5, 4, 3, 2, 1 Interview: Russ Cox


I’m excited to chat with Russ Cox today about his book Faraway Friends. Be sure to check out his wonderful responses and don’t forget to check out the Faraway Friends trailer found after his response to question one.

5,4,3,2,1 Interview

1. Can you tell us a little bit about Faraway Friends?

Faraway Friends is my first book that I wrote and illustrated. It is about Sheldon, an astronaut wannabe, seeing his best friend move away, while thinking his friend has moved to Jupiter. Inspired to see his friend again, he decides to build a rocket ship and fly to Jupiter. After completing his ship, he blasts off to the outer regions of space, only to have his fantasy end when his rocket ship falls apart and he realizes that he is still on Earth. During this time, a new friend lands right under his nose and they begin a space adventure together.

2. What is your favorite thing about being an author?

I enjoy interacting the words with the pictures to help moving the story along, often times creating new words.
faraway friends

3. What’s the hardest thing about being an author?

Grammar, spelling, and punctation can be tricky when writing or finalizing a final draft. I often times have to go look up words and grammatical rules that I may have forgotten. You do not want to look bad when submitting your story to your agent or an editor.

4. If you could spend one day inside the world of any book which book would you pick?

This was the hardest question by far. With so many choices in the book world, it was hard to narrow it down to one, and it is not my favorite children’s book of all time (Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel). I select The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales by Jon Scieszka and illustrated by Lane Smith. This one has everything that I love in a book which is humor, silliness, odd characters, and very twisted story telling.

5. What advice do you have for the young writers in my classroom?

Read, read, and read some more. There are infinite number of worlds and adventures you can read about which will influence your creative writing and drawing.

Did Independent Booksellers Get a Free Pass? 

I have noticed that a lot of people have been looking closely at diversity when it comes to books being published, author panels at conferences/book festivals, and book award lists. All of these things bring important awareness to the diversity or lack their of in children’s literature. 

With that being said why is it that the E.B. White picture book list is not being ridiculed? The E. B. White list is created by independent booksellers. This year’s list contains all male book creators. I would expect to see a comment like: didn’t women create great picture books in 2014?



Instead: silence. 

I hope that this is because nobody noticed, but part of me feels like it is because book creators are afraid to call out the people hand selling their books. If it is the later-shame on the people fighting the battle of more diversity in kid lit. 

You can’t point fingers at teacher/library organizations and give a free pass to booksellers. 

If you are going to be in a part if this conversation either be all in or all out. 

Dragons Beware! Video


I’m honored to have the opportunity to share this video celebrating the amazing Claudette Dragons Beware! I got a copy of Dragons Beware! last week and it is quickly becoming one of the most popular books in my classroom library.

The Deborah Freedman Trifecta


I’m super-duperty-duper excited to be celebrating Deborah Freedman’s By Mouse & Frog today with Nerdy Book Club and Mr. Johnny Schu.

Be sure to check out Mr. Schu’s post over at Watch.Connect.Read.


Deborah has created one of the all-time best Nerdy Book Club posts. Check it out!

nerdy monster

I’ve been thinking for weeks the best way for me to celebrate Deborah’s beautiful book on my blog. I almost feel like Deborah’s brilliance can not be summed up with the words I’m able to type on my computer.

Deborah Freedman’s books are always special. When you see a Freedman illustration you know it. When you read a Freedman story you know it. She’s pretty freakin’ spectacular.

One thing that I love so much about Deborah’s work is that it feels alive. Her books feel 3D. I would almost say that reading a Freedman book feels like you are watching an animated movie, but that doesn’t fit. Her illustrations jump off the page more than I’ve ever seen a 3D film jump off of the screen.

Another thing that I love about Deborah’s books are her characters. Whether it is Fish & Snail or Mouse & Frog she manages to capture the relationships in such a real way for children. That sounds weird doesn’t it? A story about a mouse and a frog and a story about a fish and a snail perfectly portraying the world that our children live and grow and learn in.


I adore Deborah Freedman. Her work is brilliant. She seems like the coolest person on the planet, and she makes beautiful books for kids.

What more could you ask for in a person?

If I could meet any person in the universe it would be Deborah. I’d have lunch with her. I’d speak as little as possible, so that I could soak it all in.

Thanks for reading.

P.S. Please read By Mouse & Frog. It’s perfect.

Blog Tour: The Last of the Sandwalkers by Jay Hosler

Sandwalkers BlogTourBanner

I’m excited to be the last stop of The Last of the Sandwalkers blog tour. I hope you enjoy learning about Jay Hosler’s Whirligig beetle.

Take it away Mr. Hosler!

Character Name: Whirligig beetle

Species: Gyrinus sp.

Length: 3-18 mm

Color: Black.

Habitat: surface of streams, rivers and lakes

Superpower: four eyes, nasty spray and swimming underwater


There is a park down by the river that runs through the town where I live and in the summer, it’s easy to find clusters of whirligig beetles darting across the surface of the river near shore.  They are supported by the surface tension of the water as they skitter, spin and whirl. It looks like they’re having an aquatic square dance, but in reality, much of their time is spent hunting for hapless insects which don’t have the whirligig’s gift for swimming and who have gotten trapped in the water.


Clusters of whirligigs can be quite crowded (check out the videos at the Arkive website) and this crowding raises an interesting behavioral question. Isn’t a conspicuous cluster of tiny, fast moving insects on the surface of the water an easy target for hungry fish and birds?  This might be a problem for some critters, but whirligigs have several adaptations to deal with would-be predators. They have two sets of eyes for starters; one set above the water for detecting aerial threats and one set below the water to spot death by fishy. The also have sensory organs that alert them to ripples in the water made by approaching denizens of the deep looking for nummies. Whirligigs can take evasive maneuvers by flying or swimming away, but if worse some to worse and they get sucked into a fish’s mouth, they have one final defense. They can secret a chemical from their pygidial gland that is so nasty tasting that a fish will spit them out before the whirligig is harmed.

ARKive video - Whirligig beetle - physical appearance

If the threat comes from the sky, whirligigs can dive underwater and stay there for extended periods of time thanks to an air bubble trapped under their elytra (the hardened out wings that all beetles have). This bubble is essentially a gill for the whirligig, allowing it to stay hidden underwater until the threat has flown away.

In Last of the Sandwalkers, our intrepid beetle adventurers meet whirligigs for the first time and quickly learn that a lot of great things can come in small packages.


Jay Hosler is a biology professor at Juniata College, and a cartoonist. He enjoys telling stories about science and the natural world, and his first graphic novel (Clan Apis) won a Xeric Award and was selected for YALSA’s 2002 Popular Paperbacks for Young Adults. His latest book, Evolution: The Story of Life on Earth, was a 2011 Junior Library Guild selection, a nominee for YALSA’s 2012 Great Graphic Novels for Teens, and has been included in the Texas Library Association’s Maverick Graphic Novel Reading List. He lives in central Pennsylvania with his wife and his two little nerdlings.

Panthers Pocast: Suzanne Woolworth


Before spring break Ben Gilpin and I got the chance to sit down and talk with Suzanne Woolworth about all the greatness going on in her classroom and around Parma Elementary.

I have the honor of working with Mrs. Woolworth each and every day. We are the two third grade teachers at Parma, and I cannot think of a better teammate. She pushes me to be a better teacher.

I hope you’ll take the time to listen to this episode. Suzanne’s story is inspiring.


39 Story Treehouse Trifecta – An Interview With Terry Denton


Happy Trifecta Tuesday! I’m excited to celebrate the Treehouse series today with Mr. Schu and Nerdy Book Club. My students are madly in love with these books. MADLY IN LOVE. They are some of the most reread books in my entire classroom library.

Check out Mr. Schu’s interview with Treehouse author Andy Griffiths.

watch.connect.read.Andy Griffiths is the guest blogger today on Nerdy Book Club.

nerdy monsterNow it’s my turn. I hope you enjoy my interview with Treehouse illustrator Terry Denton.

5. Can you tell us a little bit about the Treehouse books?

When we go away to plan our books, Andy will talk through the ideas while I quickly capture them in comic strip form. One time we were working on a story about a guy who is captured by pirates, then gets shipwrecked on a deserted island where he builds a treehouse shelter. But this adventure story wasn’t working so well, so eventually we abandoned it. But we couldn’t let go of the image of the treehouse. We all loved the idea of a series of stories set in a treehouse that just keeps growing bigger and bigger and where anything is possible.


4. What is your favorite thing about being an artist?

I love it when we are planning the next book and I am roughing out the drawings. That is so exciting because we don’t know where it’s heading. 


But the best bit of my job is when I get to do colour work, like on the covers. I am in heaven whenI am playing with my watercolour paints. 

3. If you could spend one day inside the world of any book which book would you pick?

My favourite picture book is Dawn by Uri Schulevitz. It is set on the edge of a lake surrounded by beautiful mountains. It is a pretty chilled, but sublime, watercolour world that I’d love to wake up to.


2. What advice do you have for the young writers in my classroom?

For writers and drawers my advice is the same: immerse yourself in your writing or drawing. Love the doing and practice, just a few words or a scribbled drawing, as often as you can in your sketchbook. 

1. What’s the hardest thing about being an artist?

Deadlines are always the hardest part, as with the Treehouse books where I have 2 months to complete more than 400 drawings.

5, 4, 3, 2, 1 Interview: A. F. Harrold

I’m excited to celebrate The Imaginary with Mr. Schu reads and Nerdy Book Club today. Be sure to check out their sites to see what they have in store.

I hope you enjoy my interview with A.F. Harrold!



1. Can you tell us a little bit about The Imaginary?

It tells the story of Rudger, an imaginary friend, and Amanda, a real friend, and what happens when they get separated.

It also stars an imaginary dog called Fridge, a real cat called Oven, some grownups, some weather and villain called Mr Bunting.

It is illustrated by the amazing and prize-winning illustrator Emily Gravett who has made the book a very beautiful thing.


2. What is your favorite thing about being an author? 

Being paid by people to write things down, that’s quite nice, along with all the baths I’m allowed to take.
Whenever I get stuck with writing I’ll have a bath and try not to think about what’s got me stuck.
The bath has to be hot, very hot, and there must be bubbles and a good book to read.
If the bath doesn’t help, then I might go for a walk down by the river, that’s quite nice too. 

3. What’s the hardest thing about being an author?  


4. If you could spend one day inside the world of any book which book would you pick? 

Just one day?
I’ll spend it in the Hundred Acre Woods, catching up with old friends.

5. What advice do you have for the young writers in my classroom?  
Keep on reading and keep on writing.
Throw nothing away, even the things you think might be rubbish.
Put them in a bottom drawer and leave them there.
From time to time take things out, have another look: you might see how to make them better now.
If you’re stuck, go have a bath.