Wednesday, January 18, 2017

A Guest Post by Eric Kahn Gale, Author of The Wizard's Dog



Eric Kahn Gale: Hi, Mr. Schu! It’s so exciting to have your help premiering The Wizard’s Dog book trailer!

Hi, Eric! Thank you for taking over my blog for the day. Happy belated book birthday to The Wizard's Dog! Congratulations! 


About 1/3 of the conversation between my wife and me is us talking in the voice of our adorable pooch, Bowser. (Most dog owning couples are like that, right?) 

Years ago, in our first apartment together, Bowser was especially fascinated by the door that connected our unit to the hallway. I would speak for him in this little British boy’s voice. He would go on about the wonders of The Magic Door and saw my wife and me as wizards who had the power to open the door and produce delicious food at will. 

It got me thinking that the dog of an actual wizard might have trouble distinguishing between standard human powers and real magic. It made me laugh and, as a life long dog lover, I’d always dreamed of writing a funny novel about the loyalty, humor, and beauty of dogs. 

I was bowled over when I first saw the cover art created by our illustrator Dave Phillips. It was funny, exciting, and epic and I wanted to see it move. I have a background in 2-D animation and whipped up a little animation test. It was so fun to do that I commissioned Dave to create five more pieces of full color illustration, and after a few months of intense work, I produced the book trailer you’re premiering today. 

This book has been my biggest labor of love, thank you so much for helping us launch with a bang!


Borrow The Wizard's Dog from your school or public library. Whenever possible, please support independent bookshops. 

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Book Trailer Premiere: The Green Umbrella by Jackie Azúa Kramer and Maral Sassouni

Happy Tuesday! I'm celebrating The Green Umbrella's book trailer, Maral Sassouni's illustrations, reading, and school libraries with Jackie Azúa Kramer. I wrote the words in purple, and she wrote the words in black. Thank you, Jackie! 


The Green Umbrella’s book trailer makes me envious of my characters. All my imaginings come to life! I want to explore Elephant’s curious little town. I want to jump into Hedgehog’s boat and swim with the dolphins. Touch a star-studded sky with Bear’s flying machine while listening to Debussy’s Clair de lune.


Elephant, Hedgehog, Cat, Bear, and old Rabbit are on their next adventure. Latest I heard, they’re off to 100 Acre Wood. Seems Winnie the Pooh, Tigger, Eeyore, Kanga and the gang, want to see the green umbrella up close. I think Pooh has plans for a honey hunt. Personally, I miss them. I hope they come home soon. They’re the most kind and interesting bunch I’ve ever met.

Illustration Credit: Maral Sassouni 
Maral Sassouni’s illustrations are whimsical and enchanting. There’s too much to love! I find myself taking a cozy nap in Cat’s forest after enjoying a cherry-topped cupcake. I love the idea that Elephant feels as comfortable wearing a tutu as he is fighting off pirates. And I want all my sunsets to look like lush Italian frescoes.

Illustration Credit: Maral Sassouni 

I hope The Green Umbrella is a symbol of freedom.

Reading is all the world expressed in a story. Reading is one way to discover ourselves. Reading is a way to discover we aren’t alone. And, like music, dance, art, theatre, film--reading, allows you to feel feelings of sadness, joy, anger, fear, compassion, hilarity, all in a safe space.

Illustration Credit: Maral Sassouni 

School libraries make me smile from ear to ear. I feel optimistic knowing that some of our most beloved books and new books will live on in the hands of passionate librarians.

Mr. Schu, you should have asked me…Pivot’s Questionnaire:

What is your favorite word? Yes.

What is your least favorite word? No.

What turns you on creatively, spiritually or emotionally? Passion.

What turns you off? Cynicism

What is your favorite curse word? Dang. Ok, I have a few saltier ones.

What sound or noise do you love? There are many—wind rustling through leaves, waves, birds singing and reggae music.

What sound or noise do you hate? Sharpening of knives.

What profession other than your own would you like to attempt? Singer.

What profession would you not like to do? With all due respect--doctor.

If Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates? Jackie, I’m so glad you’re here! I was starting to get bored!


Jackie earned her Masters of Education from Queens College. She is a member of SCBWI and has written for the SCBWI Bulletin. In 2014, she was invited to be a member of the Bank Street Writers Lab, Bank Street College. In 2015 Jackie was a presenter at the 1st nErDCamp Long Island. Her picture book, The Green Umbrella (North South Books) debuts February 2017. The Boy and the Eight Hundred Pound Gorilla (Candlewick Press, TBD) and If You Want to Fall Asleep (Clavis Books, Spring 2018). Visit her at: jackieazuakramer.com


Look for The Green Umbrella on January 31, 2017. 

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Happy Saturday, Mr. Sharp!

Hi, Mr. Sharp,

Happy Saturday! I'm looking forward to catching up next week in Dallas, Texas. See you soon!

Happy reading!

-John






wishtree by Katherine Applegate | Publication date: September 26, 2017 


That Neighbor Kid by Daniel Miyares | Publication date: May 9, 2017 


Short by Holly Goldberg Sloan | Publication date: January 31, 2017 

Friday, January 13, 2017

Book Trailer Premiere: Watersong by Tim McCanna & Richard Smythe



Tim McCanna: Hey Mr. Schu! Thanks for helping us launch the Watersong book trailer!

Mr. Schu: Hi, Tim! Thank you for writing a guest post and for sharing Watersong's book trailer. Have a fantastic Friday! 



Tim McCanna:Five years ago a major drought hit California and many of the creeks and ponds my family would hike near completely dried up. I wrote Watersong during the height of the drought, but I’m pleased to say that just as our book is about to release, rain has returned to the Bay Area.


Illustrator Richard Smythe really put the heart and soul into Watersong. The manuscript was a series of 56 words, mostly onomatopoeia. I arranged the water sounds to progress from a gentle shower to a crashing storm followed by a rainbow. But it was Richard who beautifully threaded in the visual tale of a fox finding its way home. The result is a heartwarming story that layers nature, sounds, weather, and water with a simple rhyming text kids can follow or read themselves.

Illustration Credit:  Richard Smythe
I’m especially happy we were able to include some non-fiction back matter into Watersong. But, I’m more of a poet than a scientist, so when my editor requested additional content, I had to hit the books and do some research on foxes, ecosystems, and the water cycle. Fortunately, I have a brother-in-law who is a water expert and a professor of geography. So, I had an extra pair of professional eyes to fact check my work! 

 Illustration Credit: Richard Smythe
Creating book trailers has been a really exciting way to revisit my stories before they’re published. For the Watersong tune, I channeled two influences from my childhood: the folksy vibe of John Denver and the “Little April Shower” scene from Disney’s Bambi. The bells at the beginning and end of my song mirror the clarinet notes composer Frank Churchill used in Bambi to represent the drip-drip-drops of the rain.

Thanks again, Mr. Schu! It’s been an honor sharing Watersong with you and your readers.


Find Watersong (Simon & Schuster/Paula Wiseman Books) wherever books are sold January 31.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Penguins Love Colors by Sarah Aspinall

Happy Thursday! I am celebrating PENGUINS and COLORS with debut author-illustrator Sarah Aspinall. I wrote the words in purple, and she wrote the words in black. Many thanks, Sarah! 


The book trailer for Penguins Loves Color is (hopefully) lots of fun to watch!  My little penguins are full of character and energy and I just love seeing them bouncing around.  It was great working with Cynthia Nugent of Rascal Media to get this video just the way I wanted it:  bright and cheerful with joyful bursts of color, capturing the feeling of the book. I hope it encourages people to seek out a copy, so that they can find out more about what those penguins are up to!

I am also hoping to have an animated television show about them one day. I can just imagine them chattering away, can’t you?   I feel like they have a lot to say to us all, and plenty of adventures ahead.
Illustration Credit: Sarah Aspinall 
Tulip, Tiger Lily, Dandelion, Bluebell, Violet and Broccoli are loosely based on my brothers and sisters.  I am the eldest of eight -- the two youngest were born when I was in my teens -- so the majority of my childhood memories are with the six of us.  I was the bossy one with the big ideas and the others were happy to follow along (at least that’s how I remember it!).  I even wore a red beret like Tulip!  In fact, continuing with the color theme, because there were so many of us, my mother bought us jumpsuits to wear when we played outside to keep our clothes clean, and guess what?  We each had a different color!  We spent a lot of time outside in our collective rainbow outfit and became very adept at using our imaginations and making our own fun!  My parents much prefered that we did the messy stuff in the garden, so we used our paints, chalk, clay, paper, glue, glitter and markers to make all kinds of creations!

Illustration Credit: Sarah Aspinall 
I created the illustrations on the computer, which I have never done before.  I used to make collages and before that worked three-dimensionally. I like to think that the illustrations in the book are a sort of digital version of a collage. I love using textures and patterns to make bold, graphic work. The idea of a black and white animal living in what is essentially a blank world, like a big white canvas or piece of paper, is just so satisfying. ESPECIALLY when they slowly introduce one color at a time, and build up to show all of the colors together.

Illustration Credit: Sarah Aspinall 
Did you know that there are approximately 17 different types of penguins? Not all of them live in the cold like mine do -- in fact, the smallest breed of penguin, called a Fairy Penguin- (the biggest ones grow to just 13” tall, with a maximum weight of 3.3 lbs!), lives in Southern Australia, Tasmania and New Zealand.




Picture books help us to connect, communicate, understand, learn, laugh, remember, feel, express love for one another and form a creative point of view--they are truly limitless. 

I first understood just how powerful a picture book could be when I took a class at RISD called Picture and Word.  I will never forget day one when Judy-Sue, an amazing lady who has inspired me beyond measure, introduced us to a spectrum of wonderful picture books, but finished by reading aloud Annie Bananie by Leah Komaiko (Illustrated by Laura Cornell).  By the end of the book she was moved to tears and I was surprised to find that I was too. Taking that class was a truly pivotal moment in my life and I have not stopped writing, illustrating and collecting picture books ever since.



Mr. Schu, you should have asked me…"Do you have any more plans for your penguins?”  Yes, I certainly do, Mr. Schu!  Lots of ideas and exciting plans; in fact, the second book, Penguins Love Their ABC’s will be coming out this October, 2017!  Stay tuned by visiting my website




Borrow Penguins Love Colors from your school or public library. Whenever possible, please support independent bookshops. 

Monday, January 9, 2017

Book Trailer Premiere :The Someday Birds by Sally J. Pla

Hello, Sally J. Pla! Welcome back to Watch. Connect. Read. Thank you for dropping by to finish my sentences and premiere the WONDERFUL book trailer for The Someday Birds.

Sally J. Pla: Thank you so much, Mr. Schu! There is no place I’d rather be for our grand film premiere! It FEELS very grand, for 80 seconds of film! 


The book trailer for The Someday Birds made me cry when I saw the first edit. The story came to such beautiful life! It was filmed in a single day in Wisconsin, where I used to live, and where I am lucky enough to have wonderful friends, like the deeply talented filmmaker Kara Mulrooney, who put all her heart into the project.  


Charlie’s family is in flux. In a way, every character in this novel is coming of age, not just Charlie. His anxious, gruff grandma fin
ds an unexpected ally. His boy-crazy sister learns a bit more about what she’s really searching for. Those boisterous twin brothers learn surprising things about their big brother, and vice-versa. Certainly, Charlie has changed. Everything and everyone shifts direction just a bit, by the end of the road-trip.

Visit Sally's website! 
I think Charlie is real! He feels like my own child! My maternal compassion for him, while writing, surpassed anything I’ve experienced toward a character, as a writer. His voice sang out to me, clear and true, from day one. I’ve struggled with characters and storylines before, but not here, not with Charlie. This kid knew what he was doing. He was just waiting for a chance for his voice to be heard.

Also, it is not mentioned in the story anywhere, but most readers will quickly realize that Charlie is autistic. Yet this is not a novel that focuses on autism. I wanted to write a story where autism was more or less the normal state of affairs, not something held up for any special literary scrutiny. This is a story about Charlie, a unique person on a life-changing journey, who has unusual ways of viewing the world.



On January 24, 2017, I’ll be feeling all the feels, as they say. It’s been a long and wonderful path

Reading is salvation. Escape. Joy. Connection. The closest we can come to leading other lives. The best way to grow our compassion as human beings.


Mr. Schu, you should have asked me about Leo, my 80-lb. golden doodle. He’s my constant companion. This dog completes me!


Look for The Someday Birds on January 24, 2017. 

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Author Ellen Oh

I have been tweeting about Flying Lessons & Other Stories for months. It FINALLY hit stores and libraries on Tuesday. I hope you will visit your local bookshop and buy two copies after you read my interview with Ellen Oh, the editor of this important anthology. 


I wrote the words in purple, and Ellen wrote the words in black. Thank you, Ellen! 


Kwame Alexander, Kelly J. Baptist, Soman Chainani, Matt de la Peña, Tim Federle, Grace Lin, Meg Medina, Walter Dean Myers, Tim Tingle, and Jacqueline Woodson are my idols. Their stories made me laugh, cry and make my heart feel too big for my chest. They helped create this marvelous anthology that is filled with something for everyone.


Flying Lessons & Other Stories is dedicated to the life and legacy of Walter Dean Myers and to every kid who ever thought they didn’t belong. 


We Need Diverse Books™ is…

…a group of amazing volunteers who love children’s literature and believe that every child deserves to see themselves represented in the books they read.

…a group of the hardest working people with hearts of pure gold and generosity that amazes me every single day I work with them.

…a group of friends that have become family and a mission that so many people believe in and support in so many different ways and for which I will be forever grateful.




Harper Raine is one seriously badass ghost hunter.

School libraries are lifesavers.


Mr. Schu, you should have asked me why I hate illustrators. Well actually, I don’t hate them. I am literally overwhelmed by envy over their talent. I think it is terribly unfair that I can’t even draw a stick figure. I once had to sign next to Emma Virjan who illustrates those awesome pigs in a wig. And she would draw these adorable pigs in wigs with her signature and I felt challenged to be artistic so I started adding happy faces to my signature but stopped after people asked me if the squiggles were a foreign language. 


Borrow Flying Lessons & Other Stories from your school or public library. Whenever possible, please support independent bookshops. 

Book Trailer Premiere: Fenway and Hattie and the Evil Bunny Gang by Victoria Coe

Hello, Victoria Coe! Happy 2017! Welcome back to Watch. Connect. Read. I’m so happy you dropped by to finish my sentences and premiere the book trailer for Fenway and Hattie and the Evil Bunny Gang.

Victoria Coe: Happy New Year, Mr. Schu! Thank you for having me back. Your work to promote and spread the love of reading is nothing short of incredible, and I’m beyond honored to be with you again.


The book trailer for Fenway and Hattie and the Evil Bunny Gang cracks me up every time I see it. If anybody doubts how bad bunnies can be, this trailer will settle that once and for all. And on January 24th, readers can get the whole scoop when the book comes out!




I think Fenway relishes his starring role in this book. It will take a professional to defeat those bunnies and we all know who that professional is!



Did you know Hattie plays her own starring role in this book? While Fenway’s dealing with bunny trouble, she’s caught in a friendship triangle and learns that making the right choice can be awfully tough.


The paperback edition of Fenway and Hattie is out now! The awesome Puffin paperback is available in bookstores, on-line, and in Target stores - with bonus content in the back. 

And the Scholastic paperback reprint is out now, too. I remember buying books through the Scholastic flyers and book fairs when I was a kid, so seeing my own book in Scholastic is really a dream come true.




School libraries are sooo necessary! While I’m a huge fan and supporter of classroom libraries, there’s nothing like a school library and a school librarian to feed and nourish young readers.



Mr. Schu, you should have asked me how much I love connecting with teachers and librarians who are reading Fenway and Hattie aloud in the classroom. Kids seem to enjoy hearing the story from Fenway’s from point of view and then figuring out what’s really going on!

And speaking of reading aloud, there are no words for how excited I am that Fenway and Hattie is a contender for the 2017 Global Read Aloud. Pernille Ripp does an outstanding job with this program and this is such a tremendous honor. I hope this opportunity will give even more educators and readers the chance to discover Fenway and Hattie this year!



Tuesday, January 3, 2017

The Infamous Ratsos by Kara LaReau and Matt Myers

Hi, Kara LaReau! Welcome to Watch. Connect. Read. Thank you for being the first guest of 2017. I’m grateful you dropped by to celebrate books and finish my sentences.

Kara LaReau: Greetings to the Infamous Mr. Schu! Thanks so much for inviting me!




Bikers for Books is a group of amazing guys and gals who come together to raise reading awareness. Just like The Infamous Ratsos, the B4B gang might look a little bit tough and gruff on the outside, but they all have hearts of gold. I’m so thrilled they liked the book — they not only appreciate its message of kindness, they live it every day!



I think Louie and Ralphie Ratso would LOVE hanging out with Bikers for Books. I think it’s important for kids (especially boys) to see examples of men who aren’t afraid to be sensitive and thoughtful and tender. I’ve never been a fan of gender norms; now that I have a son, I’m even more eager to do what I can to dispel them!


Illustration Credit: Matt Myers
Did you know The Infamous Ratsos is based on my own family? My grandfather’s name was Ralph and his older brother’s name was Louie. They grew up during the Great Depression, and their father was really, really tough. He died when they were pretty young, so the boys were on their own a lot, and they ended up earning a reputation as “troublemakers.” I was never told exactly what kind of trouble they got into; The Infamous Ratsos is my way of imagining their, er, shenanigans.
Illustration Credit: Matt Myers

Matt Myers’ illustrations are a perfect combination of funny and sweet. I don’t know how he does it! The details he’s included give the experience of reading the book an extra, extra-special level of enjoyment. I swear I find something new every time I look at it. (Matt, if you are reading this, thank you again. You are a genius.)


Click here to download a discussion guide. 
Reading is a way of stepping into someone else’s shoes. I’m all about trying to present stories from different perspectives; in the case of The Infamous Ratsos, it’s from the point of view of two boys who are on the road to becoming bullies…until their lives (fortunately!) take a turn in the right direction. I think it’s important for kids (of all ages) to read about characters who make bad choices, so they can learn from them without making those bad choices themselves!




Mr. Schu, you should have asked me what I’m working on now. I’ve just seen Matt’s (amazing) revised sketches of the next Infamous Ratsos story, The Infamous Ratsos Are Not Afraid (just as the first book was about toughness, this one is about fear and courage). Also, I have a middle grade novel (my first!) coming out on January 10th; it’s called The Jolly Regina, and it’s the first in a trilogy called The Unintentional Adventures of the Bland Sisters. I’m just seeing the first round of sketches for Book Two, illustrated by another genius artist, Jen Hill. I’m working on Book Three now.

Whew! Thanks so much for letting me take a little break to visit with you!

Thank you, Kara! Happy New Year! 



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


Curiosity City DPW is giving away 24 copies of The Infamous Ratsos. Click here to enter the drawing.