Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Cover Reveal for The Serpent's Secret: Kiranmala and the Kingdom Beyond by Sayantani DasGupta

Happy Tuesday, Sayantani DasGupta! Thank you for stopping by to reveal the cover for The Serpent’s Secret: Kiranmala and the Kingdom Beyond and to finish my sentences.

Sayantani DasGupta: Thank you so much for having me! What an honor! And I’m beyond delighted to share this amazing cover with the world!

Yes, the cover is AMAZING!

Vivienne To’s cover illustration for The Serpent’s Secret is awesome! (Isn’t it?) (YES!) Seven-headed snake monster? Check. Danger and mayhem and adventure? Double check. Awesome 12-year-old heroine standing on a serpent’s head with bow, arrows, and purple combat boots? All the checks!

The Serpent’s Secret tells the story of interdimensional demon slayer Kiranmala Desi, a girl who thinks she is just a regular sixth grader from Parsippany, New Jersey. That is, until the morning of her 12th birthday, when her parents mysteriously vanish and a drooling rakkhosh demon crashes into her kitchen, determined to eat her alive.  Turns out there might be some truth to her parents’ wacky stories, and that she might be a real Indian princess destined to fight demons and serpents and all the other evil in the multiverse!

Explore Sayantani's website.
Did you know Kiranmala has an awesome posse of friends who help her on her demon-slaying adventures? (Because every hero going on interdimensional demon-slaying adventures obviously needs hilarious and only sometimes helpful sidekicks!)  Kiranmala’s friends, including: two winged pakkhiraj horses; an annoying, talking bird; and two handsome, princely brothers, help her fight all sorts of baddies – like the Serpent King of the underworld (who might want to kill her) and a beautiful but evil Rakkhoshi Queen (who definitely does want to kill her). The question is, even with their help, will she be able to save her family, not to mention the multiverse, and still make it back home in time to finish the sixth grade?

Reading is power, joy, magic, the feeling of flying through the sky on the back of a winged pakkhiraj horse! For me, a daughter of Indian immigrants growing up in America, reading helped me find my strength and a sense of my own voice and my own place in the world. The Serpent’s Secret is in fact based on the Bengali folktales I heard and read when I was young. The other dimension that Kiranmala travels to on her adventures, The Kingdom Beyond Seven Oceans and Thirteen Rivers, is actually the world where most traditional Bengali folktales take place. So in a sense, Kiranmala finds herself inside stories in the same way that I did. I imagined myself in the Bengali stories my grandmother used to tell me when I visited India, but Kiranmala actually lives those stories, traveling into their magical and sometimes dangerous worlds!

School libraries are havens, treasure troves, places where adventures happen. When I was young, school libraries helped me find stories that inspired me, challenged me, and lit my imagination on fire. Madeline L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time and A Ring of Endless Light were some of my favorites, books I read over and over again, in the same way that the Harry Potter and Percy Jackson books were some of my children’s absolute favorites. School (and community) librarians are heroes – helping young readers of all backgrounds find stories about kids who look like them, as well as kids whose lives are very different from their own. I still get that fluttery-heart feeling when I go into a library – so many books to read! So little time!

Mr. Schu, you should have asked me why rakkhosh (also called rakshasa or rakshas) are the best monsters ever. Ever heard of Jack’s Giant? The one who wants to grind Englishmen’s bones to make his bread? Well, picture Mr. Fee-Fi-Fo-Fum, but add a lot of drool, long fangs and horns, and a penchant for speaking in rhyme and you’re close to picturing a rakkhosh. Zombies, vampires, and werewolves have nothing on a rakkhosh – who will snot all over the place, threaten you in poem form, eat you up, and then use your bones as toothpicks! 

Thank you, Sayantani! Congratulations! 

Sayantani DasGupta grew up hearing stories about brave princesses, bloodthirsty rakkhosh, and flying pakkhiraj horses. She is a pediatrician by training but spends most of her time teaching undergraduates and graduate students at Columbia University. When she’s not writing, Sayantani spends time with her family and is a team member of We Need Diverse Books

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Happy Saturday, Mr. Sharp!

Hello, Mr. Sharp,

Happy Saturday! I hope your weekend is going well. I'm looking forward to seeing you next month at the Scholastic Reading Summit in Chicago. :) :) 

Happy reading!


Please click here to visit Mr. Sharp's blog. 

She Persisted: 13 American Women Who Changed the World by Chelsea Clinton; illustrated by Alexandra Boiger | Publication Date: May 30

Egg by Kevin Henkes 

Happy Dreamer by Peter H. Reynolds 

My Favorite Food: Mi Comida Favorita 

Miles Morales (Spider-Man) by Jason Reynolds | Cover illustration by Kadir Nelson | Publication date: August 1, 2017 

Zombelina School Days by Kristyn Crow; illustrated by Molly Idle | Publication date: June 6, 2017 

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Happy Saturday, Mr. Sharp!

Dear Mr. Sharp,

Happy Saturday! I hope you and your family are settling nicely into your new home. :) 

Happy reading!


Please click here to watch Colby's video. 

The Quest for Z by Greg Pizzoli | Publication Date: June 13, 2017 

The War I Finally Won | Publication Date: October 3, 2017 

Thursday, May 11, 2017

A Guest Post by Jennifer Black Reinhardt

Dear Jennifer Black Reinhardt,

Happy Thursday! I hope you're having a terrific day. Lou Grant, my cat, wanted me to tell you that he thinks Ethel is a-d-o-r-a-b-l-e. 

Thank you for taking over my blog for the day! 


Happy reading!


Making a book is always a very long, winding, frustrating, rewarding, journey, and writing and illustrating Blue Ethel was no exception. Every book journey begins with an idea and that idea came to me several years ago while standing in my in-law’s living room.

It was a typical summer’s day and all the Reinhardts and Borodinskys were gathered together being loud, happy, and lovingly chaotic. The front door banged open and closed as kids sprinted in and out. During one of those door openings, my sister-in-law’s cat, Ethel, trotted in from outside. The square little cat stood like a statue in the center of the hubbub poised for admiration. Her belly hung low and her skinny tail stood straight up like an antenna. Ethel was old and she was fat. She was white and she was black. But on this particular afternoon, Ethel was also blue!

At that time, I didn’t know Ethel very well. But, for the next several years I wondered how Ethel must have felt when she heard our laughter and realized that she had rolled in sidewalk chalk and turned her white fur blue? That sweet cat, whose (important) life’s work was to groom herself, to go outside, and then return to do it all over again. What would Ethel do if she suddenly found herself… colorful?

I hope that readers will discover, as Ethel does, that seeing yourself as beautiful ‘no matter what’ can allow us the opportunity to grow in our own uniqueness, creativity, and self-expression. Blue Ethel is a story about being yourself, and friendship, but it’s also about taking some risks and trying new things.

Perhaps we all need a pink friend named Fluffy to help us be even happier versions of ourselves?

It’s not easy being Ethel, but she’s good at it.

Look for Blue Ethel on May 30, 2017. 

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Book Trailer Premiere: 7 Ate 9 by Tara Lazar and Ross MacDonald

Happy Tuesday! I am thrilled Tara Lazar dropped by to premiere the book trailer for 7 Ate 9 and to finish my sentences. We chatted about Ross MacDonald, The Bookworm, school libraries, and Mrs. Seamus. I wrote the words in purple, and she wrote the words in black. Many thanks, Tara! 

The book trailer for 7 Ate 9 was so much fun to put together. Ross filmed the character shots and I glued them in place. I had been working in the same room as my daughters and must have viewed the video a hundred times as I was editing it. Every time it finished, I let out a huge guffaw, I couldn’t help it, I found it hilarious. Well, my daughters got tired of hearing my loud laugh. They rolled their eyes and repeated “oh my gawd!” and “mother, please!”…but did I stop? Of course not!

Illustration Credit: Ross MacDonald 
Ross MacDonald’s illustrations are the coolest. (Did you know he makes movie and TV props in his studio, too?) For 7 ATE 9, he used his 19th century printing press to make the characters, painted watercolors, and brought all the pieces into Photoshop to put the scenes together. I love the film-noir detective-movie flair mixed with the bright colors of the characters. And their little hands and feet, how adorable are they?

Illustration Credit: Ross MacDonald
Private I would probably NOT want to be called “adorable.” Clever, pragmatic and perceptive is more his groove.

On May 16, 2017, 7 ATE 9: THE UNTOLD STORY launches into the world! I will be celebrating at my local bookstore, The Bookworm in Bernardsville, NJ. I’m going to bake a 9 cake so everyone can say “we ate 9.”

School libraries are the most amazing places filled with possibilities. Anywhere you want to go, there’s a book to take you there. The only limit is your imagination…well, that, and perhaps library due dates… (but you can always renew, HOORAY!)

Mr. Schu, you should have asked me where I was when I first dreamt of becoming a children’s book author. In my school library! Mrs. Seamus saw me looking at a book titled SHE WAS NICE TO MICE and told me it was written by a 12-year-old girl. I thought if she could do it, I could do it, too. It took me a few years, but now here I am on your blog! Dreams really do come true!

Look for 7 Ate 9 on May 16, 2017. 

Monday, May 8, 2017

Book Trailer Premiere: Jabari Jumps by Gaia Cornwall

Jabari Jumps is about a little boy conquering his fear of jumping off the diving board, so I thought it would be funny for the trailer to riff on the whole "Wild West" standoff trope. Here you've got Jabari and the diving board staring each other down and it's super dramatic! --What will happen?? Cliff hanger!  

Like most picture book authors, I always want to write stories that kids relate to. I so clearly remember jumping off the diving board for the first time. It is such a big moment. Working on Jabari Jumps I really got to explore the idea of facing your fears and what that feels like for a kid, but also what a supportive adult looks like in that situation. That fine line between giving your child little pushes forward, but also letting them find their own way. I hope kids read Jabari Jumps and realize you can work up to something that feels scary, or big. Just take it one step at a time and know that all those little steps are moving you forward. Which actually is a great way to tackle all sorts of big things in life, diving boards included. 

Look for Jabari Jumps on May 9, 2017. 

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Happy Saturday, Mr. Sharp!

Hello, Mr. Sharp,

Happy, happy Saturday! Happy Children's Book Week! Congratulations on your new home!  I hope you have a stress-free moving day!

Happy reading!


Please click here to watch Colby's video. 

Clayton Byrd Goes Underground by Rita Williams-Garcia | Publication date: May 9, 2017 

One Shadow on the Wall by Leah Henderson| Publication date: June 6, 2017 

I Wish You More by Amy Krouse Rosenthal and Tom Lichtenheld 

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Cover Reveal for Ahimsa by Supriya Kelkar

Hello, Supriya Kelkar! Happy Children's Book Week!  I am THRILLED you dropped by Watch. Connect. Read. to  finish my sentences and reveal the STUNNING cover for Ahimsa.

Supriya Kelkar: Thank you so much, Mr. Schu! I am a big fan of Watch. Connect. Read. and am excited to be here!

I am excited you are here. Thank you for counting down the days until today's big reveal on Instagram and Twitter

Ahimsa tells the story of a ten-year-old girl named Anjali in British-controlled India in 1942. When Mahatma Gandhi asks each family to give one member to the nonviolent freedom movement, Anjali is devastated to think of her father risking his life for the freedom struggle. But it turns out he isn’t the one joining. Her mother is. And when Anjali’s mother is imprisoned for her participation in the movement, Anjali must step out of her comfort zone to take over her mother’s work, ensuring their little part in the independence movement is completed.

Click here to read the full story. 
The first time I saw Kate Forrester’s cover illustration I squealed loud enough to startle my baby. It portrays Anjali so perfectly, and I adore how Kate incorporates aspects of the story into her intricate design. From the delicate peacock feathers which have significance to Anjali, to the spinning wheel which played such an important part in the Indian freedom movement, the cover was just a dream come true.

Click here to view the original post.
Mahatma Gandhi started a revolution with ahimsa (nonviolence) and civil disobedience. He showed the world there was another way to fight for what was right, without weapons. He inspired millions and thanks to him and the countless others in the movement, India eventually gained its independence in 1947. My great-grandmother was a freedom fighter who went to prison for her work in Gandhi’s nonviolent movement. She worked with Gandhi, and there are several letters that were exchanged between the two of them. (Readers can check out my Instagram to see one of them!) Although Mahatma Gandhi is often portrayed as a saint, he did have his faults, and not every Indian was pleased with Gandhi. Ahimsa covers some of the many views on Mahatma Gandhi.

Click here to view the original post. 

 I hope Ahimsa makes readers feel empowered to be the change they wish to see in the world. I also hope it serves as a mirror for so many kids who don’t often see themselves reflected in books. As an Indian-American, I grew up never seeing myself reflected in a book in America, so I know how important that representation is.
School libraries are windows to the world. They are a place for children to experience other cultures, see things from another person’s perspective, and learn to think critically. But most importantly, I think the knowledge school libraries provide enables children to become empathetic adults, and the world needs more empathy.

Click here to view the original post. 
Mr. Schu, you should have asked me what the greatest birthday gift I’ve ever received was. It was books of course! My aunt and uncle gave me a membership to a book of the month club throughout elementary school. Every month, I’d tear open a package to find three amazing books. I still have every single one of those books and love getting to experience them through my children’s eyes all over again.

Congratulations, Supriya Kelkar! 

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Way of the Warrior Kid by Jocko Willink

I'm celebrating the second day of Children's Book Week with Jocko Willink, the author of Way of the Warrior Kid. We chatted about Marc, Uncle Jake, Joe Bozak, school libraries, and reading. Press play to hear how Jocko finished my sentences. 

Fifth grade was the worst year of Marc’s life. He stunk at gym class, math was too hard for him, the school lunch was horrible, and his class field trip was ruined because he couldn’t swim. But what was most awful thing about fifth grade? Kenny Williamson, the class bully, who calls himself the "King of the Jungle."
When Marc's mother tells him that his Uncle Jake is coming to stay for the whole summer, Marc can't wait. Uncle Jake is a for real, super-cool Navy SEAL. And Uncle Jake has a plan.
He's going to turn Marc into a warrior.
Becoming a warrior isn’t easy. It means a lot of pull ups, sit ups, pushups, squats, swimming, eating right, and studying harder than ever before! Can Marc transform himself into a warrior before school starts in the fall – and finally stand up to the King of the Jungle himself?

Borrow Way of the Warrior Kid from your school or public library. Whenever possible, please support independent bookshops. 

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Happy Saturday, Colby Sharp!

Hi, Mr. Sharp,

Happy Saturday! I think it has been almost three months since I last posted a HAPPY SATURDAY video. Wowsers! I miss these Saturday messages. I hope you're doing well. 

Your friend,


Please click here to watch Colby's video. 

Library Lion by Michelle Knudsen; illustrated by Kevin Hawkes

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Book Trailer Premiere: Toad on the Road by Stephen Shaskan

Oh no! Oh no! There's a toad on the road. Everyone shout: Look out! Look out! SKID! SCREECH BAM! Hurry up! Press play! 

Make sure you look for Stephen Shaskan's hilarious Toad on the Road on May 16, 2017. It is a WONDERFUL read-aloud. I think your students will love it! 

Friday, April 21, 2017

The Explorers: The Door in the Alley by Adrienne Kress

Happy Friday! I'm thrilled Adrienne Kress dropped by to chat with me about Sebastian, Evie, Chicago, theatre, and school libraries. I wrote the words in purple, and she wrote the words in black. Thank you, Adrienne! 

The Explorers: The Door in the Alley tells the story of two kids, Sebastian and Evie, who meet for the first time at the whimsical and intriguing Explorers Society and are tasked with putting back together the formerly famous exploring team the Filipendulous Five (which disbanded under mysterious circumstances many years ago). Their ultimate goal: to rescue Evie's grandfather. Hilarity and adventure ensue. Also there’s a pig in a teeny hat.

Here are three things you should know about Sebastian:

1. He’s logical.
2. He likes to do the most appropriate thing and follow the rules to the letter.
3. He has a secret side to himself that is an adventurer . . . but he’s only just realizing that himself.

And here are three things about Evie, because she’d demand to be included too:

1.  She’s quick-witted and funny.
2.  She’s determined.
3.  She can jump the gun too fast and gets impatient with others.

On April 25, 2017, THE EXPLORERS launches! And I’ll be in Chicago on the first leg of my book tour celebrating it at Anderson's Bookshop La Grange! I’ve never been to Chicago before, and everyone has told me I’ll love it because I am a rather big architecture fan and Chicago has some great architecture. So I’m really looking forward to being an explorer myself and discovering the city as well launching the book.

I hope The Explorers: The Door in the Alley finds its way into the hearts of readers (obviously metaphorically – I’ve removed all the sharp objects from around it just in case, though). I also really hope it appeals to reluctant readers. This is a particularly personal desire of mine, having grown up a reluctant reader myself, and in a way still being one. I try to write books that I as a reluctant reader would enjoy: funny, fast, full of action and lots of dialogue. Though, of course, still with complex emotions, themes and situations. Reluctant readers don’t want to be condescended to. We enjoy a good complicated story, but we want to be entertained first and foremost. And I do hope The Explorers succeeds in that. 

I studied theatre for forever. Almost my whole life. I was a drama major from the age of 11 right up until post-graduate studies (London Academy of Music and Dramatic Arts in the UK). I continue to pursue an acting career to this day. (In fact you’ll be seeing me in a small role in the pilot episode of American Gods which premieres really soon.) And I am also glad I trained as I did for reasons other than “I need to be able to be good at my acting job.” One of the big reasons is feeling comfortable speaking in front of crowds. I can’t say it’s effortless. I mean 13 years of training doesn’t equal effortless all the time. But it often feels so now. Speaking to an audience is really enjoyable for me, and having those skills means that when I get to spend time with kids, doing presentations and workshops, I can really have a great time getting to know them and working with them without nerves getting in the way.

School libraries are so important. It seems obvious to say that, and yet time and time again we see that funding gets cut precisely from this area that is so fundamental in helping instruct our children and turn them into life-long readers. I firmly believe there is a book out there for everyone to love, for both the avid and reluctant reader, and it’s librarians who never give up on the kids. They’re the ones who get to know the individual and find out their interests and, with that information, test the waters with different kinds of books until something clicks. Librarians, in other words, are the sage wizards of the quest leading the journey, inspiring hope, and teaching the tools that kids can take and use to journey on by themselves. Librarians are Dumbledore. Or Gandalf. And the reason people know who I’m talking about when I offer those comparisons is due in great part to them. 

Mr. Schu, you should have asked me about my tour dates! I’m mostly doing school visits, which I’ve already explained earlier are one of my favourite things, but I am also doing three public events at bookstores across the country, and I’m looking forward to meeting new people, especially fellow book lovers.

April 25th - Anderson's Bookstore La Grange, Chicago, 7:00pm
April 27th - Half Price Books, Dallas (Fort Worth), 6:00pm
May 2nd - Copperfield's Books, San Francisco (Petaluma), 4:00pm 

You also neglected to ask me the very fundamental questions of favourite colour and animal. To which I will reply, red and foxes. 

Look for The Explorers: The Door in the Alley on April 25, 2017. 

Friday, April 14, 2017

Escargot by Dashka Slater and Sydney Hanson

Hello, Dashka Slater! Thank you for visiting Watch. Connect. Read. to chat with me about Escargot, Sydney Hanson, picture books, and reading. 

Dashka Slater: I’m delighted to be here!

I am delighted you are here. Let's get started! 

Escargot is a very beautiful French snail who wants to be your favorite animal. He spent many years as a puppet who accompanied me on visits to schools, libraries and bookstores, but finally insisted on having a book of his own.

Sydney Hanson’s illustrations are straight-up adorable. Escargot feels she did an excellent job of capturing his joie-de-vivre and his je-ne-sais-quoi and also his beautiful shell, neck and tentacles. No snail has ever been cuter!

Illustration Credit: Sydney Hanson
Carrots have the habit of unexpectedly turning up in otherwise-excellent salads. Escargot has a few tricks up his sleeve for when they do. He makes a very fierce face and waits for them to flee, for example. But occasionally this doesn’t work. Then he needs help from the reader.

Picture books are a magical duet between artist and writer in which both are telling the same story in different ways. No other form is as challenging or as rewarding to me as a writer – and nothing is as enchanting to me as a reader.

Illustration Credit: Sydney Hanson
Reading is the only way I know to live the lives of other people, travel to magical places, battle terrible monsters, and form a deep and lasting friendship with an extraordinarily handsome French snail. All without getting dirty or needing a passport. 

Mr. Schu, you should have asked me if Escargot has a national holiday in his honor. And the answer is: mais oui! National Escargot Day is May 24 and Escargot suggests you celebrate by eating… a nice salad with a few croutons and a light vinaigrette. (And if you want to have an Escargot party, complete with tentacles for all the guests, download the Escargot story hour kit.) 

Borrow Escargot from your school or public library. Whenever possible, please support independent bookshop.