Friday, November 27, 2015

Author Jory John

You know the drill. Every Friday, an author or an illustrator drops by to finish my sentences. This week's special guest is Mr. Jory John. We chatted about cake, cake, and more cake. I wrote the words in orange, and he wrote the words in black. Thank you, Jory! 

The idea for I Will Chomp You! came to me while I was eating some cake. (You’ll find that cake plays a pivotal role in this story.) In fact, that’s generally when I do my best brainstorming and writing. I can think clearly, as long as I’m shoveling something into my mouth. But it’s not all just sweets and empty calories, my friends. In fact, I’m currently finishing Mr. Schu’s sentences while eating a steady combination of green olives, pickles, Cheez-Its, and — because the Cheez-Its weren’t enough to satisfy my insane cravings — some actual cheese, which ends with the way more appetizing letter-combination “ese,” rather than the much less appealing “z-Its.” An important distinction.

Bob Shea’s illustrations are amazing! Man alive and holy crow. Just the absolute best. So hilarious and beautiful and dynamic and fun to look at, all at once. I’ve been a huge Bob Shea fan for years. (I call myself a “Bobhead,” which is kind of like a Deadhead, without all the traveling around and endless drum jams.) I honestly remember the first time that I saw Bob’s Dinosaur vs. Bedtime. I was teaching writing at 826 Valencia— a nonprofit educational center in San Francisco — and one of the interns asked me if I’d read this new picture book that we’d just added to our library. I sat at my desk and proceeded to read it — twice, in fact — and laughed many times, and immediately promoted that particular intern to executive director. Later, I bought all of Bob’s backlist for my own personal collection, and set them alongside my Shel Silversteins and my James Marshalls … and all the other hilarious greats. I will tell you this: I didn’t ever think that I’d get the chance to collaborate with Bob Shea on a book (let alone two, wink wink! hint hint! nudge nudge! check back with us next year!), and I’m still amazed that it even happened. He’s also just such a swell guy to be around. We’ve gotten the chance to hang out in person a couple times, and I feel like we share a pretty similar sense of humor. (Or, if we don’t, he’s good at faking it.) 

You should read I Will Chomp You! at breakfast, lunch, dinner, dessert, snack time and second snack time. That is, you should read it at ALL the important meals, when ALL the most important reading is done. You should also read it at bedtime. And wakeup time. And midday time. And every birthday, yours and otherwise. You should read I Will Chomp You! any chance you get. That is, if you DARE! Muhahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha! Etc. But yeah, read it anytime, really. Besides, what is time? It’s a big question. And please don’t tell me that you subscribe to that common misperception that your life is moving, second-by-second, in a linear direction, that the past is gone and the future hasn’t yet occurred. Because, if I only know one thing, it’s this fact: Every moment has already happened and every moment will always be happening. You can send a message to your younger self if you simply move the pen-atoms fast enough and put enough stamps on the darned thing. So, I guess what this ultimately means is this: Don’t worry. You will read I Will Chomp You! when you happen to read it, and guess what — you’ve read it, already, even if you haven’t. My point couldn’t be clearer. 

My favorite cake is ALL cake (except for carrot and things with other vegetables or nuts). Is that too general? It is? OK, I’ll try to be more specific: My favorite cake involves some sort of vanilla icing and rainbow sprinkles. I’m a sprinkles fanatic! In college — and this is completely true — my student newspaper (I was a columnist, cartoonist and editor, which is a triple threat in the college-newspaper business) awarded me something called “The Rainbow Sprinkles Award.” I’m pretty sure that I’m the only person to win that particular honor, ever. In fact, I think it was created for me and then it quickly vanished when I left. Now that I think about it, I don’t know what the heck that award even was. Sure, I ate plenty of frozen yogurt that semester, topped with rainbow sprinkles … but, in retrospect, the award seems fake. Then again, that didn’t stop me from proudly displaying it above my desk. “Oh, that?” I would say, when people noticed it. “That’s my Rainbow Sprinkles Award. Yeah, I got it for … um … writing. Or something.” I also like angel food cake quite a bit. 

Mr. Mac Barnett and I met in the fall of 2004. The temperature outside was a steady 51 degrees. It felt like it was going to rain, but it was one of those misleading Bay Area weather patterns where the clouds wouldn’t budge. I remember that the crows were acting strangely, that day, as if they knew something I didn’t. I watched them closely, but tried not to make it very obvious. They knew that I knew, and I knew that they knew that I knew, but nobody could prove anything, nor did we try. In any case, our (Mac and my) first real conversation actually happened inside Pixar Studios, in Emeryville, California. This seems untrue — like much of what I’ve said, already — but it’s the exact opposite: it’s true. Pixar was hosting a benefit for 826 Valencia, by showing the movie The Incredibles (a small, arthouse film that you’ve certainly never heard of) with all of the proceeds going to student programming. Mac and I were working the event as reps for the aforementioned 826, and also McSweeney’s, which is an independent publishing house, then located under the same roof. We were wearing name tags that night at Pixar, so I knew who he was, immediately. “You must be Mac,” I said, with a wink and a nudge and a shove. Our first conversation was (likely) about pranking and that’s (likely) why we decided to collaborate, exactly ten years later to the moment (this is a rough estimate), on a book about two pranksters engaged in a prank war, which we called “The Terrible Two.” 

Mr. Schu, you should have asked me about my relative inability to finish sentences without going off on endless, pointless tangents. In fact, this whole exercise reminds me of a story. It’s an epic story, filled with a huge cast of characters. But we probably ran out of space a long time ago. After all, this is the Internet. So I’ll tell you about the “Lemon Hurling Incident” the next time we do this. Intrigued? So yeah, you should have asked me about the Lemon Hurling Incident. Oh, and I think I forgot to mention our new picture book, I Will Chomp You!. You should have asked me about that, too.

Borrow Jory John's books from your school or public library. Whenever possible, please support independent bookshops. 

Thursday, November 26, 2015

I'm Thankful for YOU and BOOKS

On this Thanksgiving, I hope you're surrounded by friends, family, and books. Stacks and stacks of books. 

Since there are 12 months in the year, I selected 12 titles I'm grateful were published in 2015. If you haven't already check out these books, I hope you will in the coming months. Happy reading and eating! 

1. Echo by Pam Munoz Ryan 

2. Gone Crazy in Alabama by Rita Williams-Garcia 

3. Francine Poulet Meets the Ghost Raccoon by Kate DiCamillo

4. Crenshaw by Katherine Applegate 

5. Poet: The Remarkable Story of George Moses Horton by Don Tate 

6. Last Stop on Market Street by Matt de la Peña and Christian Robinson 

7. Roller Girl by Victoria Jamieson 

8. Rhythm Ride: A Road Trip Through the Motown Sound by Andrea Davis Pinkney 

9. Sunny Side Up by Jennifer L. Holm and Matthew Holm 

10. Finding Winnie: The True Story of the World's Most Famous Bear by Lindsay Mattick and Sophie Blackall 

11. Yard Sale by Eve Bunting and Lauren Castillo 

12. Drum Dream Girl by Margarita Engle and illustrated by Rafael López

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

A Guest Post by Ozge Samanci

My Aunty Nuran is very stylish and she has drawers full of earrings, bracelets, necklaces, tasteful but not expensive jewelry. When I was a child digging her drawers and trying her jewelry was our favorite game. Eight years ago my Aunty Nuran was getting rid of her jewelry from 80s, which included big fancy and bold pieces. She thought of my collages and kept them for me. On one of my visits to Turkey she handed them to me and I used them in many of collages through years. Even though I have not have a chance to tell stories about my Aunty Nuran in Dare to Disappoint you will see a couple of my aunt’s jewelry in the book.

Growing up on the Aegean Coast, Ozge loved the sea and imagined a life of adventure while her parents and society demanded predictability. Her dad expected Ozge, like her sister, to become an engineer. She tried to hear her own voice over his and the religious and militaristic tensions of Turkey and the conflicts between secularism and fundamentalism. Could she be a scuba diver like Jacques Cousteau? A stage actress? Would it be possible to please everyone including herself?

In her unpredictable and funny graphic memoir, Ozge recounts her story using inventive collages, weaving together images of the sea, politics, science, and friendship.

11/16 – Supernatural Snark 
11/17 – Forever YA 
11/18 – Teen Lit Rocks 
11/19 – Kid Lit Frenzy 
11/20 – The Book Wars 
11/24 – Fly to Fiction 
11/25 – Watch Connect Read 
11/26 – Stacked 

Monday, November 23, 2015

Illustrator Rafael López

Happy Monday! The #SharpSchu Book Club is discussing and celebrating Margarita Engle and Rafael López's Drum Dream Girl on December 16. Rafael dropped by to chat with me about Millo Castro Zaldarriaga, Tito Puente, reading, picture books, and murals. I wrote the words in orange, and he wrote the words in black. Thank you, Rafael! 

When I received the manuscript for Drum Dream Girl I fell under the magical spell of Margarita’s poetic words-a dreamlike blend of imagination and reality. I put on a favorite Compay Segundo album and moved my congas next to the drawing table. I closed my eyes and began to see the mixing of drumbeats and brushstrokes.

Illustration credit:  Rafael López
Margarita Engle and I were of the same mind in what we wanted to create with this book. Her poetic style gave me the freedom to invent, and I hoped the pictures would encourage children to do their own dreaming.

Illustration credit: Rafael López
I created the illustrations for Drum Dream Girl trying to dance intuitively between dreams and reality. I wanted readers to enter our heroine’s surreal world with us and crisscross that river of abstraction back to realism. It was important to build a visual bridge connecting those two compelling aspects of Millo’s story.

Millo Castro Zaldarriaga’s determined spirit reminded me of my mother Pillo. In the early 50’s living in Mexico City she was ahead of her time and decided to become an architect. Her family told her absolutely not but she secretly enrolled in architectural school, paying for her education by taking several odd jobs. Millo’s courage to follow her passion regardless of the obstacles is an inspiring story for dreamers far and wide.

Book Fiesta! was out to prove there is a big beautiful world of readers out there and you can fall for a book anywhere- under the ocean in a submarine or in the mouth of a whale. The visuals come from a kid’s point of view-after all who hasn’t read to their pets? I wanted diverse children to see themselves with books having incredible adventures and threw reality out the window. My son once told me my pencil was a magic wand and I’m always trying to prove that.

Tito Puente, Mambo King! tells the story of El Rey del Mambo.  I used lots of visual metaphors and always paint listening to music, mostly Latin jazz. I let the creative forces dance in my head. I was lucky to have seen Tito Puente perform live on the streets of San Diego and create a United States postal stamp honoring him and other Latin music legends.

Picture books are refreshment for thirsty eyes. Many kids and adults [myself included] are visual learners. Engaging children in the dialogue between the world of words and images creates lifelong book passion. What could be more important?

Reading is travel to magical, far away places where you can explore the distant corners of your own imaginations. The farther you go the more you will live fully.

Mr. Schu, you should have asked me about my community murals. It’s like making a gigantic paint by numbers and it’s thrilling for small hands to make something so BIG. I have worked with hundreds of kids and families to make murals in schools, children’s hospitals and parking lots

Borrow Rafael López's books from your school or public library. Whenever possible, please support independent bookshops.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Cover Reveal for Little Elliot, Big Fun

The "Why Picture Books Matter" session at #NCTE15 ended 25 minutes ago. During the session, I had the honor of revealing the cover for Little Elliot, Big Fun.  W00t! w00t! 

I cannot wait to read Elliot's third book on October 4, 2016. 

Mike Curato finished my sentences when Little Elliot, Big City came out. I had fun re-reading his responses to my sentence starters, so maybe you will as well. I wrote the words in red, and Mike wrote the words in black .

Little, Elliot, Big City tells the story of friendship and perspective through the eyes of a little polka-dotted elephant with a great big heart.

The illustrations for Little, Elliot, Big City are the pieces of art that I always wanted to make. They are pencil drawings that I scan and color in Photoshop. For Little Elliot, I like working in a muted color palette to add to the nostalgia of the period.

Mike created this window display for Books of Wonder
Elliot’s apartment can be a bit challenging for him, since he’s so small. You’ll often find him climbing something. Elliot discovered a new purpose for his favorite books; when he’s not reading them, he’s usually climbing them.

Cupcakes are one of the five basic food groups...right? Regardless, they are the main staple of white polka-dotted elephants.

Picture books are my dream, and now my reality!

Reading is vital.

Mr. Schu, you should have asked me where does Elliot live? Well, many people assume that he lives in Manhattan, but he actually lives in Brooklyn and commutes to Manhattan for his treats, just like me!

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Kate DiCamillo Reflects on Her Term as National Ambassador for Young People's Literature

 I have been running around all day feeling overwhelmed and unprepared for #NCTE15. My to-do list felt out of control until about twenty minutes ago when The Washington Post uploaded Kate DiCamillo's reflection on her time as the National Ambassador for Young People's Literature. Kate's words calmed me. She reminded me to enjoy every moment and to take a break from working on presentations to read two chapters of Sharon Robinson's The Hero Two Doors Down.  Isn't reading the biggest stress reliever? It is for me! 

Now off you go to read Kate's essay. You're welcome! :) 

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Booktalks at Edgewood School

Happy Tuesday! I spent two glorious days delivering booktalking and reading picture books with the fine, fine students at Edgewood School. The adorable kindergartners made me laugh out loud and the thoughtful sixth graders reminded me of the importance of student choice and access to books. Thank you, Mrs. Kelly, for letting me spend time in your special space.