Friday, October 28, 2016

2016 Best Books Lists

Welcome to the time of year when Best Books lists start popping up left and right. In order to have all the lists in one place, I will update this blog entry with Best Books lists from October 28 until late January 2017. 

We kick off the BEST OF season with PW's picks.  

*Young Adult 


The New York Times Best Illustrated Children's Books of 2016 

The Cat From Hunger Mountain by Ed Young

The Dead Bird by Margaret Wise Brown; illustrated by Christian Robinson 

Freedom in Congo Square by Carole Boston Weatherfod; illustrated by R. Gregory Christie 

Little Red by Bethan Woollvin 

The Polar Bear by Jenni Desmond 

Preaching to the Chickens by Jabari Asim; illustrated by E.B. Lewis 

The Princess and the Warrior by Duncan Tonatiuh 

The Tree in the Courtyard: Looking Through Anne Frank's Window by Jeff Gottesfeld; illustrated by Peter McCarty 

A Voyage in the Clouds: The (Mostly) True Story of the First International Flight by Balloon in 1785 by Matthew Olshan; illustrated by Sophie Blackall 

The White Cat and the Monk by Jo Ellen Bogart; illustrated by Sydney Smith 



(Updated on 11/19/16) 

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Q&A for Scholastic's On Our Minds

Today, we caught up with John Schumacher, Ambassador for School Libraries for Scholastic Book Fairs, to hear about his newest video series, Mr. Schu Goes to the Book Fair.
What inspired you to create Mr. Schu Goes to the Book Fair?
Mr. Colby Sharp and I developed a wonderful bond because of the weekly video messages we started uploading to our blogs in 2011. Through these videos, Colby and I would tell each other about the books we love, discuss what we feel passionately about, and provide a glimpse into our reading and personal lives. I used this effective format as a springboard to create Mr. Schu Goes to the Book Fair.
What is the show about?
Mr. Schu Goes to the Book Fair is a web-series that features... CLICK HERE to read the full interview. 

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Cover Reveal for Back to School with Bigfoot

Hi, Samantha Berger! 

Hello, Mr. Schu!

Hi, Martha Brockenbrough! 

Hello, Mr. Schu! 

Thank you for stopping by to finish my sentences and reveal the cover for Back to School with Bigfoot. I hope you have an excellent week. 

Back to School with Bigfoot tells the story of what happens when an extra BIG guy, has an extra BIG panic attack about starting the new school year. It happens to all of us, even the biggest, hairiest and most famous.

The first day of school can be something you look forward to all summer, or something that haunts your days and nights. Some love it, some dread it, but Bigfoot freaks out about it.

Illustration Credit: Dave Pressler 

Martha Brockenbrough and I have matching Bigfoot sweaters, knee socks, and furry furry hats.

I think Dave Pressler’s illustrations are like Bigfoot himself – LEGENDARY. They’ve been known to make me smile, giggle, chortle, cackle, tittle, tee-hee, guffaw, HA-HA-HA, nyuk nyuk nyuk, snort, snicker and spit-take (sorry, computer screen!). What more could you ask for? 

Illustration Credit: Dave Pressler
Bigfoot is the hairy, worried animal inside all of us. He’s the one who sometimes has a hard time getting his shoes. The one who doesn’t just have bad hair days; he’s had a bad hair life (or so he thinks. No one else notices). He’s the one who always looks like a goof in pictures (or so he thinks). Bigfoot is the one who makes everything bigger—especially fun.

Miss Sierra Nevada’s class is everyone’s favorite, because Miss Sierra Nevada is everyone’s favorite teacher.  
Illustration Credit: Dave Pressler

Samantha Berger and I have seen bigfoot, the tooth fairy, Santa, and other legends. We would like to tell you all about them.

Dave Pressler’s illustrations are what happens when you stick lollipops in an outlet: sweet, hair-raising, electric fun. 

Look for Back to School with Bigfoot on June 27, 2017. 

Thursday, October 20, 2016

A Guest Post by Dana Alison Levy

Hi Mr. Schu and Reader-Friends!

I’m delighted to be here on Mr. Schu’s blog to share the cover of my third middle grade novel, This Would Make a Good Story Someday.

But before I show you the cover, I have a secret. This book tried to kill me, or at least impart a serious flesh wound. It was harder to write than anything I’ve done so far. I described it as trying to get into a locked building: I knew there was a way in somehow, but for the longest time I was circling endlessly outside, unable to find a door or even a window that would let me in.

Told mostly from the point-of-view of twelve-year-old Sara Johnston-Fischer, it’s the story of her summer plans suddenly changing and her heading out for a month of cross-country train travel with her two moms, her six-year-old sister Ladybug, her twenty-year-old sister Laurel, and Laurel’s wonderfully earnest boyfriend Root. Sara’s grateful for the trip of course, but that’s a lot of togetherness. (Really, a LOT of togetherness.) In addition to her journal, the book includes notes, emails, blog posts, and many postcards from Ladybug to her friend Frog Fletcher (remember him?). Anyway, after many months of banging on the proverbial door, I finally broke through and stumbled, gracelessly and gratefully, into this story. I wrote it, and got it ready to send to my publisher.

As any author will tell you, sending a book out into the world is a mildly terrifying thing. Something that has been living only in your head is suddenly on display for all the world to see! And that brings me back to this cover.

As I said, this book tried to kill me. By the time I sent it off to the wonderful world of Delacorte, I wasn't sure if it was worth the space on my hard drive. But it was received with open arms, edited, revised, tweaked, and finally, designed, by the amazingly talented people there. Still, I was nervous about it going out into the world. And then they told me that Rebecca Ashdown, who created the artwork for both The Misadventures of the Family Fletcher and The Family Fletcher Take Rock Island, would be the cover artist again. And I relaxed, just a little. Because if you’re going to have to go out into the world, you might as well go out looking fabulous.

Rebecca managed to capture not just Sara looking flummoxed and a little shellshocked by the turn of events, but also the frenzy and motion of travel; cards flying, books toppling, and, most importantly, strangers becoming friends through the course of the journey.

It’s been quite a journey for me too, getting this book ready to go out in the world. But I’m so grateful for Delacorte and Rebecca and this beautiful cover. I can’t wait to see where Sara’s story will travel next…

This Would Make a Good Story Someday by Dana Alison Levy | Publication date: May 16, 2017 

Dear Mr. Levitt,

I’m really sorry I wrote three hundred pages for my summer journal. I never meant to write so much, I promise. I planned to hang out with my best friends, finalizing our Reinvention Project before middle school and maybe starting my novel, if I could ever come up with an idea.

That was before my summer blew up completely (three words: train, family, TOGETHERNESS) and I wrote around a zillion pages in my journal, mostly in self-defense. But look on the bright side—you only have to read it. I had to live through the whole thing.

Sara Johnston-Fischer loves her family, of course. But that doesn’t mean she’s thrilled when her summer plans are upended for a surprise cross-country train trip with her two moms, Mimi and Carol; her younger sister, Ladybug; her older sister, Laurel; and Laurel’s poncho-wearing activist boyfriend, Root. And to make matters worse, one of her moms is writing a tell-all book about the trip . . . and that means allllll, every ridiculous and embarrassing moment of Sara’s life.

Sara finds herself crisscrossing the country with a gaggle of wild Texans. But as they travel from New Orleans to Chicago to the Grand Canyon and beyond, Sara finds herself changing along with the landscape outside the train windows. And she realizes that she just might go home reinvented after all. 

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Book Talks! Mr. Schu Goes to the Book Fair, Episode 2

CLICK HERE to watch the video. 

I love booktalking and sharing books I feel passionately about. I highly recommend building excitement in the weeks before your Book Fair by:
  • Booktalking titles that will be available in the Book Fair
  • Advertising the titles around the school 
  • Talking about specific titles during the morning announcements 
  • Becoming a walking advertisement for a handful of must-read books
Please visit to download student book talk tips, educator book talk tips, and sample book talks.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Book Trailer Premiere: Like Magic by Elaine Vickers

Hi, Elaine! Thank you for visiting Watch. Connect. Read. to premiere the book trailer for Like Magic

Elaine Vickers: Thank you for having me, Mr. Schu! I’m thrilled to be here to celebrate the launch of my first novel, Like Magic, and to premiere its book trailer.

I love the heading of this blog: Watch. Connect. Read. What a perfect mission. I know many readers of this blog are educators and parents and writers, and I’m all of those things too. But I’d like to take a moment to speak straight to the kids who might read this book, and I’m going to borrow those great words from the heading.

Watch. I hope you’ll watch the trailer and notice the three girls. Maybe one of them looks like you, or looks like somebody you’d want to be friends with. What would you do if you found a treasure box at your library? What do you do when you feel alone? As you watch this trailer, listen to the music. This song is hundreds of years old, and you’ll find out what it’s called and why it’s important to the story if you…

Read. I’d love to have you read this book, because I wrote it for you! There are funny parts and sad parts and a dash of maybe-magic. But most of all, I want you to read any book that makes you think or laugh or cry or learn. Any book that helps your heart or your mind grow. Because that’s exactly how you’ll…

Connect. With the people and places and beautiful world around you. With worlds beyond that. The girls in this story are searching for connection, and you might be too. Keep searching. Keep reaching. Because if you do, things really can turn out like magic.

One last thing about connection. As I talked about in my cover reveal on Nerdy Book Club, one of the themes of this book is the power of art to connect people. This trailer did exactly that. I wrote the script (with the help of wise friends.) The cover artist, Sara Not, supplied the original files of her gorgeous work. Kinsey Beckett and Alex Obering provided the graphic design. My talented videographer friend Mike Kelly pulled it all together. And my favorite part: my daughter Halle performed the voiceover. It’s unlikely team that spans age and expertise and even an ocean, but this trailer brought us all together. I’m so grateful for the result.

Elaine Vickers is the author of Like Magic (HarperCollins, October 2016) and loves writing middle grade and chapter books when she’s not teaching college chemistry or hanging out with her fabulous family. You can find her at on the web, @ElaineBVickers on Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest, or generally anywhere there are books and/or food for her consumption.

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

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Happy Saturday, Mr. Sharp!

Hi, Mr. Sharp,

Happy Saturday! It has been way too long since I posted a HAPPY SATURDAY video. 

I hope you have an awesome weekend!

Happy reading!


The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate

Shy by Deborah Freedman 

Firelight (Amulet #7) by Kazu Kibuishi 

Friday, October 14, 2016

Cover Reveal for Georgia Rules by Nanci Turner Steveson

Hi, Nanci! Welcome back to Watch. Connect. Read. I hope youve been doing well since you stopped by to reveal the cover for Swing Sideways.

Hello Mr. Schu, and greetings from the wilds of Wyoming! Yes, doing well, doing great, busy, busy, busy, and so honored to be back with you again for the cover reveal of my second novel.

Shall we get started? Are you ready to reveal the cover for Georgia Rules and finish my sentences?

Got my coffee, got a fire roaring in the wood stove, phone is turned off, I’m in my favorite pajamas with my dogs at my feet, so yeah, I’m ready. Let’s do this!

The cover illustration for Georgia Rules made me weep. For real. This is the second time that happened. The cover design was created by Dawn Cooper, the same artist who illustrated the breathtaking cover for Swing Sideways, so they each have a familiar feel, which I love. But more than that, I was near shaken to the core to see all the aspects of this story she was able to capture on one page. The moment of discovery in a new life, in a place you realize you were supposed to be all along; the love and friendship and acceptance of people who are different from those you’ve always known; the transition from a large city to the beautiful countryside of Vermont, yet with magnolia blooms from Georgia still in plain view; but most of all, for me, the bringing together of so many themes the same way one sews together scraps of fabric to make a quilt. There is much more. You just have to read the book and you will fall in love with these amazing people, and the settings, and you will understand more fully how Dawn captured so much of the story here on the cover.

Magnolia Grace is incredibly grateful to have been forced out of the cushy, comfortable, yet shallow world she always knew, into a life she never expected, where she was able to find something she didn’t even know was lost. It’s a beautiful journey.

The Parker family are my heroes. They make me laugh, they make me cry, they jump right off the page, and you just never know what’s going to come out of their mouths. More than that, they are a normal family with two moms, six kids, a country store where they can eat all the ice cream they want, and a pony named Sassy Pants. They have major challenges of their own, yet they never once crumble, they never let anything penetrate the strong bond of their patched together family. They instantly open their home to Maggie, and through their big, huge hearts, they help both Maggie and Mama experience first hand that beautiful feeling of being accepted, no matter what. 

Did you know Sassy Pants has a heart shape on her butt? Even with that, she is a pony (as opposed to a horse), and we all know ponies are reincarnated ax murderers, so she isn’t always very nice. In fact, she’s only nice when you are bringing her food. Hence, the name Sassy Pants.

Explore Nanci Turner Steveson's website
I wrote Georgia Rules after being in a class one night where we were discussing a piece written by Frederick Buechner. Well, truth be told, I started it during that class. You know, when the muse hits, you don’t tell it to wait. We had been discussing a Buechner essay that took place inside an old barn, and suddenly I had this vision of an emotionally lost girl standing on the threshold of a red barn. She was afraid to go in. It was so real, I had to get it down right away. I’m pretty sure my teachers were thinking what a dedicated student I was, as they watched me write furiously while they talked. I’ve since told them the truth. They were actually quite pleased.  But there is also a significant part of Georgia Rules that came to me while I was having lunch with a friend on my birthday. She was telling me about a job she used to have, and how it impacted the lives of some children in a huge way, and I knew exactly what was going to happen with Magnolia Grace. I can’t tell you anymore about that. Just read the book. 

Mr. Schu, you should have asked me about Mama, Whew! What trip! Mama — with her cherry-colored sofa and lipstick to match — is hysterical and sympathetic and so lost in her own way. She loves her daughter to the ends of the earth, but man, she has the craaaaziest ways of showing it. She’s going to make you laugh out loud, groan, roll your eyes, hold your hands over your heart, then laugh out loud again. Guaranteed. 

Look for Georgia Rules on May 2, 2017. 

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Two Naomis by Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich & Audrey Vernick

Hello, Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich! 

Hi, Mr. Schu! 

Hello, Audrey Vernick! 

Hi, Mr. Schu!

Thank you for dropping by to finish my sentences about your WONDERFUL novel Two Naomis. 

Two Naomis tells the story of two girls who find out that sometimes you can be more than you ever thought you were -- just when you're wondering if someone is trying to take away from who you are.

The cover illustration can add another dimension to a story. I'd like to teach a writing workshop using cover illustrations to create new or "bonus" chapters of middle grade novels. In fact, I think I will....  

Audrey Vernick and I have a lot of fun tossing ideas back and forth. Our brainstorming sessions always leave me inspired.

My favorite dessert is ALL THE CAKE.

School libraries, with trained librarians, are essential.

Naomi Marie and Naomi Edith navigate their way through a complicated web of emotions and situations with all the grace and humor they can muster.

Naomi Marie’s mom and Naomi Edith’s dad, though sometimes bumble-headed, are always driven by love and a desire to do the right thing.

Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich and I have a very sisterly relationship and though I am older by five years, she is very clearly the big sister.

The cover illustration for a book should be a visual invitation, an irresistible beckoning finger. 

Reading is part of my daily life--where I bear witness, experience, contemplate, imagine, and feel.

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

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Book Trailer Premiere: The Capybara Conspiracy by Erica Perl

Dear Reader, 

Happy Tuesday! I am celebrating Erica Perl's The Capybara Conspiracy's book birthday by premiering its book trailer. I think Olive Henry will inspire readers to act out scenes and to conduct additional research about capybaras. (Would you find capybara plush if you looked at my search history on Google Chrome? Goodness, yes!) 

What are authors saying about The Capybara Conspiracy

“Funny, smart, fresh, and furry, The Capybara Conspiracy cracked me up. Move over, Macbeth. There’s a new play in town, and it’s funny! Plus, it’s got a 170-pound rodent. So put that in your beard, Mr. Bard!” —Andrea Beaty, bestselling author of Iggy Peck, Architect and Rosie Revere, Engineer

“A hilarious novel, written in play form, that is sure to inspire young actors, directors, and playwrights everywhere. Encore!” —Victoria Jamieson, author and illustrator of the Newbery Honor Book Roller Girl

“Makes a perfect classroom read-aloud or play. This fun, funny book that tackles meaningful issues in a creative way is a pure delight!” —Donna Gephart, award-winning author of Lily and Dunkin and Death by Toilet Paper

"A rallying cry for every artsy kid out there." —Jarrett J. Krosoczka, author of The Lunch Lady series

“A hilarious story celebrating our differences and the common threads that unite us. From its opening line to the final curtain call, this laugh-out-loud comedy full of clever characters and quirky drama had me hooked! Two hooves up!” —Jess Keating, author of Pink Is for Blobfish and How to Outrun a Crocodile When Your Shoes Are Untied

“The most hilarious and innovative read a young reader could hope to find. It’s a book, it’s a play, it’s a page-turning riot.” —Ned Rust, author ofPatrick Griffin’s Last Breakfast on Earth

“An incredibly original, extremely clever, very funny book.  And there's a capybara in it.  What more could you possibly ask for?” —Stuart Gibbs, author of the Spy School, FunJungle and Moon Base Alpha series.

“A fresh, fun novel! It's a quirky story, told in three acts that absolutely beg to be shared out loud. Kids are going to have so much fun with this one!” —Kate Messner, author of All the Answers and The Seventh Wish

I hope you will run out to your local bookshop to pick up a copy (or 10).

Happy reading!