Thursday, June 22, 2017

How to Sell Your Family to the Aliens by Paul Noth

Hi, Paul! Thank you for visiting Watch. Connect. Read. to share the cover for How to Sell Your Family to the Aliens and to finish my sentences.

Paul Noth: Thanks for having me, Mr Schu. It’s an honor.

Publication Date: April 3, 2018
The cover illustration for How to Sell Your Family to the Aliens depicts a kid with a lizard on his head happily counting money while a tentacled beast carries his family into the sky. It's designed to to appeal to other eight-to-twelve-year-olds with lizards on their heads.

Happy Conklin Jr. is your average ten-year-old with a beard who sells his family to extraterrestrials. Actually, he’s a lot like me when I was a kid. I have two brothers and six sisters, so life was a constant quest for a minute to myself. Hap feels the same way, but carries things a bit further than I ever did.

Hap’s family is weird. I’m not going to sugarcoat it. They’re unusual people. Grandma tested products on Hap and his siblings, which is why he has a beard and his sister Kayla has an imaginary bee named Alphonso. Personally, I think Kayla has a better attitude about it than Hap. She likes being different. He hates it.

I wrote How to Sell Your Family to the Aliens because I thought the title was funny, then I thought the first page was funny, and then I kept needing to know what happens. Sometimes it felt more like reading a book than writing one. I hope readers have as much fun in there as I did. 

Mr. Schu, you should have asked me about the sequels! There are at least two more Conklin family books coming. I was really hoping you'd ask me about them, because their contents are still top-secret. I’ve always wanted to be pressed for information that I’m not at liberty to divulge.

Paul Noth’s cartoons have appeared regularly in The New Yorker  since 2004. He has created short animated films for Late Night with Conan O’Brien, and been an animation consultant for Saturday Night Live. Visit him online at and on Twitter at @PaulNoth.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Cover Reveal for Moo Moo & Mr. Quackers Present What's Cooking, Moo Moo?

Howdy, Tim Miller Welcome back to Watch. Connect. Read.! What are Moo Moo and Mr. Quackers up to in book 2? 

Tim Miller: Hi Mr. Schu! Thanks so much for having me again. I’m delighted to be back!

In their second book Moo Moo and Mr. Quackers want to find a way to spend a little more quality time together so they decide to open their own restaurant. However much to their surprise, the restaurant business proves more complicated than they expected. When things don’t go as planned, they have to do some quick thinking to find the perfect recipe to save the day!

What comes first: the words or the illustrations? 

Tim Miller: That’s such a good question. I was just speaking with some students about it on a recent school visit. For me the pictures usually come first as I’m trying to work out an idea, and then the words will often spring up in response to what I’m drawing. After that, it turns into a dance between the two as I hone in and nail things down.

What's your favorite meal to cook? 

Tim Miller: I don’t know if it qualifies as a proper meal, but I like to cook omelettes. My specialty is something I call the TKO that I make with Cumin, Cayenne Pepper, Scallions, and Cheddar Cheese. I’m getting hungry just thinking about it!


Please finish this sentence starter: 

Picture books are a marriage of words and pictures that offer a window of exploration and self-discovery. The words and pictures work independently, but also build upon one another to carry the reader into the realm of imagination, replete with possibility. Not a bad place to visit if you ask me.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Happy Saturday, Mr. Sharp!

Hi, Mr. Sharp,

Happy Saturday! I ran out of space on my phone before I was finished talking. BoooOooOOOoooOO! I need a new phone. :( 

See you next week!



Please click here to watch Colby's video. 

Creepy Pair of Underwear! by Aaron Reynolds; illustrated by Peter Brown | Publication date: August 15, 2017 

The Unlikely Story of a Pig in the City by Jodi Kendall | Publication date: October 3, 2017 

Marge in Charge by Isla Fisher | Publication date: October 3, 2017 

Applewhites Coast to Coast by Stephanie S. Tolan and R.J. Tolan | Publication date: October 17, 2017 

Mice of the Round Table: Voyage to Avalon by Julie Leung | Publication date: October 3, 2017 

Can an Aardvark Bark? by Melissa Stewart; illustrated by Steve Jenkins 

Sparkle Boy by LeslĂ©a Newman; illustrated by Maria Mola 

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Book Trailer Premiere: SPLAT! by Jon Burgerman

Hello, Jon Burgerman! Welcome to Watch. Connect. Read.! Thank you for sharing Splat's adorable book trailer and for finishing my sentences.

Jon Burgerman: Thanks for having me here. I’m happy to finish any sentences, crossword puzzles or donuts you might have lying about.

Ha! Thank you! I'll take you up on that one day. 

Splat’s book trailer was very messy to make. I suspect the publisher enjoyed throwing cold macaroni cheese at me a little too much.

Also they suggested we film it all twice. I had to wash myself in a bathroom down the hall from the little studio room.

I got some raised eyebrows when I walked past people working at their desks covered in blue jelly.

Illustration Credit: Jon Burgerman 
Flip the page and SPLAT! I always wondered what happens to the thing on the other side of the page as it’s turned over. I love animation and I think the idea has roots from making simple things like this. A lot can happen between two simple pictures.

I created Splat’s illustrations to be as colourful and loud and splatty as possible. I hand drew everything in my sketchbook before scanning them in and colouring it on the computer. I was inspired in part by Dick Bruna.

Murals are so much fun to do. If you have a blank wall (and some sandwiches), please invite me over to draw and doodle! Note: I won’t draw on the sandwiches.

Mr. Schu, you should have asked me about quantum physics, or my concept for a clean energy source that also makes the air smell like popcorn, or how to make the perfect poached egg, but I guess that will have to wait until another time.

Look for Splat! on June 20, 2017. 

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Cover Reveal for Stanley Will Probably Be Fine by Sally J. Pla

Dear Sally J. Pla,

Welcome back to Watch. Connect. Read.! Thank you for dropping by to share the wonderful cover illustration for Stanley Will Probably Be Fine. I'm excited to celebrate it today and again in February 2018. 

Happy reading!


Dear Mr Schu,

Thank you so much for having me back!

About a year ago, I was so excited to reveal the beautiful cover of The Someday Birds here on your site a book about bird-loving, routine-loving Charlie, whose life is disrupted when he travels cross-country to see his war-injured dad.

Now, moving from Charlie’s bird-world, I hope you and your readers will enjoy traveling with me to Stanley’s comical universe.  I am SO EXCITED to be here today with the cover reveal of Stanley Will Probably Be Fine. My second middle-grade novel hits shelves (kapow!) on Feb. 6, 2018, thanks to HarperCollins Children’s Books!  Here’s the Stanley lowdown…

Nobody knows comics trivia like Stanley Fortinbras knows comics trivia.

It’s what he takes comfort in, when the world around him gets to be too much. And after Stanley faints during one of Principal Coffin’s super-scary safety drills, he levels up his love of comics by inventing an imaginary superhero named “John Lockdown” to soothe his nerves and help him through.

Help is what he needs, because Stanley’s also entered Trivia Quest – a giant comics-trivia treasure hunt – to prove he can tackle his worries, score VIP passes to Comic Fest, and win back his ex-best friend. Partnered with a fearless new neighbor, Liberty Silverberg, Stanley faces his most epic, overwhelming, challenging day ever.

What would John Lockdown do?

Stanley’s about to find out.

Okay now… Are we ready for the cover reveal?

Ahhhhh! I could stare at it for hours!  So many details on this cover refer to little things mentioned in the book.

The cover, as well as the interior cartoon art, is by the amazing Steve Wolfhard. Steve draws “Adventure Time” for Cartoon Network, as well as other quirky, cool things that you can see on his site.  I am a diehard fan! This art is a perfect fit for this story (which the word “quirky” pretty much describes). 

I’d like to extend a big thanks to David Curtis and Alison Donalty from Harper’s design department for their excellent work on this, as well as my Harper editor, the amazing and talented Jessica MacLeish.

This book was SO MUCH FUN to write! Set in my hometown of San Diego, it features a treasure hunt, with superhero trivia clues that readers can solve along with Stanley and Liberty. And there are some comics in the book! Stan secretly sketches about his many fears on an easel in a spare office. Then, one day, a mysterious artist starts cartooning back...

Okay, okay, I’ll stop now.

Thank you so much for allowing me to come visit, Mr. Schu. Thanks for letting me share my excitement – and Steve’s amazing art – with you today! 

All my very best to everyone,


Saturday, June 10, 2017

Happy Saturday, Mr. Sharp!

Hi, Mr. Colby Sharp,

I hope your summer break is off to a wonderful start. I'm looking forward to seeing you in a few weeks. 

Happy reading!


Please click here to visit Colby's blog. 

La La La by Kate DiCamillo; illustrated by Jaime Kim  | Publication Date: October 3, 2017 

Little You by Richard Van Camp; illustrated by Julie Flett

She Persisted by Chelsea Clinton; illustrated by Alexandra Boiger 

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Book Trailer Premiere: Red & Lulu by Matt Tavares

Hi, Matt! Thank you for dropping by to celebrate Red & Lulu’s book trailer. What should everyone do before pressing play?

Matt Tavares: Thanks for having me, Mr. Schu! The story of Red & Lulu has been a part of my life for so long (it began back in 2011!), so it’s very exciting to be finally start sharing it with readers.

Red & Lulu is about a pair of cardinals who live happily in a big, beautiful evergreen tree, until one day when something unthinkable happens and they become separated. It’s a Christmas story, and a love story, and a story about what happens when your world is turned upside down unexpectedly, and you’re forced to focus on what’s really important.

Before pressing play, imagine for a moment that it’s early December, there’s a chill in the air, and the sky looks like it might snow. 

How did the cardinals who regularly visit your backyard inspire you to write and illustrate Red & Lulu?

Matt: Yes, this story began with a pair of cardinals who visited my yard countless times. When my kids were very young, it became a sort of game. If we spotted one of the cardinals out at the bird feeder, we’d go to the window to see if we could find the other one. They were almost always together. I was struck by their devotion to each other and wondered how far one of them might fly to be with the other, if they ever became separated.

What medium did you use to create the STUNNING illustrations?

Matt: Thank you! The illustrations for Red & Lulu were done in watercolor and gouache. I used a somewhat limited palate, so the red cardinal would really stand out. Originally I planned on making the illustrations black and white except for the cardinals, because I loved the idea of the bright red bird really popping against a monochromatic background.

But then I realized that this happens naturally, especially since much of the story takes place during the winter months, when the trees are bare and there aren’t a lot of bright colors. Full-color illustrations also allowed me to show the passage of time through the changing seasons.

Illustration Credit: Matt Tavares 
Red & Lulu seem to like Rockefeller Center and Central Park. Where is your favorite place in NYC?

Matt: Not surprisingly, Red and Lulu’s favorite places are also some of my favorite places! I love New York City at Christmastime, especially Rockefeller Center. There is something magical about the combination of the city lights and the holiday decorations- especially when snow is falling.

I don’t know if I have one favorite place in New York City, but my favorite thing to do in New York City is to take really long walks and just see where we end up, soaking in the energy of the city. I love Central Park, and the Museum of Natural History, and Books of Wonder, and the New York Public Library. But I also love just wandering around and finding places I’ve never been before, and will probably never find again.

Please finish these sentence starters:

School libraries are every kid's portal to everywhere. I spend a lot of time visiting schools, and I am constantly reminded of the vital role that school libraries, and school librarians, play in children's lives. 

Mr. Schu, you should have asked me why this book took me so long! Some story ideas are pretty straightforward. But this one came at me from a few different directions, over the course of five or six years.

It began with an idea for a story about a pair of cardinals. I knew there was something there, but I wasn’t sure exactly what. Meanwhile, inspired by the magic of New York City at Christmastime, I was working on a different idea for a nonfiction book about the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree. But neither idea was really coming together- until it occurred to me that maybe the cardinals and the tree might actually be part of the same story. That led to my first draft of Red & Lulu.

That version had about a thousand words. My editor and art director at Candlewick liked it, but asked if I would consider turning it into a wordless book. I was intrigued, and spent months working on that. But when I shared the wordless version with friends, there was something missing- sort of an emotional disconnect. So I went to my editor with both versions, and we worked on creating a hybrid version, adding back words where they seemed necessary, but leaving some spreads wordless.

The final version has about 450 words. Even though it didn’t end up being wordless, I think that exercise helped the book quite a bit, and I learned a lot about visual storytelling.

By the time I started final art, I felt like this book could really be something special. It felt different from my other books, which was exciting, but also a little nerve-wracking. I really didn’t want to mess it up! So it took me a while to loosen up and get in a groove with the illustrations. I missed my deadline by a few months. But by the time I was done, I was really happy with how it came out. I poured my heart into this book. I hope it means as much to readers as it does to me.

Look for Red & Lulu on September 19, 2017. 

Monday, June 5, 2017

Cover Reveal for Escape from Aleppo by N.H. Senzai

Happy Monday, N.H. Senzai! Thank you for allowing me to reveal the extraordinary cover for Escape from Aleppo and for finishing my sentences.

N.H. Senzai: Thank you Mr. Schu, I’m thrilled to be here, sharing the “face” of my new book!

My pleasure! I’m looking forward to sharing Escape from Aleppo with children, teachers, librarians, principals, and parents. Thank you!


Escape from Aleppo’s cover illustration took my breath away! The artist, Kathrin Honesta, stunningly captured the essence of the story: the stark desolation of war torn Aleppo as fires rage, bombs fall and innocent civilians flee. And, perched above the scene, Nadia, the protagonist, stares down over the ruins of her beloved city.

Explore N.H. Senzai's website.
Nadia and her family are like families anywhere around the world. Like parents living in San Francisco, Beijing, Sydney or New Delhi, Nadia’s mother and father want to give their children a safe and secure place to grow up, pursue their dreams, get an education and have a family of their own. At the end of the day, all families, no matter their origin, want the same things - peace, security and chance at a hopeful future.

I hope Escape from Aleppo allows readers to walk in the shoes of a child whose life has been turned upside down by the trauma of war and the loss of everything they know and love, by becoming a refugee. Many kids have heard about the war in Aleppo, and this book allows them to further learn about the rich history of Syria, the root causes of the war, the culture and people of this amazing country. But despite all the difficulties, the book carries with it the hope that one can find security and happiness again.

Shooting Kabul, Saving Kabul Corner, and Ticket to India are all stories that take spunky protagonists and their families and put them in challenging situations. Whether its escaping the Taliban, the aftermath of 9/11, impending civil war, forced immigration, family conflict or bullying at school, these kids overcome their fears and find creative solutions for their problems.

School libraries are space ships traveling to exciting new worlds, manned by amazing librarian guides! I would not be a writer today if it had not been for Mrs. Murray and Mrs. Hackworth, my school librarians – they always knew which book would spark my curiosity and allow me to learn new things, in both fiction and non-fiction.

Mr. Schu, you should have asked me what makes me write about such challenging topics such as conflict and war! I truly believe that kids are capable of handling “heavy” subjects and if we present such material in a context they can understand, they will be able to digest the complexities geopolitics and empathize with the characters through their stories. My hope is to open their hearts and minds to the world around them so that they build bridges of understanding with other communities, rather than walls. 

Look for Escape from Aleppo on January 2, 2018. 

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Happy Saturday, Mr. Sharp!

Hi, Mr. Sharp, 

Happy Saturday! It made me smile when I saw your tweets before and after seeing Captain Underpants: The Epic Movie. I loved every minute of it. I laughed out loud a lot and teared up a few times. I cannot wait to discuss it with moviegoers of all ages. 

Have a wonderful weekend!

Happy reading!


Please visit Mr. Sharp's blog to watch his video. 

Clayton Byrd Goes Underground by Rita Williams-Garcia

wishtree by Katherine Applegate 

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas 

She Persisted by Chelsea Clinton; illustrated by Alexandra Boiger

York: The Shadow Cipher by Laura Ruby 

These books were inside my suitcase.

Friday, June 2, 2017

Cover Reveal & 3 Questions and 2 Sentence Starters with Sue Fliess

Hi, Sue Fliess! Thank you for dropping by to share the cover for We Wish for a Monster Christmas. Are you up for booktalking it using NO MORE than 140 characters? Twitter style! Of course you are! Ready, set, go!

Sue FliessSiblings want a monster for Christmas, but Mom & Dad say no. So they ask Santa, who delivers! But having a monster isn’t what they expected…

What inspired you to write a parody of the traditional carol?

Sue Fliess: You may or may not know I’ve been creating song parodies—rewriting lyrics to pop songs to make them about publishing/writing—for a few years, just for fun. My agent sent a manuscript of mine to Meredith Mundy at Sterling, and although she rejected it, she visited my website and saw my parodies. She asked if I had any interest in doing a parody for a children’s book. Of course I said yes! No guarantees of a book deal, but it’s always worth trying. I had to find a popular carol that was in the public domain (not as easy as it sounds!), and when I came upon We Wish You a Merry Christmas, I thought that one might be fun. I had no idea of the rhyme scheme challenges ahead! From there, I came up with the story, and thankfully Meredith loved it!

What is your favorite Christmas tradition?

Sue Fliess: It sounds so predictable, but I think decorating the tree is my favorite because the whole family gets involved. We play a little Bing Crosby, have all the decorations out, and as we unwrap the ornaments we often get a good laugh. For example, I still have ornaments I made when I was 7 years old from tongue depressors and pipe cleaners. They bring back lots of memories of my own childhood Christmases with my family. My kids try to hang those in the back, but I move them to the front, don’t worry.

Please finish these sentence starters:

Claudia Ranucci’s illustrations are the perfect match and are so playful. They have just the right amount of joy, whimsy, color, emotion, and silliness. She got everything right—I’m so glad she wanted to illustrate this book! Plus, the monster she created makes me want to have one of my own. I know what I’m asking Santa for this year…

Mr. Schu, you should have asked me about the endpapers! I love books that have clever endpapers and I now have a book where the endpapers are as interesting and playful as the book itself! Because the kids choose their monster from a catalog, the front endpapers show all sorts of monsters they can choose from. Claudia came up with the illustrations and I created the ‘scientific names’ for them, plus the marketing selling points for each. So much fun. The back endpapers are super amazing too – but you’ll have to get the book to find out what’s on those!  

Look for We Wish for a Monster Christmas on October 3, 2017. 

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Cover Reveal for Out of the Wild Night by Blue Balliett

Happy Thursday! I love when authors and illustrators agree to finish my sentences. Today's special guest is Blue Balliett. We discussed Out of the Wild, ghosts, Nantucket, and school libraries. I wrote the words in purple, and she wrote the words in black. Thank you, Blue! 

There are ghosts in every culture around the world, and stories about their doings have been told and retold for thousands of years.  Most adults have a odd experience of this kind to share, either their own or someone else’s – a person they thought was telling the truth.  A room always becomes quiet when a story like that is told.  And yet, few people I know will say they believe in ghosts.  So… what is going on here?

Everyday life on Nantucket Island, I discovered many decades ago, includes thumps, creaks and spirits.  I lived there year-round for over ten years, and after listening to some amazing tales, persuaded over seventy-five people to let me record and write up their stories.

Sharing an experience no one can explain in scientific terms is brave – will others think you’re crazy? 

To my delight, Nantucket ghost stories are still surfacing.  When I walked into a clothing store on Main Street this past November to buy mittens, I heard two new ones.  The ghosts aren’t gone.

Like my other six novels, Out of the Wild Night is fiction but not.  Set in a real place and packed with real ideas and happenings, it’s a book that’s meant to leave you with an icy shiver and more than a few questions.

Photograph Credit: Blue Balliett

I think Nantucket gets attention these days for having lots of wealthy summer residents, but the year-round community remains somewhat hidden, at least to the outer world.  There are a good number of islanders who are descendants of the early settlers and whaling families.  The stresses of living and working on a small island in which the cost of housing and land have soared are huge.  I wanted to write about that.  Who really has a right to stay?  Is it only those with lots of money?  I can’t quite believe that…
Photograph Credit: Blue Balliett

I hope Out of the Wild Night
gets readers talking about ghosts in our modern world.  Also, about what can happen on Nantucket – and most other places in the United States -- to the interior of a centuries-old building when it’s sold to a buyer who isn’t interested in it as an antique, a treasure. These homes were valued and repaired by generation after generation of islanders, and are a living piece of history.

Many are now being gutted simply because they’re old. What do you suppose the previous owners would think of that?

Out of the Wild Night is a book about the power of kids to transform their world, and the many ways in which all that lives – a person, a tree, a clam or scallop – changes shape and form over time.  It’s about the enduring love within families, despite death and trauma.  Hmmm. 

Photograph Credit: Blue Balliett
School libraries are places of HUGE importance.  I always feel they are the living, beating heart of any school building, and should be protected and supported no matter what.  They are a refuge, a place to refuel, get ideas, dream, and jump worlds…  I was a shy but curious kid, and read my way through school.  The school librarian welcomed me and kept handing me books.  She made me who I am today – school libraries change lives! 

Mr. Schu, you should have asked me whether I’ve seen a ghost myself.  How did I get so interested in hearing stories from other people living on this small New England island?  Why did I collect them?  Ahhhhh, I won’t answer, not yet…

From the New York Times bestselling author of Chasing Vemeer an unforgettable story about an island haunted by the past . . . and the ghosts who must help with the present.

Ghosts are alive on the island of Nantucket. You can hear them in the wind, and in the creaks of the old homes. They want to be remembered. And, even more, they want to protect what was once theirs. The ghosts seem to have chosen a few local kids to be their messengers --and to help save the island. But in this mystery, the line between those who haunt and those who are haunted is a thin one -- and the past and the present must come to terms with one another in order to secure the future.