Tuesday, July 30, 2013

The Sharp-Schu Book Club Meets Tomorrow

Lisa Yee, Dan Santat, Colby Sharp and I hope you'll participate in tomorrow's Sharp-Schu Twitter Book Club meeting. I heard a rumor that Dan might give away books, stickers, and posters to some of the participants. 

Monday, July 29, 2013

Mrs. P's 5th Annual Be-A-Famous Writer Contest

Calling all Teachers! Looking for a project to add a little "Magic" to your classroom? Have your class enter Mrs. P’s 5th Annual “Be-A-Famous-Writer” Contest.

To celebrate the 5th year of Mrs. P's annual writing contest, she's made some changes and the contest is now for classrooms only. Parents can still participate by telling their child's teacher about it. 

Entry Dates: September 1, 2013. 

Contest Closes: November 15, 2013

Winners Announced: January 15, 2014

Mrs. P invites your class to write a story on the topic of MAGIC, no less than 250 words and not to exceed 1,000 words. It may be fiction or non-fiction. Any classroom from kindergarten through 4th grade may enter. Just one story per classroom. It can be a collaborative story, or you can have your class vote on which child's story to enter. And there's no more database to enter, or permission slips to sign. You, the teacher, just email the story. CLICK HERE TO READ THE OFFICIAL RULES

(Information posted with permission.)  

I interviewed Mrs. P. last year. It is worth sharing again. 

Mr. Schu: What inspired you to start the Be-A-Famous-Writer Contest?

Mrs. P: Technology has helped make entertainment for children immersive and visually spectacular. All the kid has to do, really, is sit there and be entertained. I thought it would be nice to offer an option that requires the child to use her or his own imagination and creativity. I'd hate for that to become a lost art. On a more selfish level, I started the contest because I love to read stories written by kids. They can be so funny and surprising and beautiful.

Mr. Schu: I tell all of my students about MrsP.com. Thank you for your entertaining stories and interactive activities. What are you most proud of on the site?

Mrs. P: I love reading to kids, and with my videos, I’m able to reach more of them than I ever could in person. It makes me happy to know that thousands of kids are listening to classic stories and using their imaginations - and if they’re using my read-along feature, improving their reading skills.

Mr. Schu: Please share three of your favorite picture books.

Mrs P: Oh, my, what a challenging assignment! There are so many I love - but I understand you may not have room here for the titles of 12,000 books. Okay, three of my favorite are: Where the Wild Things Are, by Maurice Sendak

Where the Sidewalk Ends, by Shel Silverstein

Horton Hears a Who, by Dr. Seuss.

Oh, dear, I’m already thinking I should’ve included Goodnight, Moon and The Giving Tree. But I’ll stop now.

Mr. Schu: Reading is…

Mrs. P: …what you’re doing right now!

Visit the official site for the Be-A-Famous Writer Contest.

Visit MrsP.com to explore interactive digital storybooks.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

The Newbery Challenge: The Higher Power of Lucky

Please visit Mr. Colby Sharp's blog to watch his latest Newbery Challenge video. 

"As the Newbery Honor recipients, we wanted to share our feelings on the current Newbery discussions. We are delighted and honored to be in the wonderful company of Susan Patron and her incredible book, The Higher Power of Lucky. We support her creative vision and hope that the present controversy will not overshadow her remarkable achievement. Readers everywhere, young and old, are truly lucky to have such a book in their schools, libraries, stores, and in the world." 

Jennifer Holm, author of the 2007 Newbery Honor Book PENNY FROM HEAVEN (Random House Children’s Books)

Kirby Larson, author of the 2007 Newbery Honor Book HATTIE BIG SKY (Random House Children’s Books)

Cynthia Lord, author of the 2007 Newbery Honor Book RULES (Scholastic Press)

The American Library Association interviewed Susan Patron. 

Kirby Larson reads an excerpt from The Higher Power of Lucky

Download the discussion guide for Susan Patron's Hard Pan trilogy

Friday, July 26, 2013

Author Natalie Dias Lorenzi

Happy, happy Friday, everyone! As you most likely already know by now, every Friday I invite an individual who believes in the power of children's books to finish my sentences. This week's guest is author and librarian Natalie Dias Lorenzi.  I wrote the words in red, and she wrote the words in black. Thank you, Natalie! 

Flying the Dragon tells the story of Skye, a soccer-loving American girl who has finally made the all-star soccer team, and her cousin, Hiroshi, who lives half-way around the world in Japan. Hiroshi is finally allowed to enter the local rokkaku (kite-fighting) contest as a flier, while Grandfather, fellow kite-fighter and Hiroshi’s best friend, will be his assistant. But before any kite battles or all-star soccer practices, Hiroshi’s family decides to move to America when Grandfather becomes ill. In order to help the grandfather whom she has never met, Skye will have to take a Japanese-language course on Saturdays, which means losing her place on the all-star soccer team. Hiroshi has to struggle through learning a new language and a new culture. The cousins struggle with change, their language barrier, and a rivalry for their grandfather's affection, but training for an upcoming rokkaku kite battle in Washington DC brings them together and helps them find the strength and courage to overcome new obstacles.

Kelly Murphy’s cover illustration could have depicted a giraffe driving a fire truck, and I would have been happy. Kelly’s art is amazing. You can read an interview here that author and friend Lynda Mullaly Hunt did with Kelly when my book was released, and a post I wrote here about my first (and second) reactions to finding out the news that Kelly would be doing the cover for Flying the Dragon.

Skype and in-person visits feel a lot like my day job, which is why I love them so much. My very first visit was back in January, and I didn’t sleep very well the night before because I was worried—would the kids think I was boring? Would they start throwing things? Would the teachers be grading papers during my presentation, oblivious to any back-of-the-room mayhem? And would I have giant bags under my eyes from not sleeping well the night before?? Once I was introduced to the kids and I started talking, though, it felt exactly like teaching. And then I wasn’t nervous at all; I had a ball.

”Rising to the Global Challenge: Literature as a Tool for Creating World Citizens” is irrefutable proof that Mr. Schu does his homework when he invites authors to finish his sentences! It’s also the name of a panel that a group of middle grade authors (including yours truly) will be presenting this November at the Fall AASL conference in Connecticut.

If you visited my school library you would know more about it than I do, because I haven’t seen it yet! I’ve taught at the same school for the past five years—three years as a full-time ESL teacher, and two years as part-time ESL teacher and part-time librarian. Just a few weeks ago, I accepted a full-time librarian position at a school much closer to my house (10 minutes away instead of 40). Even though I interviewed at the new school, I didn’t get to see the library because there was another interview scheduled right after mine.  

BUT...if you’d visited my other school library, you would have seen a whole section of shelves with books in foreign languages because of the school’s 1,000+ students, almost 40 different languages are spoken by children from over 50 countries. With an immigrant population of 88% and over 70% of those kids in the ESL program, you might also notice our substantial “Quick Reads” section, which are the hi-lo readers—books that appeal to upper elementary kids who read two, three, or more years below grade level. Our graphic novels section is also a huge hit; you probably wouldn’t see many of them on the shelves, but on the returns cart where they’ll be snatched up by the next class that walks in the door.

Reading is connecting. Cultures with oral storytelling traditions used stories to connect the newest generation to generations past. Readers today connect with characters on the page, and we connect with each other every time we pass a book along to a friend and say, “Drop everything and read this. Now. Seriously.”

As a librarian, I feel like I’m hand-selling books every day (sans money, of course). With over a thousand students at our school, I’ll admit that I don’t know every kid’s name. But I know what kind of books they like. When a kids walks in the door, I might not be able to greet him or her by name, but I will say something like, “Guess what? The next Bone book just came in and I saved it for you,” or “How’d you like that ocean book? I’ve got one on sharks that you might be interested in.” As teachers, we know that making connections improves comprehension. But it’s more than that, isn’t it? I tell my students that my job is to help them find the book that puts them in “the zone,” where they lose track of whatever is going on around them and follow a character into another world.

I had a 5th grade student this past year who was a good reader, but didn’t like to read. I kept making one suggestion after the other, until he finally connected with Kazu Kibuishi’s Amulet graphic novel series. His teacher later told me that he was reading it at lunch and kept reading as he followed the class out to recess. He parked himself at the top of the slide and didn’t even hear when his teacher called the class to line up. With lots of classes on the playground, she didn’t realize he was missing until she got back to the classroom. When she sent two students to find him, he was still at the top of that slide reading. Later he came to find me in the library to tell me what happened and said, “Mrs. Lorenzi, now I know what you were talking about when you told us about being in the zone.” We high-fived and then he went off to get the next Amulet book. Best moment of the year for me.
Visit Natalie's website. 

Mr. Schu, you should have asked me if I’ve ever made a fool of myself while living in Japan. The answer: Yes, and often.  My worst gaffe involved offending people with chopsticks. Once when I couldn’t grasp a piece of slippery food, I stabbed it with a chopstick and started to raise it to my mouth. The Japanese people at my table actually gasped. Apparently, stabbing things with chopsticks is only done after a person has been cremated, and the...um, stabbable bits left over are reverently placed into a special container. Oops. 

I am giving away a copy of Flying the Dragon

Rules for the Giveaway 

1. It will run from 7/26 to 11:59 P.M. on 7/28. 

2. You must be at least 13. 

3. Please pay it forward. 

Borrow Flying the Dragon from your school or public library. Whenever possible, please support independent bookshops. 

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Author-illustrator Mike Boldt

Call me impatient, but I could not wait until Friday to share how author-illustrator Mike Boldt finished my sentences.  Why? Because approximately twenty minutes ago he released the book trailer for his hilarious picture book, 123 Versus ABC. I wrote the words in red, and he wrote the words in black. Thank you, Mike! 

You should read 123 Versus ABC if you like books about two different themes arguing as to who the book is really about. Well...you could read it even if you don’t like those kinds of books. Either way works for me.

123 Versus ABC’s illustrations are made out of only the healthiest of ingredients (100% digital). I sketched, drew, and colored everything on my computer using a program called Corel Painter. It’s neato.

I hope kids say “again” after reading 123 Versus ABC. But if they could say part or all of either the alphabet or their counting (up to 26) afterwards, that would be really amazing!

Little Jack Horner Live from the Corner and The Gophers in Farmer Burrows' Field are two other books I’ve illustrated that both happen to contain a dog, some silly animals, a few confused people, and some fairly ridiculous situations. The Little Jack Horner book was my first opportunity to illustrate someone else’s story (Helaine Becker) which turned out to be a great experience.

Book trailers puzzle me whether they are worth it or not, but either way, I sure enjoy making them. I also enjoy watching them, especially the ones by Dan Santat.

Picture books are important! I believe they are parts of our imaginations landing in physical form which I hope inspire our dreams to take off again. I consider it a huge privilege to be able to make them.

Reading is one of my favorite things to see my kids (and others) doing. I don’t mind it either!

Mr. Schu, you should have asked me why we Canadians say “eh” eh.

I am giving away a copy of 123 Versus ABC.

Rules for the Giveaway 

1. It will run from 7/24 to 11:59 P.M. on 7/26. 

2. You must be at least 13. 

3. Please pay it forward. 

Borrow 123 Versus ABC from your school or public library. Whenever possible, please support independent bookshops. 

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Babymouse Visited My Little Cupcake


Donna, Babymouse, and I had the best morning exploring Burlington, Vermont. It is a friendly community with tons of independently owned shops.  We visited My Little Cupcake after eating breakfast at Leunig's Bistro and Cafe. It was anything but TYPICAL. They specialize in mini cupcakes and had quite the assortment. Babymouse wanted them all but settled for a double almond, a sundae, and a red velvet cupcake. They all got her seal of approval.  We had to check carefully that she was still with us when we left. She wanted to stay and sample all the flavors. Typical. 

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P.S. If you ever visit My Little Cupcake, please let us know if you spot the Babymouse plush that we donated to one of the friendly employees.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Belfast, Camden, and Bar Harbor

vined my way around Belfast, Camden, and Bar Harbor. Each video provides a six-second snapshot of a memorable and fun day. Happy watching!


I should have posed with Babymouse: Beach Babe

I mailed a Babymouse plush and Babymouse: Rock Star to Illinois and Flora and the Flamingo to Pennsylvania.

I donated The One and Only Ivan to a Little Free



Huzzah, huzzah! The Camden Public Library has the BEST view. 

Spend six seconds inside the Camden Public Library. 

I'm tired of losing my glasses. 


I kept looking for Ramona and Beezus. 

Does Bar Harbor need a school librarian? 

Bar Harbor reminds me of Stars Hollow. 

Are you surprised  I bought another copy of The One and Only Ivan? 

Saturday, July 20, 2013

The Newbery Challenge: Kira-Kira

Please visit Mr. Colby Sharp's blog to find out what he thinks of Kira-Kira

Cynthia Kadohata talks about Kira-Kira. 

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

Friday, July 19, 2013

A Visit Told Through Vines

Are you sad you didn't hang out in Portland, Maine, with Julie Falatko's family, Donna, Babymouse, and me?  Well, please turn that frown upside down. We vined the entire experience for you. :)

 Isn't that the world's cutest Little Free Library?

 Julie received a big box of books from her editor

Swag, swag, and more swag.

This was Babymouse's favorite part of our visit. She left Julie's house feeling very full and hyper.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Video of the Week: Babymouse Goes to College

Babymouse knows exactly where she wants to attend college: YALE UNIVERSITY. She's a mouse with BIG DREAMS. I imagine Jennifer and Matthew Holm writing a series ten years from now called Babymouse: The College Years. It follows Babymouse during her four years at Yale.  She majors in daydreaming and solves all the world's problems. :) 

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Leaving The One and Only Ivan in Belfast, Maine


 My friend Donna and I drove around Belfast, Maine, admiring the quaint town. We marveled at the old buildings and beautiful view. As we rounded a corner, Donna spotted a sign for Left Bank Books. We pulled over and went inside. We found a charming (sorry, when in Maine charming is the only seemingly appropriate word) bookstore. We visited the children's section and found many beloved books. I spotted a bookmark with writing tucked inside Ruby Holler.  One of the employees explained that children fill out book recommendations for books they have read and place them inside of the books so others can learn about them. What a wonderful idea! 

Please watch the following video to find out what I left for a future child reviewer. 

We also donated a copy of Katherine Applegate's The One and Only Ivan to one of Belfast's Little Free Libraries. 

Borrow Ruby Holler and The One and Only Ivan from your school or public library. Whenever possible, please support independent bookshops. 

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art


My friend Donna and I visited The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art in 2010. There was one slight problem--it was CLOSED. :(


Babymouse, Donna, and I  had much better luck two days ago. 

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Monday, July 15, 2013

Thank You, @LibLaura5!

Laura Given (AKA @LibLaura5) and her son and daughter know how much Donna, Babymouse, and I love giving away books during Let's Go Northeast '13. Watch the following video to learn about their most recent random act of kindness. 

Thank you, Laura! I cannot wait to give away the books you selected. 






Sunday, July 14, 2013

The Dr. Seuss National Memorial Sculpture Garden

Donna, Babymouse, and I visited the Dr. Seuss National Memorial Sculpture Garden yesterday morning. We  vined, filmed, and photographed the entire experience for your viewing pleasure. 

I mentioned Dr. Seuss's garden in this week's Newbery Challenge video. 


Deborah Freedman's Blue Chicken 


Donalyn Miller's The Book Whisperer 


Molly Idle's Flora and the Flamingo 


If you're ever near Springfield, Massachussets, please visit the Dr. Seuss National Memorial Sculpture Garden

Saturday, July 13, 2013

The Newbery Challenge: The Tale of Despereaux

Happy Saturday, Mr. Sharp! Greetings from Springfield, Massachusetts!

Please visit Colby Sharp's blog to find out what he thinks of The Tale of Despereaux.

Kate DiCamillo presented at the 2009 National Book Festival.

"I decided a long time ago," DiCamillo says, "that I didn't have to be talented. I just had to be persistent."

You don't want to miss this interview with Kate DiCamillo.
(Mr. Sharp, I have the world's slowest Internet connection right now. I'm going to finish this post later today when it doesn't take five minutes to load one video.) 

Friday, July 12, 2013

I took Anita Silvey's Children's Book-A-Day Almanac to Randyland

It is always difficult to decide which Roadside America sites to visit. Donna, Babymouse, and I hemmed and hawed over whether or not we should visit Randyland, a unique folk art installation in Pittsburgh, PA. We decided to visit it. Once we got there, it was like opening up a pop-up card. There was an unexpected surprise everywhere we looked. Our quick drive by Randyland turned into an extended visit in no time at all. We explored every crack and crevice and were delighted by all we saw. Definitely a visit that left us with a smile on our faces!

Borrow Anita Silvey's Children's Book-A-Day Almanac from your school library. Whenever possible, please support independent bookshops. 

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Babymouse's Adventures

Let's take a look at some of the places Babymouse has visited over the past two days. She's QUEEN OF THE ROAD! 

Babymouse Burns Rubber 

Babymouse is actually a pretty decent driver. She loves to burn rubber, though. 


Here she is in front of Sewickley's Penguin Bookshop. 


Babymouse found herself (in a book)!


Baymouse loves Randyville!


Babymouse tells people to keep cool and not lose their heads!


Babymouse agrees with Mem Fox. 


Babymouse overcomes her fears to sit on lumpy Mr. Rogers. It was scarier than sitting on Santa's lap as a young mouse.


Babymouse thought she spotted Felicia Furrpaws. Silly, Babymouse! It was Henrietta Pussycat from Mister Rogers' Neighborhood. 


Babymouse heads out to explore Pittsburgh!


Babymouse is hungry! Now where's that can opener?


Babymouse insisted we slow down and smell the snapdragons. 

Babymouse loves cupcakes.



Babymouse stood next to the Welcome to Pure Michigan sign and shouted, "HAVE A GREAT TIME AT nErDcamp, Mr. Sharp!"