Friday, August 18, 2017

Author-illustrator Steve Light

Happy Friday! Steve Light dropped by to chat with me about book trailers, Lucky Lazlo, shapes, picture books, school libraries, and more. I wrote the words in purple, and he wrote the words in black. Thank you, Steve! 

 Swap's book trailer is such an exciting way to see my characters come alive. It is my first book trailer ever! It was done by the great Blake Hamilton. I wish it told the whole story, it would be so much fun to watch.

Lucky Lazlo tells the story of a boy in love, the people behind the scenes at a theatre, a mischievous cat and theatre superstitions. The play that is being performed is Alice in Wonderland and it was great fun to design the characters for such a classic story. Please read the author’s note where I list all the theatre superstitions I hid in the illustrations.

Have You Seen My Monster? is a book about a girl who loses her monster at the country fair. There are 20 shapes to find and learn. The 20 shapes are the 20 shapes from the Montessori shape cabinet. I used to teach at a Montessori school. I was even the storyteller there for a few years.

The boy in Have You Seen My Lunch Box? is not based on me. I very rarely misplace something, even as a kid. As a kid I had 3 older sisters so I had to keep an eye on my stuff! I have only lost 2 fountain pens my whole life!

Picture books are magical pieces of story--art that transport you to other worlds. They are treasures. I am so blessed to be able to make children’s books. I knew from a young age that I wanted to draw and make art as my life but never imagined being able to make such beautiful creations.

School libraries are safe places where you can be yourself. I used to hide in the library to escape bullies. One librarian let me sit in the stacks and read--I felt safe there because she did that. Another asked me what I liked. I said drawing and then every day there were art books left in my spot.

Mr. Schu, you should have asked me about my next board book: Blackbird Yellow Sun. I hand printed all the art for it using cardboard and printers ink. Oh, and my new picture book that comes out next year called Builders and Breakers. That one is all about demolition and construction……..and the green wall they build around construction sites in the city. You know, the ones they cut holes in so people can watch what is being built. 

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Book Trailer Premiere: The Infamous Ratsos Are Not Afraid by Kara LaReau; illustrated by Matt Myers

Hi, Kara LaReau! Thank you for returning to Watch. Connect. Read. to celebrate the book trailer for The Infamous Ratsos Are Not Afraid. 

Kara: Thanks so much for inviting me back, Mr. Schu!

What should everyone do before pressing PLAY?

Kara: Have no fear — a new Infamous Ratsos adventure is here!

What planted the seed for The Infamous Ratsos Are Not Afraid, the latest book in the Infamous Ratsos series?

Kara: After I wrote the first Infamous Ratsos story, I had a child of my own — a son — and I happened to watch a documentary called The Mask You Live In, which is all about our society’s narrow definition of masculinity, and how boys are encouraged from an early age to adhere to that definition by withdrawing from authentic friendships, suppressing their emotions, objectifying women, and resolving conflicts through violence.

Learning about this “boy crisis” inspired me to come up with more stories about the Ratso brothers and their friends, in which they encounter (and subvert!) typical gender norms. For instance, The Infamous Ratsos Are Not Afraid is all about how it’s okay to admit we’re afraid, and the many ways we can be brave — whether it’s ringing the doorbell of a “haunted” house, sticking up for someone who’s being bullied, or making new friends.

Ralphie Ratso loves carnivals and arcade games. What’s your favorite arcade game? 

Kara: I always liked the game where you had to throw a ping pong ball at a group of fish bowls filled with goldfish — if you got the ball in a bowl, you won the fish. Sadly, I never won one, but I never stopped trying!

Hi, Matt Myers! What is the most fun thing about creating the illustrations for The Infamous Ratsos series?

Matt: Sketching. Finding a good moment in the story to pull out and bring to life. Working on the characters' expressions to catch the right mood is the trickiest, and most rewarding part.

What adjectives best describe Louie Ratso and Ralphie Ratso?

Matt: They are like real rats in that they are curious, persistent, sneaky, and often misunderstood. Unlike real rats, they are loyal.

Big Lou says you cannot have an arcade without a refreshment stand. Are we more likely to see you standing in line at a carnival for a funnel cake or popcorn? (OR neither???)

Matt: Funnel Cake. If I'm going to eat carnival food, I'm going all out. But no cotton candy. Never liked that stuff. It's like eating hair.

Congratulations on The Infamous Ratsos being named a 2017 Theodor Seuss Geisel Honor book. What does a Geisel citation mean to you?

Kara: I still can’t believe it, especially considering the wonderful stories that have been named Honor Books over the years, many of which my son and I consider our favorites. The Infamous Ratsos is in some pretty famous and fabulous company — and that continues to be an honor for me on every level!

Matt: It means I was right about this book! What I mean is that when I first saw the manuscript, so before I could claim to have anything to do with the book, I thought it was something special. I feel proud that I did a good job bringing the story out into the visual world, but really, it was already there. 

Look for The Infamous Ratsos Are Not Afraid on September 12, 2017. 

Monday, August 14, 2017

Book Trailer Premiere: Ruby Rose, Big Bravos by Rob Sanders and Debbie Ridpath Oh

Debbie Ridpath Ohi is one of most creative and nicest people I have ever met. I'm thrilled she dropped by Watch. Connect. Read. to share the FANTASTIC book trailer for Ruby Rose, Big Bravos. Thank you, Debbie! 

Hi, Mr. Schu!

I’m delighted to debut the trailer for RUBY ROSE, BIG BRAVOS, a new Ruby Rose picture book written by Rob Sanders and illustrated by yours truly. Our new book comes out from HarperCollins Children’s on August 29th.

I’m also excited about this trailer because I wrote the music and I performed it on my new keyboard! Here’s a bit about my musical background, if anyone’s curious. Also, it’s my very first book trailer project created using Adobe Premiere Pro, a software program I am gradually learning.

RUBY ROSE, BIG BRAVOS is a fun story about a young dancer who decides to put on her own recital. With the help of Bearishnikov, Ruby Rose works hard to prepare, including making her own tickets, posters, invitations and decorations - she is very excited! But then bad weather looms, and Ruby Rose has to decide whether or not to let a thunderstorm ruin her plans.

Here’s how author Rob Sanders came up with the idea:

“The initial idea for RUBY ROSE—BIG BRAVOS came about when I was brainstorming a best friend for Ruby. I watched an episode of Antiques Roadshow that featured vintage teddy bears and then watched an old documentary about Mikhail Baryshnikov. VoilĂ ! Bearishnikov was born. His character became a wise, silent friend who doles out great advice. I wanted the story to focus around a dance recital—but one that could be totally of Ruby and Bearishnikov’s making. I live in sunny Florida which is known for its summer rainy season and which is also the lightning capital of the world, so a thunderstorm became the antagonist in the story. Since RUBY ROSE—OFF TO SCHOOL SHE GOES included Ruby’s mom, I wanted this story to introduce her dad. I combined all those ingredients to create RUBY ROSE—BIG BRAVOS. And so RUBY ROSE, BIG BRAVOS was born!”

You can find sample illustrations, a classroom guide, info about the first RUBY ROSE book, and other bonus info at: and

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Ten not-to-be-missed picture books published in 2017 #pb10for10

Happy Thursday! Librarians, classroom teachers, administrators, authors, illustrators, and book lovers are celebrating August 10 by sharing picture books they are excited about. Make sure you follow #pb10for10 on Twitter! 

Click here to view the Pinterest board I created for #pb10for10. 

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Happy Saturday, Mr. Sharp!

Hi, Mr. Sharp,

I know! I know! I need to buy a new phone. Once again, I ran out of space before I was done talking. So it goes! 

Have a wonderful weekend!


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

Miles Morales: Spider-Man by Jason Reynolds 

Slacker by Gordon Korman 

Hidden Figures Young Readers' Edition by Margot Lee Shetterly 

Friday, August 4, 2017

Book Trailer Premiere: Tea with Oliver by Mika Song

Hello, Mika Song! Thank you for stopping by to share the book trailer for Tea with Oliver. 

Hello, Mr. Schu! 

I’m so excited to debut the trailer for Tea with Oliver with your readers. Tea with Oliver is my author-illustrator picture book debut from HarperCollins. It publishes in just a few days- August 8, 2017.

It’s about a cat named Oliver who is not like other cats and really just wants to have tea and cookies with a friend. Philbert is a shy but determined mouse who lives under Oliver’s couch. He would love to have tea with Oliver but can’t seem to get his attention. He tries sending him letters all kinds of different ways but nothing seems to reach Oliver. And then one day a crazy cat party shakes things up enough for Oliver to see his best friend is right under his couch.

When I decided to pursue children’s books, I found myself spending a lot of time alone in my apartment trying to get my work noticed by agents. I was sending a lot of letters, kind of like Philbert and talking to myself, kind of like Oliver. It made me appreciate the people in my life. The character of Oliver is also inspired by a close friend who likes to throw grand tea parties.

I hope this book helps kids who are wondering about making friends especially during back to school time and encourages all kids to look out for someone in need of a friend. The book’s speech bubbles and dual characters make it a natural fit for splitting into parts to be read aloud by small groups of 2 or 3 or for partnered reading. And if that inspires a few unlikely friendships nothing would make me happier.

Look for Tea with Oliver on August 8, 2017. 

An Interview with Jaime Kim, Illustrator of La La La: A Story of Hope

Hi, Jaime Kim! La La La: A Story of Hope is absolutely stunning. I cannot wait until it is sent out into the world on October 3, 2017.  How did you approach the story? 

Jaime Kim: I must have read Kate's story dozens of times. Though it was very succinct and abstract, I could sense that there was a lot going on in there. I tried my best to feel the things that she was trying to express, and strove to capture the story's ambiance in the illustration as much as possible. As I fleshed out the very strong narrative framework Kate Dicamillo provided, I tried to make the details as beautiful as possible.
Illustration Credit: Jaime Kim 

What spoke to you about the story?

Jaime Kim: Preparing the project, I read a lot of picture books written and illustrated by other writers and illustrators. I also watched some movies and animated features. I tried to gain inspiration from all sorts of sources. However, while such attempts were helpful on the technical side, the most important source of inspiration turned out to be myself. I tried to bring back myself into my childhood, and the feelings I felt back then. I jotted these feelings down in a notepad. Then I projected my childhood personality onto the main character.

Illustration Credit: Jaime Kim 
What was the biggest challenge of the project?

Jaime Kim: An absence of text made it difficult to express the emotions. I kept worrying that the readers would not interpret the story as I intended. Every time such a concern hit me, I tried to imagine that I was creating an animated film. I imagined how the main character would look like if she was really moving. I took such imagined movements and facial expressions to develop emotional cues that can be easily understood by the readers.

What was the most fun part ?

Jaime Kim: Character design was definitely the most fun part, without a doubt. It was the most challenging part as well, but also the most enjoyable part at the same time. I gave much thought on what kind of character would fit perfectly with Kate’s story. I even thought of creating a character who was not a human. Ultimately, I decided that a little girl is best suited to the story. As I mentioned, I reflected my childhood into the main character, but actually the outward appearance was largely inspired by my little sister during her childhood. The short-haired girl closely resembles my sister when she was little. Whereas I was an introverted and quiet girl, my sister had a wide range expressions. I suppose you could say that "the girl" is an amalgam of me and my sister, who was also my first friend.

Click here to read my interview with Kate DiCamillo. 

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Book Trailer Premiere: La La La: A Story of Hope by Kate DiCamillo & Jaime Kim

Hello, Kate! Happy Thursday! Thank you for celebrating La La La: A Story of Hope with me. It is always an honor when you finish my sentences. 

Kate DiCamillo: Hello back to you, Mr. Schu. It is always an honor when you ask me to finish your sentences.

Thank you for sharing your wisdom and words with the world.

La La LaA Story of Hope tells the story of connecting, of seeing and being seen. In many ways, it is the story of story and me.

Jaime Kim’s illustrations knock me right off my feet. They make me feel like a kid. They fill me with hope and wonder.
Illustration Credit: Jaime Kim
On October 3, 2017, kids and adults will get to sing with Jaime and me.

Music helps us to connect to each other and to the world.

Illustration Credit: Jaime Kim
Picture books are a song.

Mr. Schu, you should have asked me if I can sing.

I can't.  

As a matter of fact, there were many times when I was asked *not* to sing.  As in "Kate, why don't you just mouth the words?" 

But making books *feels* like singing.  And that is a grand thing.

Look for La La La: A Story of Hope on October 3, 2017! 

Come back tomorrow to read an interview with Jaime Kim. 

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Happy Saturday, Mr. Sharp!

Hi, Mr. Sharp, 

La La La La La La La La! 


Your friend,


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

Look for La La La: A Story of Hope on October 3, 2017. 

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Book Trailer Premiere: Skeleton Tree by Kim Ventrella

Happy Thursday, Kim Ventrella! It was wonderful meeting you in Chicago during ALA. I'm thrilled you dropped by Watch. Connect. Read. to share the book trailer for Skeleton Tree and to finish my sentences.  
Thanks for having me, Mr. Schu. I love your blog, and I’m SUPER excited to be here!

I am super excited that you're here today. Congratulations! 

The book trailer for Skeleton Tree is whimsical, spooky and full of wonder. The creators, Jerry Bennett and Zac Davis, did a great job capturing the essence of the book in only 45 seconds. I love it, and I hope readers will, too!

Stanly and Miren are a typical brother and sister, in that they don’t always get along. Miren can be super annoying, like when she messes up Stanly’s stuff or ruins his plans, but, in the end, Stanly would do whatever it takes to keep her safe.

Visit Kim's website
I wrote Skeleton Tree sitting cross-legged in a dog bed, while my dog sat on the couch looking over my shoulder. It’s true, I’m not a huge fan of chairs, especially the ones that you can’t sit cross-legged in. I started with a question, “What would happen if a boy discovered a finger bone growing in his backyard?,” and I went on from there. Pretty quickly the story took me in places I wasn’t expecting, but that’s the beauty of writing. It’s like uncovering an ancient fossil inch by inch. You never know what you’re going to get until the very end.

On September 26, 2017, Skeleton Tree will be released!!! I will probably celebrate by kissing my dog on the mouth, eating fancy chocolates and sneaking into bookstores so I can spy on my book.

Subscribe to Kim's newsletter. 
Libraries are doorways to magical worlds. And, the best part is that anyone can go through them. There are no walls, no restrictions, no cost. Like the wardrobe in The Chronicles of Narnia, children can step inside and be transported by the power of story. And stories are more important now than ever. They provide escape, understanding and the opportunity to see the world through someone else’s eyes.

Mr. Schu, you should have asked me what you love most about middle grade literature. Great question! I love the fact that middle grade stories address important issues, but always with a big dose of whimsy, wonder and heart.

Look for Skeleton Tree on September 26, 2017. 

Monday, July 24, 2017

Pizza Day by Melissa Iwai

Hello, Melissa Iwai! Happy Monday! Thank you for dropping by to celebrate Pizza Day and to chat with me about your illustrations, pizza, soup, and school libraries.

Melissa Iwai: Thanks for having me, Mr. Schu! I'm so excited and honored to be here, introducing my new book, Pizza Day, the sequel to Soup Day!

I think I will eat soup for lunch and pizza for dinner. :) 

The cover illustration for Pizza Day should remind people of the ooey, gooey, juicy, crunchy goodness of a fresh pizza. And if they read the book, they will discover how they can make one just like it themselves!

Illustration Credit: Melissa Iwai
I created the illustrations using a mixture of hand-drawn ink markings and painted watercolor paintings and swatches which I then scanned into the computer and assembled digitally.

Illustration Credit: Melissa Iwai
After you read Pizza Day, I hope you'll be inspired to plant a garden or cook in the kitchen with a child in your life. Some of my favorite memories are of making recipes with my son when he was little. It must have done something because now he loves making up his own recipes and cooking for himself (sometimes!)

Illustration Credit: Melissa Iwai
My favorite pizza is Veggie -- just like the one featured in the story. I made this pizza from scratch too many times to count when I was developing the recipe for the book, and I still love it!

Soup Day tells the story of a little girl and her mom making "Snowy Day Soup" for lunch in their cozy apartment in the city on a winter's day.

School libraries are sanctuaries for the mind and soul. They are a safe place for kids to explore, learn, and find peace. One of my earliest memories is of spending hours in our Kindergarten library after school. My mother was a volunteer librarian and would bring me there after lunch. I loved being alone and free to explore the enormous collection of picture books for hours on end. It's the reason why I've wanted to be a picture book creator my entire life!

Explore Melissa's website. 
Mr. Schu, you should have asked me if the family depicted in Soup Day and Pizza Day are multi-ethnic. The answer is yes! Though the stories themselves aren't about ethno-cultural issues per se, I purposely made the daughter in Soup Day be adopted from Asia and the boy in Pizza Day be biracial. The reason why is because I know, from my own experience, how affirming it is for kids of different backgrounds to see themselves in books!

Look for Pizza Day on October 31, 2017. 

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Book Trailer Premiere: The Apprentice Witch by James Nicol

Hi, James Nicol! Happy Thursday! Thank you for dropping by to share the book trailer for The Apprentice Witch and to finish my sentences.  

James: Hey, Mr. Schu! Thank you for asking me along and for helping launch the very gorgeous book trailer for The Apprentice Witch. I’m very excited!

Before you watch the book trailer for The Apprentice Witch, throw away your pointy black hat, your long black cloak, stripy tights and cauldron, because this story is not about those types of witches. (You can hang on to your broom though—in fact, hang on for dear life!)   

Did you know Arianwyn isn’t a made-up name, though people often think it is. It’s a Welsh name and means ‘woman of silver’. My grandfather was from Wales and it must be a name I heard someone in the family use once, I think it must have lodged in the back of my mind and waited until it was needed. I love the way Welsh names sound so magical. 

If you visited Lull you would discover a beautiful, but very isolated, walled town (see pic!) in the middle of nowhere surrounded by a magical forest. It’s remote, hours from other towns, and as a result the locals can be a little un-trusting of newcomers.

(It looks a just like, Conwy, a town in Wales that I only visited and saw for the first time two months after The Apprentice Witch was released here in England. It was as if it had sprung out of my imagination!)

Explore James' website. 

Reading is a joy! It’s also an escape from the world for me. But it’s also something I struggled with as a young child. Our school reading schemes here in England (back in the 1980s) were far from inspiring and it wasn’t until I fell in love with The Hundred and One Dalmatians by Dodie Smith that I became an avid reader! 

School libraries are a place for children to explore, discover and wonder. Full of all different types of books, novels and short stories, classics and new writing, non-fiction and poetry. My school library was the place I knew held all the stories as a child, and part of what spurred me on to be a better reader so I could get my hands on all those stories!

Mr. Schu, you should have asked me if there will be more adventures from Arianwyn and co.! And the answer is YES! The second book, A Witch Alone comes out here in England next Spring and will be out in America sometime thereafter. All our old friends will be back, along with a host of new magical creatures and a secret mission to keep Arianwyn very busy indeed! 

Look for The Apprentice Witch on July 25, 2017. 

Book Trailer Premiere: What Makes a Monster? by Jess Keating

Hello! Thank you so much for having me on your blog today, Johnny! I hope you’re feeling better! I’m so excited to debut the trailer for WHAT MAKES A MONSTER? with you! Here we go!

Hi, Jess Keating! Thanks for sending me positive thoughts and love while I deal with a broken clavicle. :) 

Are you ready for the word association game to end all word association games? Let’s do this! 

My words are in purple. Jess Keating's words are in black. 





Zombie worm:






David DeGrand:

Ridiculously talented!

Cardboard Schu:

Can’t break his clavicle.* (!!)



What Makes a Monster:







Living and breathing.

Wolverine frog:

I, too, want bone claws.

Colby Sharp:

Nerdy for Life!

Knopf Books for Young Readers:

Dream team!

Picture books are:

Like time capsules, but for your heart.

August 8th:

Party time, monsters!


Pure potential.

Mr. Schu, you should have asked me: how educators can get in touch with me! I offer tons of free videos and book extras on my website, and all teachers and parents are invited to subscribe to my free science and creativity magazine for kids, The Curious Creative! Check out this video for more info! 

I’d love to hear from you all!

*For those wondering, we scheduled this post the day after the real John Schu broke his clavicle at the Scholastic Reading Summit! Send him love and healing vibes!

Look for What Makes a Monster? on August 8, 2017.