Thursday, May 25, 2017

Cover Reveal for Smart Cookie by Elly Swartz

Dear Elly Swartz, 

Happy Thursday! I hope you're having a terrific day! I love how you described Smart Cookie to me as a story about family, secrets, and a ghost. That family is so much bigger than those with whom you share a name or a childhood; it's a circle that envelops so many in your life. :) 

I know everyone will have a hard time waiting until January 30, 2018 to buy copies of Smart Cookie, but it will be worth the wait. I know! I know! Waiting is not easy

Are you ready to share Smart Cookie's cover? I imagine you're shouting YES at your computer or phone right now! 


Happy reading!


P.S. Thank you for being a genuine article. 

Smart Cookie by Elly Swartz | Publication date: January 30, 2018

Sometimes you need to keep a few secrets.

Frankie knows she’ll be in big trouble if Dad discovers she secretly posted a dating profile for him online. But she’s determined to find him a wife, even if she ends up grounded for life. Frankie wants what she had before Mom died. A family of three. Two is a pair of socks or the wheels on a bicycle or a busy weekend at the B&B where Frankie and Dad live. Three is a family. And Frankie’s is missing a piece.

But Operation Mom is harder to pull off than Frankie expects. None of the Possibles are very momish, the B&B’s guests keep canceling, Frankie’s getting the silent treatment from her once best friend, and there’s a maybe-ghost hanging around. Worst of all, Gram and Dad are definitely hiding secrets of their own. 

If a smart cookie like Frankie wants to save the B&B and find her missing piece, she’s going to have to figure out what secrets are worth keeping and when it’s time to let go.

Elly Swartz finished my sentences on December 12, 2016. I thought it would be fun to share our interview in honor of today's cover reveal and Throwback Thursday. 

I wrote the words in purple, and Elly wrote the words in black. 

Molly Nathans is my hero (and the main character in my novel FINDING PERFECT). She has an unwavering love of family, a big heart, and is stronger and braver than she realizes. Ultimately, it was this courage and strength, mixed with her acceptance of imperfection that made her realize she was bigger than her fears.

Molly thinks poetry can say the things that she can’t. Poetry is the mirror into her heart. Through Molly’s “Me Poems” she shares her greatest fears and darkest secrets. And through her slam poems, she cloaks those same fears and secrets behind the rhythm and verse of each stanza.

The audio teaser for Finding Perfect captures the heart of Molly’s story and shines a light on her journey and the meaning of perfect. It was also an endeavor I undertook with my son. It was beyond meaningful to work with him. As an audio producer, he was incredibly knowledgeable and helpful, and as a son, tremendously supportive. 

I wrote Finding Perfect because Molly tucked into my heart and stayed there until I was able to share her story. I hope Molly finds a place in many readers’ hearts. For many different reasons.

I hope children like Molly realize they are not alone. 500,000 children suffer from OCD.

I hope children like Molly realize they are not just OCD.

I hope all children realize that no one is just one thing.

I hope all children realize they are loved unconditionally. 

I hope all children realize there is no such thing as perfect.

I hope all children realize the importance of kindness and empathy.

When I was Molly’s age, I loved writing, reading, poetry, softball, basketball, and doing anything with big brothers. I was a huge fan of everything by Judy Blume and before that Eloise, Pippy Longstocking and Ramona the Brave were my constant companions. Let’s just say my soft spot for spunky, independent and slightly mischievous characters, may be embraced by a loving 11-year-old named Frankie in my next book.

School libraries are a treasured gift. They allow kids a warm, safe, loving place to simply be who they are, share what matters most, and discover wonderful, new adventures. And, in honor library love, we’ll be giving away 25 copies of FINDING PERFECT to educators and librarians from 12/8-12/15. All the details can be found here

Mr. Schu, you should have asked me about the Unfolding Identity Project, an activity on identity and empathy that readers, books club, teachers and librarians can do individually or as a group. Although Molly’s situation is unique, we are all a little like Molly – who we present to the world is not always in perfect alignment with who we are on the inside. We are all a blend of many different traits. No one is just one thing.  Once kids see they are not just a baseball player or singer or reader, they’ll realize the person sitting next to them is also not just one thing. And maybe, this person who they thought they had nothing in common with, is actually something they can connect with. The Unfolding Identity Project helps kids see they are not just one thing and is my way of spreading awareness and kindness, one kid at a time. You can download the project for free here

Elly Swartz is a middle-grade author and FINDING PERFECT is her debut novel. Swartz loves writing for children, but did not take a direct path to that career. Through the years, she’s been a Sesame Place ride operator, lawyer, legal author, and college essay adviser. She lives in Brookline, Massachusetts with her husband, two sons and beagle named Lucy. If you want to connect with Elly or learn more about what she’s working on, you can find her at and on Twitter

Borrow Finding Perfect from your school or public library. Whenever possible, please support independent bookshops. 

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Cover Reveal for Martin Rising: Requiem for a King by Andrea Davis Pinkney and Brian Pinkney

Andrea Davis Pinkney and Brian Pinkney are two of my favorite people in the world. They are inspiring and talented and kind. Their books inspire readers to make this world better, brighter.

I am honored they dropped by to share the cover for Martin Rising: Requiem for a King and to finish my sentences. I wrote the words in purple, and Andrea and Brian wrote the words in black. Thank you, Andrea and Brian! 

Brian Pinkney says. . .

The cover illustration for Martin Rising: Requiem for a King arrived in my mind’s eye like a quiet, powerful storm. It was as if Martin’s essence was guiding my hand as I painted. Inspired by the work of artists like Chagall, and abstract expressionist Norman Lewis, I was flooded with emotion as my paintbrush played with color and form.  The cover is rendered in watercolor, gouache, and ink. My hope is to depict the soaring spiritual heights of Martin’s life that inspired all of us to rise to our greatest selves, while at the same time, rejoicing in the feet-on-the-ground dedication of so many protesters who marched for equality during the Memphis sanitation workers’ strike, the final civil rights movement Martin led before his tragic death.

Andrea and I try to fill each and every book we create with the most powerful force in the world — love. This is especially true for Martin Rising, a book that celebrates the love Martin had for his wife, Coretta, and their children, but also the admiration he instilled in the hearts of the human family. As husband and wife collaborators, Andrea and I begin each project by tapping into the deep devotion and respect we have for each other and for our own children and family. We let that energy serve as our creative guide that is expressed through words and illustrations. Andrea’s historical “docu-poems” burst forth throughout Martin Rising. As soon as I read them, I knew that I wanted to punctuate her nonfiction narrative with paintings that convey the metaphorical impact of Martin’s mission. 

Andrea says. . .

Brian created the illustrations for Martin Rising: Requiem for a King with a heart full of hope. Yes, that’s my husband — an artist who pours his entire soul into his artwork. When he brought home the cover painting, I could immediately see that so much emotion had been plunged into his brushstrokes. I knew this  cover image had come from something deep within Brian. I was so moved by the cover’s exquisite beauty, that I honestly could not find the words to thank my husband. And, so – I simply hugged him, and held on for a long moment.  Brian’s cover, and his paintings throughout the entire book, glow like stained glass windows infused with light, color, luminescence.

Brian and Andrea say. . .

April 4, 2018 marks the fiftieth anniversary of the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. But that date also presents an opportunity to reflect on the power and spirit of the men, women and children who lifted Martin and his  movement to their highest heights – and still inspire us today.  

School libraries are freedom!  

Mr. Schu, you should have asked us how we’ve stayed happily married for nearly 27 years while working together. The answer is simple: 1) Separate work-spaces (Brian’s studio is miles away from home); 2) Focus on what’s truly important – creating the best books we can; 3) Laugh a lot; 4) Never discuss work during family dinners, holidays, or vacations.

Congratulations, Andrea and Brian! 

Martin Rising: Requiem for a King by Andrea Davis Pinkney; illustrated by Brian Pinkney | Publication date: January 2, 2018. 

With imagination and power, the award-winning Pinkney duo celebrates MLK's nonviolent struggle for civil rights -- as he transforms America through the spirit of love.

In a rich embroidery of visions, musical cadence, and deep emotion, Andrea and Brian Pinkney convey the final months of Martin Luther King's life -- and of his assassination -- through metaphor, spirituality, and multi-layers of meaning.

Andrea's stunning poetic requiem, illustrated with Brian's lyrical and colorful artwork -- brings a fresh perspective to Martin Luther King, the Gandhi-like, peace-loving activist whose dream of equality -- and whose courage to make it happen -- changed the course of American history. And even in his death, he continues to transform and inspire all of us who share his dream.

Wonderful classroom plays of Martin Rising can be performed by using the "Now Is the Time" history, and the 1968 timeline at the back of the book as narration -- and adding selected poems to tell the story!

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Congratulations, Lauren Castillo!

Hooray! Hedgehog is getting her own early chapter book series. I have loved this adorable character ever since Lauren Castillo first tweeted about her a few years ago. Congratulations, Lauren! I am so happy for you and everyone who will go on adventures with Hedgehog, Mutty, and Anika May

Via Publishers Weekly 

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 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! I cannot wait to buy multiple copies on February 27, 2018. 

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!