Saturday, October 10, 2015

A Guest Post and Cover Reveal with Tracy Edward Wymer

I never thought I’d write a book about birds. Then I started teaching sixth grade English, and I was thrown into a cross-curricular research project on North American birds. Over several years, my students and I came to appreciate birds and their various behaviors, quirks, and personalities. I was writing a lot during this time, but then one day I thought to myself, “What if there was a boy who couldn’t find a bird? What if he searched for this bird every day, like his life depended on it?” A couple of years later, after hundreds of hours of research, pouring over field guides and websites, I finished a book called BIRD NERD. Which then became MIGHT FLY AWAY. Which then became what it is now: SOAR.      

To be honest, I was nervous about the cover. It’s one of those things where you lie in bed at night and think about what your book will look like on a bookshelf. There are a lot of elements in the story, and I had no idea where the artist would take it. Even I wasn’t exactly sure which angle would best represent the complete narrative. However, I was almost certain that somehow, some way, a bird would find its way onto the cover. Sure enough, that’s what happened, and I couldn’t be more excited about the way artist Brian Biggs captured the essence of Eddie’s story, including the majestic golden eagle. I’d like to give a huge CHIRP (shout out!) to the team at Aladdin for creating something special:

Brian Biggs-artist/illustrator
Alyson Heller-editor 
Karin Paprocki-designer
Mandy Veloso-managing editor
Sarah Kwak-production

SOAR… coming July 5, 2016…

Seventh grader Eddie is determined honor his father’s legacy and win the school science fair in this fun and quirky debut novel.

Eddie learned everything there is to know about birding from his dad, including the legend of the golden eagle, which Dad claimed he saw once down near Miss Dorothy’s pond. According to his dad, the golden eagle had wings wider than a creek and talons the size of bulldozer claws. But when Eddie was in sixth grade, Dad “flew away” for good, leaving Eddie on his own to await the return of the elusive raptor.

Now Eddie is starting seventh grade and trying to impress Gabriella, the new girl in town. The annual seventh grade Science Symposium is looming (which Dad famously won), and Eddie is determined to claim the blue ribbon for himself. With Mr. Dover, the science teacher who was Dad’s birding rival, seemingly against him, and with Mouton, the class bully, making his life miserable on all fronts, Eddie is determined to overcome everything and live up to Dad’s memory. Can Eddie soar and make his dream take flight?

TracyEdward Wymer is the author of middle grade books SOAR (S&S/Aladdin, Spring 2016) and THE COLOR OF BONES, and he is part of the anthology BEEN THERE, DONE THAT (Penguin 11/3/15). When not plowing through stacks of books on his nightstand, he likes to run, write, and root for the Kansas City Royals. He lives with his family in Los Angeles.

Friday, October 9, 2015

Author Christine Pakkala

Happy Friday! Christine Pakkala dropped by to finish my sentences. We chatted about Lola, Paul Hoppe, reading, school libraries, and geometry. I wrote the words in orange, and she wrote the words in black. Thank you, Christine! 

The Last-But-Not Least Lola series follows the adventures of Lola Zuckerman, who never means to get in trouble but sometimes does. Part of the problem is that Lola’s teacher, Mrs. D. LUH-HUVS the alphabet (and alphabetical order). Sometimes it’s really hard to wait all the way from A to Z. Especially when your best friend is Amanda Anderson and she always goes first. When you’re last to give your Going Green idea, or last to pick a partner on a field trip, that can be a problem. But Mrs. D. encourages Lola to be a problem-solver. In each book, Lola tackles being last—and other problems—with zest and humor!

Amanda, Jessie, and Savannah are Lola’s three best friends. Well, it would be great to keep Amanda Anderson all to herself, but life (and second grade) doesn’t work that way. First she has to share Amanda with Jessie and then the new girl, Savannah, wants to be friends with Amanda, too. But Lola (maybe just maybe) discovers that three friends are better than one. Maybe one of those friends likes to roll around in mud? Maybe another one likes to play hot potato with an ice pack?

Paul Hoppe’s illustrations bring Lola to life! He not only illustrates these stories but adds “story” to the story. In the first book, Lola thinks it would be great to sing “ABZDEFG…” and Paul illustrates that by having her rearrange alphabet blocks to suit herself. I love the way Paul sometimes creates a birds-eye view of the scene, looking down at the action. I also love when he creates thought bubbles. In THE WILD CHICKEN, he draws a picture of Lola worrying that  poor Jessie was getting stitches…with a sewing machine. Brr!

Explore Christine's website. 

When I was Lola’s age I sat in a tree and recorded license plate numbers of passing cars in a little notebook. I was sure I was going to catch a criminal that way. I’m sure I could have convinced Lola to sit up in the tree with me.

Reading is everything.  This world is full of wonder, but every time I pick up a book, I get to travel to a new world. Travel! Without luggage, lines or jet lag.

School libraries are my favorite place in the school. There’s always something interesting going on in there. At my local school library, Barbara Eilertsen is never sitting.  She’s giving presentations to kids, introducing them to (ahem) authors, conducting radio broadcasts…you name it! I love all the activity in the school library, but I also love the books and the invitation of each one of those books to find a quiet corner, sit down, and read.

Mr. Schu, you should have asked me why do I love writing Lola books?  

When I was in Geometry class in 9th grade, I used to sit behind this big, popular kid named Damon. Our teacher was a no-nonsense guy named Mr. Albert. He wore his hair in a military-style crewcut and he wore black-framed glasses way before it was retro and cool to do that.  I can’t remember a single time he ever smiled.  He probably did but not around us.
Every time Mr. Albert had his back to us and was writing all over the board, people started talking.
Not me. I never said a word. Instead I daydreamed. That triangle looked like a slice of pizza. Isosceles sounds like sloshily. One day I somehow got the courage to whisper one of my funny thoughts to Damon. He laughed. And then he repeated it in a loud voice to the rest of the class. And everyone laughed.  Mr. Albert  turned around and glared at all of us. I think it was the proudest moment of my ninth grade life. 

Never in a million years would I ever be the one to tell a joke to the class. I was too afraid, I guess, to break the rules. But even more than that I was too afraid that what I said wouldn’t be that funny. It would just be weird. Or even worse, I wouldn’t be able to make my quiet voice heard.

That’s part of the fun of being a writer and creating characters, especially one like Lola.  Lola talks in all Caps a lot. She sings, she talks, she shouts. It never occurs to her to not speak up. She’s definitely not perfect. She lies. She gets jealous. She fights with her brother. Maybe there are times where she should be more  like me. Maybe she should be quiet and listen. But she just hasn’t learned that lesson from the world yet. 

To be honest, until recently I’ve been thinking it’s okay to let Lola Zuckerman do the talking for me. I’ve been going along with the idea that there are people who sing out in class and there are people who don’t. There are artists and writers and shy types who’d just as soon keep their trap shut.
But lately I’ve been thinking I don’t want to live the rest of my life afraid to let my voice be heard. I don’t want to let Lola have all the fun. I don’t want to be afraid—even if I feel silly and a big goofball—to just be that person who, when the spirit moves her, makes one of those shouts.  I don’t want to worry anymore that people will think I’m a goofball.
I am a goofball.

That’s my message to my readers: if there’s some way that you are afraid to make your voice heard, I would like to ask you to try not to be. I would like to ask you to blow your own horn. Pick up your guitar and play it. Write your story. Crack a joke. Sing along loud enough so that your voice soars right over Miley Cyrus’s. Be a goofball if you want to be. That’s what I plan to do.

Borrow the Last-But-Not-Least Lola series from your school or public library. Whenever possible, please support independent bookshops. 

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Cover Reveal for Louise and Andie: The Art of Friendship by Kelly Light

#TBT (Throwback Thursday) is a fun way to take a trip down memory lane.  Let's travel back to September 8, 2014, the day the Nerdy Book Club, Colby Sharp, and I celebrated Kelly Light's Louise Loves Art

I wrote the words in red, and Kelly Light wrote the words in black. Thank you, Kelly! 

The book trailer for Louise Loves Art was the first time I have participated in anything animated since 1995. (I was 25 then) When I saw the first pencil test, my heart nearly burst with happiness.

The idea for Louise Loves Art was a combination of remembering who I was as a kid who was obsessed with art, watching my own daughter fall in love with drawing and thinking about how little importance was placed on visual art in her elementary school education.

Louise and her brother are like most younger/older siblings who may annoy each other from time to time, but always, love each other.

I hope art teachers get more attention for the work they do cultivating young imaginations.

Kelly Light's celebridot

School libraries are like art classes; imagination expanders.

Reading is the yin to Art’s yang.

Picture books are an Imax movie to a kid on your lap.

Mr. Schu, you should have asked me about “The Cat” in the Louise books! The cat, like a lot of things in Louise’s world is something from my own world. I had a black cat for 11 years, named Anakin, that I loved so much. I always wanted a black cat because I grew up watching Laverne and Shirley and always wanted my own Boo Boo Kitty!! So the cat in the book resembles Boo Boo Kitty and has a secret name.

"I can remember the feeling of sitting in first grade class, my heart beating wildly, trying to slide down on my little blue chair behind the kid in front of me and saying over and over again in my head, 'Oh...Ms. Bianci...don’t pick me, don’t pick me, don’t pick me...'" - Kelly Light |Click here to continue reading Kelly's blog post. 

Visit Colby Sharp's blog to read his review of Louise Loves Art


Are you ready to see the cover for Louise and Andie: The Art of Friendship? Drum roll, please! 

Tada! Isn't it gorgeous? Yes. Don't you want to read it right now? Yes.  Won't it look perfect on display next to the plush MerryMakers created? Yes. You can wait until June 14, 2016 to read it, right? What? I've been WAITING for book 2 since I finished reading Louise Loves Art.  I'll try my best to WAIT patiently, but WAITING IS NOT EASY

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

"The Mouse Council" by Liniers

First Second Books put together an epic blog tour for Fable Comics. Today is my turn to host an illustrator and celebrate a fable. 

The illustrator? Liniers 

The Fable? "The Mouse Council" 

Who wrote the words in orange? Me 

Who wrote the words in black? Liniers 

Thank you, First Second and Liniers! 

I think Aesop’s fables are a wonderful spring of imagination and intelligence. I loved them as a kid and as a grownup. The reason the are handed down from generation to generation is that they´re vehicles for tiny truths. We as a species treasure our tiny truths.

”The Mouse Council” is this witty little tale that let us know that one thing is to have an idea and assume that we're so smart... but if there´s no way to make it be... Well, it amounts to jibber jabber.

I created the illustrations for “The Mouse Council" with ink, watercolors and colored pencils. I had to come up with the way tiny mice would draw and write. That was the most fun.

Chris Duffy and I met a billion years ago in New York for a just a moment... and a billion years later he still remembered me and ask me to be in this book. Thanks, Chris!


When I was in elementary school I was shy and liked drawing. Two things that go together very well. I wish I hand´t been as shy, but maybe I would´t have developed any skills as a cartoonist. So go figure.

Reading is someone lending you their imagination and intelligence. If you like reading you get to be many people.


Comics are reading and watching movies all in one... and different. I love that comics have finally broken out of the tiny space artist used to have to develop their cartoons. Movies and novels were´t confined to adventures and jokes. I don´t know why comics were (and some geniuses really made them work within those parameters) but I´m very happy that´s over and we get to write and draw whatever we feel we have to.

Mr. Schu, you should have asked me how´s the weather down there in Argentina? I would have responded: "Why, thanks for asking. Nice, a little rain."

SLJ Good Comics for Kids features Fable Comics editor Chris Duffy, 9/21
Charlotte’s Library features James Kochalka and ‘The Fox and the Grapes,’ 9/22
Musings of a Librarian features Tom Gauld and ‘The Town Mouse and the Country Mouse,’ 9/23
Sharp Reads features George O’Connor and the ‘Hermes’ fables, 9/24
Fly to Fiction features Sophie Goldstein an ‘Leopard Drums Up Dinner,’ 9/25
Supernatural Snark features Charise Harper and ‘The Belly and the Body Members,’ 9/26
It’s All Comic to Me features R. Sikoryak and ‘Lion + Mouse,’ 9/27
Ex Libris Kate features Jennifer L. Meyer and ‘Fox and Crow,’ 9/28
The Roarbots features Eleanor Davis and ‘The Old Man and Death,’ 9/29
Fleen features Jaime Hernandez and ‘The Boy Who Cried Wolf,’ 9/30
The Book Monsters features Simone Lia and ‘The Crow and the Pitcher,’ 10/1
The Brain Lair features Graham Chaffee and ‘The Dog and His Reflection,’ 10/2
Librarian in Cute Shoes features Maris Wicks and ‘The Dolphins, The Whales, and The Sprat,’ 10/3
Women Write About Comics features Vera Brosgol and ‘The Hare and the Pig,’ 10/4
The Busy Librarian features Kenny Widjaja and ‘The Demon, The Thief, and the Hermit,’ 10/5
The Book Rat features Corinne Mucha and ‘The Elephant in Favor,’ 10/6
Cherry Blossoms and Maple Syrup features Mark Newgarten and ‘Man and Wart,’ 10/8
Jenuine Cupcakes features Israel Sanchez and ‘The Milkmaid and Her Pail,’ 10/9
Bumbles & Fairy Tales features Ulises Farinas and ‘The Great Weasel War,’ 10/10
Graphic Policy features R.O. Blechman and ‘The Sun and the Wind,’ 10/11
The Book Wars features Graham Annable and ‘The Hare and the Tortoise,’ 10/12
Sturdy for Common Things features John Kerschbaum and ‘The Grasshopper and the Ants,’ 10/13
Kid Lit Frenzy features Braden Lamb and Shelli Paroline and ‘The Thief and the Watchdog,’ 10/14
Maria’s Melange features Gregory Benton and ‘The Hen and the Mountain Turtle,’ 10/15
Read Write Reflect features Roger Langridge and ‘Demades and His Fable,’ 10/16

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

The Lenny and Lucy Trifecta

"A few weeks ago Erin and I were visited by an old friend. Our friend is a big bear of a man with a fluffy white beard. He is the kind of person, both in looks and in demeanor, who must spend much of his December every year convincing children that he is not, in fact, Santa Claus. This friend has been in both of our lives since we were teenagers, and is one of the only people who can say they knew us each individually before we knew each other. He is Mike Foye, our high school art teacher." -Philip C. Stead | Click here for the full post. 

"Go outside and look around. Think about the things you like and why you like them. Read books, comics, anything, and remember you are never too old for picture books." -Erin Stead | Click here to read the full interview. 

I have been sharing my great love and admiration for Lenny and Lucy since February 22, 2015. 

Two hundred twenty-five days later, Lenny and Lucy is finally available in bookshops and libraries. Hooray!  I bought a copy at Barbara's Bookstore in O'Hare Airport...

...and a copy at Barnes and Noble.

I wish I could mail a copy of Lenny and Lucy to everyone who reads this blog post, but I do not have the financial resources to make this dream a reality. I can afford to give away three copies. :) 

Rules for the Giveaway 

1. It will run from 10/6 to 11:59 PM on 10/7. 

2. You must be at least 13. 

3. If you win, please pay it forward. 

4. Smile.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Cover Reveal for Swing Sideways by Nanci Turner Steveson

I'm excited for you to read Nanci Turner Steveson's introduction to the cover for her debut novel, Swing Sideways. She mentions one of my all-time favorite authors and shares her genuine response to seeing Dawn Cooper's lovely art for the first time. Thank you, Nanci! I cannot wait for everyone to meet Annie and California! 

When I was nine I read Black Beauty for the first time. As soon as I closed that book, I knew I wanted to be an author someday. In fact, I wrote my first “novel” right then, a book I still have about a wild horse, stapled at the top and complete with drawings. 

Several years ago, I read Walk Two Moons, and as soon as I closed that book, I sat down at my computer and Swing Sideways started spilling out. I wrote with tremendous passion, in faith that this story would be published. I just knew it! Except we dont really know, do we? Even with an agent, a heart full of hope, and thousands of hours of work, there are no guarantees. But on my lucky day, something about that passion caught the eye of my editor at HarperCollins, and Swing Sideways is scheduled to hit the bookstores May 3, 2016. (still pinching)

After a year of revisions, when the email came with the design attached, I had to catch my breath before opening it. Everyone told me that even with the premier art department at HarperCollins, I would hate the cover the first day. They said it always happens that way and I shouldnt be disappointed, that it would eventually grow on me. But guess what? They were wrong. I clicked on the link and burst into tears as this beautiful image popped up on the screen.

It still amazes me that artist Dawn Cooper could capture so exquisitely the very essence of this story — the unexpected bond between Annie and California, the embarking on an adventure, the mystery and the longing, even the lush colors of a summer in which a friendship changes everything. It still leaves me breathless. I am enthralled, excited, and so very grateful. 

Annie has been promised a summer of freedom in the country. Freedom from a difficult school year, freedom from her fake “friends” back in the city, and most of all, freedom from her mom's life-governing spreadsheets and rigid schedules.

When Annie meets California, who is visiting her grandfathers farm, it seems she has found the perfect partner for the adventure shes always craved. California climbs trees faster than a monkey, carries around an exotic pet chicken, runs barefoot through the woods, and eats berries straight from the vine. Plus, California offers Annie the chance to be part of a real-life adventure: if she and Annie can find the ponies her mom rode as a girl, surely it will remind her mom how wonderful the farm is — and fix what's broken between her mom and her grandfather.

But Annies summer of freedom is sprinkled with secrets, and everything she has learned about bravery, forgiveness, loss, and love, will be put to the test when the truth behind the ultimate secret changes her life forever.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Happy Saturday, Mr. Sharp!

 Dear Mr. Colby Sharp, 

Happy Saturday! I really need to buy a new iPhone. "There is not enough available storage" popped up before I was done talking. Oh well! One-take rule, sir!

Have a great day!


Please visit Colby's blog to watch his video.

Boy + Bot by Ame Dyckman; illustrated by Dan Yaccarino 

Flora and Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures by Kate DiCamillo; illustrated by K.G. Campbell

George by Alex Gino 

Please, Open This Book! by Adam Lehrhaupt and Matthew Forsythe

The Doldrums by Nicholas Gannon 

Upside-Down Magic by Sarah Mlynowski, Lauren Myracle, and Emily Jenkins

Wolfie the Bunny by Ame Dyckman; illustrated by Zachariah OHora 

Duck! Rabbit! by Amy Krouse Rosenthal; illustrated by Tom Lichtenheld

A Snicker of Magic by Natalie Lloyd