Thursday, July 27, 2017
Happy Thursday, Kim Ventrella! It was wonderful meeting you in Chicago during ALA. I'm thrilled you dropped by Watch. Connect. Read. to share the book trailer for Skeleton Tree and to finish my sentences.
Thanks for having me, Mr. Schu. I love your blog, and I’m SUPER excited to be here!
I am super excited that you're here today. Congratulations!
The book trailer for Skeleton Tree is whimsical, spooky and full of wonder. The creators, Jerry Bennett and Zac Davis, did a great job capturing the essence of the book in only 45 seconds. I love it, and I hope readers will, too!
Stanly and Miren are a typical brother and sister, in that they don’t always get along. Miren can be super annoying, like when she messes up Stanly’s stuff or ruins his plans, but, in the end, Stanly would do whatever it takes to keep her safe.
|Visit Kim's website.|
I wrote Skeleton Tree sitting cross-legged in a dog bed, while my dog sat on the couch looking over my shoulder. It’s true, I’m not a huge fan of chairs, especially the ones that you can’t sit cross-legged in. I started with a question, “What would happen if a boy discovered a finger bone growing in his backyard?,” and I went on from there. Pretty quickly the story took me in places I wasn’t expecting, but that’s the beauty of writing. It’s like uncovering an ancient fossil inch by inch. You never know what you’re going to get until the very end.
On September 26, 2017, Skeleton Tree will be released!!! I will probably celebrate by kissing my dog on the mouth, eating fancy chocolates and sneaking into bookstores so I can spy on my book.
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Libraries are doorways to magical worlds. And, the best part is that anyone can go through them. There are no walls, no restrictions, no cost. Like the wardrobe in The Chronicles of Narnia, children can step inside and be transported by the power of story. And stories are more important now than ever. They provide escape, understanding and the opportunity to see the world through someone else’s eyes.
Mr. Schu, you should have asked me what you love most about middle grade literature. Great question! I love the fact that middle grade stories address important issues, but always with a big dose of whimsy, wonder and heart.
Look for Skeleton Tree on September 26, 2017.
Monday, July 24, 2017
Hello, Melissa Iwai! Happy Monday! Thank you for dropping by to celebrate Pizza Day and to chat with me about your illustrations, pizza, soup, and school libraries.
Melissa Iwai: Thanks for having me, Mr. Schu! I'm so excited and honored to be here, introducing my new book, Pizza Day, the sequel to Soup Day!
I think I will eat soup for lunch and pizza for dinner. :)
The cover illustration for Pizza Day should remind people of the ooey, gooey, juicy, crunchy goodness of a fresh pizza. And if they read the book, they will discover how they can make one just like it themselves!
I created the illustrations using a mixture of hand-drawn ink markings and painted watercolor paintings and swatches which I then scanned into the computer and assembled digitally.
|Illustration Credit: Melissa Iwai|
After you read Pizza Day, I hope you'll be inspired to plant a garden or cook in the kitchen with a child in your life. Some of my favorite memories are of making recipes with my son when he was little. It must have done something because now he loves making up his own recipes and cooking for himself (sometimes!)
|Illustration Credit: Melissa Iwai|
My favorite pizza is Veggie -- just like the one featured in the story. I made this pizza from scratch too many times to count when I was developing the recipe for the book, and I still love it!
Soup Day tells the story of a little girl and her mom making "Snowy Day Soup" for lunch in their cozy apartment in the city on a winter's day.
School libraries are sanctuaries for the mind and soul. They are a safe place for kids to explore, learn, and find peace. One of my earliest memories is of spending hours in our Kindergarten library after school. My mother was a volunteer librarian and would bring me there after lunch. I loved being alone and free to explore the enormous collection of picture books for hours on end. It's the reason why I've wanted to be a picture book creator my entire life!
|Explore Melissa's website.|
Mr. Schu, you should have asked me if the family depicted in Soup Day and Pizza Day are multi-ethnic. The answer is yes! Though the stories themselves aren't about ethno-cultural issues per se, I purposely made the daughter in Soup Day be adopted from Asia and the boy in Pizza Day be biracial. The reason why is because I know, from my own experience, how affirming it is for kids of different backgrounds to see themselves in books!
Look for Pizza Day on October 31, 2017.
Wednesday, July 19, 2017
Hi, James Nicol! Happy Thursday! Thank you for dropping by to share the book trailer for The Apprentice Witch and to finish my sentences.
James: Hey, Mr. Schu! Thank you for asking me along and for helping launch the very gorgeous book trailer for The Apprentice Witch. I’m very excited!
Before you watch the book trailer for The Apprentice Witch, throw away your pointy black hat, your long black cloak, stripy tights and cauldron, because this story is not about those types of witches. (You can hang on to your broom though—in fact, hang on for dear life!)
Did you know Arianwyn isn’t a made-up name, though people often think it is. It’s a Welsh name and means ‘woman of silver’. My grandfather was from Wales and it must be a name I heard someone in the family use once, I think it must have lodged in the back of my mind and waited until it was needed. I love the way Welsh names sound so magical.
If you visited Lull you would discover a beautiful, but very isolated, walled town (see pic!) in the middle of nowhere surrounded by a magical forest. It’s remote, hours from other towns, and as a result the locals can be a little un-trusting of newcomers.
(It looks a just like, Conwy, a town in Wales that I only visited and saw for the first time two months after The Apprentice Witch was released here in England. It was as if it had sprung out of my imagination!)
|Explore James' website. |
Reading is a joy! It’s also an escape from the world for me. But it’s also something I struggled with as a young child. Our school reading schemes here in England (back in the 1980s) were far from inspiring and it wasn’t until I fell in love with The Hundred and One Dalmatians by Dodie Smith that I became an avid reader!
School libraries are a place for children to explore, discover and wonder. Full of all different types of books, novels and short stories, classics and new writing, non-fiction and poetry. My school library was the place I knew held all the stories as a child, and part of what spurred me on to be a better reader so I could get my hands on all those stories!
Mr. Schu, you should have asked me if there will be more adventures from Arianwyn and co.! And the answer is YES! The second book, A Witch Alone comes out here in England next Spring and will be out in America sometime thereafter. All our old friends will be back, along with a host of new magical creatures and a secret mission to keep Arianwyn very busy indeed!
Hello! Thank you so much for having me on your blog today, Johnny! I hope you’re feeling better! I’m so excited to debut the trailer for WHAT MAKES A MONSTER? with you! Here we go!
Hi, Jess Keating! Thanks for sending me positive thoughts and love while I deal with a broken clavicle. :)
Are you ready for the word association game to end all word association games? Let’s do this!
My words are in purple. Jess Keating's words are in black.
My words are in purple. Jess Keating's words are in black.
Can’t break his clavicle.* (!!)
AVOID AT ALL COSTS.
What Makes a Monster:
Living and breathing.
I, too, want bone claws.
Nerdy for Life!
Knopf Books for Young Readers:
Picture books are:
Like time capsules, but for your heart.
Party time, monsters!
Mr. Schu, you should have asked me: how educators can get in touch with me! I offer tons of free videos and book extras on my website, and all teachers and parents are invited to subscribe to my free science and creativity magazine for kids, The Curious Creative! Check out this video for more info!
I’d love to hear from you all!
*For those wondering, we scheduled this post the day after the real John Schu broke his clavicle at the Scholastic Reading Summit! Send him love and healing vibes!
Look for What Makes a Monster? on August 8, 2017.
Monday, July 17, 2017
Hello, Julie Berry! Thank you for visiting Watch. Connect. Read. to chat with me about the book trailer for The Emperor’s Ostrich, Begonia, and school libraries.
Julie Berry: Thanks, Mr. Schu! I’m excited to be here. There’s no place I’d rather be than in a school library. So long as we aren’t counting massage parlors or homemade ice cream shops.
Yesterday was National Ice Cream Day. I hope you visited an ice cream shop after you visited your local library and massage parlor. :)
The book trailer for The Emperor’s Ostrich was so much fun to produce. This is the second animated trailer I’ve done now, and I fear it’s becoming an addiction. (The first was for The Scandalous Sisterhood of Prickwillow Place, available here: http://tiny.cc/scandaloustrailer.) Illustrator Liz Starin (Roar, Splashdance; lizstarin.com) created puppets of each character, which we animated as though they were paper dolls with hinged joints. Recording the audio was really fun, too. Pianist Benjamin Salisbury composed the music live in the studio and performed it with the narration. Overheard in the sound booth: “Sounds great, but can you make those chords sound more like a soggy baby’s dripping diaper?” Good times.
I love sharing these trailers with kids during school visits. I see with my own sons how all it takes is a taste of a story to pique their interest in a book. Playful art and lively music give me more ways to convey to kids the flavor of a piece, besides me blabbing about it. I’m don’t mind using video to make more Book Munchers if I can.
Begonia and Alfalfa are, respectively, a milkmaid and her errant cow. A pretty unlikely pair of heroines, but who says there can’t be Udders of Destiny? Both Begonia and Alfalfa are victims of ancestor deities meddling in the affairs of mankind, which is how Alfalfa set out on her long and perplexing journey, forcing Begonia to embark on an even stranger quest to find her and bring her home. Both are also victims of a curious naming scheme. Begonia’s mother, Chrysanthemumsy, being a flower herself, names everything after vegetation: flowers for daughters (Begonia and Peony); edible plants to the livestock (Alfalfa, Sprout, Hay, Clover, Cud, and, of course, Catnip the cat). But there’s nothing victim-y about how both of them press resolutely onward toward what matters most to them.
The emperor bears absolutely no resemblance whatsoever to my children. (Ahem.)
But he certainly has some growing up to do.
He and Begonia are foils to each other. Begonia, at a young age, has already developed tremendous skill in taking care of herself and others, though sometimes that’s her cross to bear. The emperor, by contrast, can’t do the least little thing for himself. His attempt to dress himself independently is one of my favorite giggles in the book.
The Passion of Dolssa tells the story of two passionate young women who form an unlikely and perilous friendship during a dangerous period in European history – the inquisitions following the Albigensian Crusade in southern France in the early Thirteenth Century. One is pious, mystical, and otherworldly; the other is a salty spitfire and a bit of a hustler. What they share is a fierceness in how they love their families, their friends, and, in Dolssa’s case, her divine Beloved. Both are willing to risk all to never betray those they love best. This loyalty, in a period of oppressive ideological violence, will exact a toll from both of them, and all who care about them.
School libraries are where I got my start. I grew up on a farm, and the public library was much too far for me to visit until I reached seventh or eighth grade. If I hadn’t been well-stocked with books from my school libraries from kindergarten onward, and thoroughly indulged by patient librarians who let me check out books by the bushel, I wouldn’t be an author today. More to the point, I wouldn’t be the reader I’ve been through the years, with the lifetime of joy that’s given me, and all its innate educational advantages.
Mr. Schu, you should have asked me how The Emperor’s Ostrich came to be. It actually got its start in a creative writing workshop with a third grade class in Ashland, Massachusetts, some years ago – one of the first workshops I ever did. I asked the kids to pick three words, combine them to form a situation, then choose a main character. My three words were “emperor,” “ostrich,” and “ghoul,” and my main character was a milkmaid named Begonia who was chasing a lost cow, and who had issues with her sister. (I think I was trying to make a point to the kids that the main character and her desire didn’t have to derive in an obvious way from the situation.) The idea tickled my fancy, so I went home that day and wrote a beginning, just to bookmark it in my brain. Since then I’ve done zillions of workshops, and I’m excited to be able to show kids that this little game we play on the whiteboard really can produce a book. I consider this book to be my little present for all those kids. It’s also my homage to Lloyd Alexander, whose delightful and whimsical adventure tales mean so much to me.
Borrow The Emperor's Ostrich from your school or public library. Whenever possible, please support independent bookshops.
Thursday, July 13, 2017
Even though Book 1 in THE EXPLORERS series (The Door in the Alley) just came out in April, Book 2 has been in the wings getting ready for its big reveal, warming up, doing stretches, putting together the perfect outfit. And what a lovely outfit it is . . .
I am most pleased to reveal to all and sundry (especially sundry) the cover of Book 2 in THE EXPLORERS series entitled . . .
THE RECKLESS RESCUE!!
Once again it was illustrated by the sensational Matt Rockefeller, and once again I adore it. I am especially fond of the repeating globe theme from book 1 but this time with a brand new style of globe. Of course it's also super cool to see Sebastian and Evie once more. And I would be remiss if I didn't point out the absolute adorableness of the pig in the teeny hat. Oh yes, he's back.
Here's some delightful cover copy for your edification:
We have left things unresolved! What began as your average story of a boy stumbling upon a pig in a teeny hat and a secret international explorers society has turned into an adventure of epic proportions.
The bad news: The boy (Sebastian) has been kidnapped by a trio of troublesome thugs.
The good news: His new friend Evie has promised to rescue him!
The bad news: Sebastian has been taken halfway around the world.
The good news: Evie has famous explorer and former Filipendulous Five member Catherine Lind at her side!
The bad news: There's still the whole matter of Evie's grandfather (the leader of the Filipendulous Five) somewhere out there in grave danger.
The good news: Pursuing Sebastian will lead Evie and Catherine to another member of the Filipendulous Five, who might be able to help.
This missive is a call to action and an invitation to join in mystery, bravery, and danger. We are about to embark on one amazingly reckless rescue.
The Reckless Rescue isn't out until Spring 2018, but you can still get your hands on the first book in the series and the beginning of the epic adventure, The Door in the Alley, here.
Please click here to read an interview about The Explorers: The Door in the Alley.
Saturday, July 8, 2017
Friday, July 7, 2017
* Book trailer by David Etkin *
Where did the idea of writing a book from seven different points of view come from? How did you feel when you were approached about being part of it?
Dee Romito: We all have books with Aladdin/S&S and our editors have always been amazed by the fact that a lot of us are friends. They expressed that they’d love to do something to celebrate that, which was perfect because we wanted to work together. But the simple answer is Jen. She’s the mastermind behind it all!
Rachele Alpine: Seven authors writing one book together sounded crazy to me, but I love a good challenge, so I was definitely thinking, "Bring it! Let's do this!"
How did everyone pick which characters they'd write?
Gail Nall: It started with one big video call to bounce around plot ideas. We all threw out character suggestions. One of mine was a girl who shows up to the dance only to find out that another girl thinks she has the same date. As we worked together to find ways to tie the main characters to each other, Tess became a member of Heart Grenade (and I honestly can't remember if that was my idea or someone else's!).
How did the plot come together?
Jen Malone: Once we had our characters picked, we each figured out the beginning, middle, and end for our character’s dance experience. It just so happened Alison and I were on another writing retreat and I remember a chilly afternoon on the back porch—
Alison Cherry: With an entire bag of M&Ms—
Jen Malone: Essential plotting food! We had everyone’s beginnings, middles, and ends on separate notecards and we spent hours rearranging them and coming up with a timeline that would work so that each character was in the story somewhat equally and no one disappeared for too long. It was like a giant puzzle.
Once there was an outline and a timeline for the events, how did you write the story?
Ronni Arno: We collaborated using Google Docs. We had a rotating schedule where we were either writing our own chapter or critiquing someone else's. I loved that we not only worked on our own character's story arc, but also on each other’s, because many of them intersected. That process forced me to look at the bigger picture, rather than focus on one chapter at a time (which is what I usually do when writing alone).
How did having seven authors impact you when you were working on your own parts of the story?
Dee Romito: Whatever we changed in our own chapters could potentially affect others, so we had to be careful. One of my favorite things was hopping on the phone or having a big email conversation to chat with Ronni, Jen, and Gail so we could figure out how certain plot points with our four connected characters would play out. Our characters were in other chapters besides our own, so communication among the authors was definitely important to keep the character traits and voice consistent.
What were the challenges and benefits of a collaborative project like this?
Alison Cherry: I've always been really uncomfortable showing unpolished work to other people, and this process forced me to be less precious and perfectionistic about my own words. There just wasn't time to revise a chapter five times before posting it! After a while, it started to feel normal to let people see my work in really early stages, which I think will serve me well in the future!
Stephanie Faris: I've never been a planner, so working in a highly structured situation was very eye-opening to me. It showed me how much better a book flows when the writer has a chapter-by-chapter outline in hand from the start. I may try that with one of my books to see if I can force myself into "planner" mode!
Last question. Did it bring up memories of your own middle school dances?
Rachele Alpine: Yes! The outfit I wore to my first middle school dance! I really don't know what I was thinking! I had on black combat boots, black tights, jean shorts, a flannel shirt that I tucked in and a hat! I really hope no one has pictures from that dance! I think the fashion police would have arrested me on the spot!
Look for Best. Night. Ever. on August 15, 2017 | Aladdin/Simon & Schuster
Lynnfield Middle School is prepped and ready for a dance to remember, including an awesome performance from Heart Grenade, the all-girl band who recently won a Battle of the Bands contest. Seven classmates—Carmen, Genevieve, Tess, Ryan, Ellie, Ashlyn, and Jade—intend to make the most of the night…or at least the five of them who are able to attend do. The other two would sacrifice almost anything to be there.
One thing’s for sure—this entire crew is in for one night! Rachele Alpine, Ronni Arno, Alison Cherry, Stephanie Faris, Jen Malone, Gail Nall, and Dee Romito have created a charming, hilarious, and relatable novel that’s perfect for anyone who can’t wait to dance the night away.
Jen Malone http://www.jenmalonewrites.com/