Saturday, February 24, 2018

Caldecott Honor Artist Elisha Cooper

Click here to watch the 2018 ALA Youth Media Awards press conference.
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 Elisha's turn to shine! Congratulations, Elisha! 

Congratulations, Elisha! 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?

Elisha: My first thought was: don’t fall off the bike! I was speeding down Mercer Street, here in New York, it was early morning and the phone in my backpack rang and I was pretty sure I knew, or hoped, what it was about. So I pulled over, in a state of giddiness and dishevelment — bike, backpack, helmet, gloves strewn around me — and talked with the committee. I think there was a lot of whooping. I’ll always love Mercer Street.

What does the Caldecott mean to you? 

Elisha: I’m not sure yet. It hasn’t really sunk in. I’m honored, of course, but trying to remember that there are so many wonderful books out there, and that Big Cat, Little Cat is the same book last week as it is today. That said, I’m thrilled that more kids will have a chance to read the book.

Please finish these sentence starters: 

Reading is everything. Also family, coffee, Premier League soccer, Maine lakes, furry animals, art. But it starts, for me, with reading.

School libraries are the best. They were my first home away from home. Though I think libraries could have more cats, dogs, and pandas painted directly on their walls. Call me.

 Borrow BIG CAT, LITTLE CAT from your school or public library. Whenever possible, please support independent bookshops. 

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Caldecott Honor Artist Jason Chin

Click here to watch the 2018 ALA Youth Media Awards press conference.
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 Jason Chin's turn to shine! Congratulations, Jason! 

Congratulations, Jason! 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?

Jason Chin: When I answered, a lady introduced herself and said she was calling from ALA.  Then she said “congratulations, you’ve been awarded an honor.” This was followed by cheering, but she didn’t say “Caldecott" right away.  I didn’t want to be presumptuous and say, “a Caldecott Honor?” but I didn’t want to say something dumb like “for what?” either.  So there was a bit of awkward silence until someone in the background yelled “for the Caldecott!”  Which rendered me speechless again, and all I could manage was “I’m speechless,” and then a belated "thank you." It was very awkward on my part.

What does the Caldecott mean to you? 

Jason Chin: From an early age I have been aware of the Caldecott, because a Caldecott award winning artist lived in my town and visited my elementary school every year.  She was a local celebrity.  In our minds, the books with the Caldecott stickers were the best books, which meant we were connected to one of the best artists (of course, I thought she was THE best).  

Now I recognize that awards are subjective, and that there are no “best” books.  There are just excellent books, and I see the award as a mark of excellence, chosen by some of the most insightful and dedicated librarians in the country.  I think that’s what makes it the so meaningful to me now.  I am honored that such a group thinks my book is worthy of a Caldecott honor.  Each time I see that sliver sticker on my book jacket, my feelings from childhood rush back, and I am struck dumb again.

Please finish these sentence starters: 

Reading is my gateway to experiences beyond my own.

School libraries are my favorite places in the whole school!

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

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Caldecott Honor Artist Gordon C. James

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 Gordon's turn to shine! Thank you, Gordon! 

Congratulations, Gordon! 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? 

Gordon C. James: I was thankful and proud. I knew my wife and kids would be proud of me. Believe it or not, I was also thinking about what I might have done differently to improve the book. I didn’t win the award so that means there are areas in which to improve. The work that goes into refining my craft brings me great enjoyment. When there’s work to be done, or change to be made, I find that exciting.

 What does the Caldecott mean to you? 

Gordon C. James: Caldecott represents excellence in children’s book illustration. If you have one it means you are among the best to have done this.

Please finish these sentence starters: 

Reading is an escape.  

School libraries are where I used to go to repeatedly check out “How to Draw the Marvel Way” and “The Making of the Dark Crystal." 

Those books were never in my school library because they were always in my backpack!  I’d check them out any chance I got.  They were a big inspiration.  I still have the “Dark Crystal” book from Potomac Landing Elementary School.  I lost it, had to paid for it with my lawn mowing money, and later found it a year later.  It’s still in my studio today.  Kids, please keep track of your library books.  

 Borrow Crown: An Ode to the Fresh Cut from your school or public library. Whenever possible, please support independent bookshops. 

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.