Thursday, June 30, 2016

Book Trailer Premiere: Ooko by Esmé Shapiro

Oh my crickets! I am absolutely delighted to share the book trailer form book OOKO with you! 

OOKO is the story of a fox that has all he could possibly want - a stick, a leaf and a rock! But Ooko realizes that perhaps what he really wants is a friend. So he roams out of the comfort of the log he lives under in the forest and ventures into the town. It is there he spots what seems to be an unlikely pair - another fox (who is actually a dog) and a furless, two legged fox! (Who is actually a human!) After hearing a human call another human Debbie, Ooko is convinced that all humans are named Debbie - and he wants a Debbie too! Will Ooko find a way to befriend a Debbie? Or will he have to go back and play with his stick, leaf and rock on his own? You may just have to read OOKO to find out!

Ooko by Esmé Shapiro | Publication Date: July 5, 2016. 

Click here to download the storytime kit. 

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

2016 Newbery, Caldecott, and Wilder Reaction Videos

I am grateful ALSC posted the 2016 Newbery, Caldecott, and Wilder reaction videos. I hope you'll stop what you're doing and watch them right now! Happy watching! 

Colby Sharp, I love that everyone in the banquet hall saw your students reacting to Finding Winnie winning your Mock Caldecott. :) 

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Book Trailer Premiere: The Storyteller by Evan Turk

I'm celebrating The Storyteller's book birthday and book trailer with author-illustrator Evan Turk. Congratulations, Evan! Thank you! 

I am very honored to announce the premiere of the trailer for The Storyteller here at Mr. Schu's! The Storyteller is the tale of a young boy in Morocco who inadvertently becomes an apprentice to one of the last master storytellers. Morocco has a nearly one- thousand-year-old tradition of public storytelling that is in danger of dying out. Inspired by this tradition, and the new generation of Moroccans that have taken it upon themselves to keep it alive, I wrote The Storyteller to talk about the power that stories have to nourish us all. I hope you'll enjoy the trailer and check out the book. The trailer features music from a Moroccan Gnawa band based in Brooklyn, InnovGnawa. 

Long, long ago, like a pearl around a grain of sand, the Kingdom of Morocco formed at the edge of the great, dry Sahara. It had fountains of cool, refreshing water to quench the thirst of the desert, and storytellers to bring the people together.

But as the kingdom grew, the people forgot the dangers of the desert, and they forgot about the storytellers, too. All but one young boy, who came to the Great Square for a drink and found something that quenched his thirst even better: wonderful stories. As he listened to the last storyteller recount the Endless Drought, and the Glorious Blue Water Bird, he discovered the power of a tale well told.

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

Friday, June 24, 2016

Cover Reveal for The Someday Birds by Sally J. Pla

Thank you so much for letting me visit, Mr. Schu! I’m so excited and honored to be here!
When my three sons were younger, we took lots of summer road trips in our old minivan. They weren’t always easy for my autistic middle boy, who didn’t like the change, strange foods, or strange places.

So we’d try to make things as smooth as possible. For instance, we’d always eat at places that served his preferred food source—because, as he once put it: “I figure you can survive pretty much anything, as long as you can order the chicken nuggets.”

With that, a story idea hatched in my brain. 

The Someday Birds is my own neurodiverse heart-gift to kids who are different, kids put in tough situations, kids dragged into journeys they don’t want. It’s about self-acceptance, about learning how to feel more at ease in the world. There’s some humor and some heartache, and birds, lots of birds. (Charlie adores birds, and fervently believes that learning bird-behavior is the ultimate key to understanding human behavior.) 

I’m so proud to reveal this lively, flighty cover of a book about a lively, flighty family—and to be revealing it on your site, Mr. Schu.  Didn’t artist Julie McLaughlin and designer Heather Daugherty do an incredible job?

Mr. Schu: Yes! Thank you for dropping by to reveal the cover. Congratulations! 

The Someday Birds by Sally J. Pla | HarperCollins Children's Books | Publication Date: 01/24/2017

Charlie wishes his life could be as predictable and simple as chicken nuggets. And it usually is. He has his clean room, his carefully organized bird sketchbooks, and his safe and comfortable routines.

But his perfectly ordinary life has been unraveling fast, since his war journalist father was injured. Now, life consists of living with Gram, trips to the hospital, and wishing things were different.

When Dad is flown from California to Virginia for further medical treatment, Charlie ends up having to travel across country with his boy-crazy sister, unruly brothers, and a mysterious new family friend. Along the way, he decides that if he can spot all the birds that he and his father were hoping to see in the wild, someday… Then maybe, just maybe, things will turn out okay.

Debut author Sally J. Pla has written a middle-grade novel that is equal parts madcap road trip, coming-of-age story for a boy who doesn’t quite understand the world, and an uplifting portrait of a family overcoming a crisis.

Sally J. Pla has three sons, a husband, and an enormous fluffy dog. She lives in a house near lots of lemon trees in Southern California, where she’s hard at work on her next novel for HarperCollins. Taylor Martindale Kean of Full Circle Literary represents her.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Book Trailer Premiere: Snow White by Matt Phelan

Hi, Matt Phelan! 

Hi, Mr. Schu!

Thank you for dropping by to share Snow White's book trailer and chat about Samantha White and reading. 

You're welcome! Thank you! 

Snow White tells a story of greed, jealousy, lost hope, and evil… and how pure goodness can ultimately conquer all of those things.

Samantha White is an ordinary girl who has had tragedy in her life, but still believes that there is beauty in the world.

The Seven are homeless boys living in the shadows of the city. They are smart, brave, and loyal to each other, but they are also jaded and mistrustful of the world. Their names are a guarded secret.

Reading is dreaming while awake.

Look for Snow White on September 13, 2016. 

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Book Trailer Premiere: Field Guide to the Grumpasaurus by Edward Hemingway

Hi, Edward Hemingway! Welcome back to Watch. Connect. Read! Thank you for dropping by to celebrate Field Guide to Grumpasurus.

Edward Hemingway: Thanks John! It’s great to back. I love your blog! I hope you are well, and that you are staying out of trouble (the bad kind, at least).

Indeed! :)

What should everyone do before watching Grumpasaurus’ book trailer?

Edward Hemingway: Press the play button of course! And then enjoy some sweet and simple animation brought to you by The Mill- an award winning and world famous VFX and Creative Content Studio.

I love surprises under dust jackets. Thank you for creating a case that is different from the cover illustration.

Edward Hemingway: You’re welcome! I wish I could say I did it just for you. But if I’m honest, I have to give all the credit to my amazing art director at HMH, Christine Kettner, as she came up with the idea and design. She’s a wonder. And was never once grumpy with me.

Have you ever met a Grumpasaurus?

Edward Hemingway: Everywhere and often! There may even be one living with me at this very moment…in my own home! But right now he’s at work.

If we visited your studio, what would we see? (Hi, Sophie Blackall! Hi, Sergio Ruzzier! Hi, Brian Floca! Hi, John Bemelmans Marciano!) 

Edward Hemingway: You’d see 4 famous children’s book authors hard at work on new books, and one additional author typing frantically on his computer at his VERY MESSY desk.

Please finish these sentences:

Bad Apple: A Tale of Friendship and Bad Apple’s Perfect Day are both still in print, praise Jesus.

School libraries are literally literary staycations. Bon Voyage!!!

Mr. Schu, you should have asked me about MY MISERABLE LIFE, written by Francesca Lia Block and illustrated by yours truly, born into bookstores on Tuesday, June 28th. 

Borrow Field Guide to the Grumpasaurus from your school or public library. Whenever possible, please support independent bookshops. 

Friday, June 17, 2016

Book Trailer Premiere: A Tiger Tail by Mike Boldt

Hello! Mike Boldt here. I don’t know about you, but when I was young, I remember being extremely nervous on the first day of school. Now, only a couple weeks away from my next book, A TIGER TAIL’s release, I have that same nervousness all over again. It’s quite an odd sensation, as the entire time I was working on the book I couldn’t wait to share it with the world.

Thankfully, wonderful folks, like Mr. Schu here, give us a stage and instill confidence through encouragement and remind us of the importance of reading. That it’s not about us as authors and illustrators, but about those who are coming up behind us, about passing on pieces of joy, understanding, hope, and encouraging them to set their imaginations free.

A TIGER TAIL is a story about Anya, the tiger tail she wakes up with, and the challenges of dealing with a situation like this on the first day of school.

Thank you for watching this book trailer. And thank you to Mr. Schu!

A Tiger Tail by Mike Boldt |Simon and Schuster | Release Date: July 5, 2016 

The following interview is from when Mike and I revealed the cover for A Tiger Tail. I wrote the words in orange, and Mike wrote the words in black. THANK YOU, Mike! You're the best! 

A Tiger Tail 
tells the story
 of Anya, who wakes up one morning with a tiger tail. Not like a ponytail or pigtails, but a real tiger tail. This is a disaster in most circumstances, but especially today, which also happens to be Anya's first day of school.

I hope A Tiger Tail's cover piques the interest of anyone who has had to deal with something that's been out of their control - despite their best attempts.

I created  A Tiger Tail's illustrations based on one of my nieces who not only looks like Anya, but WHO shares her name and some of her personality. 

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Cover Reveal for Joseph Kuefler's Rulers of the Playground

Hi, Joseph Kuefler! Welcome to Watch. Connect. Read. I cannot believe this is your first time visiting.

Hello Mr. Schu. I can’t believe it either. Watch. Connect. Read. has become such a regular presence in my Twitter feed, I was beginning to think I’d created it myself.

How funny! Well, I am glad you're here today to share the GORGEOUS cover for Rulers of the Playground. Please tell us about the characters on the cover.

Thank you for the invitation and thank you for the compliments. Well, the characters on this cover are a few of the many children cast in RULERS. The book centers around Jonah and Lennox, the two children dressed in formal attire. Both are attempting to take over the playground and claim it as their own. Both are full of confidence—they’re wearing clothing from the French Revolution to the park, so that’s probably pretty obvious. And both take their conquering just a little too far.

On the far left you’ll see a redhead and her dog. That’s Augustine and Sir Hamilton Humphrey Hildebrand III. They come into play at the end.

What planted the seed for Rulers of the Playground?

As I was exploring which book to write as a follow-up to Beyond the Pond, so many social issues were coming to a head at once: Black Lives Matter was in full swing, the Middle East was (and still is) managing a number of conflicts, Russia had moved into Ukraine aggressively, and closer to the world of picture books, We Need Diverse Books was transforming the discourse within our industry. The recurring theme in all this was, to me, a question of territory and ownership. What can we call ours? How do we coexist? What impact does power have on the powerful and those subject to their rule?

I know this is probably a heavier set of topics than you were expecting, but for me, picture books are a vehicle for processing the world—its pains, pleasures, tensions. Picture books allow me to explore and process the existential.

So, back to the book, I realized, for a child, the playground is a microcosm of the world. The same dramas I was witnessing in my community and in the media unfold on the playground every day.

The last thing I’ll say is that I really wanted to contribute to the Diverse Books movement. I’m white and male, and I didn’t experience a great deal of adversity as a child, but I still felt obligated to contribute in whatever way I could. I wanted to write a story that made room for a child of every ethnic background. And I really wanted to cast a black female character in a lead role. Whew…that was a lot. Still with me?

I love how Jonah’s park is featured on the front endpapers, and Lennox’s park is featured on the back endpapers.  

The end papers for this book were so fun to create. I love to play with the end papers for each book and make them a player in the story in some way. Alessandra [Balzer] and I played around with a few options for end papers. When the idea of the maps was brought up, we all knew it would offer kids two corners of the book to get lost within.

I think Sir Hamilton Humphrey Hildebrand III is the perfect name for Augustine’s dog.  Did you play around with a lot of different names? (Did it come to you while listening to the Hamilton soundtrack?) 

Haha. No, I had no idea Hamilton would become the craze it is today. And, sadly, I’ve never heard the soundtrack. I’m more of a Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix soundtrack guy myself. I was going to name the dog Harry Potter, but I didn’t want J.K.’s lawyers to come calling.
Given the baroque qualities of the main characters, I knew a ridiculously ornate name was needed. Throughout the book, Hamilton also expresses a certain pretension. Sir Hamilton Humphrey Hildebrand III had the right rhythm and grandiosity. It came pretty quickly.

Please finish these sentence starters:

I think Minnesota is America’s best kept secret.

Picture books are an artist’s confession pounded into pulp and ink. They have been for me, anyway.

Mr. Schu, you should have asked me how I came up with the names for the book’s main characters.
Jonah, Lennox, and Augustine are the names of my children. It’s such a rare treat to find your name in a picture book. I wanted to give that gift to my kids.

This was so much fun. Hopefully I lived up to the Watch. Connect. Read. reputation. 

Of course you did! Thank you, Joseph! I look forward to the next time. 

Look for Rulers of the Playground in 2017. 

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Book Trailer Premiere: Ruby Rose Off to School She Goes by Rob Sanders and Debbie Ridpath Ohi

Happy Tuesday! I'm celebrating the book trailer for Ruby Rose Off to School She Goes with Rob Sanders and Debbie Ridpath Ohi. I wrote the words in black, Rob wrote the words in orange, and Debbie wrote the words in purple. Thank you, Rob and Debbie! Happy watching, everyone!  

Ruby Rose loves to dance! Whether it’s at breakfast, while brushing her teeth, or when heading off to school, Ruby Rose dances. And she faces each challenge by kicking up her heels. Challenging math problems? Dance! Off to the library? Dance! Time for lunch? Dance!  If there’s one thing Ruby Rose loves more than dancing, it’s getting others up and dancing, too.

When I was Ruby Rose’s age I had already passed on Mighty Mite football, and had decided that playing baseball with the Cracker Jacks was not for me either. I wasn’t a dancer either. Instead, I spent most of my time with books, singing to the top of my lungs in the backyard, and drawing, painting, and creating anything I could imagine. I was a kid who marched to my own drummer, so in that way, I guess I was a lot like Ruby Rose.

The first time I saw the finished illustrations for Ruby Rose Off to School She Goes, I was clicking my heels. I had seen the sketches at several stages along the way, but the finished art blew me away. During the early stages of her process Debbie asked for photos of my great niece Madi (who bears quite a resemblance to Ruby Rose), pictures of Madi’s house, scans of her art work, photos of my classroom, and more. Debbie included many of those familiar objects and scenes in her art. So with each page turn I see something familiar that makes me smile.

Picture books are . . .
. . . the gateway to literacy
. . . imagination developers
. . . sit-with-me moment creators
. . . the intersection of art and words
. . . relationship builders between reader and listener
. . . a hold-me-in-your-hands-and-read-me-again-and-again experience

 I think Ruby Rose dances in her dreams.

When I was Ruby Rose’s age I loved to dance, but never in front of anyone. I loved music, and banged out songs I made up on our family piano. I was writing my first chapter book; I wrote in pencil and illustrated it. It had four children who discover a secret doorway and fairies and a flying carpet and evil villains. My father used to take the whole family to the library once a week, and I remember delighting in carrying home stacks of books.

The first time I read the manuscript for Ruby Rose Off To School She GoesI knew I had to illustrate it. Not only am I a big fan of Rob’s wonderful Picture This! blog but Ruby Rose’s joy in dance immediately spoke to me. Dance is one of my favorite illustration subjects and as soon as I read the manuscript, my fingers were already itching to draw Ruby Rose. You can see some of my first sketches here. 

Picture books are important because they encourage conversations between young and older readers, bridging the gap between generations. Picture books introduce children to a love of art in a way that just taking a child to an art gallery can’t achieve. Picture books help children discover themselves and the world, giving young readers a sense of control and building self-confidence. Picture books are important because they plant the seed for writing skills, because they encourage the joy in reading. Picture books offer comfort. If anyone has any doubt about the importance of picture books, I strongly encourage you to check out some of the posts on

Look for Ruby Rose Off to School She Goes on June 21, 2016. 

Monday, June 13, 2016

Selina Alko and Sean Qualls

Hi, Sean! Hi, Selina! 

Sean: Hi, Mr. Schu! 

Selina: Hi, Mr. Schu! 

Thank you for visiting Watch. Connect. Read. to chat with me about Susan B. Anthony, Frederick Douglass, picture books, and reading. :) 

Susan B. Anthony and Frederick Douglass are American icons. 

Susan B Anthony and Frederick Douglass were also friends, who worked together in the mid-1800s to change the unfair laws against women and African Americans. 

The illustrations for Two Friends: Susan B Anthony and Frederick Douglass were made with paint and collaged 19th century manuscripts, such as letters, documents and bits of Anthony's and Douglass's speeches. We wanted to emphasize the power that their words had in enacting change.

When we received Dean Robbins' manuscript... Wow, are they really going to let us do this again? 

Loving v. Virginia is the best named Supreme Court case in history. Richard and Mildred had the perfect last name, Loving, symbolizing the right for people of all races who love each other to marry. I believe the 1967 case paved the way for the gender marriage equality win in 2015. #lovewins

Picture books are a window onto the world, a door to the imagination and a way for children to delve into an array of situations, cultures and histories, to explore shapes, forms, line and color juxtaposed with words. Picture books give a child a sense of who they are in the world and who they may become. 

Reading is my greatest personal pleasure. 

Mr. Schu, you should have asked us how we met. (Just kidding, everyone asks us that. It is often assumed we met in art school like most illustrator couples, but we actually met at a wedding.)  

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Book Trailer Premiere: Bunny Slopes by Claudia Rueda

Bunny Slopes! Bunny Slopes! Bunny Slopes! Isn't that fun to say? I think Bunny Slopes is one of the most memorable titles of the year. I had a blast talking about it in MerryMakers' booth at BEA. Yes, in the MerryMakers booth! You know what that means, don't you? There will be a PLUSH! Hooray! w00t!

I wish I were visiting a school or presenting at a conference today because I would read aloud the first three pages of Bunny Slopes and play its FANTASTIC book trailer. I predict Bunny will inspire readers to SHAKE, TAP, TILT, and LAUGH when they pick up a copy on October 4

Are you ready to PRESS play? Happy watching! 

Bunny Slopes by Claudia Rueda | Chronicle Books | Publication Date: October 4 

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Book Trailer Premiere: The Gingerbread Man Loose at the Zoo by Laura Murray & Mike Lowery

Hi, Laura Murray! Welcome back to Watch. Connect. Read. The last time you visited was on August 9, 2013. What has the Gingerbread Man been up to since then?

Laura Murray: Hi, Mr. Schu! It’s so great chatting with you again on Watch. Connect. Read! As for the Gingerbread Man – he’s been up to a bit of mischief and of course, a few mishaps - all with a heart that’s in the right place though.  

Last December, the Gingerbread Man and his class were on a secret mission to spread cheer to unsuspecting folks in town in The Gingerbread Man Loose at Christmas. The theme of this story is close to my heart because it’s about gratitude and surprise acts of kindness – not gifts we buy, but gifts we “make, say, or do.” 

And this August, the GB man and his class embark on their WILDEST field trip adventure yet - a riddle-solving, scavenger hunt through the zoo, in The Gingerbread Man Loose at the Zoo.

This book was crazy fun to write because I love riddles and scavenger hunts myself, so to be able to incorporate rhyming animal riddles that encourage readers to guess the answer before the page turn, was a delight! While doing research at Washington DC’s National Zoo, I got my first actual glimpse of a naked mole rat. (He was such a funny little guy that he just had to make an appearance in the book too!  More on him below…)  

Thank you for sharing the book trailer for The Gingerbread Man Loose at the Zoo. What should everyone do before pressing play?

Laura Murray: It was so much fun to work with Katya Szewczuk of Kid Lit TV, who used her animation magic with Mike Lowery’s illustrations for this trailer! But before you press play, please put on your riddle–solving hats, and try your hand at the first one in the book –

Riddle # 1
“I’m spotted. I’m gentle. I’m tall as a tree.
A branch full of leaves is the best snack for me.
I have a new baby and she is my calf.”
“Ah-ha!” We all shouted, “the answer’s… ?”

I know you read and loved The War that Saved My Life. What else have you read recently that you want to tell everyone about?

Laura Murray: How do I love KidLit? Let me count the ways… I could list pages here, but I’ll narrow it down to a few of my recent favorites. Since I have teens now, there’s a lot of shuttling going on in our car. So we listen to audio books to and from activities. One of our favorites this year was Goodbye Stranger by Rebecca Stead. Set in present day 7th grade, it felt so real and timely in subject matter, and provided both funny and important conversation starters with my teens about changing friendships and decisions (good and not so good) made in middle school. (The narrator in this audio book was fabulous! Two other stellar audio books are The War that Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley, and Bomb by Stephen Sheinkin.)

Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales - One Dead Spy and Big Bad Ironclad. Fabulously funny, historically based, graphic novels. My tween devoured these and they provided a very fun connection to her history class. She read them, asked me to read them with her, and then asked to donate a set to her classroom so that the other kids could “love” them too.

The Blackthorn Key by Kevin Sands. This book topped my “to-read” list after I saw the review by librarian Gregory Taylor on the Nerdy Book Club blog. There’s so much to love about this upper middle grade book – page turning adventure, laugh out loud humor, secret codes, secret societies, secret passages, and plenty of explosions, all set in historical 1660 England!

Little Tree by Loren Long. This heartfelt & hopeful picture book connects with any child or adult who is at a “letting go” moment in their life. A beautiful and sweet journey of embracing change in order to grow.

Please finish these sentence starters:

School libraries are like a passport. Every time you check out a book, you receive a stamp that beckons you to explore, to travel beyond yourself and your comfort zone, to connect with characters who are familiar, and to develop understanding and empathy for characters who are in places and situations you can only imagine. And when you close that book and come back home, you are a changed and better person for having taken each journey.

Did you know that thanks to some fun book research, I’m now the proud owner of a wealth of zoo animal trivia, which is great fodder for random trivia texts to my teens. (Hey – anything to keep up the communication, right? ;) For instance, did you know that a naked mole rat’s two large incisor teeth can move independently of each other, and even work together like a pair of chopsticks! Can you imagine if people’s front teeth worked like that – that would make for some pretty funny dinner-time scenes!

Mr. Schu, you should have asked me what mythical mess-maker wreaked havoc in my Kindergarten classroom each March, much to the indignation of my students! As it turns out, this same trickster is visiting the GB Man’s school, and he & his class are on a mission to protect their classroom from this cheeky chap. Here’s a clue to the new character in next GB Man adventure, due out in 2018…

“One Monday in March, the mischief began
with a HEE-HEE-HEE from a wee little man.”

Thank you so much for hosting me, Mr. Schu! 

Thank you, Laura!


Look for The Gingerbread Man Loose at the Zoo on August 23, 2016. 

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Happy Saturday, Mr. Colby Sharp!

Dear Mr. Sharp,

I hope you're having a wonderful Saturday. I'm looking forward to seeing you on June 20. 

Have a great weekend!

Happy reading!


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

Full of Beans by Jennifer L. Holm | Publication Date: August 30 

Little Babymouse and the Christmas Cupcakes by Jennifer L. Holm and Matthew Holm | Publication Date: October 4 

Uprooted: The Japanese-American Experience During World War II by Albert Marrin | Publication Date: October 25 

Welcome to Wonderland: Home Sweet Motel by Chris Grabenstein | Publication Date: October 4 

The Secret Life of Lincoln Jones by Wendelin Van Draanen | Publication Date: October 25 

Beautiful Blue World by Suzanne LaFleur | Publication Date: September 13 

The Secret Horses of Briar Hill by Megan Shepherd | Publication Date: October 11 

Holding Up the Universe by Jennifer Niven | Publication Date: October 4

Trailblazers: 33 Women Who Changed the World by Rachel Swaby | Publication Date: September 13 

Girl in Pieces by Kathleen Glasgow | Publication Date: August 30 

Perijee & Me by Ross Montgomery | Publication Date: September 13 

Lucy and Linh by Alice Pung | Publication Date: September 6 

The Capybara Conspiracy: A Novel in Three Acts by Erica Perl | Publication Date: October 11 

The Weight of Zero by Karen Fortunati | Publication Date: October 11 

Time Traveling With a Hamster by Ross Welford | Publication Date: October 4