Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Author Gayle Rosengren

I'm celebrating this blog's fourth birthday with author Gayle Rosengren. We chatted about Esther, school libraries, my favorite bookseller, reading, and her forthcoming book. I wrote the words in red, and Gayle wrote the words in black. Many thanks, Gayle! 

Here are three things you should know about Esther

1. The character Esther in the book was inspired by a real person, my mom.  Her name was Esther and she really did move from Chicago to a farm in Wisconsin.  In fact, she moved from city to country and back again several times during the first five years of the Great Depression (1930-1935).  Times were hard.  Jobs were few.  Her father was doing his best to keep his family fed.  Even so, sometimes they went to bed hungry.

2. The real Esther was a passionate reader just as Esther was in my book,  and she instilled a love of books in me at an early age.  If she hadn’t done such a great job at this—if I hadn’t loved reading so much as a girl--I might not be writing books for kids now.  Stepping inside the world of a book and sharing adventures with the characters who would soon become my best friends was a joyful, magical experience!  I couldn't imagine anything better than creating that kind of experience for other kids.

3.   The Esther of my story found it impossible to hurt her friend, despite her desire to please her mother.  The real Esther was a tender-hearted person who probably would have made the same decision if confronted with it.  She would have risked punishment herself in order to protect a friend.

I hope What the Moon Said resonates with children of today, many of whom may have experienced, or know someone who has experienced, some of the same difficulties as Esther’s family—loss of jobs, loss of homes, having to learn to live without many of the things they once took for granted, be it a room of their own, cool clothes, or writing long letters to Santa they feel confident will be answered on Christmas morning.  I hope reading about Esther’s experiences opens a window to the past that shows not just the ways in which life was different then, but the ways in which it was the same.  I hope it demonstrates the strength and resiliency of families, and demonstrates what is truly important—not things, but the people we love, and that love isn’t always shown by giving someone what they want, but by unselfishly giving them what they need.

Explore Gayle's website. 
When I was Esther’s age I lived in an apartment in Chicago and wished I could live on a farm.  I wanted a dog and a horse more than anything!  I did finally get the dog, thanks to my older brother who brought home a puppy for me one Christmas Eve, but sadly I never did get the horse—at least not in reality.  I had plenty of them in books, though, and they were an enormous comfort, filling the place in my heart that was carved out especially for those beautiful creatures with flowing manes and tails!  Books about horses were at the top of my reading wish list for years.

School libraries are HUGELY important!  Every child doesn’t have the ability to walk to their public library on their own; they have to rely on adults to take them, and some parents are too busy to make this a priority. Perhaps they’re working two jobs and they’re exhausted at the end of the day.  Perhaps they aren’t readers themselves and don’t understand the importance of exposing their child to a world of books and starting them down the path to being lifelong readers.  But kids always have access to books in their school libraries.  At least, this has been the case in the past.  Unfortunately, school budget cuts in some school districts are threatening this heretofore most reliable source of books.  They don't see how vital school libraries are to education.  Schools without libraries would be like a daily diet of only meat and potatoes--no fruits, no whole grain breads, no fresh vegetables or yummy desserts.  The meals would keep hunger at bay, but they wouldn't result in a healthy, well-nourished child.

Jan Dundon (Image Credit: Anderson's Bookshop) 
Jan Dundon and I have been friends for more than twenty years.  I remember the first time I saw Jan.  She was browsing the shelves at Fountaindale Library, where I was heading up the Young Adult Department. I grinned as she kept adding books to the stack that eventually reached her chin. It wasn’t long before we were talking about those books and exchanging titles of other favorites.  Jan was the first person I met who was as familiar with and passionate about children’s literature as I was, and when I was able to hire an assistant, I knew she was far and away the best person for the job.  As an added bonus, not only did Jan know books, she had a great sense of humor.  We were a perfect match and worked happily side by side until I moved to Madison, Wisconsin, where I began seriously writing for children.

Jan and I maintained our friendship over the years that followed by way of long phone calls during which “must read” titles were shared and scribbled down on either end of the phone.  She also read the first draft of What the Moon Said and loved it.  From then on she was more than a friend; she was my personal cheerleader as I trudged along the bumpy road toward publication.

Jan eventually left the library to take a position at Anderson's Book Shop that greatly expanded her reach to readers and introduced her to literally hundreds of authors who appeared at the store--from J.K. Rowling to Julie Andrews (Edwards).  But she was never too busy for our friendship.  She even devoted a precious day off to researching newspaper archives for my second book.  When she learned that I had been offered a contract from Putnam for What the Moon Said, she was elated, and she immediately added my book launch to Anderson's event calendar!

Despite suffering a major health crisis just months before my book was published, Jan was determined to attend my Anderson's launch, and she did.  She sat in the front row and applauded as loud as anyone.   

Jan was among the first people to believe in my writing talent.  Even more importantly, her faith in me never flagged, even when my own sometimes did.  She will always be a very special and treasured friend.

Reading is fundamental.  I know this isn't a very creative answer.  It's been around a long time.  But I can't think of a better word to capture reading's power and magic.  Fun--YES!  Definitely. And fundamental, as in basic to learning anything/everything.  We read for entertainment, but also for information. Reading enables us to understand other people, other cultures and beliefs, and to learn everything from algebra to physics. 

What is more powerful than the ability to read?  Absolutely nothing.

Mr. Schu, you should have asked me if I have another book coming out.  Then I could have told you about Cold War on Maplewood Street, which is being published in August. It's the story of 12 year-old Joanna, who is living in Chicago during the week of the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962.  Her brother Sam recently joined the navy and she's missing him terribly.  Then President Kennedy makes an announcement on TV about Russian missile launchers being built in Cuba, and he tells the Russians to take them down immediately OR ELSE.  Sam's ship is in nearby waters. He could be in danger!  On top of that, Joanna is suddenly facing the very real possibility that war--which up to now has only occurred in other, far away countries--could come to America, to Chicago, even to her very own street! Although the tension level is always rising, this is an ultimately hopeful story about confronting fear and embracing life even in the most uncertain times. 

Rules for the Giveaway 

1. It will run from 12/31 to 11:59 p.m. on 1/2. 

2. You must be at least 13. 

3. If you win, please pay it forward. 

Borrow What the Moon Said from your school or public library. Whenever possible, please support independent bookshops. 

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Last Week Told Through Vines


I donated Louise Borden's Baseball Is... to a Little Free Library in Naperville, Illinois. 


I found these treasures waiting for me inside my mailbox. 


Donna Kouri and I always make macaroni and cheese at midnight on Christmas.


I wore my nerdy socks on Christmas. 


Are you jealous of my Pee-Wee Herman bobblehead? 

Thank you, @LoveofXena! 


Stop showing off, Mr. Lou Grant! :)

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Video of the Week: Kate DiCamillo is the Star Tribune Artist of the Year

2014 has been a good year for the one and only Kate DiCamillo. She was named the National Ambassador for Young People's Literature, won her second Newbery Medal for Flora and Ulysses, received the Voice of the Heartland Award, was the recipient of the E.B. White Read-Aloud Award, and was named the Star Tribune Artist of the Year. You can watch a video interview about Kate's most recent accomplishment by clicking on the image below. 

Congratulations, Kate! 

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Happy Saturday, Mr. Sharp!

Dear Mr. Sharp,

Happy Saturday! I hope you're having a wonderful winter break. Enjoy every moment of it! 


Please visit Colby's blog to watch his video. 

Nana in the City by Lauren Castillo 

City Cat by Kate Banks; illustrated by Lauren Castillo 

Louise Loves Art by Kelly Light

Home Tweet Home by Courtney Dicmas

Duncan the Story Dragon by Amanda Driscoll 

A Castle Full of Cats by Ruth Sanderson 

Miss Hazeltine's Home for Shy and Fearful Cats by Alicia Potter; illustrated by Birgitta Sif

How to Surprise Dad by Jean Reagan; illustrated by Lee Wildish 

Room for Bear by Ciara Gavin 

The Bear Ate Your Sandwich by Julia Sarcone-Roach 

Just a Duck? by Carin Bramsen 

I Don't Want to be a Frog by Dev Petty; illustrated by Mike Boldt 

Friday, December 26, 2014

Author Alice Kuipers

Happy Friday, everyone! I am celebrating Violet and Victor Write the Best-Ever Bookworm Book with Alice Kuipers. I wrote the words in red, and she wrote the words in black. Many thanks, Alice! 

Violet and Victor are very determined to interrupt me. Well, Violet is. Sometimes, I’m trying to sleep and Violet loudly insists it’s time to write another story. And Victor has a lot of questions and facts that he likes to talk about with me. I love them both so much that I’m always happy to spend time with them, but sometimes I’d rather sleep! 

The illustrations for Violet and Victor Write the Best-Ever Bookworm Book blow my mind. As an author with limited, okay, with zero drawing ability (I could probably manage a stick man), I found it hard to imagine the illustrations. Violet and Victor have very clear voices and I can hear the story as it unfolds, but I don’t imagine visually. I ‘picture’ things in words with only flitting images that dance just out of reach if I try to look at them closely. When my publisher asked me how I saw the illustrations for Violet and Victor, I was unusually quiet. But then Bethanie began to share her first ideas for the book. She gave me the images that I’d been trying to get a hold of. She took my story and made it into something I’d tried to dream. I love the images. I feel very lucky to have worked with her.

Click here to download the activity kit. 

Books about books always make me smile. I started writing when I was very young but it always seemed like a frivolous thing to do. Write a book, me? Don’t be silly, Alice. But then, as the years went by, my passion for writing stayed and I kept writing and writing. Now I write books with characters who love writing. Hopefully these characters make writing seem possible to other writers out there (I know there are loads of you!), writers who want to write but who feel like they don’t even know where to start. Hopefully these characters make writing seem fun, and serious, and important, and worth it. In Violet and Victor Write The Best-Ever Bookworm Book, the idea of a book being eaten up – the story that Violet and Victor now write – was something I’d been playing with for a while. I wrote that whole story first, but with no Violet. No Victor. And something was obviously missing. Violet woke me up one night LOUD and CLEAR letting me know that what was missing was her. I tried to ignore her but then Victor spoke up too. And so the story came to life.

Visit Alice's website. 

The “Tips for Writers” section on my website has been up for years. I have an app and a classroom section based on the Wattpad workshops I taught. Basically, I have as much as I possibly can available for aspiring authors. I have three small children and one more on the way so the website is a fun and relaxing place for me to share my ideas and thoughts and writing prompts when the children are otherwise occupied.

Download Alice's writing tips app.  

Reading is my very favourite thing to do. I wish I loved cross country ski-ing even a quarter as much. I live in a place where it’s winter for nearly half the year (Saskatoon, Saskatchewan) and I’m pretty sure that sitting around by a warm fire reading books either with the children or alone doesn’t keep me as physically fit as cross country ski-ing would. But, oh, opening the pages of a novel and diving in gives me so much pleasure. I have a reading list as long as a highway. A highway that fortunately never ends.

Download the discussion guide for Violet and Victor...

Picture books are the hardest books to write. With so few words an author has to do so much. And yet, a good picture book is the very best reading experience. For example, Where The Wild Things Are is the most extraordinary read. The blend of images and words is sublime. I love that my job is to read as many of them as possible!

Check out the activities on Alice's website

Mr. Schu, you should have asked asked me great questions already, but VIOLET is very cross that you didn’t ask her anything. Victor is busy right now with his prehistoric sticker book, but Violet wants you to know that her next book is called Violet and Victor write the Most Fabulous Fairy Tale and that she features heavily and that she wrote it even though Victor tried to spoil it and that dragons do exist. Absolutely.

I am giving away 5 copies of Violet and Victor Write the Best-Ever Bookworm Book. 

Rules for the Giveaway

1. It will run from 12/26 to 11:59 p.m. on 12/28. 

2. You must be at least 13. 

3. If you win, please pay it forward. 

Borrow Violet and Victor Write the Best-Ever Bookworm Book from your school or public library. Whenever possible, please support independent bookshops. 

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Flora and Ulysses LOVE to READ

Holy bagumba! It feels as though Christmas arrived a few days early this year. ALA Graphics just announced that Flora and Ulysses are featured on their very own READ poster. It is going to look wonderful hanging in my school library. I think I need to buy one for my home office, too. Where are you going to hang one? 

Click here to order one. 
Flora and Ulysses, stars of the eponymous 2014 Newbery Medal-winning book by Kate DiCamillo, praise the power of reading on this new poster illustrated by K. G. Campbell. Helping spread the message that kids can discover their own super-powers through great stories, this new poster celebrates DiCamillo’s second year as National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature, an honor bestowed by the Library of Congress and other groups to promote children’s reading and literature across the country. Special thanks to Kate DiCamillo, K. G. Campbell, and Candlewick Press. 

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

4 Questions and 3 Sentence Starters with Darlene Beck-Jacobson

Hi, Darlene! Congratulations on the publication of Wheels of Change. I loved every minute I spent with Emily and her family. Thank you for telling her story.

Darlene Beck-Jacobson: It was my pleasure Mr. Schu.  Thank you for allowing me to share the book with your students.  I am so excited to be here!

What planted the seed for Wheels of Change?

Darlene Beck-Jacobson: The idea for WHEELS OF CHANGE sprang from two bits of information I discovered while researching my family tree.  One was that my paternal grandmother’s father was a carriage maker in Washington DC at the turn of the Twentieth Century.  The other was that grandma received an invitation to a reception held at the White House by Theodore Roosevelt.  She attended that reception and met TR.  The story grew from there. 

I researched the time period and setting, as well as the workings of a carriage barn, and then began to write.  I returned to research whenever I needed to flesh out setting, characters, or to enhance a scene.  I did e-mail interviews with many experts to make the story as authentic and accurate as possible.

Click here to view these resources. 

Please share three ways you envision Wheels of Change being used in a fifth-grade classroom.

Darlene Beck-Jacobson: In addition to the Curriculum Guide on the Industrial Revolution, Study Questions that tie into the Core Content Standards, and a vocaulary list for teachers to use in the classroom, there are so many possibilities!

One: You can have a discussion on popular toys and games of today vs. 1908 when most people had no electricity.

Two:  The entire school can have a “Do it the Old-fashioned Way no Electricity Day” event. All writing is done with pencils, crayons, or chalk – no markers or ballpoint pens. No computers, lights, radios, TV’s or even telephones!  Everyone brings his or her own home-made lunch as well.  No bottled water or convenience food.  Quite a challenge…Are you up for it? How would the day be different?

Three: Have a discussion on Hand Made vs. Factory Made goods.  What are the advantages and disadvantages of each?  You can tie this in with the SKILLS required to be self-sufficient 100 years ago.  

Many people knew how to do one or more of the following things: carpentry, metal work, sewing, baking, farming, canning and preserving food, raising livestock, tanning hides, making candles and soap, chopping wood, making a fire.  How many people do you know today who would have the skills needed to survive?

You could also tie in the expected roles of males and females of the era.  What jobs were women permitted to do?  What behaviors were expected?

What resources would you recommend to a sixth grader who wants to learn more about the Industrial Revolution,  women’s suffrage, and President Roosevelt.

Darlene Beck-Jacobson:For the Industrial Revolution, I’d definitely start with the History Channels Series on Men Who Made America, about J D Rockefeller, Andrew Carnegie, J P Morgan, Henry Ford, and other Industrialists who changed American from an agricultural to an Industrial Society.  There are also many books about these and other men of the era.

Many books have been written about Women’s Suffrage, but one of the most often cited is THE HISTORY OF WOMAN SUFFRAGE  by Susan B Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton.  But, to get a more complete picture of the era, I’d recommend reading SHE WHO HOLDS THE SKY: The story of Matilda Joslyn Gage ( Sally Roesch Wagner, Sky Carrier Press).  Few people have heard of this woman who worked alongside Anthony and Stanton fighting for the rights of women.  Why was she written out of history?  Read the book and find out.

To learn about Theodore Roosevelt, begin with his wonderful letters, which are available in book form. He wrote constantly to friends, his wife and children and others on a variety of topics. These letters are a fascinating peek at a larger than life person.

Sagamore Hill National Park is another place to learn about the life of TR.  It is his former home near Oyster Bay, Long Island that is now filled with books, artifacts, and materials from his life.  Since your students love book trailers, Mr. Schu, they might want to check out the  silent home movie of TR and his son Archie.

If we could view your bookshelf from when you were Emily’s age, what would we see on the shelves?

You’d see the entire collection of Nancy Drew Mysteries.  I would get 4 or 5 new ones every year at Christmas until I had the entire series.  I also had a few Hardy Boys, Illustrated Grimm Fairy Tales, Black Beauty, Heidi, Diary of a Young Girl (Anne Frank), Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights, The Prince and the Pauper, Dr. Seuss, and an assortment of Archie and Classics Illustrated Comic Books.  I also wore out several library cards checking out books every week.

Explore Darlene's website. 

Please finish these sentences:

Reading is the best kind of time travel. You can visit other worlds, go back or forward in time, experience amazing feats, and learn something new without leaving your comfy chair.

School libraries are portals to amazing adventures.

Mr. Schu, you should have asked me what it was like meeting Kermit Roosevelt, the great-great grandson of TR.  What a kind, friendly and unassuming man!  I presented him with a signed copy of my book as a thank you for his providing a lovely blurb for the book’s back cover.  It was a great opportunity to “Pay it Forward”.  Besides being a law professor, he writes books for adults.  It’s fun connecting with fellow authors wherever they are from.

Thank you, Darlene! 

I am giving away a copy of Wheels of Change

Rules for the Giveaway 

1. It will run from 12/23 to 11:59 p.m. on 12/25. 

2. You must be at least 13. 

3. If you win, please pay it forward. 

Borrow Wheels of Change from your school or public library. Whenever possible, please support independent bookshops. 

Monday, December 22, 2014

Last Week Told Through Vines


I bought three copies of Comics Squad: Recess! 


Such creative marketing, eh? 


What's on the hold shelf? 


Wolfie the Bunny gave Lou Grant a carrot filled with catnip. Thank you, Wolfie! 


I mailed Gone Crazy in Alabama to Aurora, Illinois. 


Look for these picture books in 2015! 


What a wonderful way to spend a Saturday morning!