Sunday, January 31, 2016

Caldecott Honor Artist Christian Robinson

Click here to watch the ALA Youth Media Awards Webcast. 

I asked Sophie Blackall (Finding Winnie), Bryan Collier (Trombone Shorty), Kevin Henkes (Waiting), Ekua Holmes (Voice of Freedom: Fannie Lou Hamer, Spirit of the Civil Rights Movement), and Christian Robinson (Last Stop on Market Street) to answer two questions and finish one sentence starter. 

Today is Christian Robinson's turn to shine. Thank you, Christian! 

Mr. Schu: ​Congratulations, Christian! Everyone loves hearing about THE CALL. What ran through your head when the phone rang? What were you thinking about when the Caldecott committee was clapping for you?

Christian Robinson: Okay, so this is how it went down. I was asleep when the phone rang at about 3:40 am PST. I live in San Francisco. My boyfriend lying beside me quickly awoke to stop the ringing. He's a teacher and is usually up way before I am. Thinking his alarm was going off, he reached for his phone and fiddled with it for a while. At which point I recognized it was my ringtone, which is the Harry Potter theme song. As I reached for my phone, my heart was pounding, sweaty palms, million thoughts racing. It said Boston, MA on the phone so I knew that was a good thing! Everything is kinda blurry after that. I remember trying to sound like a functioning human being, but I’m pretty sure I had that groggy morning rasp to my voice and just kept repeating: "Oh, wow! Thank you! Oh, wow! Thank you."

A few minutes later I got a call from the CSK committee, and after that a call from my agent Steve informing me that Matt had won the Newbery. It was a very good morning.

Mr. Schu: What does the Caldecott mean to you?

Christian Robinson: I love donuts, glazed are my favorite. Being able to make pictures for a living is like a glazed donut. The Caldecott is like sprinkles on top of an already awesome food. This might be the best analogy ever written! What I’m trying to say is that I’m already living my dream, being able to tell stories with pictures and work with kids. The Caldecott is an encouraging stamp of approval that will hopefully allow me to continue doing what I love.

Please finish this sentence starter: 

School libraries are a playground for the mind.

Borrow Last Stop on Market Street from your school or public library. Whenever possible, please support independent boookshops. 

Friday, January 29, 2016

Caldecott Medalist Kevin Henkes

Click here to watch the ALA Youth Media Awards Webcast 
I asked Sophie Blackall (Finding Winnie)Bryan Collier (Trombone Shorty)Kevin Henkes (Waiting), Ekua Holmes (Voice of Freedom: Fannie Lou Hamer, Spirit of the Civil Rights Movement), and Christian Robinson (Last Stop on Market Street) to answer two questions and finish one sentence starter. 

Today is Kevin Henkes's time to shine. Thank you, Kevin! 

Mr. Schu: Congratulations, Kevin! Everyone loves hearing about THE CALL. What ran through your head when the phone rang? What were you thinking about when the Caldecott committee was clapping for you?

Kevin HenkesAny time the phone rings at 5:30 a. m. my first thought is that something terrible has happened. By the time the committee was clapping, my brain was catching up and was starting to realize what was actually happening. And, of course, I was thrilled.

Mr. Schu: What does the Caldecott mean to you?

It means a much longer life for my book.  And that's  a wonderful thing.

Please finish this sentence starter: 

School libraries are essential. 

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

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

A Conversation Between Lisa Graff and Lauren Castillo

You are in for a BIG treat today! Lisa Graff and Lauren Castillo dropped by Watch. Connect. Read. to discuss the cover for their forthcoming picture book, It Is Not Time For Sleeping. I cannot wait to celebrate this beautiful picture book on November 1. Thank you, Lisa and Lauren! :) 

Lisa Graff: So! Lauren! Tell me about this gorgeous cover! How did it come about? Did you know right away generally how you wanted it to look? Or was it more of a process?

Lauren Castillo: Ohhh, I am so relieved to know that you are pleased with the cover! I have to say, I was pretty nervous to work on the art for our book. This is the first time that I have illustrated a picture book by an author who happens to also be a good friend. With every book I illustrate my hope is that the author will be happy with the art, of course, but I really REALLY wanted you to be happy.

So, about the cover:

I did have some specific thoughts very early on about how I wanted it to look.

A few years ago, around the same time you shared the manuscript for IT IS NOT TIME FOR SLEEPING with me, I found an old gem from my childhood collection called KINDNESS IS A LOT OF THINGS, written by Edith Eckblad and illustrated by Bonnie and Ruth Rutherford. That jacket image and design stayed with me, and I imagined a similar looking cover for our book. 

When I was close to finishing up the interior art last fall, I did some quick scribbles and sent them along to Jen (Greene) and Christine (Kettner) with a note that said something like, “ Lisas story is so classic, and I think the cover should feel like a bit of a throw back.”

They agreed — YAY.

But the road to winning over everyone at Team Clarion/HMH was just a little bit longer. . . :)

The original idea of a vignette on the cover stuck, but we probably put together a dozen+ different versions before landing on the right one.

Here is a sampling.

So, what I've been wondering is: Did you have an image in your head of what the cover of this book would/should look like? Im always curious how it is for a picture book author to hand over their story to the illustrator. I imagine it being some combination of thrilling and terrifying.

Lisa Graff: Oh, wow, I love seeing all those sketches! You know, what strikes me seeing the different versions you were working on is how perfect the one you landed on is--this fabulous balance between the defiance of the title and the fact that you want parents to know that in the end, the boy actually WILL go to sleep. :)

To answer your question, I really didn't have an image in my head of what the cover would be. To be honest I'm not a terribly visual person--I always have a sense of what I think the tone should be of a book, and maybe the color scheme, but in terms of the illustrations themselves I don't have much in my head. So it's really been a delightful surprise to see what you come up with. Every time, I've thought, "Of course! That's PRECISELY what it should look like!"

This has been a really fascinating experience for me, being the first picture book that I wrote. I worked on several picture books as an editor at FSG (some with you!), and so that gave me a taste of what it was like to start with a text and then see the art develop, but it's different when it's a book you've written. I think it really works in my favor that I'm not able to conceptualize art for the book before an artist is attached, because that way I'm able to look at the art more objectively as it fits the book, instead of comparing it to whatever idea I had in my head. One of the things that I loved so much that you did with this book was how you made the palette on each page get progressively darker and darker as the story goes on and bedtime gets closer. That probably seemed like a no-brainer move for you, an artist, but for me, I thought, "Oh, that's GENIUS!" Because it really sets the stage in a subconscious way for bedtime.

Was there anything you tried with this cover, or with the interiors, that you thought at first would work but that you had to change in the end?

Lauren Castillo: As far as interior art goes, this was one of those rare times where I could visualize just about every spread on first read of the story. Looking back at my original thumbnail sketches, they are pretty darn close to what youll see in the final art. 
I think the cover image was the trickiest piece of this picture book puzzle. I showed you a bunch of the earlier cover comps we came up with, but there were others. After my first few attempts at trying to get the vignette image right, I had abandoned the idea. Tried a couple other totally different cover options, but they werent feeling right either. I was a bit stuck, but fortunately we have a great editor and art director. Jen and Christine stepped in with some wonderful thoughts and suggestions. We revisited my initial idea, and eventually found a way to make all the pieces fit together nicely. HOORAY. Oh! And we even snuck a surprise on to the case cover. I love it when that gets to happen.

Btw, Im happy that you noticed how the palette slowly darkens with the passing of time in the story. It was something I thought of when I was playing around with color samples early on. Because the book takes place in a very limited space (basically only three rooms), the challenge was keeping that space interesting. I thought that showing the progression of time by using a darkening & increasingly limited color palette worked well both visually and conceptually.

I'm very glad to hear that your first picture book making experience has seemed to be a happy one. Does this mean you will plan to write more? Because I would LOVE to illustrate another Lisa Graff book. Just sayin'.

Lisa Graff: That awesome wallpaper makes me want to redecorate ALL my rooms! :)

I would absolutely love to do another Lauren Castillo picture book in the near future! All I need now is a good idea....

Look for It Is Not Time for Sleeping on November 1.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Book Trailer Premiere: Oona Finds An Egg

I am celebrating the release of Oona Finds An Egg's book trailer with Adele Griffin and Mike Wu. We chatted about mushroom crepes, the recipe for Vulture Vittles, caves, and school libraries. I wrote the words in orange, Adele wrote the words in green, and Mike wrote the words in brown. Thank you, Adele and Mike! 

Oona Finds an Egg tells the story of so much more than Oona finding an egg.

This is a story of how one special Stone Age family changes the world. In a funny way. And helps invent things like the wheel and mushroom crepes.

The Oodlethunks series will make you laugh, make you cry, and make you almost throw up. There is so much Stone Age fun and adventure (and just enough disgusting bits) that you will wish you lived back in the good old Really Old Days with Oona, her brother, Bonk, and Mom and Dad Oodlethunk.

You will also learn things that no one ever knew about prehistoric life. Like the recipe for Vulture Vittles, and what the cave teachers really taught in Grunts and Bellows class.

Mike Wu’s illustrations will change your life. They are so funny and smart and amazing. Kind of like Mike, now that I think about it. Which is why the best animation studios like Pixar and Disney have had Mike work for them. Mike Wu's illustrations make you feel like you are right there in West Woggle.

School libraries are going to love that the animals, vegetation, and topography of West Woggle are inspired by prehistoric Denver, Colorado. This mix of Stone Age facts and fiction combine to make a lively series about hunting and gathering, friends and family, celebration and courage-- and one very special surprise.

Photo Credit: Mike Wu 
Oona Finds An Egg’s book trailer is an awesome introduction to the wonderfully fantastic and fun world of the Oddlethunks!  I think the voices are spot on really bring Oona and Bonk to life.  The book has so much more in store for readers to discover but the trailer is a great companion to it.  Enjoy!!

I created the illustrations with all of you in mind and pictured each scene, character and situation in my head first.  Adele’s lush world provided such a rich roadmap to help define West Wog so wonderfully.  I had tons of fun creating the art, and feel honored to be paired with such a talented writer, who gave this world life.  

Did you know the silhouette cave drawings in the book are inspired by real cave paintings found in Montignac, France.  They are known as the Lascaux Caves.  I was amazed by the keen observation and design sense of these cave artists. Très magnifique!

School libraries are going to love traveling back to the prehistoric days with Oona, Bonk and all the characters in West Woogle. I hope they enjoy seeing all the clever details and humor I've designed for this prehysterical world.

I am giving away 5 copies of Oona Finds an Egg and 5 special prints (see above) illustrated by Mike Wu. 

Rules for the Giveaway

1. It will run from 1/26 to 11:59 PM on 1/28. 

2. You must be at least 13 to enter. 

3. If you win, please pay it forward. 

Borrow Oona Finds an Egg from your school or public library. Whenever possible, please support independent bookshops. 

Monday, January 25, 2016

Book Trailer Premiere: Pink is for Blobfish by Jess Keating

Mr. Schu: Welcome back to Watch. Connet. Read., Jess Keating! 

Jess: Hi Johnny! I'm so happy to chat with you today!

Mr. Schu: Thank you for agreeing to finish my sentences and share the book trailer for Pink is for Blobfish 

Jess: Thank you for having me!

Mr. Schu: Should we get started? 

Jess: Yes!

The book trailer for Pink is for Blobfish is definitely the most epic trailer involving a blobfish that I’ve ever seen! The minute I saw David’s blobfish illustration, I knew I wanted to include him in a blooper/after-credits scene—this trailer was so fun to make! 

Pink is for Blobfish's cover is the drooliest, coolest cover I've ever seen. I think the design team at Random House Kids did such an amazing job capturing the quirky fun of the book, and that is not a face anyone can forget! 

David DeGrand and I are so excited to introduce you to PINK IS FOR BLOBFISH! It’s the first book in The World of Weird Animals series, and we can’t wait for it to swim onto shelves.

Did you know that the blobfish on the cover of my book has a name? He was discovered on the northwest coast of New Zealand. The scientists and crew that found him named him Mr. Blobby! I think it suits him and is very dignified.

I think nErDcampMI is home to the greatest book nerds on Earth! I’m looking forward to attending Nerdcamp for the third time this year, and I’m already excited about seeing everybody. If we could bottle Nerdcamp energy, we would never need coffee.

Reading is a way to live a thousand lives. I love that, through books, I can explore so many different experiences and stories. They’re like real life portkeys that can take you anywhere.

Mr. Schu, you should have asked me about my new educational Youtube channel! If readers want to learn more about weird animals like the ones they find in Pink is for Blobfish, they might love Animals for Smart People. Every couple of weeks, I share 2-3 minute videos about animals and science. They are kid and classroom friendly, and I hope that educators find them entertaining and useful! So far, I’ve chatted about blood-drinking birds, nudibranchs, reindeer, and more!

Look for Pink is for Blobfish on February 2. 

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Happy Saturday, Mr. Sharp!

Dear Mr. Sharp,

Happy Saturday! I hope you and your family have a fantastic weekend! 

Happy reading!


Click here to watch Mr. Sharp's video. 


Good Night Owl by Greg Pizzoli | Publication date: April 19 

Raymie Nightingale by Kate DiCamillo | Publication date: April 12 

Twenty Yawns by Jane Smiley; illustrated by Lauren Castillo | Publication date: April 26 

Maybe a Fox by Kathi Appelt and Alison McGhee | Publication date: March 8 

Finding Winnie by Lindsay Mattick; illustrated by Sophie Blackall 

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Newbery Honor Author Pam Muñoz Ryan

Echo! Echo! Echo! I've been randomly shouting out that word ever since Pam Muñoz Ryan's Echo was named a 2016 Newbery Honor book. Echo! Echo! Echo! It never gets old. Congratulations, Pam!

Click here to watch the ALA Youth Media Awards Webcast 
I asked Matt de la Peña (Last Stop on Market Street), Kimberly Brubaker Bradley (The War that Saved My  Life), Victoria Jamieson (Roller Girl),and Pam Muñoz Ryan(Echo) to answer two questions and finish one sentence starter. 

Today is Pam Muñoz Ryan's turn to shine! Thank you, Pam! 

Mr. Schu: Everyone loves hearing about THE CALL. What ran through your head when the phone rang? What were you thinking about when the Newbery committee was cheering for you? 

Pam Muñoz Ryan: In previous years when I've been privileged to be notified about an ALA award, I was always called the night before so I thought that all the committees did the same. When I went to bed late Sunday night, knowing that Boston was three hours ahead, I presumed the decisions and calls were said and done. I didn't sleep well. No matter what anyone says, the disappointment creeps in on some level. I told myself all the right things. All the true things. That there are many well-loved books that have withstood the test of time which were never recognized. That there is no one award that defines me as a writer, or for lack thereof, diminishes me. That readership is the best award. That it's about the work, and I'm fortunate to continue to have work in a profession I love. My mind was rock solid. My heart, a little wobbly. Are all writers' hearts a little wobbly?

When the phone rang at 3:00 a.m. and I saw the word Massachusetts on the Caller ID, I felt queasy. Wasn't it over? I answered the phone to hear Ernie Cox telling me that ECHO had received a Newbery Honor. The committee cheered. What beautiful music! What did I feel? I think it was disbelief mixed with joy. What did I say? I don't remember. I hadn't told any of my family it was the weekend of ALA. When my husband heard me answer the phone, he sat up in bed, worried, and said, "What? What is it?"  I remember reassuring him, while on the phone with the committee, that it was a good middle-of-the-night phone call and not a dreaded one. After I hung up, I called Lizette Serrano, head of library marketing at Scholastic, and my editor, Tracy Mack.  Both calls were tearful love-fests. At this point it was around 4:00 but there was no going back to sleep and too early to call the rest of the family. At 5 a.m., I watched the announcements downstairs in my office, by myself, with a cup of coffee. Then, I started waking people!

Everyone I was in contact with that day kept asking if I was drinking champagne. When I look back on it, I have to laugh. First, we didn't have any champagne. But, more than that, the rest of the day unfolded in such an ordinary way. Early, I had to follow my mom, who is 85 and lives with us, to Toyota to take her car in. For a few hours, I watched my granddaughter, who had a fever and was home from school. I worked because I had a deadline on a new novel for Tracy. That afternoon, I had an appointment for a mammogram and flu shot. And when I thought the day was winding down and I might savor the news with a glass of something, my son called to remind me that I'd agreed to meet with his boss's daughter, who wants to be a writer someday, and she was on her way over. Through it all, the sweet news kept popping into my brain. And all I felt was gratitude. That's how it's been every day since January 11th. Life moves forward. The everyday rules, until I remember the call and that ALA is on the horizon in June. Then I feel disbelief and joy all over again. It's now over a week later and I still haven't had champagne. But there's a bottle chilling in the fridge for when the family is all together.

Mr. Schu: What does the Newbery mean to you? 

 Pam Muñoz Ryan: It's a gift - to me and my editor, who worked hard at my side. It helps sustain the life of the book. It shines a light on a work that took almost six years to write and that I'm so proud to have written. It gives me the opportunity to bring my family to Orlando, go to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, buy a new dress, toast with my Scholastic family and say thank you to fifteen people who I appreciate so much that I want to invite them all to Thanksgiving.  It's a glorious gift.

Please finish this sentence starter: 

School libraries are safe havens, often for the student you least suspect. 

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

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Book Trailer Premiere: Fenway and Hattie by Victoria J. Coe

One of the highlights during the ALA Midwinter meeting was meeting Victoria J. Coe. During the 90 seconds we spent together, we chatted about how much we admire Margie Myers-Culver's dedication to children's literature and animals. After you read Victoria's special message and watch Fenway and Hattie's adorable book trailer, please hop on over to Margie's blog to read her review of Fenway and Hattie. Thank you, Victoria and Margie! 

Thank you, Mr. Schu, for premiering the trailer for my upcoming novel, Fenway and Hattie. You deserve a big plate of treats! Fenway and Hattie is told from a dog's perspective. So I thought it would be fun if we asked viewers to picture themselves inside a dog's life. I think they'll see that being a dog is pretty awesome. Well
—until they find out what a hard job it is! 

Fenway and Hattie by Victoria J. Coe | G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers | Publication Date: February 9 

Victoria J. Coe is giving away a signed advanced reader copy of Fenway and Hattie. 

Rules for the Giveaway 

1. It will run from 1/20 to 11:59 PM on 1/22. 

2. You must be at least 13. 

3. If you win, please pay it forward. 

Look for Fenway and Hattie on February 9. 

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Newbery Medalist Matt de la Peña

My heart has not stopped smiling since the ALA Youth Media Awards press conference ended last week.
Click here to watch the ALA Youth Media Awards Webcast 

I asked Matt de la Peña (Last Stop on Market Street), Kimberly Brubaker Bradley (The War that Saved My  Life), Victoria Jamieson (Roller Girl),and Pam Muñoz Ryan(Echo) to answer two questions and finish one sentence starter. 

Today is Matt de la Peña's time to shine! Thank you, Matt! 

Mr. Schu: Congratulations, Matt! Everyone loves hearing about THE CALL. What ran through your head when the phone rang? What were you thinking about when the Newbery committee was clapping for you? 

Matt: When my phone started ringing, I thought, "Oh, wow, it must be my agent. Maybe Last Stop got a Caldecott honor! But the man on the phone wasn't my agent. He introduced himself as Ernie Cox, chair of the 2016 Newbery Committee. And he told me Last Stop was the medal winner. And he began to say something about how the committee reacted to the text. But I could no longer hear this man. I was too shocked. And too humbled. And too overwhelmed with gratitude. We writers work so hard. Mostly in solitude. We build something based on a vague blueprint in our heads, and then we remake it over and over and over, a hundred times in some cases, until it loosely resembles what we set out to do. But some of us are still so unsure, even when we send that final draft off to the publisher. We only see the flaws. The sentences that could still be more musical. So when someone comes along and says it's good . . . I can't even explain the way that feels. I'm not usually an emotional guy, but when someone really "gets" what I'm trying to do in a piece, it makes me want to cry. That's what was happening inside my chest when I heard from the committee. 

Mr. Schu: What does the Newbery mean to you? 

Matt: It's an incredible honor, obviously. It's validation. It's a serious blow to my perpetual battle with the Imposter Syndrome. But now that I've had a few days to process it, I've realized its meaning runs so much deeper than I first believed. My whole career I've been writing about diverse kids growing up on the "wrong side of the tracks." When I go to tough, underprivileged schools I always start by telling the students, "I write books about you. About us." "But why, Mr.?" they often ask. "Because our lives are just as beautiful and meaningful," I explain, "as the tree-lined lives you see on TV." But I'm not always sure the students believe me. And their skepticism breaks my heart. 

The Newbery adds a whole new layer to my argument. It's a powerful experience to see yourself as the hero in a book. But maybe it's even more powerful to see yourself as the hero in a book that has a shiny Newbery sticker on the cover. I look forward to the next time I have to prove to students their literary worthiness.

Please finish this sentence starter: 

School libraries are the heartbeat of our schools and one of the most crucial factors to our country's future. 

Borrow Last Stop on Market Street from your school or public library. Whenever possible, please support independent boookshops. 

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Caldecott Medalist Sophie Blackall

Typing "Caldecott Medalist Sophie Blackall" in the subject line felt greatno, it felt magnificent. I will never tire of saying "Caldecott Medalist Sophie Blackall," but it may take me a few more weeks before I can say those words without choking up. I've shed a lot of happy tears for books and authors since last week.

Click here to watch the ALA Youth Media Awards Webcast 
I asked Sophie Blackall (Finding Winnie), Bryan Collier (Trombone Shorty), Kevin Henkes (Waiting), Ekua Holmes (Voice of Freedom: Fannie Lou Hamer, Spirit of the Civil Rights Movement), and Christian Robinson (Last Stop on Market Street) to answer two questions and finish one sentence starter. 

First up is the extraordinary Sophie Blackall. 

Mr. Schu: Congratulations, Sophie! Everyone loves hearing about THE CALL. What ran through your head when the phone rang? What were you thinking about when the Caldecott committee was clapping for you? 

Sophie Blackall: It still feels like a dream. Tidal waves of joy and disbelief. Disbelief and relief. Relief and joy. Joy and disbelief… It was still dark outside. The kitchen was warm and bright. Ed was holding me. The kids were still asleep. The world felt new. 

When Susan Rich first sent me the manuscript for Finding Winnie, I knew there was something special about this book. I knew without a doubt I wanted to illustrate it. And I knew I couldn’t start work on it for at least a year. So I put it carefully away. I wanted to keep that first response fresh – the images and sounds and colors and emotions – until I was ready to draw. In the same way I have put this moment away in a box. I don’t want to wear it out. In years to come I’ll be able to lift the lid and hear the intoxicating sound of cheering, laughing, life-changing librarians. 

Mr. Schu: What does the Caldecott mean to you?

Sophie Blackall: Before I went to sleep the night after the announcements, after a day of happy-weepy phone calls, of happy-garbled interviews, of flowers and hugs and unnecessarily forceful back slaps (Brian Floca), I looked up the archive of previous Caldecott winners. I scrolled down the list of books I loved as a child, and love still; a list of artists I have admired and studied and tried to emulate. With a jolt, I got to the bottom of that list and saw my name. I hadn’t expected to see it there. For the first time it suddenly felt real. FINDING WINNIE won a Caldecott medal, which means it will sit on a shelf with THE LITTLE HOUSE and THE SNOWY DAY and WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE. It means that a committee of fifteen people who are practiced at looking at picture books – really looking at them – people who are patient and observant and thoughtful, who understand a child’s perspective as well as an adult’s, who are willing to listen to each other and possibly change their minds, this extraordinary committee believes this book belongs on that shelf. It means that this book will now reach more readers. Lots more. And that is all I ever really wanted. I am beyond grateful.

Please finish this sentence starter: 

Reading is what I do when I’m going to give myself a treat. Or when I’m homesick, or bored, or in bed with the flu. Or when I really ought to be doing chores, but more chapter. I read when I’ve run out of ideas, or when I want to learn about what people looked like before there were photographs. I read to feel what it’s like to be someone other than me. And sometimes, even though there are a gazillion books I haven’t read yet, I reread old favorites, because it’s like visiting a dear friend.

Borrow Finding Winnie: The True Story of the World's Most Famous Bear from your school or public library. Whenever possible, please support independent bookshops.