Tuesday, February 20, 2018

The Mad Wolf's Daughter by Diane Magras

I have revealed many covers and book trailers, but this is my first time revealing an excerpt from an audio book. I think you're going to enjoy listening to Joshua Manning's exquisite narration of The Mad Wolf's Daughter. Go ahead, press the ORANGE button! 

Here is the text of the first chapter, just in case you want to start at the beginning of the story. 


The fog drew back upon the dark sea and revealed a gleaming point like a ship’s bow, which seemed to nod at the girl brooding by the glowing bonfire.

“What’s that?” Drest leaned forward, her hand on her dagger.

Her elbow dug into the shoulder of her brother Gobin, who lay with his arm slung over the fringe of his coal-black hair.

“Gobin?” She poked him. “Are you awake?”


“There’s something in the sea.”

“I’m not awake, lass.”

“It’s something wooden on the waves just past the dragons’ teeth.”

His eyes flicked open, then closed. “Drest, dear, it’s a dream. Lie back. If you want to stay out here with us, you need to sleep.”

Drest crept around the fire to Nutkin, Gobin’s twin, who lay in almost the same position, except it was his hand, not arm, that held back his black hair.

“I’m not awake, either,” Nutkin said, a smile tweaking his lips.

“We come home from war and you’re jumping at every sound,” muttered Uwen, her youngest brother. 

“Go to sleep, you crab-headed squid gut, or I’ll make 
you sleep in the cave with the snails.”

Drest crawled back to the water’s edge. The sea was quiet. The night mist had swept in again. She listened, unmoving, the wind’s fingers riffling her short and uneven brown hair.

Grimbol, her father, had always said that no boat or ship could reach their tight, protected cove, that the dragons’ teeth—the stones scattered over the harbor—were hungry for wood and men. And no man or devil would dare draw near the headland while her brothers and father were home.

Yet something was there.

Drest left the circle by the fire where her family slept and scrambled up the boulders behind the camp. She climbed over the crumbling stones, dead tree roots, and clumps of gorse, past the crag that looked over the spot of rocky beach where her brothers kept their boats, then higher, until she came to a point where the sea opened up before the headland. Above her rose the path to the cliffs. Behind her lay the caves where her family kept their supplies and slept when it rained. Over the water, the ash-gray fog stretched like smoke. Drest closed her eyes and listened.

Waves, sloshing.

The wind, gently breathing.

Her father and brothers, snoring from below.

A creak.

Not just a creak, but a scrape as well, the rasp of wood on stone in the cove just past the dragons’ teeth. She knew that sound: a boat. And it was landing.

Drest flew down the uneven cliff side, blind in the darkness but knowing her way. She pounded back into the camp toward the glow of the bonfire, and dropped to her knees beside her eldest brother.

“Wulfric, there’s a boat in the water!”

Wulfric opened his eyes a crack. “What are you saying, lass?”

“A boat. Like one of yours! Lads, get up!”

Heads rose around her. Her father turned over with a growl.

“Our poor wee Drest’s had a nightmare,” murmured Thorkill, fingering the stone pendant he wore below his curly ginger beard. “Was it Gobin’s battle story that kept you awake, lass?”

“Nay, it’s not that! I heard a boat.” Drest stood, wincing at her brothers’ shaking heads. “Lads, I saw it!”

“Keep your grub-spotted nightmares to yourself,” Uwen mumbled from beside the fire.

Her brothers settled down again, grunting and grumbling, until she was standing alone.

“Why won’t you listen? Do I ever tell stories? Lads, there’s a boat out there.”

No one spoke.

Drest opened her mouth, but before she could say anything more, the camp was bright with flames.

Look for The Mad Wolf's Daughter on March 6, 2018. 

A Scottish medieval adventure about the youngest in a war-band who must free her family from a castle prison after knights attack her home—with all the excitement of Ranger’s Apprentice and perfect for fans of heroines like Alanna from The Song of the Lioness series.

One dark night, Drest’s sheltered life on a remote Scottish headland is shattered when invading knights capture her family, but leave Drest behind. Her father, the Mad Wolf of the North, and her beloved brothers are a fearsome war-band, but now Drest is the only one who can save them. So she starts off on a wild rescue attempt, taking a wounded invader along as a hostage.

Hunted by a bandit with a dark link to her family’s past, aided by a witch whom she rescues from the stake, Drest travels through unwelcoming villages, desolate forests, and haunted towns. Every time she faces a challenge, her five brothers speak to her in her mind about courage and her role in the war-band. But on her journey, Drest learns that the war-band is legendary for terrorizing the land. If she frees them, they’ll not hesitate to hurt the gentle knight who’s become her friend.

Drest thought that all she wanted was her family back; now she has to wonder what their freedom would really mean. Is she her father’s daughter or is it time to become her own legend?

Monday, February 19, 2018

Cover Reveal: The Splintered Light by Ginger Johnson

Hi, Ginger Johnson! Happy Monday from Chennai, India! I hope you had a wonderful weekend. A big thank-you for dropping by to share the cover for The Splintered Light and for finishing my sentences. I greatly appreciate it.

Ginger: Hi, Mr. Schu! Thanks for hosting me! I’m delighted to be here and happy, as most writers would be, to finish sentences.

Ian Schoenherr’s cover illustration for The Splintered Light is glorious. It gives a hint at what is to come and makes a promise that there are wonders and marvels inside: the black and white world, the color racing from the prism, Ishmael (the main character) in shadow reaching for the light. It’s so satisfying to see such a tangible image come from words on a page. Honestly, I think there are few things in this world more magical than a rainbow, especially when seen against a black and white palette. I kind of want to run my fingers through that spectrum as if it were a skein of alpaca yarn, you know?

Ishmael is an 11-year old boy who lives a monotonous and grief-filled existence on his family’s meager and colorless farm. The only break in his grief is a strange light that pierces a pane of glass in the barn and splinters Ishmael’s world into a spectrum of color he never knew existed. When the worries of the farm become too great for him to bear, Ishmael sets out to find his older brother Luc and bring him home. His search takes him to the Commons, where he discovers a wonder and beauty that intrigues him and calls to his heart.

I hope The Splintered Light will inspire readers to see the world with new eyes, appreciating things that are commonly taken for granted. I hope it will inspire them to yearn for the beautiful and the good, and to be able to see joy in the midst of difficulties. I hope it will empower readers to seek out creative and new solutions to problems and provide greater insight into what is happening around us now.

My favorite color would be hard to narrow down. I love all color—bold straight hues—as well as black (the absence of color) and white (the presence of all colors). I did go through a purple phase in elementary school, and I painted my first kitchen lime green. I just bought a fabulous hat made of red feathers, I often wear bright yellow eye shadow, and for some reason, all of my winter coats are green. My bookshelves are even arranged by color, which I’m certain will make most librarians (including my mother) cringe.

School libraries are practically divine. Seriously. A room full of books just waiting to be read? An eager librarian? A constant stream of new books? Sometimes even comfy chairs? Time to read? What’s better than that? Sign me up. Of course, my mother was an elementary school librarian, so perhaps I’m a bit biased. I spent a lot of time in school libraries.

Mr. Schu, you should have asked me what kind of research I did for The Splintered Light. It would be easy to assume that all the details in a work of fiction are made up, especially in a fantasy, but actually I did an immense amount of research for this book. I wanted everything—every single element—to be scientifically sound or as close to scientifically sound as I could get, before I began tinkering around. I researched the science of color, the psychology of color, dimensions of space, shapes and their symbolism, shape in the mathematical sense, shape encoded in the physical world, pointillism, the meanings of names, proverbs, architecture, the science of sound, types of motion, the creative process, types of simple machines, the guild system, the symbolism of numbers, types of tastes, the science of scent, the stages of grief, anagrams, creation stories, cairns, palate cleansers, cosmology, etc. I haven’t yet decided if I was very ignorant or very enthusiastic. Maybe both. At any rate, the research was fascinating and as much fun as the writing.

Ginger Johnson received an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from Vermont College, where she studied under the tutelage of Kathi Appelt, Martine Leavitt, Sarah Ellis, and Tim Wynne-Jones. While there, she won the Marion Dane Bauer award, and in the summer of 2014 she was awarded a letter of merit from SCBWI for the WIP grant. The Splintered Light is her debut novel.

Look for The Splintered Light on September 4, 2018. 

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Caldecott Medalist Matthew Cordell

Happy Saturday! I am excited to kick off my fourth annual Caldecott series. 

Click here to watch the 2018 ALA Youth Media Awards Webcast. 
I asked Matthew Cordell, Elisha Cooper, Gordon C. James, Thi Bui, and Jason Chin to answer two questions and to finish two sentence starters. 

Today is Matthew Cordell's turn to shine! Many thanks, Matthew! :) 

Congratulations, Matthew! 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?

Matthew Cordell: Thanks so much, John! My phone call came in a little later than expected, so I had already given up hope that I was going to hear anything! Then the phone rang and I FREAKED. I jumped up out of bed and on the other end of the phone was Tish Wilson, the chair of the Caldecott committee. There was some confusion about how to connect the speaker phone for the other committee members, and what was probably only 10 seconds, at most, felt like an eternity. And then, I found out that Wolf in the Snow was going to be the Caldecott medal recipient. There were cheers and yelling on the other end of the phone. I was literally shaking and literally speechless. (I found out right then that being speechless is, like, an actual thing.)  I was trying to find the right words, but I don’t remember what I ended up saying. I remember being not totally sure if it was the Caldecott medal or an Honor that Wolf was receiving, so I asked, “is this the gold one?”. I also had enough sense to gush “thank you” before we all had to say goodbye. At that point, my wife and two kids were awake and I fell to my knees and we all hugged and laughed and cried about that unimaginable thing that had just happened.

What does the Caldecott mean to you? 

Matthew Cordell: Oh, gosh… It’s so many things. It’s the highest honor an American picture book illustrator like me could ever hope for. It’s incredibly elusive and unpredictable. It’s inspiring and uplifting and career-changing. It’s generosity and mutual respect. It’s a symbol for the selfless and tireless hard work put forth by these committee members every year. It’s high appreciation for art, creativity, and books. It’s a celebration that both children and adults can enjoy and send out and share into the world now and for many years to come.

Please finish these sentence starters:

Reading is not always an interpretation of words. It is sometimes an interpretation of pictures.

School libraries promote intelligence, curiosity, and creativity… and generally speaking, they cultivate better and more interesting human beings.

Borrow Wolf in the Snow from your school or public library. Whenever possible, please support independent bookshops.

Friday, February 16, 2018

Book Trailer Premiere: The Field by Baptiste Paul and Jacqueline Alcántara

Hi, Baptiste Paul and Jacqueline Alcántara! Thank you for allowing me to reveal the book trailer for The Field

Baptiste, please share two things about The Field before everyone watches its FANTASTIC book trailer.

1. It’s about a group of kids who play on despite many obstacles playing the game of soccer.

2. The idea came from playing outside in the rain with my kids.
Jacqueline, what was the most exciting thing about illustrating Baptiste’s manuscript?

It was all exciting! I mean there's the vibrant Caribbean colors, the lush tropical island setting, cute kids, soccer, a dramatic change in weather - all my favorite things to draw! But since I have to choose, I really enjoy drawing movement/motion so it was a lot of fun to research different soccer poses, kicks and tricks and draw the characters just having a great time. Next I really loved thinking about and illustrating the change of colors and feel of the setting before, during and after the storm.

Baptiste, what ran through your head the first time you saw the finished illustrations?

I cried. The world I envisioned was now a reality. The illustrations are spot on. As I flipped through each page key details that Jackie captured in the illustration unlocked specific memories. I find myself time traveling — I still do each time I read the book.

Jacqueline, what would we see if we visited your studio?

Oh my studio is my favorite room in my home. It's super cozy, filled with lots and lots of stuff - if feels like my grandpa’s basement. I have a beautiful old wooden desk/flat files from my grandpa, tons of frames on the walls (I used to be a framer), a huge old map of the world, a floor to ceiling tapestry from Burkina Faso, tons of supplies, paper, and every kind of adhesive you could ever want. Boxes, brushes, books, scraps of notes everywhere. I have a proper collection of tools, lots of things laying around that I've been meaning to fix, current projects hanging up. Probably there would be some snacks on my desk, definitely my computer and notebook, highlighters and pencils, and finally my dog curled up on a pillow.

Baptiste, please finish these sentence starters:

Soccer is universal, it’s life's ups and downs in 90 minutes. It was my escape from the hardships I faced as a child.

Picture books are tools we use to introduce the diversity of our world to children.

Jacqueline, please finish these sentence starters:

The Field will make you want to jump up, grab a ball, find some friends and go play - rain or shine!

Mr. Schu, you should have asked me… well I really loved your questions actually!  But maybe, "when was the last time you played in the rain?”

Look for The Field on March 6, 2018. 

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Book Trailer Premiere: Rock ‘N’ Roll Soul by Susan Verde and Matthew Cordell

Hello, Susan Verde! Hello, Matthew Cordell! I hope 2018 is treating you well! (Matthew responded to my interview questions a week before he received an AMAZING phone call from the Caldecott committee informing him he won the 2018 Caldecott Medal!!! I'm looking forward to featuring Wolf in the Snow in an upcoming blog post.) 

Susan:  Hi Mr. Schu!  Hi Matthew!  Thank you for this interview. I am honored to be chatting with you and Matthew. So far 2018 is awesome! I hope it’s going well for you, too. I am especially excited about this book that will be in the world soon.  It’s been such a thrill to work with Matthew.  The way he has brought this story to life is beyond expectation and causes me to dance and sing every time I read it!

Matthew: Hi, John! 2018 has gotten off to a solid start.  I’m typing this from the middle of a week of fun school visits in Texas. Looking forward to seeing what comes from here!

Thank you, Susan and Matthew! 

Susan, how would you respond if someone turned to you on an elevator and said, “That looks like a fun book. What is Rock ‘N’ Roll Soul about?”

Susan: Oooh the elevator pitch! I would say, “This is a story of musical exploration and marching to the beat of your own drum. Anyone who loves music and joyful noise will be inspired by this book to share their own unique sound with pride!”

Matthew, why should everyone take off Rock ‘N’ Roll Soul’s dust jacket?

Matthew: There’s a surprise under there, which happens to be one of my favorite illustrations from the whole book! (p.s. ALWAYS look under picture book dust jackets.)

Susan and Matthew, have you ever participated in a talent show? If yes, what was your talent?

Susan: I have never participated in a talent show actually. I did a lot of musical theater in middle school and played piano and sang in the chorus but never entered a show. I do love being an enthusiastic audience member!!

Matthew: Sadly, I never did. Unless you count spelling as a talent… I came in second place in our 4th grade Spelling Bee. Correct spelling is pretty rock ‘n’ roll, right?

Matthew, please take us through the process of making one of the illustrations for Rock ‘N’ Roll Soul.

This book was drawn in pen and ink and colored with watercolor. I tried to keep my line as loose as possible to give each drawing a bit more of that punk rock vibe. There are a lot of pages that are, like, musical daydreams of our protagonist. In those sections, we switched it up a bit with the color, which was a lot of fun.

Susan and Matthew, please finish these sentence starters:

Rock ‘N’ Roll Soul
’s book trailer…

… is meant to get people tapping their feet and nodding their heads and eager to read the book to find out more about how music in all its forms not only inspires this rock n roll girl but also the reader to celebrate his or her own musical style!

… is a wonderful way to introduce readers to the sweet rock ‘n’ roll essence of our book!

One of my favorite rock ‘n’ roll songs is…

Susan: “
Lola” by The Kinks and “Roxanne” by The Police and “Rise” by Pearl Jam and “Ironic” by Alanis Morissette…. oh gosh did you say one?

“Baba O’Riley” by The Who.

Look for Rock ‘N’ Roll Soul on May 15, 2018. 

Friday, February 9, 2018

Book Trailer Premiere: Dog Days of History: The Incredible Story of Our Best Friends by Sarah Albee

Hi, Sarah Albee! Thank you for stopping by to share the book trailer for Dog Days of History: The Incredible Story of Our Best Friends. I know your daughter created the book trailer for Poison: Deadly Deed, Perilous Professions, and Murderous Medicines. Did she create the trailer for Dog Days of History?

Sarah Albee: She did. It was extremely providential to have spawned a child who can cast, direct, produce, edit, and compose music.

Please tell us about one of the images featured on Dog Days of History’s cover.

Sarah Albee: Can I talk about two? Because if you remove the dust jacket, you can see two cool images on the front and back case cover underneath. I love when designers do that, and Nat Geo let me help choose the pictures. 

What was one of the most surprising or interesting facts you learned while writing Dog Days of History?

Sarah Albee: Oh, Mr. Schu, I learned so many cool facts! But here’s one: Did you know that as recently as the mid-20th century, dogs kept as pets were a luxury enjoyed mostly by the wealthy? Ordinary people didn’t have time or space or money to care for a pet dog. Most dogs, like most people, were expected to work for a living. They herded and hunted for us. They guarded and protected us. They went to battle with us, and rescued us. They acted as bed-warmers, foot-warmers, lap-warmers, and poison tasters. And because people used to eat with their fingers (forks weren’t used regularly until the 1600s), dogs could also be handy stand-ins as table napkins.

OK, that was more than one fact. But we’ve known each other a long time, Mr. Schu. You knew I couldn’t stop at one.

Thank you for not stopping at one fact. :) 

Please finish these sentence starters:

Dogs have always been a part of my life. They have shown me what love looks like, and have taught me a thousand other things, big and small. I hope my kid readers are lucky enough to get to know and love a dog.

Alexander Hamilton: A Plan for America is a biography for young readers I wrote for the new HarperCollins I Can Read! History series. It comes out in July. And seeing the musical was of course part of my research.

Mr. Schu, you should have asked me what I’ve been reading. I’ve recently read these amazing books:

Life on Surtsey by Loree Griffin Burns

Can an Aardvark Bark? by Melissa Stewart

Like Vanessa by Tami Charles

Mary’s Monster by Lita Judge

Breakout by Kate Messner (coming out in June)

Look for Dog Days of History: The Incredible Story of OUR BEST FRIENDS on March 27, 2018. 

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Juan Felipe Herrera and Lauren Castillo

Hi, Juan Felipe Herrera!

Juan Felipe: Hello! 

Hi, Lauren Castillo!

Lauren: Hi, Mr. Schu! 

Thank you for dropping by to discuss Jabberwalking and ImagineJuan Felipe, I am excited to premiere the book trailer for Jabberwalking. Before everyone watches the video, please share what it means to Jabberwalk.

Juan Felipe: To be free, to let yourself go in the open public space of life and its environments, get out there!

Lauren, the cover for Imagine is gorgeous. Why did you depict this scene on the cover?

Lauren: Thanks so much, Mr. Schu! The idea for the cover was taken from an interior spread where the child is spending the night under the stars. Illustrating this scene recalled wonderful memories of warm nights spent outdoors on the hill in my family’s backyard; the dark, the quiet, the magical expanse of sky. You couldn’t help but dream, and imagine. This is what I wanted to depict on the cover— the feeling of a whole world being yours to explore.

Juan Felipe, what planted the seed for Imagine?

Juan Felipe: The first line, the feeling of what I was about to write, on a legal-size yellow paper pad,

I truly love how the poem flows and how much it says in a few lines
Lauren, what materials did you use to create the illustrations for Imagine?

Lauren: The art was created in pieces: The line was drawn with ballpoint pen, and the colored backgrounds are foam monoprints made with acrylic paint. I combined the two layers in Photoshop, line over color. I’ve slowly been integrating foam monoprinting into my work, but this is the first book where the technique was used for such a large portion of the art. It felt very freeing, not knowing exactly how a print would turn out, and then embracing the imperfections that monoprint inevitably offers.

Juan Felipe, please finish the following sentence starters:

Poetry is you & everything 

Lauren Castillo’s illustrations are painted with emotion, they are friendly

                                                            and invite me to stand right next to the main character, shoulder to shoulder, such sweet memories
School libraries are my second homes

Mr. Schu, you should have asked me…what is writing? A way to know ourselves and each other, all things — as we evolve through time. Gracias!

Lauren, please finish the following sentence starters:

Juan Felipe Herrera’s poetry is so beautiful, so evocative, and so very powerful.

Imagine is an inspiring poem and story that I hope will encourage many little dreamers

Mr. Schu, you should have asked me if we can do some foam monoprinting together at NerdCamp this summer. Yes, please!

Sounds like a plan! :) 

Look for Jabberwalking on March 13, 2018. 

Can you walk and talk at the same time? How about Jabberwalk? Can you write and draw and walk and journal all at the same time? If not, you’re in luck: exuberant, blue-cheesy cilantro man Juan Felipe Herrera, Poet Laureate of the United States, is here to teach you everything he knows about being a real-life, bonified, Jabberwalking poet! Jabberwalkers write and speak for themselves and others no matter where their feet may take them — to Jabberwalk is to be a poet on the move. And there’s no stopping once you’re a Jabberwalker, writing fast, fast, fast, scribble-poem-burbles-on-the-run. Scribble what you see! Scribble what you hear! It’s all out there — vámonos!

Look for Imagine in October 2018.