Monday, September 30, 2013

#HoldShelf: September 2013

Thanks for sending me a photograph of your #holdshelf. It is always fun to see what kids around the world are placing on hold. 

Bannockburn School Library 

Patti Fleser 

Erin Drew

LeAnn Miller 

Angie Dickerson 

Mrs. Gorek 
Glen Oaks Library

Mariela Siegert

Hopewell Library

Debbie Alvarez

Edie Crook

Jennifer Reed

Tamara Cox

Michelle Glatt

Katie Hauser 

Mrs. Williams 

Northbrook Junior High 

PC West High School 

Mary Clare O'Grady 

Stacy Ford 

Kristi Sweeney

Paige Ysteboe

Paige Ysteboe

Laura Given

Kurt Stroh

Elsa Perales 

Sunday, September 29, 2013

The October Sharp-Schu Book Club Meeting

Mr. Colby Sharp and I hope you'll join us on Wednesday, October 23 to discuss two of my favorite picture books. Please press play to get the scoop. 

Will we "see" you on October 23? 

I am giving away one copy of Creepy Carrots and one copy of Z is for Moose

Rules for the Giveaway 

1. It will run from 9/29 to 11:59 P.M. on 10/1. 

2. You must be at least 13. 

3. Please pay it forward. 

Borrow Creepy Carrots and Z is for Moose from your school or public library. Whenever possible, please support independent bookshops. 

Friday, September 27, 2013

Author Charlotte Gunnufson

Happy Friday! I hope you're having a wonderful morning/afternoon/evening. :)

 I love that every Friday an author, an illustrator, or an educator finishes my sentences. Today's special guest is author Charlotte Gunnufson. We discussed Halloween, dancing, reading, and writing. I wrote the words in orange, and she wrote the words in black. Thank you, Charlotte! 

Halloween Hustle is perfect for anyone who loves to laugh, dance, or get in the Halloween groove!—especially kids ages 3 and up. The book is written in rhyme with a hip-hop feel so it’s best when read aloud. Kids catch the beat and start reading along with the refrain, “Doing the Halloween Hustle!”

Kevan J. Atteberry’s illustrations infuse the story with heart and hilarity! Kevan gives Skeleton a full-fledged personality with facial expressions ranging from cool confidence to “Oh, no!” and from sheepishness to celebration. And Skeleton’s dancing poses! If you look up “adorkable” in the dictionary, I’m bet there’s a picture of Skeleton strutting his stuff. Kevan created a whole cast of friendly characters. Witch, Mummy, Drac, Frank and others seem like they just might be a young reader’s best buddies—and funniest friends. Entertaining antics appear on every page!

My son’s “Signature Skeleton” really did inspire Halloween Hustle!  It’s an art project he made way back in second grade. (I save as much of my kids’ artwork as I possibly can!) I pulled it out of a bin of Halloween decorations and thought I’d write a poem about a dancing skeleton. Skeleton discovered he was dancing his way to a Halloween party.  A friendly Frankenstein showed up and they hopped—and be-bopped!—on the bus. The poem stretched into a story.

The official Halloween Hustle dance video is designed to get kids up and moving—and grooving!— with dancers Alexis Jo, Ellen, and Maya. The energetic, easy-to-follow choreography is set to an original, ear-catching tune. Listen with caution! Lots of people—kids, parents, librarians—have told me they find themselves singing the song at school, at work, in the library…

Reading is like a super healthy, delicious snack: really good for you and really enjoyable, too. In one way, reading is completely functional: you need to be able to read to make your way in the world. In another way, reading just makes your life better: whether a book is making you laugh or making you cry, it’s adding meaning to your life. There aren’t many super healthy, delicious snacks out there. Be sure to gobble up a good book as often as you can!

Picture books are irreplaceable and indispensable. They’re a child’s admission ticket into the world of good books and great literature. Besides that, when parents, grandparents, older siblings, and caregivers read to a child, they’re forging a bond with that child and communicating this vital message: You are so important to me that I’m going devote time to you (just 5 or 10 minutes!). Books are so important that we’re going to spend our time reading. Maybe we’ll be giggling. Maybe we’ll be gnawing our nails because our favorite character is in a bit of a fix. For certain, we’ll be spending our minutes together relishing a book.  

When I was a kid, I got completely immersed in the books my parents read. Their illustrations were huge landscapes to me. When I visit my parents, I’m surprised by how small the books actually are. Some of my clearest and fondest school memories are of teachers and librarians reading aloud: Danny and the Dinosaur, The Mouse and the Motorcycle, Where the Red Fern Grows and many more. I’m so grateful to everyone who read to me and led me to a lifelong love of reading and story-making.

Mr. Schu, you should have asked me about all the fun, free, kid-friendly stuff on my website: cool coloring pages from Kevan J.Atteberry and Halloween-themed word searches, crossword puzzles, mazes, and crafts. Visitors can download the Halloween Hustle song (My sister-in-law made it my brother’s ringtone!) and send Halloween e-postcards to friends. (They’re free and spam-free! I don’t capture email addresses.) On the Contact & Events page, anyone can send for a free bookmark and check out my list of events. I’m making dozens of stops in the Midwest all the way up to Halloween. You’re invited to a Halloween Hustle dance party!

I am giving away one copy of Halloween Hustle

Rules for the Giveaway 

1. It will run from 9/27 to 11:59 P.M. on 9/29. 

2. You must be at least 13. 

3. Please pay it forward. 

Thursday, September 26, 2013

The September #SharpSchu Book Club Meeting

Thank you to everyone who participated in last night's Sharp-Schu Book Club meeting. You  inspire me every day. 

Journey's book trailer is one of the best I've ever watched.

Aaron Becker answered Holly Mueller's questions.

Aaron Becker created this dot for International Dot Day.

Explore Aaron Becker's website.

"...Becker's book has a beauty distinctly its own." - Sarah Harrison Smith 

Margie featured Journey on August 29, 2013. 

Download this Q&A with Aaron Becker. 

Have you seen the book trailer for Mike Boldt's hilarious 123 Versus ABC?

Mike Boldt finished my sentences on July 24, 2013. 

Ode to Underwear is Mike Boldt's latest picture book.

Visit Mike Boldt's website

Mike Boldt reads to his characters.

Download a 123 Versus ABC activity sheet:

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

The Sharp-Schu Book Club Meets Tomorrow

Colby Sharp and I sure hope you will  participate in tomorrow's Sharp-Schu Book Club meeting. 

Monday, September 23, 2013

We Want to See Your #HoldShelf

Mr. Travis Jonker and I joined forces last year to make On Hold @ the Library a monthly event. It is super easy to partcipate. All you need to do is take a picture (or create a vine) of your hold shelf. On Monday, September 30, I will post your picture or video. Please send it to me before 9:00 P.M. (CDT) on September 29. Thank you! 

*Email the photo or vine to MrSchuReads at gmail dot com.

*Tweet the photo using #HoldShelf.

*Post the photo or vine to your blog and let me know in the comments.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Author Samantha R. Vamos

I'm thankful that every Friday an author, an illustrator  or an educator drops by my blog to finish my sentences. Today's special guest is picture book author Samantha R. Vamos. I wrote the words in red, and she wrote the words in black. Thank you, Samantha! 

My newest picture book is a rhyming, alphabet book about 26 different trucks from A to Z.  Alphabet Trucks is truckloads of fun to read and was really interesting to research.  The inspiration for Alphabet Trucks was the letter “Z” truck that I spotted on a highway.  (Hint: it’s not a Zamboni.)  There are a lot of unusual trucks in this book that will surprise readers.

Ryan O'Rourke’s illustrations… are absolutely ideal for this book.  His oil and acrylic illustrations are colorful and warm.  He’s created trucks that kids would not only want for their own collections, but are also so inviting that a massive, 200 ton ore truck seems adorable.  One thing I adore is that every scene incorporates multiple letters.  It’s fun to spot the three letter “i” ice cream cones; the letter “M’s” spilling out of the cement mixer; the lowercase “t’s” creating the tow truck chain, and so many more examples. 

The Cazuela That the Farm Maiden Stirred follows from one morning when I was hoping to make pancakes and discovered I did not have eggs or milk.  Thinking how easy it would be if I lived on a farm and could simply gather eggs, I imagined myself a farm maiden and my story grew from there!  The Cazuela That the Farm Maiden Stirred is about a farmer, farm maiden, and five farm animals that together create a surprise recipe in a pot (la cazuela). It’s a festive, bilingual, cumulative tale like the “The House That Jack Built” so as the action builds, keywords repeat.

Rafael López received the 2012 Pura Belpré 
Illustrator Honor for The Cazuela That The FarmMaiden Stirred.  His work is stunning.  It’s saturated with color and detail, and his illustrations infuse each character with personality (one of my favorite examples is the donkey (burro) wearing stylish boots).  Rafael uses acrylic paints on wood that he hand-cuts and sands.  When painted, the wood grain emerges, adding texture to each scene.   

After receiving the Pura Belpré Illustrator Honor, Rafael, along with the other 2012 ALA medal recipients, created a short video for the ALA’s YouTube channel. Rafael “illustrated” his gratitude.  It’s a great video.  

Before You Were Here, Mi Amor is a bilingual picture book that was inspired by the pregnancy of my sister’s first child.  Before You Were Here, Mi Amor describes all the things that one extended family – mother, father, sister, brother, uncle, aunt, grandparents, and even the family puppy – does to welcome a new child into the world.  Of course, my nephew (who is now in high school) took 9 months to birth and my book took almost 11 years!  

Reading is on par with dark chocolate for me.  (My eight-year old son just volunteered that I love chocolate as much as Geronimo Stilton loves cheese!)  I still receive an incredible charge when I enter a library or bookstore – the idea of endless books to read and discover is exciting.

Picture books are my favorite genre to write.  I love the concept of marrying illustration to text to tell a story.  Even if I wasn’t a picture book author or a parent, I would still love picture books because they’re for all ages, are often works of art, and introduce the concept of visualizing and imagining written words.

Visit Samantha's website

Mr. Schu, you should have asked me about Alphabet Trains, the companion book to Alphabet Trucks and my next children’s picture book.  Alphabet Trains features 26 different trains from A to Z and includes some of the most fascinating and famous trains from around the world.  Alphabet Trains arrives at a station near you in 2015!  

I am giving away a copy of Alphabet Trucks

Rules for the Giveaway 

1. It will run from 9/20 to 11:59 P.M. on 9/22. 

2. You must be at least 13. 

3. Please pay it forward. 

Thursday, September 19, 2013

A Guest Post by Wendy McClure - The History Mystery of the Boxcar Children

The basic story details about The Boxcar Children are easy enough to recall—four orphaned siblings, a dog named Watch, an abandoned boxcar in the woods. Ask anyone who knows the story and they’ll tell you.

And if you ask them when the story takes place, they might scrunch up their faces trying to remember, and an awful lot will say, “During the Great Depression, right?”

Wrong! Well, sort of: in The Boxcar Children, author Gertrude Chandler Warner never indicates a specific era, though clearly from the black-and-white illustrations it’s a time when kids wore quaint, high-topped shoes and some small-town folks still traveled by horse-drawn carts. It could be pretty much any time in the early 20th Century after automobiles were in use (since Dr. Moore and Mr. Alden drive them). While it could be the 1930s, there’s no mention of times being hard in Greenfield, where folks appear to be happily employed at Mr. Alden’s mill.  And yet the idea that The Boxcar Children is a Depression-era story endures, and for the past fifteen years that I’ve been at Albert Whitman I regularly encounter people—librarians, booksellers, people who read the books as kids—who think this is the case.

I always thought I understood why: after all, the Alden children make the best of their homelessness, scavenging things from a junk heap and cooking a delicious stew from odds and ends. The spirit of The Boxcar Children is perfectly compatible with Depression-era values of resourcefulness, “making do,” and pressing on in the face of adversity. This association was further cemented in the early 2000s, when the Plays for Young Audiences adaptation of The Boxcar Children was first launched with Barbara Field’s script definitively setting the story in the 1930s.

It makes perfect sense, of course. But Warner never claimed The Boxcar Children to be a survival story about the 30s. Rather, she said it was inspired by her childhood dream of living in a train car—a dream that came from watching trains pass right by her house when she was a little girl in Putnam, Connecticut. She developed the story twice—first, in 1924, when the novel The Box-Car Children was first published. Then, in 1942, while working as a teacher consultant for the textbook company Scott Foresman, she wrote The Boxcar Children, the beginning-reader-friendly version of the story that we know today.

Warner published sequels to The Boxcar Children beginning in 1949 and continuing until the 1970s (she passed away in 1979). The Aldens of those books (and the ones that continue to be written today) have lived in “the present day” for decades—sporting crew cuts and flips in the books written in the 50s and 60s, and cargo pants in the 80s books. When you look at the series as a whole it’s as obvious as Benny Alden’s bellbottom trousers in The Bus Station Mystery that Warner meant the books to be adventure stories, not historical ones.

Still, the associations with the 30s have always stuck with that first book, even before the play was launched, and I’ve always wondered why. It wasn’t until I was researching my own children’s novel-in-progress that I finally came across the coincidence of history that links The Boxcar Children with the Great Depression.

I was reading a lot about children on trains—my middle-grade novel, Wanderville (forthcoming from Razorbill in January), begins in 1904 with three children boarding the “orphan trains” that sent thousands of children from urban orphanages on the East Coast to foster homes in the Midwest and beyond. My young protagonists escape from the orphan train, but I’ve been thinking ahead to their continuing adventures in which they  just may return to the rails in future books. In my research I soon discovered that in the history of homeless children, there’s one era that’s especially well documented. Maybe you can guess which one…

During the Great Depression, more than a quarter of a million teenagers were living on the road. They’d left home to relieve the financial burden on their families, to look for better work opportunities elsewhere, or because their schools had closed. Some hitchhiked, and a great many more rode the rails, stowing away in freight cars. Their way of life and their desperation received national attention in the press and in books and movies, including a 1933 movie called Wild Boys of the Road and Thomas Minehan’s 1934 book Boy and Girl Tramps.

And there was a certain term used to refer to these teenagers that seemed to have especially caught on during that decade. That term was “boxcar kids.”  

Boxcar kids! I can’t help but think this explains why so many people think Henry, Jessie, Violet, and Benny Alden began their series adventures as young hoboes from the Hard Times. Quite by coincidence, Gertrude Chandler Warner’s 1920s story evoked 1930s memories when it was revised in the 40s. It’s no wonder, since the Boxcar Kids of history and the Boxcar Children of fiction have so many experiences in common—from homelessness to hunger pangs to the shelter of a freight car.

And of course, a little historical misappropriation doesn’t really change The Boxcar Children at all. It’s still a story of resilient kids who are able to find a sense of family, home, and fun in just about any circumstance. No matter what the history is—or isn’t— there’s still a great deal of truth.

 Wendy McClure holds an M.F.A. in poetry from the Iowa Writers' Workshop. She is the author of The Wilder LifeI'm Not the New Me, and the creator of the online journal Pound, as well as the humor site Candyboots. She is a columnist for Bust, a regular contributor to the website Television Without Pity, and her writing has also appeared in Glamour, The Chicago Sun-Times, and The New York Times Magazine, among other publications. She lives in Chicago.  

Patricia MacLachlan visited Bank Street Bookstore during her Boxcar Children tour. 

Becky Anderson chats with Patrcia MacLachlan about The Boxcar Children. 

Rules for the Giveaway 

1. It will run from 9/19 to 11:59 P.M. on 9/21. 

2. You must be at least 13. 

3. Please pay it forward.