Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Book Trailer Premiere: Please, Open This Book! by Adam Lehrhaupt and Matthew Forsythe

Author Adam Lehrhaupt hasn't visited Watch. Connect. Read. since August 23, 2013! I'm thrilled he agreed to come back to share the book trailer for his hilarious picture book, Please, Open This Book! Thank you, Adam! 

Hi Mr. Schu! And howdy to all the wonderful kidlit folks out there! It’s Adam Lehrhaupt, chatting to you from the awesome digs here at Watch. Connect. Read. I am SUPER excited to share the trailer for my next picture book, PLEASE, OPEN THIS BOOK! I am once again teamed with the FABULOUS Matthew Forsythe and the great folks at Paula Wiseman Books/Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers. PLEASE, OPEN THIS BOOK! comes out on October 6th! It may even be available as you are reading this! That is SO COOL!!!

What’s it about? Well, the fine folks at S&S have this to say:

The award-winning creators of WARNING: DO NOT OPEN THIS BOOK! are back with another zany monkey adventure—and this time, it’s the MONKEYS that need your help!  

In PLEASE, OPEN THIS BOOK!, it is up to YOU to save the desperate group of monkeys trapped between the pages. This irresistibly entertaining rescue effort puts power in the hands of the page-turner, and giggles into everyone!

Sounds fun, right? So now, without any further ado, or monkeying about, I am overjoyed to present the trailer for PLEASE, OPEN THIS BOOK! 

Thanks for taking a peek. Hope you liked it. And remember, don’t be a book closer!

Trailer credit: Richard Strauss: Also Sprach Zarathustra by Kevin MacLeod is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution License.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Author Marilyn Hilton

My eyes tend to wander around my home office a lot when I'm working at my desk. 

What do I see to my left? My sweet cat.  

What do I see to my right? A copy of Crenshaw

What do I see if I look directly in front of me? Flora Belle Buckman, Beekle, Babymouse, The Marvels, and Full Cicada Moon. 

What's that? You want to learn about Cicada Moon? Well, it's your lucky day! Author Marilyn Hilton dropped by to chat with me about Cicada Moon, school libraries, reading, and tap dancing. I wrote the words in orange, and she wrote the words in black. Thank you, Marilyn!  

Mimi Yoshiko Oliver thinks everyone is created equal, and no one should have to fight for equal justice, equal respect, or equal protection. And it’s a person’s responsibility to speak up when those rights are given to some people but not everyone. She also thinks Vermont is a beautiful state, especially in the fall. And she still thinks cooties are kinda stupid.

I hope Full Cicada Moon will help readers see themselves or someone they know in Mimi—as she strives to fit in, to be taken seriously, and to be appreciated for her uniqueness; in her perspective of life, her belief in justice for everyone, her resilience to changes and disappointments, her respect for others and herself, her love for her family and friends, her perseverance in spite of opposition, her courage to speak up and speak out instead of keeping quiet; for her interest in things other people may laugh at, and her faith in taking one small step—even when it’s really scary—toward reaching her goals. And then I hope readers will use these awesome qualities of theirs whenever they face similar challenges.

Visit Marilyn's website. 
In 1969 the United States was looking back at a decade of tremendous cultural, social, and political change and looking forward to one of the most momentous events in all history. On July 20, 1969, I watched the first moon walk on TV. It was late at night, but my parents let me stay up to witness that historical event. I watched the moon’s surface slide by as the Eagle lunar module skimmed the surface to find the right landing spot. I watched Neil Armstrong step off the ladder of the Eagle, onto the moon’s surface (we all held our breaths), and heard him say, “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.” The next day I grabbed our copy of The Boston Globe newspaper and kept it in a drawer for many years. (I think it’s still tucked away in a box in my garage.) Then, twenty five years later, my first baby was born. July 20 is a very special date for me!

Full Cicada Moon’s dust jacket made me gasp when I first saw it. The cover art perfectly captures the essence of this story. The exquisite “Mimi” with the full moon behind her, falling snow around her, and bare winter branches above her—which reminded me of Japanese sumi-e (black ink painting)—all made me happy, and excited to realize that Full Cicada Moon was actually going to be a book!

School libraries are magical places filled with hundreds of new worlds to explore just by reading. School libraries smell lovely—they smell like books! The people who work in school libraries love books, love stories, love reading, and love students. And they love connecting students with the perfect books for them to read. School libraries are also places where students find a place to do their homework after school, research information for their projects, make new friends and grow the friendships they already have, and find acceptance for their quirky and cool interests. Schools need to give their libraries higher priority when evaluating their budgets—because look at all the amazing things that happen in school libraries!

Reading is one of my favorite things to do. I have so many books but not enough shelves for them all. (After 23 years of marriage, my poor husband has finally accepted my addiction to books.) But I share the ones I’ve read by giving them to public and school libraries, and by lending them to friends who also love to read. It feels good to introduce other people to great books and wonderful authors.

Mr. Schu, you should have asked me if I like to tap dance. I would have said I LOVE TO TAP DANCE! It’s so much fun, it’s great exercise and gives you confidence to try other new things, and you get to wear fun costumes at your recitals!

Borrow Full Cicada Moon from your school or public library. Whenever possible, please support independent bookshops. 

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Last Week Told Through Vines


Beautiful Hands is a beautiful book that I plan on sharing with social workers and counselors.


Look what I would have missed if I hadn't taken off the book's jacket.


I spent the morning in Mr. Colby Sharp's classroom.

Newbery Medalist Katherine Applegate visited Colby's school in the afternoon. What an AMAZING day!


I attended a teacher book preview at an elementary school in Wheaton, Illinois. 


I mailed Crenshaw to New Jersey. I hope he had a safe journey!


I brought these books to #ThinkIN2015. 

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Happy Saturday, Mr. Sharp!

Dear Mr. Sharp,

It is 10:53 PM in your time zone. I posted this week's video just in the nick of time. 

I hope you're having a great weekend!

Your friend,


Part One 

Part Two 

Friday, September 25, 2015

Book Trailer Premiere: Fly! by Karl Newsom Edwards

Dear Mr. Sharp, 

I loved watching your students wiggle, jump, and roll when I read Karl Newsom Edwards Fly! to them on Tuesday. If you have a free minute today or on Monday, please share Fly!'s book trailer. 

Tell everyone at Parma Elementary that I enjoyed every minute I spent at your fine, fine school. 

Your friend,

-Mr. Schu 

Karl dropped by to chat with me about Fly!, reading, picture books, and his bicycle. I wrote the words in orange, and he wrote the words in black. Thank you, Karl!

You know Fly! is both a noun and a verb. I played around with the two meanings and came up with a story of self-discovery through perseverance. A small fly learns through trial and error that he is meant to fly. Once he figures it out, his identity and his way of moving around become totally integrated.

Though it wasn't intentional, I think the book is a little bit autobiographical. The book's major theme is overcoming adversity. Isn't that the definition of pursuing a career in the arts? :^)

I created the illustrations for Fly! as teeny, tiny pen and ink drawings. I mean small, like a quarter of an inch. I then scanned and converted them in Illustrator to see how the irregular line quality looked when I enlarged them. It produced a really cool effect, but then I found I could get the same line quality on my WACOM tablet. An advantage of working digitally is that mistakes are easier to erase! I plan to go back to working traditionally in ink and watercolor on real paper, but for now, I'm enjoying this digital medium.
You should read Fly! to an adult who is frustrated or impatient. Better yet, have the adult read it out loud. Heck, it's only 13 words! It may seem silly, but even grownups might learn something from the example of the little fly who perseveres despite failure and frustration. We all feel like dummies sometimes, but it's really important for both kids and grownups to overcome fear and try new things. If it isn't a good fit, try something else. Risk.

Click here to view more initial sketches. 

I remember getting a D in algebra in 8th grade because I was painting a giant Spartan mascot on the gym wall and I avoided doing my math homework. Looking back, it was a good career move. Like, when do I use algebra?

Explore Karl's website. 
Reading is something that doesn't come naturally to me. I used to read books from the back towards the front. If there were plenty of pictures, I was okay, but lines and lines of gray text killed me. I do admire those who love to read. My wife is an avid reader, and I feel very calm watching her sitting in bed reading while I'm busy trying to do too many things at once.

Picture books are often incredibly deep. The simplest stories can have such profound impact and can have so many layers. As a kid, I loved The Story of Ferdinand by Munro Leaf and illustrated by Robert Lawson. Lawson's ink drawings are so strong. That message about being yourself resonated with me. It's a theme I revisited in Fly!

Mr. Schu, you should have asked me about the Insecticycle! I love bikes. I even restored and rode antique bikes built in the 1880s. The ones with the huge front wheel. The Insecticycle is a bike I hand-painted with a bunch of insects crawling, creeping, and flying all over the bike frame. It is both a bike and also a wordless picture book. The images are not necessarily sequential, so kids can make up their own stories. 

I'm working on a new bike with a French frog theme, La Grenouille, but that is a story for another interview . . .
Borrow Fly! from your school or public library. Whenever possible, please support independent bookshops. 

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Cover Reveal for Click Here to Start by Denis Markell

I'm honored Denis Markell dropped by to finish my sentences and share the cover for his debut novel, Click Here to Start. I wrote the words in orange, and he wrote the words in black. Thank you, Denis!

The first time I saw the Click Here to Start’s cover it immediately “clicked” with me!
I knew that the amazing artist, Octavi Navarro, had created something that would grab kids who love games, puzzles, and mysteries and get them to open the book to see what was inside.  I was thrilled when he agreed to do the cover as it is his first!
There are so many different ways you can go with for a cover of a Middle Grade adventure book, but the choice of using pixel art (as it’s called) was inspired, since so much of the story is driven by a strange computer game Ted Gerson discovers on his laptop.

Explore Octavi Navarro's website.
Here are three things you should know about Ted Gerson:
1) He’s a typical twelve-year-old kid from Southern California, with a Japanese-American Nurse for a mother and a Jewish English Professor for a dad. Oh, and an amazing brilliant, genius older sister who is right now KILLING it at Harvard.
Ted feels there’s no reason to even TRY to compete with her, since she’s so good at everything. The only thing Ted is good at is solving those “Escape The Room” Games you can play on your laptop or tablet or phone. He’s an absolute genius at those, which will come in handy in ways he never imagined when he’s forced to solve the same sorts of puzzles…in real life!
2) Ted’s something of a smart-aleck, and he narrates the story. So it should be pretty funny. Except for when he’s embarrassed by his mother, who just LOVES to talk about him to Isabel, the new girl who’s just moved to their small town from New York. Those moments are just humiliating.
Isabel is okay for the most part, but she’s kind of annoyingly perfect, if that makes any sense at all. Maybe it does when you’re twelve.
3) Ted’s more than a little spooked when after his Great-Uncle dies and leaves him the contents of his apartment, Ted finds something called “The Game Of Ted” on his laptop. This “Escape The Room Game” eerily echoes events happening in his life. By playing the game, Ted just might help himself in solving the challenges he’s facing.

Did you know that during World War Two there was an army unit made up entirely of Japanese-Americans that fought in Europe? It was made up of the 100th Infantry Battalion, whose members were mostly from Hawaii, and the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, which had men from the mainland, whose families were kept in internment camps, even as they fought so bravely and valiantly for their country. In time, the 442nd became, for its size and length of service, the most decorated unit in U.S. Military History.

Ted’s Great-Uncle Ted (after whom he was named – but you figured that out!) was part of this unit, and Ted wonders if perhaps there’s some connection between his service in the war and the mysterious “treasure” he was left in his Great-Uncle’s will. He’s not sure what the treasure is, but with his best friend Caleb he’s going to do everything he can to solve this riddle. Oh, and it seems Isabel may be just as good as the two boys at figuring things out.
In the end, though, it's going to be up to Ted to get the three of them out of the danger that becomes the ultimate game to solve. His skill at escape the room games will be tested like it has never been before.

I think Melissa Iwai’s illustrations perfectly echo whatever story she is trying to tell – sometimes as beautifully vivid and exciting as the first day of summer vacation, and other times as soft and warm as a favorite pillow or blanket.  From personal experience I can state that she’s also an amazing cook, wife, and (I have it on good authority) a pretty terrific mom. Look for her newest book. Let’s Go To The Hardware Store (with words by the legendary Anne Rockwell) in March of 2016. (She didn’t do the cover of Click Here To Start, but I never get tired of talking about her, so thanks for asking!)

Reading is the absolute best kind of virtual reality, better than any movie, Youtube video, or computer game could ever be. Because based on what the author has written, you the reader are the one who gets to decide what the characters sound like, what the world they inhabit looks like, and when to turn the page and discover what happens next!
Even when a teacher reads a book to a class, each student brings his or her imagination to the telling, filling in what’s missing with their own mental pictures of what’s being described. And books, real books, don’t need batteries or chargers, and if you drop them, the worst that happens is you bend a page. Playing games and watching movies or TV are wonderfully fun, and can be beautiful experiences.
But a movie will be the same movie whether you watch if or not. A game will be a game no matter who plays it. But when you read a book, you complete it.  No one’s version of the book will look or sound just like yours. It’s yours and yours alone.

Illustration Credit: Melissa Iwai
School libraries are places of Wonder. And Marvels. And a thousand other miraculous things. But to a kid walking in for the first time, a school library a just a room with shelf after shelf of books. Something else is essential:  the person behind the desk. Without the librarian, it is just a room full of books. With a librarian it becomes a magical place, filled with (among other things) typewriting squirrels and gorillas telling us their stories. 

Another reason school librarians are so important is because they are the ones who decide WHICH books fill those shelves. The Librarian chooses the books their students need to read, which books will help them to fall in love with reading, which stories they need to be told in order to become more compassionate and caring young people.

The school librarian is the one whose passion is to try to reach every single young set of eyes and ears that comes into his or her library, to try and pick that special book to reach that child. I know this because I've been lucky enough to meet them in person. And hope to meet many more. Through the miracle of social media, I can also read their stories on their blogs, and listen in on Twitter as librarians from all over the country discuss their issues and challenges with colleagues who share their passions and their problems. And these librarians also use social media to connect with authors, especially those of us who have chosen to write for young people. There is no partnership more satisfying than a teacher (because I don't need to remind you, librarians ARE teachers of course) with an author. We are so grateful to them. Think of how many children have fallen in love with reading because of a great school librarian. And quite a few of those kids go on to write books themselves!


Mr. Schu, you should have asked me..."Couldn't you answer my question about school libraries without going on and on and on?"

Thank you for loving libraries and librarians!

Click Here to Start by Denis Markell | Delacorte Press | Publication Date: July 19, 2016 
What if playing video games was prepping you to solve an incredible real-world puzzle and locate a priceless treasure?
Twelve-year-old Ted Gerson has spent most of his summer playing video games. So when his great- uncle dies and bequeaths him all the so-called treasure in his overstuffed junk shop of an apartment, Ted explores it like it’s another level to beat. And to his shock, he finds that eccentric Great-Uncle Ted actually has set the place up like a real-life escape-the-room game!
Using his specially honed skills, Ted sets off to win the greatest game he’s ever played, with help from his friends Caleb and Isabel. Together they discover that Uncle Ted’s “treasure” might be exactly that—real gold and jewels found by a Japanese American unit that served in World War II. With each puzzle Ted and his friends solve, they get closer to unraveling the mystery—but someone dangerous is hot on their heels, and he’s not about to let them get away with the fortune.
Although this is his first novel, in his long and (sometimes frustrating) career Denis Markell has already written (or co-written): An award-winning Off-Broadway musical revue; book, music and lyrics for a few musical comedies; for various and sundry sitcoms; a play with Joan Rivers; An episode of Thundercats (!) two Picture Books Illustrated by his wife Melissa Iwai, The Great Stroller Adventure and Hush, Little Monster; and Poser, a memoir of his years as a Male Model. One of these things is not true.

He lives in a small apartment in Brooklyn Heights with Melissa, their son Jamie and a Shetland pony name Ronaldo. One of these things is not true.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Crenshaw Trifecta

TODAY IS A SPECIAL DAY! A VERY SPECIAL DAY! Today is the first time Mr. Colby Sharp and I will celebrate a book's birthday online and in person on the same day together.

The book? Katherine Applegate's Crenshaw.

Where? The Nerdy Book Club's blog, Colby's blog, here, and Parma Elementary School (where Colby Sharp teaches 3rd grade). 

The excitement level?  Off the charts.

We hope you have fun jumping from blog to blog and celebrating Katherine's beautiful book. 

Publicist and book lover extraordinaire Mary Van Akin dropped by Watch. Connect. Read. to finish my sentences. We chatted about Crenshaw, Katherine Applegate, food drives, and purple jelly beans. I wrote the words in purple, and she wrote the words in black. Thank you, Mary! 

Jackson and his family are a loving family. They are on the verge of homelessness when Jackson’s childhood imaginary friend, Crenshaw, returns.

I think Katherine Applegate has a way of writing characters that find their way right into your heart. Reading a new Katherine Applegate book feels like meeting a new friend who you know will move and change you. A friend that you’ll want to visit with again, and again, and again.

Turn to page 222. You’ll find my favorite passage in the whole book, at the very end of my favorite chapter. I think it’s your favorite page, too, Mr. Schu.

Join the Nationwide Crenshaw Food Drive to help feed families in need. Over 100 bookstores across the country are partnering with food pantries to host food drives throughout the month of October. 

Katherine has a way of writing books that start conversations, and we wanted to find a way to turn the conversation surrounding childhood hunger into action on both a local and national level. It has been so heart-warming to see how enthusiastically booksellers, teachers and librarians, and especially young readers have embraced the food drive.

Visit to find a list of all participating bookstores, and to learn other ways to help.

Did you know that one out of five children in America is struggling with food insecurity? Unsurprisingly, malnutrition has a severe, negative impact on a child’s development (see some more stats on here). It’s really sobering to think about how many kids like Jackson might never reach their full potential because they do not have a reliable food source. 

You can help by hosting a food drive in your school or library any time of year! Food pantries are always accepting donations, and a food drive is a really empowering way for students to see how they can make an immediate difference in their communities.
Parma Elementary in Parma, Michigan created this amazing ‘I donated’ wall for their students.

Mr. Schu, you should have asked me how many flavors of purple jelly beans I taste-tested for Macmillan’s big Crenshaw mailing to booksellers, librarians, teachers, and reviewers. But since you didn’t ask, I’ll never tell!

"Hosting an author visit the eleventh day of school is a little tricky. I usually spend a little bit of time each day for about a month prepping my students for an author visit. Thankfully, every fourth and fifth grader in our school has already had Ms. Applegate’s The One and Only Ivan read aloud to them. The Parma third graders started the year as the only students not familiar with her work." -Colby Sharp | Click here to read the rest of his post. 

"An awful lot of authors are introverts by nature. If you like solitude and imaginary friends, it’s the perfect vocation. Nonetheless, every couple of years or so, depending on one’s prolificity, the specter of Book Tour — that magical time when introverts transform into faux-extroverts — returns." -Katherine Applegate | Click here to read the rest of her essay. 

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

Monday, September 21, 2015

Book Trailer Premiere: Cloud Country by Noah Klocek and Bonny Becker

Happy Monday! Illustrator and art director Noah Klocek dropped by to finish three of my sentences and share the stunning book trailer for his debut picture book, Cloud Country.  I wrote the words in blue, and Noah wrote the words in black. Thank you, Noah! 

We have all looked up and spotted a tugboat or a fish in the clouds, but have you ever stopped to wonder where that fish came from?

While everyone on earth knows about star-gazing and cloud-gazing, more than a few folks in cloud country spend time earth-gazing back.

In school we learned about cumulus, stratus and cirrus clouds, but few of us were told about the very special daydream cloud.

Cloud Country by Noah Klocek and Bonny Becker | Disney Press | Publication Date: November 3, 2015 

Sitting there, among the clouds, looking down and day dreaming is... a little cloudlet. Gale would like nothing more than to make on real cloud shape. But instead, she creates something different. Wait until all of Cloud Country finds out. 

When Noah was young he imagined that he would spend his life in a small cottage in the English countryside painting and drawing alone . Yet he has found that collaborating with others has been the greatest joy and made him a far stronger artist than he could have ever been on his own. 

Noah's experience includes advertising design and art direction; as well as matte painting, visual development, art direction, and production design for studios such as Industrial Light & Magic, PDI/DreamWorks, and Pixar Animation Studios. Always striving to find new way to tell stories, Noah's first illustrated picture book Cloud Country, a collaboration with Bonny Becker, will be published in Fall 2014.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Book Trailer Premiere: Secrets of Selkie Bay by Shelley Moore Thomas

"Cordie's seaside fairy tale cast a spell on my imagination. If I lift up the pages and listen closely, I can hear the ocean."

---Natalie Lloyd, author of A Snicker of Magic.

I have always been fascinated by seals. Growing up in the desert, the only place I seals them for real was the Rio Grande Zoo.  I could watch them for hours. I can remember sitting on the bench in front of their habitat with my two young daughters in their double stroller, the three of us completely mesmerized. And when my youngest daughter came along, she too had a special love for seals.

Selkies are special creatures in Celtic folklore. They can shape shift from seal to human with the use of a magical coat. But of course, that is just an old legend--it would be impossible for such a thing to be true...or would it?

I had a blast making the trailer. My nephew composed the music back when I finished the first draft of the book. It is so beautiful and haunting. And I filmed the ocean near where I live now. One of my daughters did the art. It was a family affair to be sure.

Secrets of Selkie Bay by Shelley Moore Thomas 

In their present-day tourist trap of an Irish seaside town, famed for its supposed involvement with selkies in the past, three sisters are faced with the sudden disappearance of their mother. Crushed by the loss, their father is struggling to carry on. To make matters worse, there are rumors afloat in the village that their mother herself is a selkie who has now shed her human form and gone back to sea. As Cordie Sullivan, the oldest daughter, tries to learn more about her mother's vanishing, she must find the strength to help her family move ahead, even as she discovers an increasing number of clues that point to a hidden island off the coast--a mythical kingdom of the selkies.

Borrow Secrets of Selkie Bay from your school or public library. Whenever possible, please support independent bookshops. 

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Happy Saturday, Mr. Sharp!

Dear Mr. Sharp,

I am so excited to meet your students on Tuesday. I cannot wait to learn about all the books they love and watch them interact with Newbery Medalist Katherine Applegate. Thank you for inviting me to your school. 

Have a great weekend!


Please visit Mr. Sharp's blog to watch his video. 

Captain Underpants and the Sensational Saga of Sir Stinks-A-Lot by Dav Pilkey 

The Honest Truth by Dan Gemeinhart 

Louise Loves Art by Kelly Light