Monday, December 26, 2016

The 2016 Nerdies: Fiction Picture Book Winners

I always feel sad and slightly deflated around 11:50 PM on December 25. The thought of putting away my whimsical ornaments and comforting Christmas tree until November of next year leaves me feeling blue. Thankfully, my mood always turns around when I remember the Nerdy Book Club Award winners will appear on this blog from December 26 to January 3.  I love seeing my Twitter feed filled with colleagues celebrating the Nerdies. It warms my heart knowing to-read mountains will grow and fabulous books will be placed into the hands of young readers. 
Congratulations to the recipients of the 2016 Nerdies!  
Please CLICK HERE to view the full post on the Nerdy Book Club's blog. 

Monday, December 19, 2016

Mr. Schu Goes to the Book Fair: Episode 6

Click here to watch the video. 
In this week's episode of Mr. Schu Goes to the Book Fair, I chat with teacher-librarian Samantha Anderson about how she gets her students excited before and during her Scholastic Book Fair. She shares how much her students love Katherine Applegate's The One and Only Ivan and Crenshaw. Thank you, Samantha! 

Friday, December 16, 2016

January #SharpSchu Book Club

Mr. Colby Sharp and I are excited to discuss two fantastic books during the January #SharpSchu Twitter Book Club meeting. We hope to "see" you there!  

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Top 20 Books of 2016 (#5-1)

#20-16 | #15-11 | #10-6 | #5-1

Travis Jonker and I are sharing 20 of our favorite books published in 2016. Please visit Mr. Jonker's blog to read the blurbs.

Ms. Bixby's Last Day by John David Anderson 

John David Anderson finished my sentences on September 2. 

Topher, Brand, and Steve are your best friends. Or are versions of your best friends. You know someone is your best friend when you want to tackle them one minute and hug them the next, when they annoy you and impress you and console you and make you laugh at the most inappropriate times.

Ms. Bixby’s Last Day takes place mostly over the course of one day, so I had to cram a lot of adventure into a small amount of time. Which explains why there are so many flashbacks, because these three kids have an opinion on just about everything. 

Ms. Bixby thinks that everyone has the courage to overcome their hardships and the potential to achieve greatness. And that it’s the positive little things we do daily that amount to sum total of our character. And that boys sure can be foolish sometimes…  

Alexander’s is a creepy and awesome bookstore with a potentially cannibalistic owner and a shark in its toilet. Enough said.

If I visited Michelle’s Bakery I would very quickly slip into a sugar coma and never come out. Also, I would be poor, because cheesecake sure ain’t cheap.

School libraries need really big, comfy chairs that kids can sink into with their favorite books and just get swallowed up by (the books and the chairs). They also need thousands of titles so everybody can find something that speaks directly to them.

Mr. Schu, you should have asked me what I had for breakfast. Cold leftover pepperoni pizza and a banana with a Diet Coke to wash it all down. Kinda makes you wonder what I’m going to have for lunch!

Thanks for having me, Mr. Schu! (Thank you!) 

Ghost by Jason Reynolds 

Ghost was a 2016 National Book Award finalist.

Jason presented at the 2016 National Book Festival. 

"You can't live your best life unless we can all live our best lives. You can't be your best self unless I can be my best self." -Jason Reynolds 

We Found a Hat by Jon Klassen 

Jon Klassen draws a turtle from We Found a Hat

Jon reads from We Found a Hat

Dory Fantasmagory: Dory Dory Black Sheep by Abby Hanlon

Read all the books in the Dory Fantasmagory series! 

Raymie Nightingale by Kate DiCamillo 

 Kate DiCamillo finished my sentences on February 23. 

Raymie, Beverly, and Louisiana are each a part of me. I understood myself better after spending time with these characters. I liked myself better, too.

The Little Miss Central Florida Tire contest stills makes me laugh out loud to think about.  Originally, I thought that the winner would receive a crown made out of a tire. Wheeee. That makes me laugh, too.

I think Mr. Staphopoulos and Mr. Option are good kind, men who see Raymie clearly and give her great gifts. 

A ranchero is somebody you can rely on. Always. Forever.

Mrs. Sylvester’s gigantic jar of candy corn is based on an orange water pitcher that I saw in a coffee shop in New Orleans maybe four years ago.  The sun was coming in through the coffee shop window and it lit up the pitcher so that it looked like something wondrous from another planet. And I thought: everything ordinary is also beautiful if you look at it long enough and in the right way.

School libraries are gateways to the world.

Mr. Schu, you should have asked me if I can twirl a baton. Ha ha ha.  Of course I can’t twirl a baton.  Even though I took lessons I never learned.

Raymie Nightingale was a 2016 National Book Award finalist. 

#20-16 | #15-11 | #10-6 | #5-1

Top 20 Books of 2016 (#10-6)

#20-16 | #15-11 | #10-6 | #5-1

Travis Jonker and I are sharing 20 of our favorite books published in 2016. Please visit Mr. Jonker's blog to read the blurbs.

The Thank You Book by Mo Willems

May was Thank-o-Rama Month! 


Learn how to draw Piggie! 

It Is Not Time for Sleeping by Lisa Graff; illustrated by Lauren Castillo

Lisa and Lauren interviewed each other on Watch. Connect. Read.

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....

The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill

Laura Given (aka LibLaura5) featured The Girl Who Drank the Moon throughout the summer on her podcast.

Kelly Barnhill discussed The Girl Who Drank the Moon at the Miami Book Festival.

"The last thing I expected, when I fi nally began this book, was a volcanic eruption. Or a volcanic landscape. Or volcanoes in general. Still, once I began, there it was. Waiting. Building. Right under my feet. Like it had been there all along." -Kelly Barnhill | Click here to continue reading Kelly's essay.

The Wild Robot by Peter Brown

Colby Sharp talked about The Wild Robot in a HAPPY SATURDAY video. 

Margie Myers-Culver reviewed The Wild Robot on May 16.

As soon as chapter one is read, readers know this is going to be an extraordinary book.  The narrator, when speaking, directly addresses the readers personally involving us in this story.  We are privy through Roz's thoughts and the animals' observations and all the conversations, how this robot becomes not only a part of the community but vital to the survival of many members on the island.  Peter Brown through the character of Roz also directs our attention to respect for the natural world, how each species are integral, environmental concerns and the place and purpose of technology. | Click here to read the rest of Margie's review. 

The Marvelous Thing That Came From a Spring by Gilbert Ford

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Top 20 Books of 2016 (#15-11)

#20-16 | #15-11 | #10-6 | #5-1

Happy Tuesday! Please visit Travis Jonker's blog to read the blurbs. 

Radiant Child: The Story of Young Artist Jean-Michel Basquiat by Javaka Steptoe 

Listen to Javaka Steptoe's interview on The Yarn. 

Pax by Sara Pennypacker 

Pax has one of the best book trailers of the year. 

The best swag of 2016! 

Shy by Deborah Freedman 

I love Shy's case! A+! 

Margie Myers-Culver reviewed Shy on September 23. 

A timeless tale of being afraid but finally willing to follow what you want most, Shy written and illustrated by Deborah Freedman will resonate with readers of all ages.  It's the desire to express your love of something or someone which will give you the confidence you need.  You can't put a price on the reward which fills your heart. The pacing in the text and illustrations and the manner in which they enhance one another is stunning. Click here to read the full review.

"I’m obsessed with books. Obviously. I’m in the club, after all, and isn’t an obsession with books our only membership requirement?" -Deborah Freedman | Click here to read the rest of Deborah's nerdy essay. 

Some Writer! The Story of E.B. White by Melissa Sweet 

You don't want to miss this video. 

Leave Me Alone! by Vera Brosgol