Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Cover Reveal: Good Rosie! by Kate DiCamillo; illustrated by Harry Bliss

Hello, Kate DiCamillo and Harry Bliss! Happy Tuesday! I'm honored to reveal the cover for Good Rosie! The genesis for this book is a little unusual. Can you tell us about how the collaboration started?



Harry Bliss: Kate and I had worked on a picture book previously, and some years later I’d wanted to work with Kate on a book of dog poems, inspired by a poem she’d written for another book that I’d made an image for: “Snow, Aldo.”

Kate DiCamillo: That painting is hanging on my living room wall. I’m looking at it as I type these words. Ever since then Harry and I have wanted to do a dog book together. And about four years ago we were both in South Dakota for a festival, and I said, “When are we going to do that dog book?”

Harry: Time passed and I kept nagging her, sort of, not really, but every six months or so I’d think to myself, “Hey, I wonder why Kate hasn’t written a dog manuscript yet?” Then one afternoon I got Good Rosie! and I was off and running.



Can you discuss why the graphic storybook format with the panels that progress through the story works so well for this particular book?

Kate: Harry is probably better suited to answer this question than I am. All I know is that we both wanted kind of a Charles Schulz feel to things — that heartbroken, wise, hopeful quality. And once you start thinking about Charles Schulz, you start to think in panels. Plus, I like how the panels contain things, make them feel safer, more approachable.

Harry: I’m a huge fan of the comics, and I wanted this story to move in a very specific way. The space between each panel allows the reader to use their imagination to fill in their own narrative, which is essential to the comic form. Words and images together activate lobes of the brain in the deciphering of the narrative, but when you break down a traditional picture book into comics, an additional layer is then added. It’s actually been proven that various lobes are essentially more “fired up” when the comic format is employed. I can’t speak to why I chose this form for Rosie. Perhaps it’s my way of revisiting my comic book–reading childhood. Plus, it’s just fun to spend time in these boxes. . . .



There are a lot of ways into this story, a lot of layers for children and adults alike about having new experiences and meeting new friends. Did you see any themes emerge once you stepped back from your work and took it all in together?

Kate: I never think about messages when I’m writing, and it’s only afterward (when the book is done)that I can start to figure out (with other people’s help) what a book is about. I think that maybe Good Rosie! is about how we all need to find our people (or our dogs) and that those friendships are necessary and maddening and wondrous.

Harry: I will say that after finishing Rosie, I like the way these three dogs find friendship. It’s not always easy letting your guard down, letting someone into your world of insecurities, and I feel this book touches on that in a very intimate and “real” way.



What do you think having a pet brings to our lives?

Kate: All I know is that I can’t imagine life without a dog. They constantly remind me of the art of being well-and-truly present, and they also show me how to be joyful, how to concentrate on joy.

Harry: I’m an animal person. I’d throw myself in front of a car to save my annoying dog, Penny. I tell my shrink that when Penny dies, I’ll be a wreck for at least six months. What do animals bring to our lives? Empathy.

Can you tell us a little about your own dogs?

Kate: Well, right now I am on borrowed time. Ramona is on her back with her feet in the air, in front of the fireplace. Any minute now she will insist on me getting off the couch and taking her out into the world. Into the joyful present — which smells like squirrels and snow.

Harry: My dog is a scruffy mini poodle, twelve years old and absolutely wonderful. Her paws smell like corn chips and her breath is like a trash can, but she has me tied around her flea collar 24-7.



Look for Good Rosie! on September 4, 2018. 

Monday, January 15, 2018

The Digger and the Flower by Joseph Kuefler

Happy Monday! Author-illustrator Joseph Kuefler dropped by to chat with me about The Digger and the Flower, school libraries, and Lou Ferreri. I wrote the words in purple, and he wrote the words in black. Thank you, Joseph!



The book trailer for The Digger and the Flower reveals very little about what actually unfolds in the book. That was by design. The best movie trailers evoke the spirit of the film but keep many of its details a tightly-guarded secret. I wanted to create something similarly tight-lipped. Hopefully it piques your interest enough to head to your local bookstore or library.



Digger discovers a tiny blue flower growing amid the steel and din of the city, a small piece of beauty in an otherwise drab and manufactured place. Digger is a nurturing excavator, so naturally he decides to care for the flower. As the flower grows, so too does the city. Soon, the flower’s small plot becomes valuable real estate and...well...you’ll need to read the book to find out what happens next.

Digger has a very personal significance to me. When I was 19 I drove West—desperately Kerouac-ian, I know. On the second day, I found myself in Glacier National park. I’d never been to the mountains, and I was immediately and forever changed by Glacier’s grandeur and beauty. Five years later I returned to find the glaciers had nearly vanished. I saw firsthand how fragile even the most majestic and seemingly-permanent of places can be. This deterioration of our sacred spaces is happening all over the world. It breaks my heart.

I wrote The Digger and the Flower as a sort of love letter to nature.



The Digger and the Flower’s illustrations were an exercise in reduction and simplicity. I was determined to tell Digger’s story in as few moves as possible. In part because my previous books didn’t afford me that opportunity; I was eager to take on that sort of challenge as an illustrator.

But also because this book ran the risk of becoming a heavy-handed and didactic lesson. Spare, objective art and text was the perfect foil for the book’s more emotional message.


School libraries are the building’s beating heart.

Mr. Schu, you should have asked me to whom the book is dedicated. I love dedications. They’re actually my favorite piece of a book to create. The Digger and the Flower is dedicated to three people: Elena Giovinazzo (my agent), Alessandra Balzer (my publisher) and a man named Lou Ferreri.

Elena and Alessandra have been instrumental in helping me grow as an author and illustrator, and I am forever indebted to them—for the trust and faith they placed in me.

 But Lou Ferreri? He changed my life

Lou was my art teacher in high school. 1960s to his core, Lou was a free spirited artist who landed in my hometown after a long spell as a professional artist in grander cities. He was hellbent on teaching art the right way, which is to say, with very few rules, a whole lot of freedom and one requirement: that you mean what you make. Through him I learned to love and respect art making and myself.

Two pieces hang in my work area. One is a print by Etel Adnan, a favorite artist of mine and gift from my brother. The other is a photograph of Lou Ferreri taken while I was in high school. That photo stands as a daily reminder of the gift he gave me and the creative values he espoused.

I’ve never said any of this to him. I will one day.




Look for The Digger and the Flower on January 23. 

Thursday, January 11, 2018

A Guest Post by Deron Hicks, Author of The Van Gogh Deception

   
Childhood memories can be elusive — mere wisps of smoke and faint dreams of what might have been. I have only the vaguest recollection of what my life was like prior to the summer of 1977.  I turned nine years old that summer.  I know the basic details of my life at that point in time. I know that my parents were divorced, but I can’t remember any particulars as to how, when or why it happened.  I know that my best friend was Andy Thomas.  I know that I lived with my mom, but spent every Wednesday and alternating weekends with my father. But even these memories are vague and uncertain. They are simply old Polaroids — blurry images set in a world of washed out colors.

But I remember one particular day in the summer of 1977.  I remember it with all the clarity that memory can offer.  It is in high definition — the edges of those memories are sharp, and the colors are crisp. And that day has, and always will be, the answer to the question — why do you write?

I was nine years old, and my brother was seven. Word was starting to get around our neighborhood about a new movie.  In 1977 there were no cell phones, emails or text messages. Word traveled on the back of a bicycle from one house in our neighborhood to the next.  Of course, my brother and I had seen the commercial on TV — everyone had.  But the twenty second clip of television offered little information as to exactly what wonders this movie might hold. There was also the advertisement in movie section of the local newspaper.  But, again, the advertisement offered even less information than the television commercials — just tantalizing images. 

Some of the kids in our neighborhood had seen the movie — or at least claimed to have done so.  I remember that I couldn’t even get the name of the movie right — I kept referring to it as War Stars for some reason.  My brother and I begged my father to take us to see it.  The first opportunity arose when we were visiting my cousins in Norfolk, Virginia. We went to the local theater only to discover a line that seemed to go on forever. My father — having no personal interest in seeing this movie — declined the opportunity to stand in line for several hours. The next opportunity came when we returned home to Augusta, Georgia.  We made our way across town to the Peach Orchard Movie Theater — the first theater in Augusta to offer two screens. Unfortunately, we encountered the same predicament as we had in Virginia — a line that wrapped around the building.  My father, once again, wisely declined the opportunity to stand in line for several hours — particularly in the hot Georgia sun.  The following Saturday offered yet another opportunity. My brother and I implored my father to get us to the theater well ahead of the appointed movie time. Assuming (correctly) that we would persist until we saw this movie, he made sure that we had positions near the front of the line while he sat in the air conditioned comfort of his car.  It was a smart move. The line — once again — grew to an unimaginable length.  We eventually made our way into the theater — bypassing the distractions of popcorn and cokes — and secured the best seats possible.

I remember sitting in that theater astounded at what I saw on the screen. I remember the dread I felt as Darth Vader lined up Luke’s x-wing fighter on his targeting screen. And I remember being absolutely blown away as the Millennium Falcon appeared out of nowhere to save the day. (As I wrote that sentence, chills — actual chills — went up my spine).  As we drove home in my father’s Ford Thunderbird, I sat in the middle of the backseat looking across the front of his car and through the rectangular hood ornament. I imagined that it was a targeting screen on the Falcon, and I was taking down TIE Fighters one after another.  The oncoming traffic didn't stand a chance.

The idea that the world of Star Wars had its genesis in the head of one person is incredible.  George Lucas may have borrowed concepts and ideas from a wide variety of sources, but he created characters that I genuinely cared about. (I won’t give away any spoilers, but I cried at the end of the latest installment — The Last Jedi). Star Wars seemed real to me. Lucas crafted a story and a movie that enthralled a nine-year old boy sitting in a theater in Augusta, Georgia in 1977. That was an incredible feat.

I didn’t walk out of that theater in 1977 thinking I wanted to be a writer.  But the seed had been planted.  It took years for that seed to germinate — I was in my early forties before I took a shot at writing fiction.  My first middle-grade novel, Secrets of Shakespeares Grave, was released when I was forty-two years old.  But I remember the excitement I felt as I developed the plot and characters. I remember writer’s block giving way to a rush of ideas. I remember the world in my book coming alive to me — and hoping that it would come alive to my readers.


So the answer to the question is, perhaps, inherently self-serving. I write to capture just a bit — a smidgen — of the magic that Star Wars: A New Hope offered to me in such abundance.  I want a little bit of that power for myself — and writing offered and continues to offer me that opportunity.  I want some young reader to gasp at the sudden and unexpected turn of events in my new book, The Van Gogh Deception.  I want that young reader to care about my characters. I want that young reader to yearn for more.  I want that young reader to feel exactly like the nine year old boy sitting in a theater in Augusta, Georgia in 1977.  And that’s why I write.


Borrow The Van Gogh Deception from your school or public library. Whenever possible, please support independent bookshops. 

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Book Trailer Premiere: Mary Had a Little Lab by Sue Fliess; illustrated by Petros Bouloubasis


Hi, Sue Fliess! Thank you for celebrating Mary Had a Little Lab’s book trailer with me. I love that you have created book trailers for most of your books. What do you love/appreciate about book trailers?

Sue: I’m a huge movie trailer fan...For better or worse, I will often base my decision to see a movie on the trailer. Sometimes you can tell when the movie has used all its good jokes in the trailer, or if they don’t show you much at all, they are likely trying too hard to sell it. So I think it’s important in a book trailer to be honest—to show readers what they’ll be getting when they buy my book. I try to leave just enough suspense to not give away the ending, but still let the audience get a true glimpse of what they are going to experience with the book. Also, they are fun to make and it’s a great marketing tool!



What’s a Sheepinator?

Sue: The Sheepinator is Mary’s “best invention ever!” Mary is a little bit lonely, as she spends most of her time in her backyard lab rather than out socializing with other kids, so she decides that having a pet will ease her loneliness. But since she’s a scientist and inventor, she decides she’d rather make one than buy one. From the book’s title and the machine name Sheepinator, you can probably guess what kind of pet she creates. 

Petros Bouloubasis’ illustrations are lovely. What’s your favorite spread or scene?

Sue: Do I have to choose just one? I have at least six favorites! 

Yes, sorry! 

Sue: Some would cause spoilers to describe, so I’ll talk about the spread where she finishes the Sheepinator:

“The new machine is finished!
My best invention ever!”
Then Mary turned the power on
And gently pulled the lever.

I love this because it shows her tinkering with the machine, putting the last touches on, the other kids looking in the window, curious as to what she’s doing. Then we see Mary propped up against the machine pulling the lever with all her might, sweat flying from her brow, grimacing, which proves a funny paradox to the text. I also love that the machine looks pieced together, and is balanced on a random table leg, a stack of books, and other household items. Petros’s illustrations are so clever...like Mary!




Please share three adjectives that best describe Mary.

Sue: Smart. Creative. Shy.

Please finish these sentence starters:

On March 1, 2018, Mary Had a Little Lab can be yours! It’s my first STEM-related book, mixing science, chemistry, inventing, humor, friendship and the idea of being yourself. I’m super excited to share it! The book also shows that trial and error is a-okay. So many kids now are terrified to fail. Did you know that Thomas Edison apparently made 1,000 unsuccessful attempts at inventing the light bulb? But he didn’t call them failures, he said “I didn’t fail. The light bulb was an invention with 1,000 steps.” I love that. To piggyback that thought, this book took many drafts to get right!



Mr. Schu, you should have asked me if I have a pet. I do! Thanks for asking. I have an English Labrador Retriever named Charlie. In fact, this book title came to me in a dream, and I’m pretty sure in my dream, I was referring to a dog. But when I realized lab could be laboratory, the story took off. That said, Charlie is not nearly as helpful as Mary’s sheep. Mary’s sheep assists with chores like carrying the groceries and buffing the floors, while Charlie’s biggest accomplishment each day is snuggling all of us, finding the best spot on the couch for a nap, or the best stick to carry on our walks. But that’s okay, we adore him, and he, like Mary’s sheep, helps me make friends wherever I go.




Look for Mary Had a Little Lab on March 1, 2018. 

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Monday, January 8, 2018

LOVE by Matt de la Peña and Loren Long


Hi, Matt!

Matt de la Peña: Hey Mr. Schu! You are doing great things in the world of books, and it’s truly an honor to be with you!

Hi, Loren!

Loren Long: Hi Mr. Schu! Thanks for having us.

Thank you for sharing LOVE with the world. The world needs this book NOW.



Matt, what planted the seed for LOVE?

Matt de la Peña: Love began as a response to the current divisiveness in our country. I set out to make a book about love and inclusion that I could share with my own young daughter as well as all the elementary school students I meet on the road. But like all my story ideas, it evolved once I began the writing process. I soon realized the poem was really about the way the concept of love changes and grows over the course of a childhood.




Loren, how did you feel the first time you read Matt’s manuscript?

Loren Logn: Mr. Schu, they had me at “love” and “de la Peña.”

Yet even still, it exceeded my expectations.  I was startled by the depth, the honesty and the places that Matt takes the reader.

How did I feel? Inspired. Contemplative. Delighted. Challenged. Hopeful. Somewhat panicked (that the responsibility to illustrate this powerful poem was mine).

Matt, what ran through your head the first time you saw Loren’s finished illustrations?

Matt de la Peña: I’m going to put this bluntly. When the finished manuscript left my hands, it was an unruly spoken word poem that I hoped explored the journey of love in a child’s life. When I read it over, I felt it viscerally, but I don’t think I understood it consciously. When I first saw my words sitting alongside Loren’s breathtaking illustrations . . . that’s when it became a real book. A few of the spreads actually moved me to tears. Because Loren’s art respected young people enough to allow them to sit with the heavier stuff. Yet at the same time, he infused this sense of safety and unconditional love.



Loren, did you and Matt communicate at all while you were working on the art for LOVE?

Loren Long: We did. It was the first time I had discussed a work in progress with the author of a text I was illustrating. A couple occasions we even sat down together and I shared some of my rough sketches.

It’s worth pointing out that Matt and I come from two very different cultural and geographic backgrounds. Our life experiences couldn’t be more different. It proved to be incredibly valuable for us to get to know each other, discuss ideas back and forth and work as a team. It was great for me to hear firsthand where Matt was coming from when he wrote those words. We compared and shared our personal experiences and convictions. LOVE was a challenging text to illustrate and I believe combining our different perspectives enhanced the message.

After the sketch phase, I pretty much disappeared in my studio to make the final art. We didn’t talk much until Matt visited a school in Cincinnati in January of 2017 and I showed him a few of the finished paintings.


Matt, please finish these sentences:

On January 9, 2018, we will join the ranks of those who choose to put love into the world.

I hope LOVE is an inclusive book that challenges readers and inspires conversation, and ultimately helps bring people together.




Loren, please finish these sentences:

Picture books are no doubt a form of love. They connect a child and an adult in a shared experience that will resonate with both forever.

Mr. Schu, you should have asked me about how I made the art for LOVE. It was created with collaged monotype prints. I’d never worked this way before. It was a little terrifying but something about Matt’s text inspired me to take a leap. If anyone is interested, here is a letter I wrote about the process.



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

Thursday, January 4, 2018

Press Release: Jacqueline Woodson Named 6th National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature, 2018-2019


National Book Award Winner and four-time Newbery Honor Medalist encourages readers to embrace the impact reading can have on creating a more hopeful world with her platform, READING = HOPE x CHANGE

New York, NY, January 4, 2018—The Children’s Book Council, Every Child a Reader, and the Library of Congress today announced the appointment of Jacqueline Woodson, four-time Newbery Honor Medalist, Coretta Scott King Book Award-winner, former Young People’s Poet Laureate and National Book Award Winner for her memoir-in-verse Brown Girl Dreaming, as National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature.
The National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature program, established by the three organizations in 2008, highlights the importance of young people’s literature as it relates to lifelong literacy, education, and the development and betterment of the lives of young people.

Woodson will travel nationwide over the course of her two-year term promoting her platform, READING = HOPE x CHANGE (What’s Your Equation?), which encourages young people to think about – and beyond – the moment they’re living in, the power they possess, and the impact reading can have on showing them ways in which they can create the hope and the change they want to see in the world.

Woodson succeeds beloved and esteemed authors Jon Scieszka (2008–2009), Katherine Paterson (2010–2011), Walter Dean Myers (2012–2013), Kate DiCamillo (2014–2015), and Gene Luen Yang (2016-2017) in the position.

The inauguration ceremony, to be presided by the 14th Librarian of Congress Dr. Carla Hayden and attended by both Woodson and Yang, will take place on Tuesday, January 9 at 10:30 a.m. in the Members’ Room of the Library of Congress’ Thomas Jefferson Building, 10 First St. S.E., Washington, D.C. Tickets are not required for this event, which is free and open to the public.

“I think the work ahead of me is challenging,” says Jacqueline Woodson, “I don’t believe there are ‘struggling’ readers, ‘advanced’ readers or ‘non’ readers. I’d love to walk away from my two years as Ambassador with the qualifiers gone and young people able to see themselves beyond stigma or oft-times debilitating praise. Martin Luther King Jr. said people should not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character. In that regard, I think young people should not be judged by the level of their reading but by the way a book makes them think and feel. By the way it gives them hope. By the way it opens them up to new perspectives and changes them. I’m excited to have these conversations with some of the best conversationalists in our country – our young people.”

“We are delighted that Jacqueline Woodson has agreed to be the new National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature,” said Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden. “I have admired Jacqueline Woodson’s work for years, especially her dedication to children and young-adult literature. The Library of Congress looks forward to Jacqueline’s tenure of encouraging young readers to embrace reading as a means to improve the world.”

Nancy Paulsen, President and Publisher of Nancy Paulsen Books, says: “We think Jacqueline Woodson is the perfect Ambassador for our time because of her commitment to making sure all children have access to all kinds of books, and are sure to see themselves portrayed in those books. This is exactly what’s needed to appeal to today’s readers and to grow the next generation of book lovers.”

Carl Lennertz, Executive Director of Every Child a Reader and the Children’s Book Council, added, “We couldn’t be more pleased with the selection of Jacqueline Woodson as the next ambassador. She embodies everything that we look for in this position and we can’t think of a more passionate advocate for young people and for reading over the next two years.”
The National Ambassador is selected for his or her contributions to young people’s literature, the ability to relate to kids and teens, and dedication to fostering children’s literacy in all forms. The selection, made by the Librarian of Congress, is based on recommendations from an independent committee comprising educators, librarians, booksellers, and children’s literature experts.

The 2018-2019 selection committee for the National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature:
  • DeAndra Beard, CEO and founder of Beyond Borders Language Learning Center, Kokomo, IN
  • Sarah Park Dahlen, Associate Professor in the Master of Library and Information Science Program at St. Catherine University, St. Paul, MN
  • Earl Dizon, Bookseller at Green Bean Books, a children’s bookstore in Portland, OR
  • Travis Jonker, Elementary school librarian in Dorr, Michigan and School Library Journal blogger
  • Starr LaTronica, Director of the Brooks Memorial Library in Brattleboro, VT
  • Ellen Ruffin, Curator of the de Grummond Collection, U. of Southern Mississippi, Hattiesburg, MS
  • Gene Luen Yang, Printz Award-winning author, National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature, 2016-2017, 2016 McArthur Fellow, Berkeley, CA
The National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature program is administered by Every Child a Reader. For more information about the National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature, visit read.gov/cfb/ambassador/.

About Jacqueline Woodson
Jacqueline Woodson is the 2014 National Book Award Winner for her New York Times bestselling memoir Brown Girl Dreaming, which was also a recipient of the Coretta Scott King Award, a Newbery Honor, the NAACP Image Award and a Sibert Honor. In 2015, Woodson was named the Young People’s Poet Laureate by the Poetry Foundation. Her recent adult book, Another Brooklyn, was a National Book Award finalist. She is the author of more than two dozen award-winning books for young adults, middle graders and children; among her many accolades, she is a four-time Newbery Honor winner, a three-time National Book Award finalist, and a two-time Coretta Scott King Award winner. Her books include The Other SideEach Kindness, Caldecott Honor book Coming On Home Soon; Newbery Honor winners FeathersShow Way, and After Tupac and D Foster; and Miracle’s Boys, which received the LA Times Book Prize and the Coretta Scott King Award.

Jacqueline is also the recipient of the Margaret A. Edwards Award for lifetime achievement for her contributions to young adult literature, the winner of the Jane Addams Children’s Book Award, and was the 2013 United States nominee for the Hans Christian Andersen Award. In March 2018, Penguin Young Readers will celebrate the 20th anniversary of Woodson’s If You Come Softly with a special edition of the beloved story of star-crossed love between a Black teenage boy and his Jewish classmate. The Dream of America, a middle grade novel, and The Day You Begin, a picture book illustrated by Pura Belpré Illustrator Award winner Rafael López will publish in August 2018. She lives with her family in Brooklyn, New York.

About the Children’s Book Council
The Children’s Book Council, is the nonprofit trade association of children’s book publishers in North America, dedicated to supporting the industry and promoting children’s books and reading. The CBC offers children’s publishers the opportunity to work together on issues of importance to the industry at large, including educational programming, literacy advocacy, and collaborations with other national organizations.

About Every Child a ReaderEvery Child a Reader is a 501(c)(3) literacy charity whose popular national programs include Children’s Book Week, the longest-running literacy initiative in the country; the Children’s and Teen Choice Book Awards, the only national book awards chosen by children and teens; and the National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature program, in partnership with the Library of Congress. Launched in 1919, Children’s Book Week will celebrate its 100th anniversary in May 2019.

About the Library of Congress
The Library of Congress is the world’s largest library, offering access to the creative record of the United States – and extensive materials from around the world – both on-site and online. It is the main research arm of the U.S. Congress and the home of the U.S. Copyright Office.  Explore collections, reference services and other programs and plan a visit at loc.gov, access the official site for U.S. federal legislative information at congress.gov and register creative works of authorship at copyright.gov.