Monday, October 23, 2017

Book Trailer Reveal: Finding Christmas by Lezlie Evans; illustrated by Yee Von Chan

Hi, Lezlie! Thank you for dropping by to share the book trailer of your SWEET picture book, Finding Christmas.

When the story opens, Hare is found decorating the tree, Squirrel is busy sprinkling sugar on the hazelnut cookies, and Mouse heads out to find a last-minute gift for Hare. Do you have a favorite holiday tradition?

Lezlie: I love everything about the Christmas season – decorating, baking treats, and buying gifts for others! But much like Hare, Squirrel, and Mouse, one of my favorite things is when my little burrow fills up with family and friends and we sing one carol after another (sometimes at the top of our lungs, just like Hare)!

It’s no secret the world could use a good dose of kindness these days. Finding Christmas is the story of three woodland friends… 

…who show kindness to a stranger in need. Because of this, they discover the holiday in a whole new way. Do you have any suggestions on how to help children think of others during the busy holiday season?

Lezlie: Yes! I’m super excited about the Gifts of Kindness Advent Calendar that my publisher, Albert Whitman, has created! Follow the pictures and simple instructions (below) to make this fun, easy craft/advent calendar with the children in your life. I can see kids getting really excited about opening a bag every day during the holiday season to find a small treat/and a suggested task of kindness. By doing small and simple things, like holding the door open for someone or leaving a note/treat for the mail carrier, children can feel the joy of doing for others. I can’t wait to create one of these advent calendars with my grandchildren when I see them at Thanksgiving! You can find the free downloadable/printable instructions on my website at as well.

What was your inspiration for writing this story?
Lezlie: That’s a great question! One Christmas Eve when my six children were still at home, I was swamped getting everything ready for the big day. A large pile of toys lay on our bedroom floor waiting to be wrapped. My husband offered to help and I gratefully took him up on it. He set about wrapping the gifts and finished the job in record time. But we soon realized he’d forgotten to put names on the gifts. (Insert my hysterical cry of panic here.) With no time left to buy new paper and rewrap the gifts, we decided to put the presents under the tree without any names, let the children choose one at a time, open it, and then give it to the sibling they thought needed it/would love it the most. This turned out to be one of our most cherished family memories. Our children loved giving the gifts away to their delighted siblings, and my husband and I loved watching the sweet exchanges that took place. It was so much fun, our children insisted we leave the names off the Christmas presents every year from then on. When Hare, Squirrel, and Mouse give their gifts away, they find great joy. Just like my children did on that unforgettable Christmas Day.

What is the best gift you’ve ever given someone?

Lezlie: Last year I came up with the idea of giving my family a Christmas Eve sleigh ride. We drank hot cocoa and sang songs as the horse-drawn sleigh jingled through the snow-covered fields. It was definitely memorable. 

Please finish these sentence starters:

Picture books are ways to create strong bonds and lasting memories.

School libraries are magical places where journeys are taken, dreams are formed, and discoveries are made. 

Mr. Schu, you should have asked me…  If you could have one Christmas wish, what would it be?

That this holiday season be filled with peace on earth, good will toward men. A girl can dream, can’t she? 

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

Friday, October 20, 2017

Cover Reveal: The House That Lou Built by Mae Respicio

Hello, Mae Respicio! Happy, happy Friday!  I’m thrilled you dropped by to finish my sentences and to share The House That Lou Built’s cover.

Mae Respicio: Hooray! Thanks so much for hosting me, Mr. Schu! I’m beyond thrilled to officially share my debut middle grade novel with everyone.

Katrina Damkoehle’s cover design and Luisa Uribe’s cover illustration for The House That Lou Built beautifully captures the spirit of this book. It features a strong, smart, and fiercely determined twelve-year-old girl, front and center, surrounded by her family and friends. Add to that her dream DIY project: to build her own tiny house. It’s the perfect cover for my novel, and I’m grateful to Katrina and Luisa for bringing Lou to life in such a delightful way!

Lou Bulosan-Nelson’s family is a large, lovable, and close-knit Filipino American family. Lou lives with her mom and her “lola” (grandmother) in a small house in San Francisco. She has a ton of cousins and relatives popping in and out of their home constantly, which is part of the reason why she longs for a space of her own. Still, Lou’s family is her rock and ultimately, they play a huge role in her journey of self-discovery.

I loved writing about Lou’s family because it helped me to weave in aspects of Filipino American culture. Growing up, I never saw myself in any of the books that I read. Even when I became a parent, I still had trouble finding kids’ literature with a Filipina American protagonist. This novel looks at the Filipino American culture via a family going about their everyday lives, and I’m so excited to share that with readers.

I think San Francisco is a colorful city for kids to explore, and it’s where much of the book takes place. Lou and her friends get into all kinds of adventures in their neighborhood; they also make trips north over the Golden Gate Bridge to Lou’s building site, a small plot of land she inherited after her dad passed away. As a kid, I always thought of San Francisco as a magical place—from the thick, summertime fog, to picturesque views of the bay, to tons of interesting people walking around—all amid ornate Victorian houses packed onto steep, rolling streets. It’s a fun setting to write about.

I hope The House That Lou Built inspires readers to go after their dreams no matter how big (or tiny!).

Explore Mae's website. 
School libraries are essential. They’re full of ideas and possibilities and can be like home to kids—I can’t imagine my childhood without them. Now, I do a lot of my writing and revising in public libraries, though my favorites are the ones that blend in community events (I’ve met some great authors this way!). One thing I’m proud of as a parent is how much my kids love libraries, too.

Mr. Schu, you should have asked me if I’ve ever built a tiny house. Sadly, I haven’t, but I do consider myself a house enthusiast. (The house I live now in is known as an “Eichler,” and it inspired a whole scene in the book!) I have fun learning about architecture and going on home tours; I’ve even worked on house projects where I got to use cool tools like jackhammers, rototillers, and orbital sanders. So, maybe one day I’ll build my own. For now, I’m happy I got to explore the many themes that emerged from writing about Lou and her dream: how houses can act as sanctuary, how they can define the people who inhabit them, and most of all, what makes a house a true home.

Look for The House That Lou Built on June 12, 2018. 

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Malala's Magic Pencil by Malala Yousafzai; illustrated by Kerascoët

Congratulations on Malala’s Magic Pencil. I think it is a beautiful picture book that will inspire so many children and adults. What inspired you to tell the story of your magic pencil?

Malala Yousafzai: Thank you, and thank you for helping me to share my book with your readers.

I have memoirs for young readers and for adults, but I have met many young children who want to know about what happened in my life and it is important for me to be able to share my story with them as well. Focusing on my wish for a magic pencil when I was a child felt like the perfect way to tell my story in a new way, in a picture book.

I was also inspired to tell this story because I want children to believe in themselves and their ideas. They should never doubt themselves if they are fighting injustice. They should never doubt that they can make a difference. I didn’t know if my voice would bring any change when I started speaking out for girls’ education in Swat, but I felt I could not remain silent. Your voice is powerful and you can raise it in different ways.

What did it feel like the first time you held a finished copy of Malala’s Magic Pencil in your hands? 

Malala Yousafzai: I was very excited to get my first copy of Malala’s Magic Pencil. I had seen it in so many different stages, but to be able to hold a real, finished book was special. I immediately shared it with my mother, who is learning English. She was my first reader.

Please share three adjectives that best describe Kerascoët’s illustrations.

Malala Yousafzai: Only three? Beautiful, nostalgic and powerful.

Please finish these sentence starters:

School libraries are important because they are often one of the first places children learn to love reading, and they are a place where any child can access books.

Reading is the right of every child. It is the foundation of a strong education and can help us understand the world and all of the different people in it.

Borrow Malala's Magic Pencil from your school or public library. Whenever possible, please support independent bookshops. 

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

The Witch Boy by Molly Knox Ostertag

Hello, Molly Ostertag! Welcome to Watch. Connect. Read. Thank you for finishing my sentences and for celebrating The Witch Boy with me. 

Molly Ostertag: Hi, Mr. Schu! I'm happy to be chatting with you! 

Let's get started! :) 

The Witch Boy tells the story of Aster, a boy who lives with his whole family in a big, rambling house in the woods. Everyone in Aster’s family has magic. The boys can shape-shift into different animals, and all the girls are witches. The thing is, Aster really wants to be a witch. He sneaks out of shape-shifting classes to listen in on witchery lessons. He can’t seem to master any animal forms, but he can scry in pools of water and make berries grow. His family doesn’t approve, however, and he has to hide his interests and his powers. The only person who he can show off to is his friend Charlie, a tomboy who lives in the non-magical town nearby and thinks Aster’s magic is pretty cool. When boys from Aster’s family start disappearing mysteriously, and a monster is found in the woods, only Aster’s unusual powers and his friendship with Charlie can help save his family.

Aster’s family want the best for him, but they don’t quite understand what that means. They have done things one way for as long as anyone can remember, and they don’t want to change their ways just because Aster wants to be a witch. Although they don’t look exactly like a traditional modern American family, they have strong magical traditions, and they stick to them.

I hope The Witch Boy reaches kids who might relate to Aster or Charlie, and who would like to see a character like themselves in fiction. There are lots of kids who are pushed into roles that they don’t want and aren’t suited for, especially but not limited to gender roles, and I hope that this book helps them feel good about being themselves.

School libraries are amazing, honestly. I tore through a lot of books when I was a kid, and my elementary school library was a haven. I have very fond memories of Scholastic Book Fairs being set up in the library, which gives me warm fuzzy feelings when I think about the Witch Boy being sold there! Comics and graphic novels can be kind of expensive, so I love the idea of comics in libraries – it gives kids access to so many amazing stories and beautiful, inspiring visuals.

Mr. Schu, you should have asked me for my recipe for making a really, really good cast-iron steak! I know it’s not related to the book at all, but cooking is my favorite way to take a mental break in between drawing and writing. 

Look for The Witch Boy on October 31, 2017. 

Monday, October 16, 2017

Drawn Together by Minh Lê and Dan Santat

Hi, Minh! Thank you for dropping by to chat with me about your BEAUTIFUL picture book, Drawn Together. Is Drawn Together based on your relationship with your grandfather?

Minh Lê: Yes! I would say it's based/inspired by my relationship with my grandfather specifically, but is also a tribute to all my grandparents. 

Vietnamese was my first language (there's even video to prove it), but I let it slip away, which means much of our relationship was defined by what we could not say to each other. 

For us it was a literal language barrier, but as you know, you can also speak the same language and still have trouble communicating/connecting. It's been so touching to already hear of Drawn Together resonating for people with all different kinds of personal experiences.

Unfortunately, my grandfather and I never really quite figured out how to fully bridge the language gap, but I still always felt a strong connection to him. And there was never any doubt about the love between us. 

Some things just go without saying.

What ran through your head the first time you saw Dan Santat’s illustrations for Drawn Together?

Minh Lê: I was absolutely speechless. I have always been a fan of Dan's work, so to see him apply his talent and energy to making magic out of my words was a breathtaking experience.

I was also floored by how much Dan brought his own experience/culture to our book. As an author, the dream is to write a manuscript that touches something in the illustrator; that the illustrator will take the slim collection of words and breathe their own life into it. I think it's obvious that Dan put so much thought and heart into this project, so I am forever grateful to him (and my editor Rotem) for bringing this story to life in such stunning fashion.

(I am also very grateful that he didn't break his wrist painting, because HOLY WOW did you see the incredible detailing on the grandfather's outfit??)

On a bittersweet note, I got the first round of Dan's sketches while my grandfather was on his deathbed... and he passed away earlier this year. So while he will sadly never see the finished product, he knew that it was in the works... and it means the world to me that he will be honored through this book.

Illustration Credit: Dan Santat 
How will you celebrate Drawn Together’s book birthday on June 5, 2018?

Minh Lê: By doing my favorite thing in the world: sharing the book at my local bookstore and library!

Please finish these sentence starters:

Picture books are the most accessible and versatile works of art in the world.

School libraries are NOT OPTIONAL.

Mr. Schu, you should have asked me…Why do your former students call you Mr. Rogers?

Because I used to wear cardigans ALL THE TIME. "Which is a fashion choice that I actually picked up, not from Mr. Rogers, but from... my grandfather."

Look for Drawn Together on June 5, 2018. 

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Cover Reveal: I'M SAD by Michael Ian Black and Debbie Ridpath Ohi

Happy Saturday! Hi, Michael Ian Black! Hi, Debbie Ridpath Ohi! MANY thanks for dropping by to celebrate I'm Sad's cover and jacket with me. 

Debbie Ridpath Ohi: Hi, Mr. Schu! I still remember when you and Colby Sharp did a Sharp-Schu trifecta for I’M BORED!
I am thrilled to show everyone the jacket for I’M SAD, which is the sequel to I’M BORED:
Didn’t Laurent Linn come up with a fantastic jacket design? I can’t wait for this to launch from Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers in June 2018!
Yes! I love it!  Michael, what inspired you to write I'm Sad
So often, when our kids (or our friends or co-workers or whomever) are sad, our instinct is to try to make them feel better instead of just being there for them in a supportive way without necessarily trying to “solve” their sadness. We all feel sad sometimes, and when we do, it’s good to know we have people (or potatoes) in our lives who won’t think any less of us for feeling the way we feel and who will still love us no matter what.
Debbie, what was it like to illustrate I'm Sad?
I was very VERY happy to work with the Potato, Little Girl and Flamingo again! I love the story more than I can say. It's sweet and funny and hopeful all at the same time. I cried the first time I read it ... but it also made me laugh out loud. I wish this book existed earlier in my life. 

Look for I'm Sad on June 5, 2018. 
A girl, a potato, and a very sad flamingo star in this charming sequel to I’m Bored by New York Times bestselling author and comedian Michael Ian Black and celebrated illustrator Debbie Ridpath Ohi. Everyone feels sad sometimes—even flamingos. Sigh. When Flamingo announces he’s feeling down, the little girl and Potato try to cheer him up, but nothing seems to work. Not even dirt! (Which usually works for Potato.)...

Friday, October 13, 2017

BOB by Wendy Mass and Rebecca Stead

Hello, Wendy!

Wendy Mass: Greetings and salutations, Mr. Schu!

Hello, Rebecca!

Rebecca Stead: Hi, Mr. Schu!
Thank you for finishing my sentences and for celebrating BOB’s GORGEOUS cover with me. I cannot wait for everyone to experience this BEAUTIFUL novel.

Nicolas Gannon's cover illustration for BOB needs to be on my wall to stare at!

Livy and Bob make great partners in crime. Although there’s really no crime...or is there? Nah, no crime. There’s some sneaking around though, and lots of secret meetings. And some snacks are smuggled upstairs. Bob loves licorice. Mmm...licorice.

Rebecca Stead put up with me for the 7 years it took to write this book! I once made her wait 22 months between chapters. She is lovely and brilliant.

School libraries are a huge part of my childhood. I’ll never forget when in 3rd grade, the school librarian saved the sequel to The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe for me behind the desk. That’s the day I fell in love with reading. Last year my daughter came home with one of my books from her elementary school library (13 Gifts) and I was like, you know I can get you a copy, right?

Photo Credit: Joanne Dugan
BOB’s cover illustration is evidence of Nicholas Gannon’s amazing talent. We are so lucky to have him! This is my first illustrated story, and I am ridiculously excited.

Livy’s grandmother might know more than she lets on. Sometimes I wonder.

Wendy Mass is a true delight and a wonderful partner.

Reading is everything.

Look for BOB on May 1, 2018.