Thursday, January 31, 2013

#holdshelf: January 2013

My library's hold shelf is a window into my library. Please click play to see some of the books my students will check out later today or tomorrow. 

Did anything surprise you? Are your students checking out similar books? Did you spot a book you're excited to read? 

It's time to hit the road. Please head on over to Travis Jonker's blog to view this month's #HoldShelf gallery. 

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Travis and I Want to See Your #HoldShelf Before 4:00

Mr. Travis Jonker (AKA Mr. September) and I want to see your library's #holdshelf. Why? Because it gives us a nice snapshot of the most requested books. 

Sorry for the short notice, but you only have until 4:00 P.M. CST to email Travis a photograph of your hold shelf. Please send the image to scopenotes at gmail dot com. 

I am excited to see what your kids are reading. 

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

2013 Newbery

Dear 2013 Newbery Committee,

Thank you for spending your Newbery term searching for the most distinguished contribution to children's literature. I bet you can recite this part of the John Newbery Award Selection Committee Manual in your sleep: distinguished is defined as: 

• Marked by eminence and distinction; noted for significant achievement. 

• Marked by excellence in quality. 

• Marked by conspicuous excellence or eminence.

• Individually distinct. 

Thank you for coming to consensus that The One and Only Ivan embodies those qualities. I know the word distinguished pops into my head whenever someone mentions Ivan.

I hope the next week is dedicated to catching up on your favorite television series, spending quality time with friends and family, and feeling proud that you selected a timeless book that will be passed down from one generation to the next. 

Thank you from the bottom of my heart. I'm sending you virtual hugs and a standing ovation. 


P.S. I was the guy in the convention center with tears streaming down his face. Tears, tears, tears. I kept wishing the real Ivan were still alive to hear the news.

The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate 

Splendors and Glooms by Laura Amy Schlitz 


Three Times Lucky by Sheila Turnage 


Bomb by Steve Sheinkin 

Head on over to to hear this great introduction to Bomb

I am giving away a copy of The One and Only Ivan

Rules for the Giveaway 

1. It will run from 1/29 to 11:59 p.m. on 2/1. 

2. You must be at least 13.

3. Please pay it forward. 

Saturday, January 26, 2013

The Newbery Challenge: Jacob Have I Loved

Some facts about 1981

Chariots of Fire won Best Picture. 

MTV debuted.  

Dallas was one of the most popular shows. 

Dolly Parton's "9 to 5" was a hit. 

Travis Jonker, Colby Sharp, and I were born. 

Fables won the Caldecott Medal. 

Jacob Have I Loved won the Newbery Medal. 

Please visit Colby's blog to find out what he thought of Jacob Have I Loved. 

I love listening to Katherine Paterson talk about her childhood. 

Katherine Paterson presented at the 2010 National Book Festival. 

Travis Jonker designed the cover on the right. 

Borrow Jacob Have I Loved from your school or public library. Whenever possible, please support independent bookshops. 

Friday, January 25, 2013

Author Kate Coombs

Kate Coombs is a children's book writer, an editor, a teacher, a poet, a collector of shells, a blogger, and an extremely kind person. I invited her on Watch. Connect. Read. to discuss her books, writing, and reading. 

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

  The Runaway Princess and The Runaway Dragon are my way of having fun with fairy tales. Madcap fun, even. They’re also a good example of “What if” writing: What if a king announced he was giving away half his kingdom and his daughter’s hand in marriage, and the princess wasn’t up for it? What if a sorceress was one of those teen mean girls? What if fairy tales refused to follow the script?

Photo credit: Kate Coombs
Seashells are nature’s way of showing off her artistry on a small scale. Each one is a visual poem. (I’m looking at the shells on my desk as I write this! And—wow. Endlessly wow.)
I always encourage young writers to revise from the typical summary level to a richer level of detail. Yep, “show don’t tell,” or at least “show a lot more than you tell.” I give them models because most of them don’t seem to know what a teacher means when he or she says, “Be specific.” I also encourage young writers to think of outlines as loose and flexible frameworks if they use them at all—most often for nonfiction work. When it comes to creative writing, I point out that writing a story is not as easy as teachers make it sound and suggest that kids use “What if” questions for brainstorming.

Poetry is a way of creating a world that is as compact, beautiful, and surprising as a seashell. Poems are usually adorned with or constructed of metaphors and include a twist in the last line. They are also a way of putting language through its paces. Can the poet create images and ideas that feel so real they reach off the page to grab readers by the heart? Reading a good poem can be more intense than reading just about anything else.
Picture books are like poems, too. Well, I’m thinking of the spare books written for younger readers. Mine are more like old-fashioned sit-around-the-fire-in-winter storytelling. “Listen. Come closer. I’ll tell you a story. Once upon a time, in a land very far away….” There’s a reason the original Star Wars movie starts off the way it does!

Book Aunt is a place where I can share my love of children’s books and hang out with other people who love those books, especially people who want to get them into the hands of children. Which books are being overlooked, but could thoroughly hook a particular child? It’s almost always about finding the right fit. For example, maybe a boy is being pushed to read J.K. Rowling but would much prefer Watt Key. Only he doesn’t know that, so he says, “I don’t like reading.” Or we get a girl who hasn’t discovered the classic Ballet Shoes or Sachar’s Holes or—for a teen—something like Rachel Hartman’s Seraphina or Sarah Dessen’s books. I know I’ve turned some reluctant reader boys in second grade into readers by giving them the Lunch Lady books (followed by Captain Underpants!) and reluctant reader girls in third or fourth grade into readers with the Babymouse series.

Mr. Schu, you should have asked me why I have become disillusioned with jellyfish. Because they are hauntingly strange and lovely, they have been one of my favorite sea creatures for many years. I wrote three poems about them for Water Sings Blue. Later I discovered Mark Kurlansky’s stunning book World without Fish (ages 10 and up). He explains that if the world’s oceans become fished out—which is happening rapidly—the sea creature that will survive and thrive is the jellyfish. Now I can’t help thinking of jellyfish as dastardly opportunists, or at least as being comparable to cockroaches in their apocalyptic indestructibility!

I am giving away one copy of Water Sings Blue

Rules for the Giveaway 

1. It will run from 1/25 to 11:59 p.m. on 1/28. 

2. You must be at least 13. 

3. Please pay it forward. 

Please borrow Kate's books from your school or public library. Whenever possible, please support independent bookshops

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Video of the Day: Remembering to be a Child

National Book Award winner Jeanne Birdsall talks about how her husband encouraged her to become a professional writer, the book that inspired her to write The Penderwicks, and how she remembered what it really felt like to be a child. Thank you, Jeanne Birdsall, for delivering this inspiring TEDx talk.  

Happy watching, everyone!  

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

2013 Sydney Taylor Book Award Winners

The Sydney Taylor Book Awards were announced on January 21. The awards are presented annually to outstanding books for children and teens that "authentically portray the Jewish experience." 

Congratulations to the winners! 

Hannah's Way by Linda Glasser; illustrated by Adam Gustavson. Kar-Ben, 2012. 

His Name Was Raoul Wallenberg by Louise Borden. Houghton Mifflin, 2012. 

I interviewed Louise a few weeks ago. Here's what she told me about His Name was Raoul Wallenberg

Mr. Schu: What would you like anyone booktalking His Name Was Raoul Wallenberg to mention? 

Louise Borden: I believe that one person can make a difference in the world. Kids are often told this in various ways - by their parents or teachers. I wanted to contribute to that conversation by writing about Raoul, who is unknown to many Americans. His actions and his moral compass can shine a light on the unknown roads ahead of all of us. There are very few books written about RW for children. I felt that my style of line breaks and white space would help readers navigate the terrain of unfamiliar geography and historical events. 

What if RW had never gone to Budapest in July, 1944? 

How would the story of Budapest's Jewish families have played out?

Did his years as a student in America help to shape Raoul's outlook on life?

Did his travels have an impact on his world view?

I tried to include interesting details to draw kids in. . .Raoul's childhood, his schooling, his travels, etc.

When I was writing the book, I was never really thinking about the booktalking that would occur after RW was published. But your question, John, has led me to new thinking. Many terrific questions can arise in discussing the book with students.

And of course, writing about the mystery of Raoul's disappearance was very difficult. I was so immersed for years in the research and then the writing.  It took me almost two years to complete the text (after the research).  When I was almost finished with the text, I returned to Stockholm, and shared the manuscript with Nina and Gunnar.  "I'm almost there. . .but I still need to write the two ending chapters," I said, and Gunnar looked at me and smiled and  replied, "You have the hardest part of the book still ahead of you. . . "  Wise words from this wonderful friend. The ending was indeed the hardest to write. 

I hated to let go of 2012 in a way because it was the Centennial Year of RW's birth.

Intentions by Deborah Heilgman. Knopf Books for Young Readers, 2012. 

Zayde Comes to Live by Sheri Sinykin; illustrated by Kristina Swarner. Peachtree, 2012. 

The Elijah Door: A Passover Tale by Linda Leopold Strauss; illustrated by Alexi Natchev. Holiday House, 2012. 

The Wooden Sword: A Jewish Folktale from Afghanistan by Ann Redisch Stampler; illustrated by Carol Liddiment. Albert Whitman and Company, 2012.

Beyond Courage: The Untold Story of Jewish Resistance During the Holocaust by Doreen Rappaport. Candlewick Press, 2012. 

Sadie and the Big Mountain by Jamie Korngold; illustrated by Julie Fortenberry. Kar-Ben, 2012. 

The Schmutzy Family by Madelyn Rosenberg; illustrated by Paul Meisel. Holiday House, 2012. 

A Song for My Sister by Lesley Simpson; illustrated by Tatjana Mai-Wyss. Random House, 2012. 

Speak Up, Tommy! by Jacqueline Dembar Green; illustrated by Deborah Melmon. Kar-Ben, 2012. 

A Sweet Passover by Leslea Newman; illustrated by David Slonim. Abrams Books for Young Readers, 2012. 

Hereville: How Mirka Met a Meteroite by Barry Deutsch. Amulet Books, 2012. 

Looking for Me by Betsy R. Rosenthal. Houghton Mifflin, 2012. 

Sami’s Sleepaway Summer by Jenny Meyerhoff 
(Scholastic Paperbacks) 

Small Medium at Large by Joanne Levy. Bloomsbury, 2012.  

Joanne participated in a Sharp-Schu trifecta. 

Mr. Schu: What does it feel like to send your first book out into the world?

Joanne Levy: I’m not sure I can quite describe the mixture of emotions, but I guess I’m a writer, so I’d better try. It has been a LONG and very bumpy road for me, with over a dozen books written before this one, several of which did get shopped before finally making a sale with SMALL MEDIUM AT LARGE. So it feels like a long time coming and that 9 years has made today, my official release day, that much sweeter. Not to say I would have minded a quick and early sale, but the pride I feel over sticking it out this long goes further than just feeling great about writing and selling a book. I’m not just a published author, I’m also a thick-skinned, persistent, determined, refuses-to-let-her-dreams-die gal who worked hard to make it happen. So yeah, between the pride over the book and the pride in myself, I feel pretty darn good. That said, it’s kind of terrifying at the same time, as I worry if the book will do well and will people, and especially kids, like it. And I feel like this whole experience has pulled me out of my comfort zone in so many (good) ways, but I feel so much better for it. I am so grateful for the wonderful people who have stood by me along the journey AND for all the new friends I’m making because of it—so many people have been so encouraging and gracious that I’m daily overwhelmed with gratitude. So to sum up: it feels pretty amazing.

Whole Story of Half a Girl by Veera Hiranandani. Random House, 2012.  

The Last Song by Eva Wiseman. Tundra Books, 2012. 

Now by Morris Gleitzman. Henry Holt, 2012. 

Rachel's Secret by Shelly Sanders. Second Story Press, 2012. 

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

World Read Aloud Day is on March 6

It is incredibly easy to celebrate World Read Aloud Day. All you have to do is read to family, friends, students, colleagues, neighbors, strangers, pets, stuffed animals, etc. The possibilities are endless. 

If you're an educator, I hope you'll connect with classrooms around the world, contact authors and illustrators to arrange Skype visits, and encourage your entire school to read aloud and take action on March 6, 2013. 

Download the World Read Aloud Day activity kit. 

The World Read Aloud Day event kit will help you plan your  reading and storytelling celebration. 

Worldwide at least 793 million people remain illiterate.
Imagine a world where everyone can read...

Monday, January 21, 2013

It's Monday! What are you reading? 1/21/13

Jen and Kellee host a weekly meme called "What Are You Reading? From Picture Books to YA." It encourages you to share what you read during the previous week and to plan what you're going to read/review during the current week. Thank you, Kellee and Jen, for hosting this fun meme.

If you looked inside my lesson plan book (it is a Google document), you would find the following book trailers listed under the section entitled "Make sure you share these trailers throughout the week." 

Candlewick's description

World War II is raging, and thousands of American soldiers are fighting overseas against the injustices brought on by Hitler. Back on the home front, the injustice of discrimination against African Americans plays out as much on Main Street as in the military. Enlisted black men are segregated from white soldiers and regularly relegated to service duties. At Fort Benning, Georgia, First Sergeant Walter Morris’s men serve as guards at The Parachute School, while the white soldiers prepare to be paratroopers. Morris knows that for his men to be treated like soldiers, they have to train and act like them, but would the military elite and politicians recognize the potential of these men as well as their passion for serving their country? Tanya Lee Stone examines the role of African Americans in the military through the history of the Triple Nickles, America’s first black paratroopers, who fought in a little-known attack on the American West by the Japanese. The 555th Parachute Infantry Battalion, in the words of Morris, "proved that the color of a man had nothing to do with his ability."
They became America’s first black paratroopers. Why was their story never told? Sibert Medalist Tanya Lee Stone reveals the history of the Triple Nickles during World War II.

Open This Little Book. Written by Jesse Klausmeier; illustrated by Suzy Lee. Chronicle, 2013. 

Chronicle's description

What will you find when you open this little book? A fun story? Sweet characters? Enticing pictures? Yes! But much more. Open this book and you will find...another book...and another...and another. 

Flora and the Flamingo. Illustrated by Molly Idle. Chronicle, 2013. 

Chronicle's description

In this innovative wordless picture book with interactive flaps, Flora and her graceful flamingo friend explore the trails and joys of friendship through an elaborate synchronized dance. With a twist, a turn, and even a flop, these unlikely friends learn at last how to dance together in perfect harmony. 

Visit Oliver Jeffers' website to learn more about him and his books. 

The View from Saturday by E.L. Konigsburg

Sunday, January 20, 2013

The February #SharpSchu Book Club Meeting

Colby Sharp and I hope you can attend the February meeting of the #SharpSchu Book Club.

7:00-7:15 P.M. CST: Q&A with Laurel about Good Night, Laila Tov and Inside the Slidy Diner.

7:15-7:40 P.M. CST: Bigger Than a Bread Box discussion.

7:40-7:55 P.M. CST: Q&A with Laurel about Bigger Than a Bread Box.

I am giving away three paperback copies of Bigger Than a Bread Box.

Rules for the Giveaway

1. It will run from 1/20 to 11:59 P.M. on 1/23.

2. You must be at least 13.

3. Please pay it forward. :)