new baggage handling system in Dallas that was super-helpful, but the video doesn’t seem to be online any more. Here are a few links for kids & classes interested in the kinds of things I used for research.

*How Stuff Works: Baggage Handling

Video about a new baggage system in Los Angeles

From check-in to aircraft – This cool video show’s a “bag’s-eye-view” of the trip

*Mr. Schu: I love how Jose is obsessed with Harry Potter. I smiled whenever he quoted Dumbledore and you described his heavy backpack. What is your favorite Harry Potter book?

Kate Messner: HARRY POTTER AND THE GOBLET OF FIRE is my favorite. I stayed up all night reading it and have fond memories of sobbing over the graveyard scene at three in the morning.

*Mr. Schu: Famous quotations and idioms appear throughout Capture the Flag. Do you collect quotations and idioms?

Kate Messner: I’ve always collected quotes that I like, but I kicked it up a notch when I was getting to know Jose as I worked on CAPTURE THE FLAG. I had a special notebook to collect quote that I thought he would like. Many of them were the same as the quotes I like…but not all of them.

Like Jose, I’m a big fan of Albus Dumbledore. My favorite Dumbledore quote is from Chamber of Secrets:

“It is our choices, Harry, that show us what we truly are, far more than our abilities.”

*Mr. Schu: Without giving away any plot details, the last chapter feels as if Anna, Henry, and Jose have more adventures waiting for them inside your head. What does the future hold for these clever kids? Will they star in another book?

Kate Messner: Yes! I’m thrilled to let you know that Henry, Anna, and Jose will be back with a new adventure in 2013. It’s called HIDE AND SEEK and is set in the rainforest of Costa Rica, where they learn more about the origins of the Silver Jaguar Society and try to hunt down one of its most sacred stolen artifacts.

*Mr. Schu, you should have asked me about…

I’m so excited about this book because it’s my first mystery, which made it really challenging to write. I had to use new strategies for planning and revising, and it’s a genre that I absolutely love and can’t wait to share with readers. I’ve developed a new school program based on these books, too, and look forward to working with student writers on mysteries of their own.

Thanks so much for this invitation to visit!

I am giving away three copies of Capture the Flag.

Rules for the Giveaway

1. The giveaway runs from May 29 until 11:59 P.M. on June 3.

2. You must be at least 13 to enter.

3. Please try to pay it forward. :)

Thank you to everyone who attended the Marty McGuire book club discussion. Colby Sharp and I had a blast! Click here to read more about the #MartyMcGuire discussion.

Kate Messner is today's Nerdy Book Club blogger. Thank you, Kate!

Monday, May 28, 2012

Top 20 Most Circulated FIC Books | 2011-2012 School Year - Part 2/2

Last week, I posted the most circulated books in my school library. I received many emails and direct messages about the number of graphic novels that appeared on the list. Mr. Shaffer posted the following comment:

Obviously, graphic novels are incredibly popular. However, do you think that part of the high circulation has to do with how fast they can be read? Students finish them in one night, and then turn them in to get more. Novels take more time to read. I'd be interested to see your Top 20, excluding graphic novels and picture books. Just as another statistic.
I decided to share the most circulated books with a FICTION call number.

Click here to read part one.

Rules by Cynthia Lord

Publisher Description

Twelve-year-old Catherine just wants a normal life. Which is near impossible when you have a brother with autism and a family that revolves around his disability. She's spent years trying to teach David the rules-from "a peach is not a funny-looking apple" to "keep your pants on in public"-in order to stop his embarrassing behaviors. But the summer Catherine meets Jason, a paraplegic boy, and Kristi, the next-door friend she's always wished for, it's her own shocking behavior that turns everything upside down and forces her to ask: What is normal?

Love That Dog by Sharon Creech

Publisher Description


Room 105 -- Miss Stretchberry

September 13

I don't want to because boys don't write poetry.

Girls do.

Meet Jack, who tells his story with a little help from some paper, a pencil, his teacher, and a dog named Sky.

A young student, who comes to love poetry through a personal understanding of what different famous poems mean to him, surprises himself by writing his own inspired poem.

The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate

Katherine connected with my book club on April 25, 2012.

Where the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin

Publisher Description

In the valley of Fruitless mountain, a young girl named Minli lives in a ramshackle hut with her parents. In the evenings, her father regales her with old folktales of the Jade Dragon and the Old Man on the Moon, who knows the answers to all of life's questions. Inspired by these stories, Minli sets off on an extraordinary journey to find the Old Man on the Moon to ask him how she can change her family's fortune. She encounters an assorted cast of characters and magical creatures along the way, including a dragon who accompanies her on her quest for the ultimate answer.

Woods Runner by Gary Paulsen

Publisher Description

Samuel, 13, spends his days in the forest, hunting for food for his family. He has grown up on the frontier of a British colony, America. Far from any town, or news of the war against the King that American patriots have begun near Boston.

But the war comes to them. British soldiers and Iroquois attack. Samuel’s parents are taken away, prisoners. Samuel follows, hiding, moving silently, determined to find a way to rescue them. Each day he confronts the enemy, and the tragedy and horror of this war. But he also discovers allies, men and women working secretly for the patriot cause. And he learns that he must go deep into enemy territory to find his parents: all the way to the British headquarters, New York City.

Things That Go Bump in the Night by Patrick Carman

Publisher Description

Read, watch, and listen to each chilling story in 15 minutes or less!

3:15 means several things. It's a time when things go bump in the night. A place where spooky stories find a home. A feeling . . . that chill running down your spine.

It means 10 terrifying tales that you'll experience in 3 parts: A frightful audio introduction. Several spooky pages of text. And a creepy video conclusion you can watch online. All in 15 minutes or less.

Step into the world of 3:15 and you'll meet Cody Miller, whose greed leads to a grave mistake; Emma Franklin, who learns that not all childhood fears are foolish; Dylan Smith, who should know better than to show off his snowboarding skills on a haunted mountain; and more.

Don't get too attached to any of them.

Click here to watch the video.

Sideways Stories from Wayside School by Louis Sachar

Publisher Description

Lois Sachar, best-selling author of the Wayside School series, knows how to make kids laugh. And there are laughs galore in this popular book, now available again in hardcover. Meet Mrs. Gorf, the teacher who turns the students in Wayside School into apples.

Humorous episodes from the classroom on the thirtieth floor of Wayside School, which was accidentally built sideways with one classroom on each story.

A Tale Dark and Grimm by Adam Gidwitz

Publisher Description

In this mischievous and utterly original debut, Hansel and Gretel walk out of their own story and into eight other classic Grimm-inspired tales. As readers follow the siblings through a forest brimming with menacing foes, they learn the true story behind (and beyond) the bread crumbs, edible houses, and outwitted witches.

Fairy tales have never been more irreverent or subversive as Hansel and Gretel learn to take charge of their destinies and become the clever architects of their own happily ever after.

The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick

I posted about Hugo on January 20, 2011.

Darth Paper Strikes Back by Tom Angleberger

It's the rarest of feats, when quality and popularity align. So often books contain one or the other – Darth Paper Strikes Back has both. Continuing the story of outcast Dwight and his curiously sage Jedi finger puppet, each interconnected chapter reads like a short story – at turns funny, touching, and odd. Containing all the heart and humor of its predecessor (2010 Top Book The Strange Case of Origami Yoda), this is not the sequel slump you may have been looking for. You can go about your business. Move along… move along. -Travis Jonker

Wonderstruck by Brian Selznick

Brian Selznick is a visionary. I never thought he could top his innovative, brilliant Caldecott-winner The Invention of Hugo Cabret. Well, guess what, ladies and gentlemen?Wonderstruck manages that feat. Selznick works as author, illustrator, and magician as he weaves the stories of Ben and Rose into one masterful tale. The stories take place 50 years apart – one told through intricate black and white pencil illustrations, the other through text. Readers will gasp at the ending and wonder HOW Selznick pulled off this masterpiece. It seems nothing short of magic. Selznick has given us a gift – that rare reading experience you are certain cannot be duplicated. Our top children’s book of 2011. -John Schumacher & Travis Jonker

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Top 20 Most Circulated FIC Books | 2011-2012 School Year

Last week, I posted the most circulated books in my school library. I received many emails and direct messages about the number of graphic novels that appeared on the list. Mr. Schaffer posted the following comment:

Obviously, graphic novels are incredibly popular. However, do you think that part of the high circulation has to do with how fast they can be read? Students finish them in one night, and then turn them in to get more. Novels take more time to read. I'd be interested to see your Top 20, excluding graphic novels and picture books. Just as another statistic.
Today and tomorrow, I will share the most circulated books with a FICTION call number.

Two notes:

1. Series are not housed in the FICTION section.
2. I will not feature books that appeared on the original list.

Let the countdown begin!

Pet ownership – sometimes it seems as if the whole of childhood existence is wrapped up in the idea of persuading a grownup to get you a dog. Such is the case with ten-year-old Zelly Fried. To get one she'll even endure the humiliation (and humor) of proving her responsibility with an orange juice jug "practice dog." With a cast of indelible characters, including grandpa Ace WHO IS ALWAYS ON FULL VOLUME, this is the sort of thoughtful, human book that endears itself to readers. -Travis Jonker

The Unwanteds by Lisa McMann

Publisher Description

Every year in Quill, thirteen-year-olds are sorted into categories: the strong, intelligent Wanteds go to university, and the artistic Unwanteds are sent to their graves.

On the day of the Purge, identical twins Alex and Aaron Stowe await their fate. While Aaron is hopeful of becoming a Wanted, Alex knows his chances are slim. He's been caught drawing with a stick in the dirt-and in the stark gray land of Quill, being creative is a death sentence.

But when Alex and the other Unwanteds face the Eliminators, they discover an eccentric magician named Mr. Today and his hidden world that exists to save the condemned children. Artimé is a colorful place of talking statues, uncommon creatures, and artistic magic, where creativity is considered a gift... and a weapon.

Bigger Than a Bread Box by Laurel Snyder

Laurel Snyder creates believable and memorable characters. They pop into your head when you're driving to work, grocery shopping, or recommending a book to a fourth grader. She writes stores that keep readers turning pages and absorbed until the very last word. Her latest middle-grade novel, Bigger Than a Bread Box, follows twelve-year-old Rebecca as she deals with her parents' separation, moving from Baltimore to Atlanta to live with her grandmother, and finding her place in a new school.

She discovers a magical bread box in her grandmother's attic. The box provides any item that fits inside it--a spoon, lip glass, an iPod, money. The bread box seems like a perfect item that makes life easier--little does Rebecca know the repercussions of using the bread box and the moral dilemma she faces as she finds herself in a sticky situation. If only the bread box could grant her biggest wish: her parents getting back together.

I wish I could magically place Bigger Than a Bread Box inside the backpack of every fifth-grade girl who wishes her parents would get back together, or inside the locker of every reflective sixth-grade boy who wishes his life would return to the way it used to be. There are hundreds of kids just waiting for someone to give them this book. It deserves a special place in every school and public library collection. Read it!

Hate That Cat by Sharon Creech

Publisher Description

Hate That Cat continues the story of Jack from Love That Dog. It is a new school year, and Jack learns that his previous year's teacher, Miss Stretchberry, has also moved up a grade along with him. "You understand my brain," he says. Once again, Miss Stretchberry introduces Jack and his classmates to poems that intrigue and entice Jack, allowing him to talk about things that are on his mind: mean cats, sound, silence, worry and joy. You don't really think Miss Stretchberry is going to let Jack hate a cat, do you? Hmm.

Publisher Description

Sixth-grader Jacob Wonderbar is a master when it comes to disarming and annihilating substitute teachers. But when he and his best friends, Sarah and Dexter, swap a spaceship for a corn dog, they embark on an outer space adventure. And between breaking the universe with an epic explosion, being kidnapped by a space pirate, and surviving a planet that reeks of burp breath, Jacob and his friends are in way over their heads. Action packed with an added dose of heart, Jacob Wonderbar and the Cosmic Space Kapow is sure to captivate middlegrade readers all over the universe.

Hound Dog True by Linda Urban

Linda Urban visited my school library on November 17, 2011.

The Familiars by Adam Jay Epstein and Andrew Jacobson

I interviewed Adam Jay Epstein and Andrea Jacobson on September 16, 2011.

Publisher Description

Two years after being airlifted out of war-torn Vietnam, Matt Pin is haunted: by bombs that fell like dead crows, by the family -- and the terrible secret -- he left behind. Now, inside a caring adoptive home in the United States, a series of profound events force him to choose between silence and candor, blame and forgiveness, fear and freedom.

By turns harrowing, dreamlike, sad, and triumphant, this searing debut novel, written in lucid verse, reveals an unforgettable perspective on the lasting impact of war and the healing power of love.

11 Birthdays by Wendy Mass

Publisher Description

It's Amanda's 11th birthday and she is super excited -- after all, 11 is so different from 10. But from the start, everything goes wrong. The worst part of it all is that she and her best friend, Leo, with whom she's shared every birthday, are on the outs and this will be the first birthday they haven't shared together. When Amanda turns in for the night, glad to have her birthday behind her, she wakes up happy for a new day. Or is it? Her birthday seems to be repeating iself. What is going on?! And how can she fix it? Only time, friendship, and a little luck will tell. . .