Friday, September 19, 2014

Author Natalie Lloyd

Natalie Lloyd is one of the friendliest and funniest people you'll ever meet. She dropped by to chat with me about A Snicker of Magic, ice cream, Full House, Sharon Creech, and her dog. I wrote the words in red, and she wrote the words in black. Thank you, Natalie! :) 

Felicity and Jonah are best friends. They look for the best in people, and they bring out the best in each other. Even though they just met, they feel like they’ve known each other forever. Most of their adventures begin, or end, with ice cream.
If you visited Midnight Gulch, Mr. Schu, they would name an ice cream after you. It would be called Mr. Schu’s Bookalicious Brownie Bonanza. Whenever people take the first bite, they would immediately imagine the title of a book they’re going to love. If I visited Midnight Gulch, I would go by Jewell Pickett’s Lube & Dye for an oil change. Then I would ask Big Bruce to do my nails, of course. I might explore downtown for a while, and listen to Elvis Phillips howl out a song on the corner. Then I would buy an ice cream cone from Dr. Zook’s, and eat it while I watched the sun sink down behind Snapdragon Pond.
Download activities 
Dr. Zook’s famous ice cream is Midnight Gulch’s claim to fame. Well … there’s a certain curse that’s a bit infamous in Midnight Gulch as well. But the ice cream factory is what put the town on the map. There is one magical flavor in particular, Blackberry Sunrise, that’s only sold there in The Gulch. Whenever someone eats Blackberry Sunrise, they always remember something important. The problem is that they don’t know if the memory will be sweet or sour until they take the first bite. . .
Spindiddly means better than awesome! I think it’s a word best used in context when you’re describing a friend, family member, or beloved pet. For example: My dog, Biscuit, is spindiddly.

Family MattersFull House, and She-Ra have the most fantastic and humm-able theme songs EVER. I knew we were kindred spirits, Mr. Schu, but I was delighted to discover we were also TV twins back in the day. I lived for TGIF on Friday nights. Saturday morning cartoons (like She-Ra, My Little Pony, Heatcliff and Popples) were my jam. I count a Jem & the Holograms t-shirt among my prized possessions.
School libraries are safe places, dreaming spaces, and wide-open windows to the world. I still remember where the Judy Blume books were shelved in my middle school library. Blubber helped me survive middle school. One of the most amazing dream-come-true-author-moments happened for me this spring, when I was invited back to my old school for an author visit. Mrs. Goss, the fabulous librarian who stamped the Judy Blume books a zillion times for me, is still there. This time, she asked me to put A Snicker of Magic on the school’s shelf.

Sharon Creech’s books are total works of heart, and such inspirations to me. I was so excited to hear her speak in Nashville a few years ago. When I got there, the door to the auditorium was still closed because it was early. An excited hum of chatter filled up the hallway, thanks to all the readers (of all ages) waiting outside. It took a few minutes for me to realize Sharon Creech was out there, too; sitting on the floor against the wall, surrounded by a group of young readers. She was so engaging, personable and kind. I was too shy to say hello that day, but the way she interacted with her readers, and the amazing talk she gave, have stuck with me ever since.

Mr. Schu, you should have asked me why I put my dog in the book! Felicity has a dog named Biscuit. As I mentioned above, Biscuit also happens to be the name of my dog. I love animals, and wanted the Pickles to have a pet. But I also put Biscuit in the pages because I knew she would help me finish the story. I get so excited about new story ideas, that I sometimes abandon a story midway through. I thought if I could imagine sweet, feisty Biscuit scampering through the scenes, I would be excited to finish. And it worked!
Thank you so much for inviting me over! 

I am giving away one copy of A Snicker of Magic

Rules for the Giveaway 

1. It will run from 9/19 to 11:59 p.m. on 9/21. 

2. You must be at least 13. 

3. Please pay it forward. 

Borrow A Snicker of Magic from your school or public library. Whenever possible, please support independent bookshops. 

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Link of the Week: Anderson's Mock Newbery List

Are you ready for your to-read list to grow? Are you ready to shuffle around books in your to-read pile?

Anderson's Bookshop released its 2015 Mock Newbery list yesterday afternoon. I see some titles that I would nominate if I were on the 2015 committee, including my current pick for the gold medal.  Which book will you read or re-read first? 

Anderson's included Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy on the list. However, I do not think it is eligible for the 2015 Newbery Medal because Karen Foxlee is not an American citizen or resident. 

The Award is restricted to authors who are citizens or residents of the United States.

You should still read it! :) 

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Video of the Week: Uni the Unicorn's Theme Song

My niece celebrated her eighth birthday on Sunday. I gave her four books and a Target gift card to celebrate her special day. Which books, you ask? Two  My Weird School books, a Rainbow Magic book, and Uni the Unicorn. When she pulled Uni the Unicorn out of the gift bag, she said, "Look! I have unicorn earrings on today. I love unicorns." She was meant to receive this magical tale about beautiful Uni and a little girl with a big heart. 

I'm off to email my brother Uni the Unicorn's theme song. Do you think my niece will love it? 

Borrow Uni the Unicorn from your school or public library. Whenever possible, please support independent bookshops. 

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

The Right Word Trifecta

I sent Colby Sharp the following email message just moments after I read the last page of The Right Word: Roget and His Thesaurus. 

Hi, Mr. Sharp, 

I hope you're having a great day. I just finished reading The Right Word by Jen Bryant and Melissa Sweet. It is the perfect book for a Sharp-Schu trifecta and our Mock Caldecott unit. If you're interested, I'll contact Eerdmans. You're interested, right? Right? Right? :) :) 

Chat with you soon!


Well, Mr. Colby Sharp agreed with me. Donalyn Miller, Colby, and I are celebrating this gorgeous nonfiction picture book today. You'll read an interview with Jen Bryant here, an interview with Melissa Sweet on Colby's blog, and Donalyn's review over at the Nerdy Book Club's blog. Happy blog hopping! 

I wrote the words in red, and Jen Bryant wrote the words in black. Thank you, Jen! 

Peter Mark Roget thought that words were powerful and that they belonged to everyone. He’d danced at formal gatherings and rubbed elbows with famous writers, artists and inventors. He knew countesses and powerful men in Parliament. However, he also treated adults and children from the poorest sections of the city, who lived and worked in unsafe, crowded conditions. He believed strongly in the democratizing effect of language and literacy, and this, as much as his own personal reasons for list-making, drove him to refine, and finally to publish, his Thesaurus.

Melissa Sweet’s illustrations perfectly capture (ensnare, collect, represent, embody) Roget’s true PASSION for Language and Knowledge, and his compulsion to bring as much order as possible to them. She also brilliantly reveals Roget’s eclectic interests, his dabbling in everything from magnetism to natural history to optics to chess. In our era, when children are asked very early in their lives “what will you BE?” this kind of multi-faceted, follow-your-bliss-life seems impossible. But in Roget’s time, as Melissa so deftly illustrates, it was encouraged and supported by “amateur” literary, philosophical and scientific groups like the Royal Society, The National Geographic Society, and others. 

Here are five of my favorite words: 

1.  ANACHRONISM   [#115]
2.  MUTABILITY [#149]
3.  CONDUIT   [#350]
4.  ORACLE [#513]
5.  COURAGE [#861]

William Carlos Williams, Horace Pippin, and Peter Mark Roget were astute observers of everything and everyone around them. If, as Joyce Carol Oates and Robert Rauschenberg claim, an artist’s job is to be” a witness to the world,” (Oates) and to “their time and place in history” (Rauschenberg) then these three have magnificently fulfilled that role. As physicians, Roget and Williams relied on their careful observations of the human body to care for the sick and injured. Curious and attentive by nature, their profession undoubtedly boosted their already well-honed skills in this area. In a similar way, Pippin’s economically deprived childhood, his shifting domestic circumstances, his quitting school to work at several different jobs, and his experiences in the trenches of WWI, served to deepen his already keen awareness of his surroundings and his place in them. We are lucky that they didn’t stop there . . . all three of these men, in addition to their daily “paid” work, willingly took on the additional task of translating what they observed  into masterful poems, books, essays, and paintings. 
Download the discussion guide
I think school libraries represent the hub of the great spinning wheel we know as “school.” A library is to a school what a kitchen is to a home . . . it’s the emotional and logistical center, where all of the seemingly disparate grades, subjects and disciplines can be seen and experienced together; where a child can browse, explore, experiment with new voices and new interests; where they can spend time in a safe, quiet space, expanding their minds and deepening their imagination (without which, we now know, all of that logical, informational input gained in the other rooms  will never be used and synthesized!). I recall, with great clarity, each of my school libraries, from Kindergarten through college, and I CANNOT believe that any good school would consider doing away with their library. 

Reading is like gymnastics for the mind; and its well-documented ability to instill empathy also makes it a great workout for the heart, too.  At the same time, it’s a source of such infinite pleasure, that I’m sure I wouldn’t survive very long without it. Just as children have nap time, I think adults should have reading time in the midst of each working day. Free reading—but of good quality, not simply gossip written down beside celebrity photos. (Just  imagine the collective boost in empathy, cognition, verbal fluency—not to mention the much more interesting conversations in the lunch room or on the elevator!)  I will start the petition . . . 

Nonfiction picture books are my favorite books to write. Even though they’re shorter than novels and full-length biographies, they’re just as challenging to create. Whenever I start one, I feel like I’m putting together one of those 1,000-piece puzzles, but there’s no picture on the box. I must create the picture, but I must do it with words—words that sing when they’re read out loud, but which also convey the essence of the topic or biographical subject. It’s difficult, but also immensely rewarding. Plus, once I’m finished with the text, an illustrator conveys the story in visual art, which doubles (or, in the case of Melissa Sweet, triples or quadruples) the energy of my narrative.  

Mr. Schu, you should have asked me… “Jen, how did you start writing picture books?  Well, Mr. Schu, it was quite by accident, and with a little nudge from Eileen Spinelli. About a dozen years ago, Eileen, Jerry and I went to see an exhibit of Georgia O’Keeffe’s still life paintings at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.  I’d been reading a lot about O’Keeffe, and I showed Eileen some poems I’d written about the artist’s time in New Mexico. “Do you think I could submit these to a literary magazine?” I asked.  “Absolutely,” Eileen replied. ”But I think, with a few tweaks, this would make a great picture book manuscript.” That was the beginning of Georgia’s Bones, published in 2005 and still in print today. It’s dedicated to Eileen, an extraordinary poet and one of the most generous people on the planet.

I am giving away one copy of The Right Word: Roget and His Thesaurus. 

Rules for the Giveaway 

1. It will run from 9/16 to 11:59 p.m. on 9/17. 

2. You must be at least 13. 

3. Please pay it forward. 

I'm looking forward to reading Donalyn Miller's review of The Right Word

Borrow The Right Word: Roget and His Thesaurus from your school or public library. Whenever possible, please support independent bookshops. 

Monday, September 15, 2014

Longlist for the 2014 National Book Award for Young People's Literature

I set an alarm on my phone to go off at 6:59 a.m. this morning. I had just pulled out of the Dunkin' Donuts parking lot when it went off. I pulled over, clicked on the National Book Award's website, and kept pressing refresh.  At 7:01 a.m., this list magically appeared...

  • Laurie Halse AndersonThe Impossible Knife of Memory (Viking/ Penguin Group (USA))
  • Gail GilesGirls Like Us (Candlewick Press)
  • Carl HiaasenSkink—No Surrender (Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers/ Random House)
  • Kate MilfordGreenglass House (Clarion Books/ Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)
  • Eliot SchreferThreatened (Scholastic Press)
  • Steve SheinkinThe Port Chicago 50: Disaster, Mutiny, and the Fight for Civil Rights
    (Roaring Brook Press/ Macmillan Publishers)
  • Andrew Smith100 Sideways Miles (Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers/ Simon & Schuster)
  • John Corey WhaleyNoggin (Atheneum Books for Young Readers/ Simon & Schuster)
  • Deborah WilesRevolution: The Sixties Trilogy, Book Two (Scholastic Press)
  • Jacqueline WoodsonBrown Girl Dreaming (Nancy Paulsen Books/ Penguin Group (USA))


Sunday, September 14, 2014

Tomorrow is International Dot Day

Are you ready to make your mark and see where it takes you?

I'm celebrating International Dot Day with eight scheduled classes. We will connect with students in Texas, Illinois, Michigan, Massachusetts, and Missouri. I'm excited to read The Dot, make dots, eat dots, and talk about creativity. 


Have you listened to "The Dot Song"? You can download the lyrics here

Peter H. Reynolds talks about why he does what he does. 

Watch your dot come to life

Don't miss the new celebridots that Terry Shay uploaded over the past three weeks. 

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

Saturday, September 13, 2014

The Newbery Honor Challenge: 2001

Dear Mr. Sharp, 

Happy Saturday! Yes, I agree with you that finding as much time to read during the first month of school is very CHALLENGING. However, I'm grateful that I re-read Kate DiCamillo's Because of Winn-Dixie last night. It made me smile and cry. What a gem! 

Enjoy your weekend! :)


Click here to watch Colby's video. 

"Starting as one of the most rejected writers, Kate DiCamillo has become one of this century’s most acclaimed authors. For those who like to use manuscript drafts with young readers, several versions of Because of Winn-Dixie can be found online here." - Anita Silvey

Visit the official website for The National Ambassador for Young People's Literature. 

Kate DiCamillo presented at the 2009 National Book Festival.

"I decided a long time ago," DiCamillo says, "that I didn't have to be talented. I just had to be persistent."

You don't want to miss this interview with Kate DiCamillo.

Kate DiCamillo received the 2013 Kerlan Award. 

Don't you just love the kid who gave Kate a 10 out of 2? I need to meet him.