Saturday, May 28, 2016

Happy Saturday, Mr. Sharp!

Hi, Mr. Sharp, 

Happy Memorial Day weekend! I hope you and your family have a spectacular time together!

Happy reading!

Your friend,


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

This Is My Dollhouse by Giselle Potter 

Wolf Camp by Andrea Zuill

The Airport Book by Lisa Brown 

The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate 

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Good Night, Baddies by Deborah Underwood and Juli Kangas

Happy Thursday, everyone! I hope you're having a terrific day! Author Deborah Underwood dropped by to chat with me about witches, trolls, Juli Kangas, cats, and Hamilton. I wrote the words in orange, and she wrote the words in black. Thank you, Deborah! 

The book trailer for Good Night, Baddies answers the question, “What do baddies do after their work day is done?” Viewers get a glimpse of Juli Kangas’s gorgeous illustrations, and they might even hear a certain author singing in the background.

The Good Night, Baddies song is a free download, and it’s the exact text of the book (with the addition of a chorus). I thought it would be nice for kids to be able to follow along with the lullaby while they read the book. And it was fun to write and record! I’ve missed doing music, and it was great to get back to it. I’ve had a few people say the song is stuck in their heads, and that makes me kind of crazily happy.

Illustration Credit: Juli Kangas 
Juli Kangas did the most brilliant, perfect illustrations possible for this book. When I saw the first piece of sample art, it took my breath away. I hope every picture book author gets to have a moment like that.

Illustration Credit: Juli Kangas 
Witches, trolls, dragons, and big, bad wolves need love too! When they tell their stories, they are the heroes. It’s all about perspective.

Claudia Rueda and I are working on the next Cat book, Here Comes Teacher Cat. I just saw sketches, and as always, Claudia’s illustrations are spot-on and hilarious.

School libraries will always have a special place in my heart. I spent my elementary school recesses and lunch periods in the library. It was the one place at school where I felt like I belonged. As an adult, when I toured a school library and learned it wasn’t open during lunch, I was horrified. My first thought was, “But then where do the nerdy kids hide?”

Mr. Schu, you should have asked me what’s inspired me lately? The answer is Hamilton! All Hamilton, all the time! My dream is to see the show in New York, which seems about as likely as flapping my arms and flying to the moon. But the soundtrack is really making me reexamine my approach to rhythm and rhyme. Thanks, Lin-Manuel Miranda! And thank you for having me, Mr. Schu!

Borrow Good Night, Baddies from your school or public library. Whenever possible, please support independent bookshops. 

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Raising a Reader, a Guest Post by Randall de Sève

Ok, so maybe I shouldn’t have read VALLEY OF THE DOLLS at 12. But there it was, on our bookshelves, calling out to me with such an appealing title.  And then, once I cracked it…

Ok, the point is I read it because it was there. I also read an enormous collection of GRIMM’S FAIRY TALES; Bernard Malamud short stories, Kafka’s THE TRIAL and a host of other fine literature. All because they were there, on our shelves, asking to be plucked off and perused. 

Kids do things that grab their attention. For something to grab a child’s attention, it has to be in view. As a child, I was surrounded by books, so I became a reader. 

I also became a reader because my parents were readers. My mother still starts every day with a cup of coffee and a novel; my father loves nothing more than to sit on their porch with the New York Times or a biography. Theirs is a mostly quiet home (but not a monastery—they do enjoy their music and movies) where you can always find a place to cuddle up and read. And so now, when we visit, my daughters do, too.

How many times have I heard parents complain that their older children don’t read, only to visit their homes where books are scarce because everything is now digital? And who knows what a parent on a tablet is really doing? 

Now I’m not saying that the only way to raise readers is to surround them by paper books; but I am saying that there are new challenges today in bringing up literate kids. If you’re a parent who reads on a tablet:

*Let your child know that you’re reading (as opposed to, say, checking twitter).

*Let your child know what you're reading. It doesn’t have to be a huge conversation—just an “I’m reading this great book about…” Show that it’s interesting to you and worthy of your attention.

*Show your child how you choose books from your vast, invisible e-library or store; and, if s/he reads on a tablet, help her/him to do the same. This is your chance to steer your child toward some excellent literature. But, please, don’t push too hard. Most school-aged children are at some stage of push back—it’s how they become individuals. Suggest, but then step back and let your child choose; s/he’ll be more invested if s/he does.

No matter how you do it, surround your child with books and quiet reading, and chances are, at least sometimes, s/he’ll join you.  Unless, of course, s/he’s found VALLEY OF THE DOLLS.  That one s/he’ll probably keep secret.

Randall de Seve is the New York Times-bestselling author of Toy BoatThe Duchess of WhimsyMathilda and the Orange Balloon, and A Fire Truck Named Red. She lives in Brooklyn, NY, with her husband, two daughters, and a very wicked dog named Henry Biscuit.

Borrow A Fire Truck Named Red from your school or public library. Whenever possible, please support independent bookshops. 

Monday, May 23, 2016

Last Week Told Through Vines


Look at these endpapers! Whoa!


I mailed a package to Sharla Schmeling's students. :)


I love MerryMakers!


"A letter can hold the treasure of a clam-hugged pearl." -Michelle Cuevas, from The Uncorker of Ocean Bottles 

Happy belated book birthday to Martha Brockenbrough's Shark Week.


I love finding Scholastic Teacher Magazine in my mailbox.

Today's #bookstack for #bookaday 

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Barnacle is Bored by Jonathan Fenske

Good afternoon, Jonathan! Welcome to Watch. Connect. Read!

Good afternoon, Mr. Schu! 

Thank you for stopping by to chat with me 
about Barnacle Is Bored, school libraries, picture books, and reading. 

Thank you for having me! 

Barnacle is Bored tells the story of a common human foible. How our tendency to compare our “boring” lives to what we perceive as the “exciting” lives of others is a mistake we are doomed to make repeatedly.

I created the illustrations for Barnacle is Bored in a mad tear at 3 a.m. in my sketchbook. The rough storyboards fell into place rather quickly (unfortunately, it doesn’t always happen that way). From there, I did black and white pencil sketches, tweaking expressions (I spend lots of time making crazy faces in the mirror) until I was satisfied. Then I translated the illustrations to a digital format and added color. 

The 2016 Geisel Award committee called to tell me the good news, but they did not have my updated phone number! I actually found out about the Geisel Honor by email. Right before taking the kids to school, I checked my inbox and saw several congratulatory emails. Puzzled and intrigued, I opened one from an editor I had not spoken to in a while, and his kind note was how I discovered I had been given the honor.

Needless to say, I drove the kids to school in a haze 
of stunned happiness.

School libraries are such a wonderful haven for children. To have that kind of access to books is an invaluable part of a child’s development. And how I love librarians! They truly do make the children’s book world go ‘round. Warning! Shameless Plug ahead! I am especially fond of the librarians at my local Anythink library: knowledgeable, helpful, and unfailingly friendly.

Reading to my kids is one of the most fulfilling things I do as a parent. Snuggling on the couch and taking imaginary journeys together…it’s hard to top that, especially when compared to all the less glamorous parenting chores that come with the territory! 

Picture books are not only my job, but also a hobby. I love to peruse the shelves of bookstores and libraries looking for new picture books. We live in what I consider to be an idyllic time for children’s literature…there is such a wealth of talented artists and writers telling so many varied and unique stories. I am a great fan of adult fiction as well (George Saunders, anyone?), but nothing pushes my creativity buttons like an awesome picture book.    

Purchase a Barnacle Is Bored print here. 
Mr. Schu, you should have asked me how does Mr. Barnacle feel about the liberties taken in his depiction? And my answer would have been: He is not happy, but, then again, he rarely ever is.

Borrow Barnacle Is Bored from your school or public library. Whenever possible, please support independent bookshops. 

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Happy Saturday, Mr. Sharp!

Hi, Mr. Sharp,

It felt good to film to a one-take HAPPY SATURDAY video. I hope you're having an awesome day! :) 

Your friend,


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

When The Sea Turned to Silver by Grace Lin | Publication date: October 4, 2016

The Poet's Dog by Patricia MacLachlan |Publication date: September 13, 2016 

Ashes by Laurie Halse Anderson | Publication date: October 4, 2016 

The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill | Publication date: August 9, 2016 

Friday, May 20, 2016

Happy Birthday, Ruth Chan!

Happy birthday to you,
Happy birthday to you,
Happy birthday, dear Ruth Chan,
Happy birthday to you.

In honor of Ruth Chan's birthday, I am revealing the cover for Georgie's Best Bad Day. Look at that mess behind Georgie! I cannot wait to find out what in the world went wrong AND right. :) 

Ruth, I hope you have the BEST, BEST day! You'll find me celebrating Georgie's second book on 4/18/17. Hooray! 

Click here to read Ruth Chan's guest post about  Where's the Party