Friday, February 24, 2017

Cover Reveal for WINDOWS by Julia Denos and E.B. Goodale

Hello, Julia! 

Julia Denos: What's up Mr. Schu!

Hello, E.B.! 

E.B. Goodale: Hi John! Thanks for helping us share a sneak peek of Windows!

Thank you both for visiting Watch. Connect. Read. to finish my sentences and reveal the STUNNING cover for WINDOWS. Shall we get started? 

Julia and E.B.: YES

Windows tells the story of evening in a local neighborhood. It's all about that crepuscular time between night and day when the lights turn on in the windows down your street. Taking a walk through your neighborhood becomes a new experience.

E.B. Goodale's cover illustration captures the heart of that feeling: being outside, being inside. In just one moment you can pass by many worlds different from your own, but all of them "home".

Windows is my debut picture book text (as author only) for Candlewick Press. I wrote it with Emily in mind. I've always been moved by her atmospheric art and we have a similar taste in the stories we love, so it felt right to begin making books together. It's an honor to work with her.

Visit E.B. Goodale's website. 

When I received the manuscript for Windows, I actually cried! It is a sweet, simple story that highlights the beauty in the everyday and sparks joy in my heart.

The cover illustration for Windows reveals the essence of the story by capturing that ephemeral moment in the evening as day turns to night.

Julia Denos and I first met working in a children's bookstore together many years ago and have been best buds ever since. This collaboration has been many years in the making and so we are VERY excited to share it with the world!

Look for Windows on October 17, 2017. 

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Caldecott Honor Artist Brendan Wenzel

Happy Tuesday! I have not stopped smiling for Javaka Steptoe, Vera Brosgol, R. Gregory Christie, Carson Ellis, and Brendan Wenzel since the ALA Youth Media Awards press conference ended on January 23.   

Click here to watch the ALL Youth Media Awards. 

I asked this year's Caldecott winners to answer two questions and finish two sentence starters. 
Today is Brendan Wenzel's turn to shine. Thank you, Brendan! 

Congratulations, Brendan! Everyone loves hearing about THE CALL. What ran through your head when the phone rang? What were you thinking about when the Caldecott committee was clapping and cheering for you? 

Brendan Wenzel: I was in Brooklyn, and groggily making my wife a cup of coffee. When my phone went off, and I assumed it was my morning alarm reminding me to move the car. Weather-wise, it was not the nicest morning, so it was not a particularly welcome sound at the moment. I was reaching out to hit snooze, and then I realized the buzzing was a call from Atlanta. I knew the ALA was being held down there, so immediately put together that it was either good news, or someone was playing an extremely cruel joke on me. Picking up and hearing the committee cheer and shout an enthusiastic hello when I picked up the phone, was a very sweet sound indeed. 

What does the Caldecott mean to you? 

Brendan Wenzel: Making a book, and then having it resonate with a reader, is an experience that is humbling and heartening beyond words. No matter their age, knowing that a book I’ve made has connected with another person, makes me feel and on some level understood. When a project resonates with folks who spend so much their time with children and books, and who care deeply about reading, and the combination of pictures and words, it is even more overwhelming. In short, I’m honored. This year was packed with fantastic books, and I feel very fortunate the planets really aligned for me here. If there is one message, I will try and take away it is - just keep going. 

Please finish these sentence starters: 

Reading is a remarkably important practice that should be available to all people- especially children. 

School libraries are magical places.

Borrow They All Saw a Cat from your school or public library. Whenever possible, please support independent bookshops. 

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Cover Reveal for Refugee by Alan Gratz

Happy World Read Aloud Day! I think Refugee will be one of the most talked about middle-grade novels of 2017. I hope teachers and librarians will read it aloud and share it with their students for many years to come. I'm honored to play a role in revealing its cover and sharing an exclusive excerpt. 

A tour de force from acclaimed author Alan Gratz (Prisoner B-3087) this incredibly timely novel tells the powerful story of three different children seeking refuge.

JOSEF is a Jewish boy living in 1930s Nazi Germany. With the threat of concentration camps looming, he and his family board a ship bound for the other side of the world . . .

ISABEL is a Cuban girl in 1994. With riots and unrest plaguing her country, she and her family set out on a raft, hoping to find safety in America . . .

MAHMOUD is a Syrian boy in 2015. With his homeland torn apart by violence and destruction, he and his family begin a long trek toward Europe . . .

All three kids go on harrowing journeys in search of refuge. All will face unimaginable dangers -- from drownings to bombings to betrayals. But there is always the hope of tomorrow. And although Josef, Isabel, and Mahmoud are separated by continents and decades, shocking connections will tie their stories together in the end.

This action-packed novel tackles topics both timely and timeless: courage, survival, and the quest for home.

Refugee by Alan Gratz | Scholastic Press | Publication Date: July 25, 2017

In honor of World Read Aloud Day, I hope you will read aloud the first 17 pages. 

Alan Gratz was born and raised in Knoxville, Tennessee, home of the 1982 World’s Fair. After a carefree but humid childhood, Alan attended the University of Tennessee, where he earned a College Scholars degree with a specialization in creative writing, and, later, a Master’s degree in English education. He now lives with his wife Wendi and his daughter Jo in the high country of Western North Carolina, where he enjoys playing games, eating pizza, and, perhaps not too surprisingly, reading books.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Book Trailer Premiere: You DON'T Want a Unicorn! by Ame Dyckman and Liz Climo

Dear Ame Dyckman and Liz Climo, 

Everyone should kick off today by watching the FABULOUS and HILARIOUS book trailer for You DON'T Want a Unicorn! It is extraordinary! 

I am celebrating You DON'T Want a Unicorn's book birthday at an elementary school in Reston, Virginia. I remembered to pack my I HEART UNICORNS button. I will wear it proudly. 

I'm going to encourage everyone to take off You DON'T Want a Unicorn's dust jacket. I smiled from ear to ear when I saw the surprise on the case cover. You both deserve a virtual round of applause and a high-five. I think kids are going to LOVE it. 

Illustration Credit: Liz Climo 
I hope you have an awesome day celebrating your book's birthday. Are you going to eat cupcakes??? ;-)  I hope so! (Just make sure there aren't any flies buzzing around.) 

Happy reading!

-John Schu 

P.S. I think You DON'T Want a Unicorn! is the perfect picture book to share on World Read Aloud Day. 

P.P.S. Happy Valentine's Day! 

Borrow You DON'T Want a Unicorn! from your school or public library. Whenever possible, please support independent bookshops. 

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Caldecott Honor Artist Carson Ellis

Happy Saturday! I have not stopped smiling for Javaka Steptoe, Vera Brosgol, R. Gregory Christie, Carson Ellis, and Brendan Wenzel since the ALA Youth Media Awards press conference ended on January 23.

Click here to watch the ALA Youth Media Awards press conference
I asked this year's Caldecott winners to answer two questions and finish two sentence starters. 

Today is Carson Ellis' turn to shine. Thank you, Carson! 

Congratulations, Carson! Everyone loves hearing about THE CALL. What ran through your head when the phone rang? What were you thinking about when the Caldecott committee was clapping and cheering for you? 

Carson Ellis: Thank you! It was 4 am in Portland, Oregon when the phone rang. I saw that the call was from Atlanta so I figured it would probably be terrific news, though I also thought I might be dreaming. What was I thinking when they were clapping and cheering for me? Nothing. I was overwhelmed with emotion and confusion and couldn’t think of a single smart thing to say. I hung up the phone and started crying. And then I got up and made coffee.

What does the Caldecott mean to you? 

Carson Ellis: So much. I’ve been obsessing over picture books since I rediscovered a childhood copy of Outside Over There in my basement as a miserable teenager. Oh I was SO miserable and that book spoke to me like few other things could then. It was so poetic and angsty and the art was so good - it totally transformed my idea of what picture books could be and who they could be for. I’ve been collecting and studying them ever since. I don’t think I knew or cared at the time that Outside Over There was a Caldecott Honor book but I obviously do now. It’s amazing to have made a picture book that was awarded the same designation as the book that made me love picture books. But it’s more than that too. 

Illustration Credit: Carson Ellis 
Please finish these sentence starters: 

Reading is everything.

School libraries are sometimes sanctuaries. Speaking from my own experience as a kid who liked to be alone, had a hard time fitting in, and loved to read: school libraries were my safe haven. And school librarians are angels from heaven.

Borrow Du Iz Tak? from your school or public library. Whenever possible, please support independent bookshops. 

Thursday, February 9, 2017

A Guest Post by Caroline Starr Rose, Author of Jasper and the Riddle of Riley’s Mine

Writing Jasper and the Riddle of Riley's Jasper  was my crash course in the Klondike Gold Rush. Somehow, apart from reading a little Jack London, I hardly knew anything about this turn-of-the-nineteenth-century event that for a few years fascinated the entire world. Now, after my own years of research (and obsession!), it’s hard for me to imagine how I could have ever missed the excitement that gripped so many and changed countless lives. I want everyone to know about — and marvel over — this tidbit of history!

In order to make the 2,000-mile journey from Seattle to the Yukon Territory, a “Klondike outfit” was essential. An outfit was a ton of food and supplies meant to get a hopeful prospector through the lengthy journey with enough to set him* up for the mining ahead. But just as important as the required supplies, every would-be miner needed two more things: grit and the willingness to gamble. Another way to put it might be determination with a touch of foolishness. Or optimism tangled up with risk. Whatever you call these character traits, it was almost impossible to find success in the Klondike if you didn’t hold to both.

100,000 “Stampeders” who knew nothing about the hard road ahead of them dropped everything to journey to the Yukon. They left families and jobs, cashing in life savings to pay for passage on steam ships to reach overland trailheads. The hope of a better life was worth it.

The gamble to go to the Klondike was one of many risky choices a Stampeder would have to make. If he took the most well-traveled route north, he’d have to first take a steamer to southern Alaska and choose from one of two overland trails. The Chilkoot was shorter, but steeper. It stayed open year round. White Pass had a more gradual climb, but was longer and sometimes closed if the rain got bad. No one could carry their 2,000 pounds of supplies all at once. Unless a Stampeder had the money to pay for help, he was responsible for carrying it all alone, covering the distance of his chosen trail up to 40 times.

The goal of every Stampeder was to move as fast as possible, because winter could push into the Alaskan-Canadian border area as early as mid-September. Choose the slower trail, and a Stampeder might have to spend the winter waiting for spring “break up,” when the Yukon River — the main travel route at the end of both trails — thawed the following May.

If the Stampeder had the grit to tough it out all the way to Dawson City (the mining town at the confluence of the Yukon and Klondike rivers, which had sprung up the year before the rush began), he’d learn almost every choice piece of land had already been taken. In other words, his dream of finding gold was probably over. About half who traveled the 2,000 miles to Dawson, turned around and headed home. But some stayed on, hiring themselves out to work established mines, finding jobs in Dawson City, or mining on less desirable land. Even if a prospector got a choice spot along a gold-producing river, there was no guarantee his stake would yield the same.

Of the 100,000 Stampeders who set out for the Klondike, 30 - 40,000 reached Dawson. About 20,000 of those who made it to Dawson tried looking for gold. 4,000 found it. A few hundred amassed enough to be considered rich. But only a handful were able to hold onto their wealth.

All that hardship with so little return.

The the draw and the danger — which required grit and gamble — kept countless Stampeders moving on their quest for gold. I can’t help admiring these souls who lived all-in, who risked everything for a wild dream. We could all use a little Stampeder foolishness and determination in our lives, don’t you think?

* I’ve used the pronoun “he” because most Stampeders were male. But a handful of gutsy women and children made the journey, too.

Wednesday, February 8th – Teach Mentor Texts

Thursday, February 9th – Mr. Schu Reads

Friday, February 10th – Mrs. Knott’s Book Nook

Saturday, February 11th – Late Bloomer’s Book Blog

Sunday, February 12th – Children’s Book Review

Monday, February 13th – LibLaura5

Tuesday, February 14th – All the Wonders

 Borrow Jasper and the Riddle of Riley's Mine from your school or public library. Whenever possible, please support independent bookshops. 

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Cover Reveal for The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street by Karina Yan Glaser

Hi, Karina! I am sooooo excited to celebrate The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street today and throughout the year. Thank you for finishing my sentences and for allowing me to reveal the cover for The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street. 

Karina Yan Glaser: Thank you for having me! I’m such a huge fan of your blog and love your enthusiasm for kid’s literature!

Thank you for all you do for children's literature. 

I think Karl James Mountford’s cover illustration is absolutely perfect! I love how he captured the spirit of the Vanderbeeker family, their home, and their neighborhood. Home and community is such a big part of this story, and the cover captures the life (and secrets) in the brownstone where the Vanderbeekers live. I feel so lucky that HMH chose Karl to do this book cover (and that he said yes)!

Isa, Jessie, Oliver, Hyacinth, and Laney are five kids who live in a brownstone in Harlem, New York City. Isa and Jessie are twelve-year-old twins, Oliver is nine, Hyacinth is six, and Laney is four-and-three-quarters. I love big family dynamics, and my favorite scenes to write are when the five of them are in a room together and are all talking over each other.

Visit Karina's website. 

On October 3, 2017, The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street will be out in the world! I will probably go to a bookstore, which is what I do whenever there is a reason to celebrate!

Linda Sue Park is my author hero! I’ve admired her forever and read all her books. When my editor emailed me with Linda Sue’s blurb, I was in complete shock. I could not even believe that Linda Sue Park read my book… and she liked it! Linda Sue is represented by the same literary agency as I am, so I immediately texted the film agent there (who also happens to be my friend and neighbor) because she has met and worked with Linda Sue and we both admire her work so much. If you want to know my reaction in real time, here is that text exchange.

The sequel to The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street will be out in 2018! The sequel is set in the summer, and it begins with the Vanderbeeker kids having the most boring summer ever. At least, that’s what they think…

Mr. Schu, you should have asked me how many books I have in my apartment! We have… a lot. My two daughters are big readers, so half their room is made up of bookshelves and crammed with books. Then I have all my books, which takes up a lot of my bedroom and the living room, plus I get a lot of advance copies of books because I love recommending books as a contributing editor at Book Riot. There are piles of books everywhere!

And if that’s not enough, we manage a Little Free Library right outside of our building in Harlem, and the kids in our neighborhood love it. My favorite used bookstore, The Book Cellar in New York City, donates overflow children’s books to our Little Free Library so we can keep it stocked for any kid who wants a book. We store all those donated books (boxes of them!) in our hallway. Did I mention our apartment is 750 square feet? But for me, being surrounded by books is a type of paradise. Don’t you think so? 

Yes, it is definitely a type of paradise! 

Look for The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street on October 3.