Sunday, March 1, 2015

"Mr. Schu Finds 'Forever Books' for Kids" by Naomi Krueger

When you walk into a bookstore, looking for the perfect children’s book for that child in your life, do you ever feel at a loss for which book to choose? There are the classics of course, like Good Night Moon or Charlotte’s Web, which are always good choices. But what about new books? How can you tell what books are worth buying and reading again and again?
John Schumacher, otherwise known as Mr. Schu by his students and Twitter followers, hunts for the best children’s books so you don’t have to. 

Please click here to read the rest of the article. 

(Naomi, thank you for featuring me and my library program.) 

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Happy Saturday, Mr. Sharp!

Dear Colby Sharp,

Happy Saturday! I've been thinking about the Dublin Literacy Conference all week. I'm so happy we experienced it together last week. 

I hope you have a great weekend!


Please visit Colby's blog to watch his video. 


Stink Moody in the Master of Disaster by Megan McDonald; illustrated by Erwin Madrid

Milo Speck, Accidental Agent by Linda Urban | Publication Date: September 1, 2015

Lost in the Sun by Lisa Graff | Publication Date: May 26, 2015

A Handful of Stars by Cynthia Lord | Publication Date: May 26, 2015

Book Scavenger by Jennifer Chambliss Bertman | Publication Date: June 2, 2015

Friday, February 27, 2015

Author Lana Krumwiede

Happy, happy, happy Friday! Are you gearing up for a productive reading weekend? May I add one wonderful picture book to your weekend reading list? I assume you responded with a loud Y-E-S! :)

The book? Just Itzy

The author? Lana Krumwiede 

The illustrator? Greg Pizzoli

Lana dropped by to chat with me about Itzy, nursery rhymes, Greg, reading, and picture books. I wrote the words in red, and she wrote the words in black. Thank you, Lana!

Illustration Credit: Greg Pizzoli 

Itzy the spider has the patience of a saint! When I first started writing in 2001, his story was one of the first things I wrote. It took me a long time to learn how to tell his story well enough to get it published, but that little spider hung in there with me. It seems very appropriate that I learned persistence from Itzy!

Nursery-rhyme characters will always hold a special place in my literary heart. Perhaps it’s because nursery rhymes are some of my earliest reading memories, or because I adored my Kindergarten teacher, or because I was a Kindergarten teacher at one point.

Illustration Credit: Greg Pizzoli 

Greg Pizzoli’s illustrations are absolutely perfect. One of the challenges of writing a picture book for someone else to illustrate is leaving enough space in the story for the illustrator to do his portion of the storytelling. Greg sensed those spaces and added to Itzy’s story in his own very delightful way.

General Sarin and Gevri stretched my writing skills! When I first started writing Freakling, I didn’t know it would lead to a trilogy, and I certainly never imagined myself writing straight-up battle scenes. When I had the opportunity to develop Taemon’s story into The Psi Chronicles, all roads inevitably led to a final battle in True Son. To set that up, I needed a military-centered culture and characters, and General Sarin and Gevri stepped forward.

Reading is like being a tourist. I fell in love with all the exciting trips I went on as a child and I wanted to become a tour guide.

Picture books are much harder to write than most people realize. It feels like using a microscope to examine every word, every sentence, every pause and page-turn. Is it necessary? Is there a better choice? Is it in the right place? Now rewrite the story and ask all the questions again.

Mr. Schu, you should have asked me about the best writing advice I ever received. From the early drafts of Just Itzy, I believed in this story, but I also knew it needed work. I wasn’t experienced enough to figure out what I was doing wrong, which was very frustrating. Finally an author friend told me, “Just write something else!” It took me fourteen years, fifty-some-odd published magazine pieces, and two novels before I was finally able to do right by Itzy. I’m so grateful for that advice!

I am giving away a copy of Just Itzy.

Rules for the Giveaway

1. It will run from 2/27 to 11:59 PM on 3/1.

2. You must be at least 13.

3. If you win, please pay it forward.

Borrow Just Itzy from your school or public library. Whenever possible, please support independent bookshops. 

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Caldecott Honoree Melissa Sweet

I hope you enjoyed reading about the life-changing phone calls Kwame AlexanderJacqueline Woodson and Cece Bell received on February 2. This behind-the-scenes information makes my booktalks and presentations more interesting and unique. 

I thought it would be fun to check in with this year's Caldecott winners. I cannot guarantee  every illustrator will agree to an interview, but I hope to hear a YES from most of them.

Today's special guest is Melissa Sweet, the recipient of a Caldecott Honor for The Right Word: Roget and His Thesaurus

Everyone loves hearing about THE CALL. What ran through your head when the phone rang? 

That morning there was a howling blizzard. I had just popped into my studio (20 feet from my house) before going out for groceries in case we were snowed in.

I was surprised when the phone rang, because no one calls me that early, especially on my landline.

All I heard was "Caldecott committee" and I said: oh my god oh my god, I have to sit down I am sitting down!

It was surreal, fantastic, wonderful and I was overwhelmed with gratitude for the committee.

I stuttered a few thank you's and ended by saying we'll celebrate in June.

(It was about three days later before I finally got out for groceries!)

What were you thinking about when the Caldecott committee was clapping? 

 I thought, “Holy Toledo, they're all in the room. They're all listening! Is this really happening? I wanted to have coffee and breakfast with them.

What does the Caldecott mean to you?

It means The Right Word will have a home on the list of books by fellow Caldecott heroes: William Steig, Marcia Brown, Ezra Jack KeatsAlice Provensen and so many other artists who continue to inspire me.

It means too, that this story of Roget and his Thesaurus will be even more widely seen by students in classrooms and libraries.

Please finish this sentence starter: 

Reading is free and gives you freedom.

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

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

3 Questions and 4 Sentence Starters with Samantha Berger

Hi, Samantha! Thank you for dropping by to answer my questions and finish my sentences. 

I think the song and book trailer for Snoozefest are absolutely perfect. Please tell us about how you collaborated on this project with Chubb Rock. 

Samantha Berger: Thanks so much for saying so.
So here’s what happened:

My little brother, Milo Berger (DJ Mighty Mi) is a DJ and a music producer. Together, we’ve collaborated on lots of projects in the past, including cartoon shorts for Nickelodeon, and songs for The High & Mighty. These “Well Done Berger” productions have been some of my all-time favorite projects. 

My brother and I also both love hip-hop from the 90s. 

It occurred to me one day that SnoozeFest just happens to rhyme.

I don’t know why it rhymes, most of my books don’t, but this book just came out rhyming. 

And I never fight the flow.
So my brain dictated, I just typed.

I wondered, since the book rhymes, could it also be rhymed by an MC? Over a beat? Then the book would have a song, an anthem, to go with it.

Snoozefest is a book about a sloth going to a music festival, after all. 

Having music attached makes sense.

Ever since Maurice Sendak and Carole King took the Nutshell Library and put it to music, word-for-word, I have loved the idea of creating song versions of books. 

It’s another way to experience the book, kinda like an enjoyment extension.

It’s also SUCH a great authorly honor to have someone perform your book as lyrics.

I was talking to my brother about it, and he told me he was in the middle of recording a song with the legendary MC Chubb Rock of Treat Em’ Right fame, and would ask Chubb if he had any interest in doing Snoozefest.

He did!!! 
I love Chubb’s voice and I love the song.
If I could tell you how many times I have grooved out to Treat ‘em Right in my life…

I am so thrilled The Chubbster said yes.
Seeing kids bop around to Snoozefest the Song is the greatest.

My genius friends Jason Zemlicka and Jamie Hubbard run an amazing production house called Cause & [Effect] in NYC, and they (along with a team of really talented people, (Hi Ant!)) fully produced and made my book trailer. The Crankenstein Valentine one too.

If you attended Snoozefest, what would you bring with you?

Samantha Berger: Ok, if I was going to Snoozefest, first and foremost, I would bring my “lanket” and “ilk” (my blanket and pillow), and a whole lotta guest lankets and ilks for fellow crashers. 

Sloth pajamas, sloth sleep mask, sloth slippers with three-toes each.

Wigs, sunglasses, and microphones, in case of emergency.

Journal and Micron Pigma Pens because music inspires writing.

Best Bedtime books: 
Bedtime for Frances by Russell and Lillian Hoban
Ira Sleeps Over – by Bernard Waber
In the Night Kitchen – Maurice Sendak

Good friends.

My Dog.

Nutter Butters.

What ran through your head the first time you saw Kristyna Litten’s finished art? 

Samantha Berger: I gotta say, from the moment I saw Kristyna’s art, I knew she was the perfect choice for Snoozefest. It takes a special sorta someone who is able to capture the magic of the sloth, because sloths are truly remarkable creatures. They have all the instant lovability and inherent comedy of a Muppet, but then they also move in astonishing super slow-motion. If you try, you’ll see it’s almost impossible to move as slowly as a sloth.

When I saw finished art, I thought, wow, Kristyna’s got that sloth magic!

She really got Snuggleford Cuddlebun’s character and created the perfect sloth.

A brilliant thing she added was Snugglefor’d outfit choice: She’s wearing a stylin shirt, but Kristyna knew she’d be too tired to put on pants.

Please complete these sentence starters: 

*Reading is like breathing.

*Picture books are a part of my DNA.

*Dan Santat and I are starting a metal band called DANTANTHA!

*Mr. Schu, you should have asked me about our mutual adoration of the Golden Girls! 

Did you know I sometimes I call my dog a “Sunshine Cadet?”

It’s true.

I think we must get our LEGO sets together and have some reenactments! 

Yes, please! :) 

I am giving away a copy of Snoozefest! 

Rules for the Giveaway 

1. It will run from 2/25 to 11:59 PM on 2/26. 

2. You must be at least 13. 

3. Please pay it forward. 

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

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Book Trailer Premiere: WISH by Matthew Cordell

WISH is the story of a couple who wants a child more than anything, but for various uncontrollable reasons it does not happen for them as expected. It's the story of a great many parents in this world who fought and cried and almost gave up a whole lot before they--one way or another--found their way to becoming a family. WISH is my story and my wife's story and our daughter's story and our son's story too. Finding my way to parenthood through loss and heartbreak and ultimately through drop-to-your-knees redemption and uplifting emotion was the greatest journey (x2) I've ever been on. And with the person I love most in this world. So in the book trailer, I wanted to introduce the world to this book, but also introduce the world to the person who created this book. And what better way to do that than to show me drawing these pictures. Thanks so much, Mr. Schu, for doing me the honor of releasing this video into the world.

Mr. Schu: You're welcome, Matthew! Thank you for allowing me to premiere Wish's beautiful book trailer. I cannot wait for everyone to watch the trailer and read the book. I just hope everyone has a box of tissues nearby. 

Happy watching! 

"It's a book for people whether they are parents or not. It's about nurturing a thought toward reality. It's about becoming a family." -Click here to read Margie Myers-Culver's full review. 

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

Monday, February 23, 2015

Caldecott Honoree Lauren Castillo

I hope you enjoyed reading about the life-changing phone calls Kwame AlexanderJacqueline Woodson and Cece Bell received on February 2. This behind-the-scenes information makes my booktalks and presentations more interesting and unique.  

I thought it would be fun to check in with this year's Caldecott winners. I cannot guarantee  every illustrator will agree to an interview, but I hope to hear a YES from most of them.

Today's special guest is Lauren Castillo, the recipient of a Caldecott Honor for Nana in the City

What ran through your head when the phone rang? What were you thinking when the Caldecott committee was clapping?

Lauren Castillo: The phone rang about 4:45 am (PST), and when I saw "unknown" on the screen I jumped up, completely disoriented. Aside from only having three hours of sleep, I was in a brand new, unfamiliar apartment. I'd just moved in the day before. My first thought was that it was the landlord with something urgent (my last landlord's number always showed up "unknown"). I picked up and heard a lot of static and loud muffled voices. When they told me that it was the Randolph Caldecott committee and they had some "good news" I completely lost my breath. After they clapped and cheered, I managed to get out a few thank yous, and then, well, I told them to have a great day… Not sure how long I sat there in shock after hanging up the phone. Eventually, when the news began to sink in, things got pretty emotional.

What does the Caldecott mean to you?

It means so much to know that the committee felt my book was worthy of such an incredible honor. I am just so thankful. Now, because of this silver sticker, many more children will experience NANA—Maybe even while sitting on the lap of their own Nana—and that blows me away. This book was written as a tribute to my grandmother, who I traveled to New York to visit during my childhood summers, and to my late editor, Frances Foster, who was like family to me in New York City. Frances gave me my start in publishing, and was a wonderful mentor and friend. I aimed to capture her wise and gentle spirit in the character of Nana, and I am so happy that my special memories of her will continue to live on through this book; this book that will forever be a milestone in my life and career.

Please finish this sentence starter:

Reading is transformative, like a nana's red cape.

Borrow Nana in the City from your school or public library. Whenever possible, please support independent bookshops.