Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Link of the Week: ALSC's New Graphic Novels Reading Lists

The Association for Library Service to Children updated the Graphic Novels Reading List. It is a wonderful resource that highlights the best graphic novels for grades K through 8.  I hope you will share it with your colleagues and students. Maybe you'll even mention it on your library or classroom website. I shared the lists with parents during parent-teacher conferences. 

It is broken down into grade levels: 

K - 2nd grade - Color
K - 2nd grade - Black and White
3rd - 5th grade - Black and White
6th - 8th grade - Color
6th - 8th grade - Black and White

Monday, November 24, 2014

Last Week Told Through Vines


I donated a copy of Leroy Ninker Saddles Up to Donna Kouri's Little Free Library. 



What did second graders check out? 

I read The Yeti Files: Meet the Bigfeet while waiting for my dermatologist.  



Jacqueline Woodson won the 2014 National Book Award for Young People's Literature. 

My students celebrated Picture Book Month with Mr. Sammons' students.

I am pretty sure this was the first time I visited an airport bookshop at 5:15 a.m. 

The Nerdy Book Club session at NCTE was a ton of fun. 

I'm so excited to read these three middle-grade novels. Hooray for 2015 books! 


I attended a dinner that honored Jennifer L. Holm, Matthew Holm, Rob Buyea, Laurel Snyder, Wendelin Van Draanen, and Liesl Shurtliff. 

Saturday, November 22, 2014

The December Sharp-Schu Book Club Meeting

Please join Mr. Colby Sharp and me on December 17, 2014. We are discussing two top-notch books. 

Friday, November 21, 2014

Author-illustrator Patrick McDonnell.

Happy Friday, friends! As you know, every Friday an author or an illustrator drops by to finish my sentences. Caldecott Honor illustrator Patrick McDonnell is this week's special guest. Hooray! We chatted about Louie, Amelie, school libraries, and picture books. I wrote the words in red, and he wrote the words in black. Thank you, Patrick! 

Here are three things you should know about Little Louie...
  • In an early version, he was a rabbit.
  • He has a sister named Little Louise
  • My middle name is Luigi.
Illustration Credit: Patrick McDonnell 

The idea for A Perfectly Messed-Up Story came from my sketchbook.  I’ve always been fascinated by the way drawing can be so ‘alive’ on the page, for example Ernest Shepard’s Winnie the Pooh art.  When I started on A Perfectly Messed Up Story, I was playing with the idea of a character who had self-awareness about being in a book.  In my sketches, he complained about my messy ink smears.  When I drew Louie complaining about a blob of jelly, I knew I had a book.

If you visited my studio my dog Amelie would insist that you play ball with her.

When the 2012 Caldecott Committee called it was very early in the morning and it just so happened that I was in the hospital (for a minor procedure) and a nurse was taking my blood pressure.  True story.

School libraries were a favorite place for me when I was a kid.  I always looked forward to library day.  I recall reading a series of biographies of famous people.  New inspiration every week.   

Picture books are comforting portals to other worlds and to our inner selves.

Reading is essential.

Click here to download the guide. 

Mr. Schu, you should have asked me about Louie’s journey.  I intended for A Perfectly Messed-Up Story to be a funny, interactive book.  But underneath the fun there is a message of “loving what is.”  That life is what you think and make of it and we should embrace it, jelly stains and all.  

I am giving away 5 (yes, 5) copies of A Perfectly Messed-Up Story

Rules for the Giveaway 

1. It will run from 11/21 to 11:59 p.m. on 11/24. 

2. You must be at least 13. 

3. If you win, please pay it forward. 

Borrow A Perfectly Messed-Up Story from your school or public library. Whenever possible, please support independent bookshops. 

Thursday, November 20, 2014

The Storm Whale Trifecta

My wonderful friend Mr. Colby Sharp, the Nerdy Book Club, and I are celebrating one of the best picture books of the year: Benji Davies' The Storm Whale. Have you read it? Isn't it stunning? You plan on buying many copies for your family and friends, right? My niece is getting a copy for Christmas. Did you see the whale Benji's mom knitted? It is a-d-o-r-a-b-l-e! 

Hi, Benji! I bet you have rituals before you read, illustrate, or write a picture book. Before I read a picture book for the first time, I must: 
  1. Examine the front cover illustration, the back cover illustration, and the spine.
  2. Take the cover off to see if there is a surprise on the case.
  3. Read the bio on the back jacket flap.
  4. Smell the paper.
I give The Storm Whale’s front cover illustration, back cover illustration, and spine 5 stars. 

I award the surprise under the case and the smell of the paper 5 stars. 

Your bio earns 5 stars, too. 

So, tell us about your rituals… 

Benji Davies: Thank you! I'm so pleased you like it.
First of all my eyes widen slightly... and then I pick up the book, scan the cover admiringly, read the title and feel the surface texture of the paper, tilt it in the light... like you, I then flip it over and do the same on the back paying attention to the smaller details. Jackets aren't as common on picture books in the UK, so this less of a concern. Next I open it and have a good look at the endpapers at the front (like in The Storm Whale, the story sometimes starts here) and then, full of expectation, I begin reading. 
The writing and illustrating rituals are a little harder to pin down. There is a lot of pacing and head scratching, looking out of windows, making cups of tea, chin rubbing, checking twitter. In no particular order.

Illustration/Photo Credit: Benji Davies 

This quotation appears on the title page: 

“The wonder of the world,
The beauty and the power,
The shapes of things,
Their colours, light, and shades—
These I saw.
Look ye also while life lasts.” 

Please share why you included this quotation. 

Firstly, I think its beautiful and poetic. I didn't write the words but they really speak to me. It expresses something that I believe is true of what drives me to draw and record the world around me in my writing and illustration, the act of looking at the natural world in detail and handing down a message to the reader. I want them to see things how I do. Also, the idea of things coming to pass, which I find very life affirming - there is a great strength in this idea and the way it has been written. It takes my breath away.

My favourite book when I was about eight years old was called The Little Grey Men by BB, about the three last gnomes in England and their quest to find their lost brother. The author was an artist and writer called Denys Watkins Pitchford. He used the “BB” nom de plume when he wrote for children. His father had copied this quote from a tombstone in the north of England, and BB then used it as a quote in the front of many of his books, which is how I found it.
So it has lots of relevance and connections for me, which is why I chose to use it over a personal dedication.

Illustration/Photo Credit: Benji Davies 

Noi and his dad have six cats. They do not have names in the story, but did you name them in your head? Do you have any pets? 

I don't have pets. If I didn't live in London, I'd love to have some chickens and a couple of pigs.
I did name a couple of the cats, although long after I’d written the book, to help decipher them from one another to somebody who asked whether there really were six. 

Heres roughly what I said. I hope it helps:

There are 3 black cats, one ginger and one grey tabby, and one white with black ears and spots. One of the black cats has white front paws - but in the main exterior house image he is the one inside the house framed in the window. He tends to hang out there in the morning, waiting for Noi to serve up his milk breakfast - and of course his paws are hidden from view behind the window frame. The other two pure black cats are the older of the gang and do more sleeping, under the house, in the chair or on the rug by the fire. They find their own breakfast elsewhere.

The cat asleep on the shed roof (lets call him Smokey) is a lazy old cat and doesn’t move from one spread to the next. The cat on the high roof in the wide vista of the beach spread, he can be Shadow, is the cat who was asleep under the steps on the previous spread. He has gone for a walk and a stretch up on the roof before disappearing into the sand dunes for the morning.

Illustration/Photo Credit: Benji Davies 
If we visited your studio, what would we see? 

You would find a very neat narrow room, with two desks by the window, one for my computer, one for drawing and painting. All the pencils and pens and brushes would be in their pots lined up at the back of the desk. There would be no half-drunk cups of tea, no inky glasses of water used to wash brushes in an emergency, and all the papers would be squarely stacked and put away in the plan chest. All the sketchbooks would be arranged on the shelf and you would walk easily into the room, not tripping over boxes of foreign editions sent to me by publishers, yet to find a home. My year-end accounts would be done and filed, no receipts would lie scattered about the room.

If you let me know you were coming.

Please finish these sentence starters:

Picture books are worlds you can escape into.

Reading is the most important thing you can learn to do.

Mr. Schu, you should have asked me where I keep the stroopwafels.

Thank you, Benji! 

Please head over to the Nerdy Book Club's blog to learn how The Storm Whale came to be. 

Visit Colby Sharp's blog to read ten things he loves about The Storm Whale

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

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Where Will I Be at #NCTE14?

To sustain lifelong reading habits, students must develop positive reading identities. Join the Nerdy Book Club and learn how to foster students’ reading identities in this fast-paced, interactive session. Attendees will reflect on practices, explore instructional moves, and build communities that help students write (or revise) their reading stories.

Friday 11/21 11:00 AM - 12:15 PM in Gaylord National Resort, Maryland A


  • Chair: Donalyn Miller O. A. Peterson Elementary School, Fort Worth, Texas -

  • Tradebook Author: Jonathan Auxier Abrams, New York, New York - Tuesday: Author Post

  • Roundtable Leader: Sarah Gross High Technology High School, Lincroft, New Jersey - Roundtable 1

  • Roundtable Leader: Tony Keefer Dublin City Schools, Ohio - Roundtable 5: Monday: Reading Lives

  • Roundtable Leader: Teri Lesesne Sam Houston State University, Huntsville, Texas - Roundtable 7: Sunday: Surprise Sunday

  • Roundtable Leader: Cindy Minnich Upper Dauphin Area High School, Elizabethville, Pennsylvania - Roundtable 3: Wednesday: New Book Review

  • Roundtable Leader: Karin Perry Sam Houston State University, Huntsville, Texas - Roundtable 4: Saturday: Top Ten

  • Roundtable Leader: Gae Polisner Algonquin Young Readers, Chapel Hill, North Carolina - Roundtable 2: Thursday: New Book Reviews

  • Roundtable Leader: Augusta Scattergood Scholastic, Inc., New York, New York - Roundtable 2: Thursday: New Book Reviews

  • Roundtable Leader: John Schumacher Brook Forest Elementary School, Naperville, Illinois - Roundtable 4: Saturday: Top Ten

  • Roundtable Leader: Katherine Sokolowski Washington School, Monticello, Illinois - Roundtable 6: Friday: Pay It Forward

Graphic novels are a powerful tool in the classroom. Using visual literacy to teach story can help create lifelong learners. Our panelists of authors and educators will share their most successful tips for inspiring readers and writers and will also discuss how they create graphic novels.

Sunday 11/23 10:30 AM - 11:45 AM in Gaylord National Resort, National Harbor 7


  • Chair: John Schumacher Brook Forest Elementary School, Naperville, Illinois -

  • Tradebook Author: Gareth Hinds Candlewick Press, Somerville, Massachusetts -

  • Tradebook Author: Jennifer Holm Random House Publishing, New York, New York -

  • Tradebook Author: Matthew Holm Random House Publishing, New York, New York -

  • Tradebook Author: Dave Roman First Second Books and Clarion Books, New York, New York -

  • Tradebook Author: Kevin Sherry Scholastic, Inc. New York, New York-

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

4 Questions and 4 Sentence Starters with John Rocco

Hi, John Rocco! I just asked Siri the current temperature outside. “Brr! It’s 10 degrees outside,” was his response. I wish he had said, “Mr. Schu, it is the perfect weather to read John Rocco’s Blizzard." That would have been legendary! 

OK, enough chit-chat. What happened in Rhode Island on Monday, February 6, 1978?

John Rocco: One of the largest snowstorms in New England’s history happened on February 6, 1978. Parts of Rhode Island got hit with over 40 inches of snow in one night.  Snowplows did not get to our street for 9 days so we were all pretty much stuck in our houses for that time. I remember my parents weren’t so thrilled, but my sister and I had a blast. 

As an elementary school teacher-librarian, I know how much children (and many adults) love snow days. What tips can you share to help everyone make the most out of a snow day?  

John Rocco: Yes! Snow days are fantastic, and now that I live in Los Angeles I know we will not have one anytime soon. I remember sitting at our kitchen table with my sister listening to the radio for school closure announcements any time the slightest trace of snow was on the ground.  The best thing to do on a snow day is go sledding. Building a snow fort or snowman is definitely runner up. Just make sure to have warm, dry, gloves and boots, otherwise the fun will quickly get cut short. Most importantly, end the day with a cup of cocoa made with hot milk! 

Illustration Credit: John Rocco

I read that the artwork for Blizzard was created using pencil, watercolor, and digital painting. Please take us through the process of creating one of the illustrations.

John Rocco: The first thing I do is create a tonal pencil drawing using a 2H or H pencil on cold press Bristol paper. Once that is completed I scan that into my computer, and on a separate layer in Photoshop I will start painting the colors. I also introduce scans of watercolor washes and stains that I create separately. For Blizzard, these watercolor washes were integral to some of the backgrounds and atmosphere. 

If we looked at your bookcase or library checkout history from when you were 10 years old, what type of books or titles would we see?

John Rocco: I had three favorite books that I discovered when I was a kid. One was from my dad’s bookshelf, Old Man and the Sea.  It was fairly short and had the word Sea in the title, so I knew I couldn’t go wrong. It was all about fishing, and that was one thing I loved to do even more than reading. I would head down to the dock at the end of our street every morning to fish, and wouldn’t come home until suppertime.  Another book I loved was James and the Giant Peach, which was filled with the amazing drawings of Nancy Ekholm Burkert.  The last one I vividly remember was Island of the Blue Dolphins.  I received it during a RIF fair at our school. Every kid got to pick out one free book, and so it was pretty special to me. 

Please finish these sentence starters:

School libraries should not be turned into MEDIA rooms, and school librarians should not be replaced by (or turned into) Media specialists.

Reading is a time traveling, rip roaring, out of body adventure.

Picture books are meant to be shared, smelled and chewed on.

Mr. Schu, you should have asked me…What do you listen to while you work? I actually like to listen to documentary films while I am drawing. It makes me feel like I’m learning something AND drawing something at the same time.

I am giving away one copy of Blizzard

Rules for the Giveaway 

1. It will run from 11/18 to 11:59 p.m. on 11/20. 

2. You must be at least 13. 

3. If you win, please pay it forward. 

Don’t forget to check out the rest of the Blizzard Blog Tour! 
Thursday, November 6                  Mundie Kids
Friday, November 7                      Kid Lit Frenzy                                                  
Monday, November 10                  The Children’s Book Review       
Tuesday, November 11                 The Kids Did It                  
Wednesday, November 12            OC Mom Media                               
Thursday, November 13               As They Grow Up
Friday, November 14                   Curling Up With a Good Book    
Monday, November 17                 Ben Spark                                           
Tuesday, November 18                 ME
Thursday, November 20               Elizabeth Dulemba    

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