Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Last Week Told Through Vines


Today's #kidlit purchases. 


I mailed Deborah Freedman's SHY to Minnesota.


Yay! My new license plate arrived!


Check out Lucy's case!


Today's #bookstack for #bookaday.


I saw Donny and Marie Osmond in Aurora, Illinois. 

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Happy Saturday, Mr. Sharp!

Hi, Mr. Sharp, 

Happy Memorial Day weekend! I hope you and your family have a spectacular time together!

Happy reading!

Your friend,


Please click here to watch Mr. Sharp's video.

This Is My Dollhouse by Giselle Potter 

Wolf Camp by Andrea Zuill

The Airport Book by Lisa Brown 

The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate 

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Good Night, Baddies by Deborah Underwood and Juli Kangas

Happy Thursday, everyone! I hope you're having a terrific day! Author Deborah Underwood dropped by to chat with me about witches, trolls, Juli Kangas, cats, and Hamilton. I wrote the words in orange, and she wrote the words in black. Thank you, Deborah! 

The book trailer for Good Night, Baddies answers the question, “What do baddies do after their work day is done?” Viewers get a glimpse of Juli Kangas’s gorgeous illustrations, and they might even hear a certain author singing in the background.

The Good Night, Baddies song is a free download, and it’s the exact text of the book (with the addition of a chorus). I thought it would be nice for kids to be able to follow along with the lullaby while they read the book. And it was fun to write and record! I’ve missed doing music, and it was great to get back to it. I’ve had a few people say the song is stuck in their heads, and that makes me kind of crazily happy.

Illustration Credit: Juli Kangas 
Juli Kangas did the most brilliant, perfect illustrations possible for this book. When I saw the first piece of sample art, it took my breath away. I hope every picture book author gets to have a moment like that.

Illustration Credit: Juli Kangas 
Witches, trolls, dragons, and big, bad wolves need love too! When they tell their stories, they are the heroes. It’s all about perspective.

Claudia Rueda and I are working on the next Cat book, Here Comes Teacher Cat. I just saw sketches, and as always, Claudia’s illustrations are spot-on and hilarious.

School libraries will always have a special place in my heart. I spent my elementary school recesses and lunch periods in the library. It was the one place at school where I felt like I belonged. As an adult, when I toured a school library and learned it wasn’t open during lunch, I was horrified. My first thought was, “But then where do the nerdy kids hide?”

Mr. Schu, you should have asked me what’s inspired me lately? The answer is Hamilton! All Hamilton, all the time! My dream is to see the show in New York, which seems about as likely as flapping my arms and flying to the moon. But the soundtrack is really making me reexamine my approach to rhythm and rhyme. Thanks, Lin-Manuel Miranda! And thank you for having me, Mr. Schu!

Borrow Good Night, Baddies from your school or public library. Whenever possible, please support independent bookshops. 

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Raising a Reader, a Guest Post by Randall de Sève

Ok, so maybe I shouldn’t have read VALLEY OF THE DOLLS at 12. But there it was, on our bookshelves, calling out to me with such an appealing title.  And then, once I cracked it…

Ok, the point is I read it because it was there. I also read an enormous collection of GRIMM’S FAIRY TALES; Bernard Malamud short stories, Kafka’s THE TRIAL and a host of other fine literature. All because they were there, on our shelves, asking to be plucked off and perused. 

Kids do things that grab their attention. For something to grab a child’s attention, it has to be in view. As a child, I was surrounded by books, so I became a reader. 

I also became a reader because my parents were readers. My mother still starts every day with a cup of coffee and a novel; my father loves nothing more than to sit on their porch with the New York Times or a biography. Theirs is a mostly quiet home (but not a monastery—they do enjoy their music and movies) where you can always find a place to cuddle up and read. And so now, when we visit, my daughters do, too.

How many times have I heard parents complain that their older children don’t read, only to visit their homes where books are scarce because everything is now digital? And who knows what a parent on a tablet is really doing? 

Now I’m not saying that the only way to raise readers is to surround them by paper books; but I am saying that there are new challenges today in bringing up literate kids. If you’re a parent who reads on a tablet:

*Let your child know that you’re reading (as opposed to, say, checking twitter).

*Let your child know what you're reading. It doesn’t have to be a huge conversation—just an “I’m reading this great book about…” Show that it’s interesting to you and worthy of your attention.

*Show your child how you choose books from your vast, invisible e-library or store; and, if s/he reads on a tablet, help her/him to do the same. This is your chance to steer your child toward some excellent literature. But, please, don’t push too hard. Most school-aged children are at some stage of push back—it’s how they become individuals. Suggest, but then step back and let your child choose; s/he’ll be more invested if s/he does.

No matter how you do it, surround your child with books and quiet reading, and chances are, at least sometimes, s/he’ll join you.  Unless, of course, s/he’s found VALLEY OF THE DOLLS.  That one s/he’ll probably keep secret.

Randall de Seve is the New York Times-bestselling author of Toy BoatThe Duchess of WhimsyMathilda and the Orange Balloon, and A Fire Truck Named Red. She lives in Brooklyn, NY, with her husband, two daughters, and a very wicked dog named Henry Biscuit.

Borrow A Fire Truck Named Red from your school or public library. Whenever possible, please support independent bookshops. 

Monday, May 23, 2016

Last Week Told Through Vines


Look at these endpapers! Whoa!


I mailed a package to Sharla Schmeling's students. :)


I love MerryMakers!


"A letter can hold the treasure of a clam-hugged pearl." -Michelle Cuevas, from The Uncorker of Ocean Bottles 

Happy belated book birthday to Martha Brockenbrough's Shark Week.


I love finding Scholastic Teacher Magazine in my mailbox.

Today's #bookstack for #bookaday 

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Barnacle is Bored by Jonathan Fenske

Good afternoon, Jonathan! Welcome to Watch. Connect. Read!

Good afternoon, Mr. Schu! 

Thank you for stopping by to chat with me 
about Barnacle Is Bored, school libraries, picture books, and reading. 

Thank you for having me! 

Barnacle is Bored tells the story of a common human foible. How our tendency to compare our “boring” lives to what we perceive as the “exciting” lives of others is a mistake we are doomed to make repeatedly.

I created the illustrations for Barnacle is Bored in a mad tear at 3 a.m. in my sketchbook. The rough storyboards fell into place rather quickly (unfortunately, it doesn’t always happen that way). From there, I did black and white pencil sketches, tweaking expressions (I spend lots of time making crazy faces in the mirror) until I was satisfied. Then I translated the illustrations to a digital format and added color. 

The 2016 Geisel Award committee called to tell me the good news, but they did not have my updated phone number! I actually found out about the Geisel Honor by email. Right before taking the kids to school, I checked my inbox and saw several congratulatory emails. Puzzled and intrigued, I opened one from an editor I had not spoken to in a while, and his kind note was how I discovered I had been given the honor.

Needless to say, I drove the kids to school in a haze 
of stunned happiness.

School libraries are such a wonderful haven for children. To have that kind of access to books is an invaluable part of a child’s development. And how I love librarians! They truly do make the children’s book world go ‘round. Warning! Shameless Plug ahead! I am especially fond of the librarians at my local Anythink library: knowledgeable, helpful, and unfailingly friendly.

Reading to my kids is one of the most fulfilling things I do as a parent. Snuggling on the couch and taking imaginary journeys together…it’s hard to top that, especially when compared to all the less glamorous parenting chores that come with the territory! 

Picture books are not only my job, but also a hobby. I love to peruse the shelves of bookstores and libraries looking for new picture books. We live in what I consider to be an idyllic time for children’s literature…there is such a wealth of talented artists and writers telling so many varied and unique stories. I am a great fan of adult fiction as well (George Saunders, anyone?), but nothing pushes my creativity buttons like an awesome picture book.    

Purchase a Barnacle Is Bored print here. 
Mr. Schu, you should have asked me how does Mr. Barnacle feel about the liberties taken in his depiction? And my answer would have been: He is not happy, but, then again, he rarely ever is.

Borrow Barnacle Is Bored from your school or public library. Whenever possible, please support independent bookshops. 

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Happy Saturday, Mr. Sharp!

Hi, Mr. Sharp,

It felt good to film to a one-take HAPPY SATURDAY video. I hope you're having an awesome day! :) 

Your friend,


Please click here to watch Mr. Sharp's video. 

When The Sea Turned to Silver by Grace Lin | Publication date: October 4, 2016

The Poet's Dog by Patricia MacLachlan |Publication date: September 13, 2016 

Ashes by Laurie Halse Anderson | Publication date: October 4, 2016 

The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill | Publication date: August 9, 2016 

Friday, May 20, 2016

Happy Birthday, Ruth Chan!

Happy birthday to you,
Happy birthday to you,
Happy birthday, dear Ruth Chan,
Happy birthday to you.

In honor of Ruth Chan's birthday, I am revealing the cover for Georgie's Best Bad Day. Look at that mess behind Georgie! I cannot wait to find out what in the world went wrong AND right. :) 

Ruth, I hope you have the BEST, BEST day! You'll find me celebrating Georgie's second book on 4/18/17. Hooray! 

Click here to read Ruth Chan's guest post about  Where's the Party

Book Trailer Premiere: Louise and Andie: The Art of Friendship by Kelly Light

Happy Friday! I am so excited for you to watch the book trailer for Kelly Light's Louise and Andie: The Art of Friendship. After you watch the book trailer, please read Kelly's fantastic "ends" to my sentence starters. Congratulations, Kelly! I adore Louise, Art, and Andie! 

The book trailer for Louise and Andie: The Art of Friendship was an act of true friendship. Joanna Davidovich and I made the first book trailer in 2014 together. In April, I learned my father had terminal cancer and when Joanna heard, she said, "Kelly, I’ve got this. I want to do this for you.” I handed her the storyboards and what she made is so much more than I could have hoped for. She is wonderful. Friendship has turned out to be the constant buoy during the roughest year of my life. Gratitude washes over me many times a day, for the friends I have made in books, through books and through a shared love of art. 

Joanna can be found at: http://www.cupojo.net.
On June 14, 2016, I feel like we all get to hang with Louise again! I love being able to bring readers back into her life with her brother Art and The Cat! Meeting Andie and Bacon… we see how new friends can struggle to see that differences are okay and interests can overlap but diverge. A little common ground is good along with room to just be yourself! 

I hope Louise and Andie: The Art of Friendship builds upon Louise’s world from the first book. She feels real to me and through the letters and drawings and photos that I am sent, I suspect she feels real to readers, too. In the third book, she is off to the first day of second grade with her lucky pencil. The "I Can Read series” I am working on, is like creating mini episodes of Louise’s life. It will be fun to see her world get bigger and bigger. I enjoy every minute with these characters and I hope that comes across for kids! I really want to encourage through subtle nods and winks at the entire world of art and sheer Louise enthusiasm… that picking up a pencil and expressing yourself through the simple act of drawing, doodling..creating…gives yourself and the world some peace, some joy and a whole lot of fun.

I hope art teachers get more attention for the work they do cultivating young imaginations.

Look for Louise and Andie: The Art of Friendship on June 14. 

Thursday, May 19, 2016

This Is Not a Picture Book! by Sergio Ruzzier

Hi, Sergio! Welcome back to Watch. Connect. Read! I’ve had a blast talking about This Is Not a Picture Book during my GREAT BOOKS of the Year presentations. What planted the seed for This Is Not a Picture Book? 

Sergio Ruzzier: Hi, Mr. Schu! Thank you so much for sharing my book. It means a lot to me. For a long time, I had a vision in my head of a little character, face immersed in a book, walking across ever-changing landscapes. So, it was more of a visual beginning, I guess, but only when I thought of the words that could go with those pictures, did I understand there was a story worth sharing.

I LOVE This Is Not a Picture Book’s endpapers. Did the idea for the endpapers come to you right away? 

Sergio: Not right away. It was during the development of my original dummy, when talking with my editor, Victoria Rock, and designer, Sara Gillingham, that we thought we could use the endpapers to enhance the idea behind the story, and to make it more interactive. It actually works beautifully during school visits: before starting reading the book, I ask a kid oreven better —a teacher or a librarian to read aloud the front endpapers, the ones with the text all messed up. It’s easy to imagine how much the kids laugh at the adults’ disastrous efforts. At the end, I ask the kids to read the legible version, which is a great way to end the reading.

Click here to download the This Is Not a Picture Book! activity kit. 
At a certain point, when the duckling is frustrated with the book, he yells: “Stupid book!” as he kicks it. How are people reacting to that? 

Sergio: I haven’t had any bad experience with the children, who I’m sure already know much worse curse words than that. And nobody started calling each other stupid just because they read it in my book. It’s also worth mentioning that the duckling immediately apologizes to the book, and ends up hugging it. It’s also interesting that the Italian publisher of the book, Topipittori, will call it Stupido libro!

Thank you for writing “Let Kids Read” for the Nerdy Book Club blog.  

Sergio: It was a pleasure! Reading levels, as any other kind of similar pressure imposed on children by well- and not-so-well-meaning adults, have always bothered me very much, since I was a very young kid and a struggling reader. I needed to get it out of my system, and took the opportunity offered generously by Colby Sharp and the Nerdy Book Club. In less than three days the article was shared more than three thousand times on Facebook, and I don’t know how many on Twitter. I was amazed at how many people felt the same way on this issue.
I saw your tweet that shared the proof pages for Tales for the Perfect Child. What can you tell us about it? 

Sergio: Florence Parry Heide was such a funny, unique, and even more importantly, honest writer. Think about some of the books she wrote: the Treehorn series, illustrated by Edward Gorey; Princess Hyacinth, illustrated by Lane Smith; Dilweed’s Revenge, illustrated by Carson Ellis… All picture book masterpieces. But my favorites of hers have always been two titles that were originally illustrated beautifully by Victoria Chess: Tales For the Perfect Child and Fables You Shouldn’t Pay Any Attention To. I can’t tell you how happy I was when my agent, Jennifer Laughran, forwarded to me an email she received from Emma Ledbetter of Atheneum Books, who was wondering if I’d be interested in reillustrating those two books. I played cool and made them wait, answering only a whole minute later.

Please finish these sentence starters:

School libraries are there to fill a gap. I’ll explain: as little children, we learn and thrive through stories, and we depend on the adults in our life for that. When we grow a bit older, adults tend to tell us fewer and fewer stories. Luckily, school libraries are there to fill that gap.

Mr. Schu, you should have asked me what I 
cooked last night. Bucatini alla carbonara, made with a delicious guanciale I bought in Bologna.

That sounds delicious! Thank you for stopping by! 

Borrow This Is Not a Picture Book! from your school or public library. Whenever possible, please support independent bookshops. 

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

The #SharpSchu Book Club Meets on Thursday

Mr. Colby Sharp and I hope you will join us on Thursday to discuss The Secret Subway and Hilo: The Boy Who Crashed to Earth. "See" you then! :) 

Monday, May 16, 2016

Videos of the Month: Rich Fahle Sits Down with Kate DiCamillo, Raina Telgemeier, Mo Willems, and Gene Luen Yang

"We contain wonders that we don't know are there." -Kate DiCamillo 

"It is a lot easier for me to tell stories that are based in reality and in my own life because I know what happened." -Raina Telgemeier 

"I am interested in philosophy. So getting to write for children is basically writing philosophy." -Mo Willems 

"I think we are seeing more diverse reading than ever before." -Gene Luen Yang 

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Book Trailer Premiere: A Unicorn Named Sparkle by Amy Young

Happy Sunday, Amy Young! Thank you for dropping by to finish my sentences and share the FABULOUS book trailer for A Unicorn Named Sparkle

Thank you, Mr. Schu! 

The book trailer for A Unicorn Named Sparkle is done by the wonderful people at FSG, and was a surprise and a delight for me to see. Don't you love the rainbow at the end? That shows that Sparkle is a true and magical unicorn, even if he looks a lot like a goat.

I think Lucy is smart and strong and impulsive. She has very definite opinions about how things should be, but she is also a big enough person to admit that she was wrong about Sparkle. She also has really, really great hair.  

Illustration Credit: Amy Young 
Unicorn City, New Jersey... Well, yeah. A lot of stuff comes out of New Jersey. Even discount unicorns.

A Unicorn Named Sparkle's end-papers would make great wallpaper.

Illustration Credit: Amy Young
When I was a child, I had a pet cat named Moowautha (my sister came up with that name). When kitty wanted to come in late at night she would climb up onto the roof, hang over the edge right above my window, and meow until I ran downstairs to let her in. I also had a turtle named Charlie. Charlie loved little balls of hamburger dipped in cod liver oil. I could tell by the way he half closed his eyes and tilted his head.

School libraries are awesomely incredible and incredibly important. And so are school librarians! 

Mr. Schu, you should have asked me what's next for Lucy and Sparkle? So I'll tell you to keep an eye out for their next adventure, A NEW FRIEND FOR SPARKLE, coming from FSG on Spring 2017.

Borrow A Unicorn Named Sparkle (after July 5) from your school or public library. Whenever possible, please support independent bookshops. 

Friday, May 13, 2016

Book Trailer Premiere: Chicken in Space by Adam Lehrhaupt & Shahar Kober

Hi, Adam LehrhauptWelcome back to Watch. Connect. Read. THANK YOU for taking the time to finish my sentences. 

Hi, and THANK YOU! I couldn’t be more thrilled to premiere the trailer for CHICKEN IN SPACE on Watch. Connect. Read. I’m so in love with these characters! I can’t wait to share them with everyone. 

Chicken in Space’s book trailer makes me laugh every time I watch it. At first, Zoey’s dreams and Sam’s desires might seem diametrically opposed. But this story isn’t about getting what you want. It’s about two great friends and the adventure that they go on because they believe in each other. As Sam says, “Zoey always finds a way.”

I think Shahar Kober’s illustrations are amazing! Zoey is such a complex and imaginative character. I wasn’t sure how she would turn out. Shahar really captured her zaniness in his illustrations, while also keeping her grounded in the world of the other characters. And his landscapes are phenomenal. I want to frame them and hang them in my dining room. 

I hope Chicken in Space helps encourage readers to play imaginatively. Zoey creates a world that draws Sam and the reader in, inviting a believer to travel along for the ride. I’d love to hear that her story encouraged others to go out and enjoy themselves in a similar way. In the presentation I give during school visits, I talk about another wonderful literary example of imaginative play. CHRISTINA KATERINA & THE BOX By Patricia Lee Gauch, illustrated by Doris Burn. I absolutely love this book! Who didn’t, at some point, use a box as a toy? There’s more than a touch of Christina’s imagination in Zoey.

Zoey is someone I want to emulate. She doesn’t let any negativity stop her. She’s set her goal and she’s going to meet it. She’s a dreamer. A planner. A great friend to Sam. And she tries to include everyone. Other than being covered in feathers, I wouldn’t mind being more like her.

Mr. Schu, you should have asked me about my parent’s farm. They have REAL chickens there! And what’s even better…they let me name one Zoey! She hasn’t tried to go to space yet, but I think she’s already got a plan. Maybe she just needs a pig. Or pie. Everyone likes pie. about my parent’s farm. They have REAL chickens there! And what’s even better…they let me name one Zoey! She hasn’t tried to go to space yet, but I think she’s already got a plan. Maybe she just needs a pig. Or pie. Everyone likes pie.

I am giving away a signed copy of Chicken in Space and bookmarks. 

Rules for the Giveaway 

1. It will run from 5/13 to 11:59 PM on 5/14. 

2. You must be at least 13. 

3. If you win, please pay it forward. 

Borrow Chicken in Space from your school or public library. Whenever possible, please support independent bookshops.