Friday, March 1, 2013

Author Jacqueline Jules

Readers around the world will celebrate World Read Aloud Day on Wednesday, March 6. I hope many schools and libraries will select one of Jacqueline Jules' books to share with students, patrons, and colleagues on this special and important day. 

I invited Jacqueline on Watch. Connect. Read. to discuss her award-winning books, school visits, reading, and writing. I wrote the words in red, and she wrote the words in black. Thank you, Jacqueline! 

The Zapato Power series was inspired by students asking for a book on superheroes. At the time I began the series, I was working as a school librarian. Many of my students were Hispanic and English as a Second Language Learners. Freddie Ramos is an imagined composite of these students. He lives in the apartment building right next to the school where I worked. And he is trying to figure out how to be a superhero without giving up his ordinary life as an elementary school student. Freddie Ramos always makes me smile because he reminds me of the good-natured, loving students who inspired him. He also ignites my imagination. What would it be like to run super fast? What kind of adventures could I have? What kind of trouble would I get into?

I became a writer when I learned how to arrange and rearrange words. Writing is re-writing—saying the same thing, only more vividly. I am not exactly sure when I came to understand this, probably sometime in my thirties. I dreamed of being a writer from the time I was in elementary school. But I didn’t learn the joy of revamping a story idea until many years later. Now, many of my first drafts bear as little resemblance to my final manuscripts as a caterpillar to a butterfly.  

Jef Czekaj, who illustrated Unite or Die: How Thirteen States Became a Nation must be clairvoyant. He was the one who told the editor that Unite or Die should be illustrated as a school play with students dressed up in cardboard cut-outs of the thirteen original states. When I first sold the manuscript, I didn’t tell my Charlesbridge editor that the book was an adaptation of a skit I wrote for my fourth grade students to perform in honor of Constitution Day. My students wore cardboard placards with outline maps when they performed the skit at my school. There is a reader’s theater of Unite or Die: How Thirteen States Became a Nation on my website , available for classrooms who’d like to perform a shortened version of the book.

The Sydney Taylor Award committee honored me with a silver medallion for two of my bible stories, Sarah Laughs and Benjamin and the Silver Goblet. I went to the Association of Jewish Librarians convention in Seattle in July 2010 to receive my certificate for Benjamin and the Silver Goblet. I had a fabulous time, meeting librarians and enjoying downtown Seattle. That trip was one of the highlights of my last couple of years.

I connect with young readers in person and on Skype because it is a great way to make new friends all over the country. My Skype visits have been with individual classes or small book clubs, so there is an opportunity for each child to talk to me personally. That is not possible when I speak to an assembly of a hundred or more students at a school visit.

*The Pencil Tips Writing Workshop Strategies blog is a group of six children’s authors who take turns blogging each week with teaching tips, especially ideas for classroom writing lessons. When it’s my turn, I often blog about my own teaching experiences in an elementary school. I work part-time now as a writing resource teacher. Sometimes, I share lessons I’ve enjoyed teaching. Other times, I discuss particular challenges my young students face as writers. I also enjoy reading the lessons my fellow bloggers post because they give me excellent ideas for the classroom.  

Poetry is a big part of my life. Poetry gives us a way to tell  stories about ourselves in a concise way. So many ordinary life experiences can be seen as metaphors for bigger truths or understandings. I see poems in shopping trips, visits to the doctor, cleaning my house, and cooking dinner. I also see poetry in sports events. Last fall, a poem of mine entitled “Running Back” was included in an anthology called Poetry Friday edited by Janet Wong and Sylvia Vardell. In this poem, I compare a football player’s determination to run with the ball “past all those guys trying to knock [him] down,” to my own desire to keep going despite obstacles.   

Reading is the reason I became a writer. Books have comforted, inspired, and transported me for as long as I can remember. Stories have taught me that I am not alone—that others have struggled with many of the same emotions I have. When I read, I meet characters who enrich my world. In books, I have learned how to dream, how to empathize, and how to live. 

Mr. Schu, you should have asked me about my picture book coming out in September 2013, called What a Way to Start a New Year! It's about a family that has a series of mishaps after moving to a new city just before the Rosh Hashanah holiday. I started the story in 1989, after moving to a new city, but couldn't get it right for twenty years. Selling that story gave me the courage to completely rework and sell another project that took years to write. The Vizier's Son, a story of friendship set in medieval Spain, is currently being illustrated. I'm very excited about both of these projects because they have shown me that I shouldn't give up on ideas that I love. 

I am giving away Freddie Ramos Springs into Action, Freddie Ramos Zooms to the Rescue, and Freddie Ramos Makes a Splash

Rules for the Giveaway

1. It will run from 3/1 to 11:59 P.M. on 3/3. 

2. You must be at least 13. 

3. Please pay it forward. 


  1. My fourth graders love ZAPATO POWER!

  2. Hip hooray for Jacqueline Jules! I just love her writing, all of it!

  3. I LOVE Jacqueline Jules. She is just as fabulous in person as she is "on paper". I am lucky to have hosted her at my school *and* my own children had a visit from her at their school! She is extremely creative and generous - I'm so glad she had a guest spot on your blog, Mr. Schu!

  4. Thanks so much Mr. Schu for having me as a guest on your blog. And thanks to Amy and everyone for your kind words. I am honored.