10 Minute Review: Wish by Barbara O’Connor


I often make the mistake of reading middle grade novels with awards in my head. Thinking about what the National Book Award Committee or the Newbery Committee might think about a book is fun, but it often taints my reading experience.

The time I spent with Barbara O’Connor’s Wish was magical. I never once thought about what award committees will think of this book, not because it doesn’t deserve consideration, but because this book is so obviously perfect and important for kids that it doesn’t really matter what anyone else thinks. Wish contains so much of what I love about middle grade fiction: an engaging plot (the word engaging doesn’t do it justice, but I’m too tired to think of something better), a main character that readers will fall in love with, unforgettable supporting characters (not an easy thing to do), and a setting so real you feel like you’ve been there.

I don’t really have anything else I’d like to say about Wish, but I would like to say that Barbara O’Connor is one heck of a talented writer. My students love her books. Reading them aloud builds community, empathy, and it is just plain fun.

I hope you’ll check out Wish when it comes out August 30th.

Guest Post: “Colors” by Rebecca Mock


I am pretty fascinated by today’s guest post from Rebecca Mock. My favorite part is when she talks about her mom helping. Moms are the best. Below the banner you will Rebecca’s guest post. Happy reading!


I had been heavily referencing a lot of French comic artists, and I imagined the best color style would be flat, bright shapes, with only minimal shading to enhance dramatic lighting. We originally wanted to hire a colorist, but it was hard to find the right fit. After going through a couple, Hope and I had an emergency pow wow. I had never really colored my own comics, but I had a clear idea of what I wanted, and all it would require was time.




Top to bottom, from Isaac the Pirate by Cristophe Blain, and Miss Don’t Touch Me by Hubert & Kerascoet


I remember the conversation I had with Hope when we decided I would color the book myself. We considered our due date–the publisher wanted the book by the end of 2013, so I only have about 2.5 months. Hope said “Do you think you can?” And I did the math in my head. “Yea. Sure. That’s like….20 pages a week? Yea? I think so?”





I tried to keep it simple, but I still used a lot of shading


To save time, we needed the book flatted with outside help. But we had no budget to hire anyone else, and we were short on time. So we put out a call for help–anyone who could volunteer to flat a few pages or more, for free. Many people came to our rescue! I also flatted a fair number of pages. One of my biggest helpers was actually my mother! Once I explained the process to her, she ended up flatting 20 or so pages for me. This book wouldn’t have gotten done without all the help we received. Thanks guys.


from my flatting guide

I tried to base each scene in 1 or 2 main hues, with accent colors. This was a historical story, so I used earth tones and sepia for any parts I was unsure of.


Coloring this book ended up being very interesting. Some scenes came together perfectly, as I had imagined the colors of a scene from the beginning, while other scenes were so difficult I was re-coloring them up to the day before the book went to print. In particular, I struggled with the whole rainforest scene. I loved all the scenes that took place on ships, I think because I loved those bits of character development, the color “mood” felt easy to choose.

Rebecca Mock is an illustrator and comics artist. Her work has appeared  in various publications, including theNew York Times and the New Yorker.  She is co-organizer of the Hana Doki Kira anthology. Compass South is  her first book. rebeccamock.com

ALA 2016 In Pictures

I had a blast at the American Library Association’s Annual Conference in Orlando over the weekend. I hope you enjoy these pictures!

I prepped for our live event with Kate DiCamillo by rereading Raymie on the flight to Orlando.


I am so excited that Adam Rex and Christian Robinson are visiting my school in the fall. Isn’t School’s First Day of School beautiful?


I was a little annoyed, kidding of course, that Cardboard Schu was taller than me (real Schu is not), but taking a picture with Caldecott Medalist Sophie Blackall, and Cardboard Schu was a lot of fun. Scholastic Book Fairs won the prize for best booth. You can’t top Cardboard Schu.


Our live event with Kate was amazing. She’s perfect.


This was the only way we could fit us all in the picture.



Interviewing Sophie Blackall for The Yarn was lovely. I can’t wait to share the episode.



Travis and Melissa Sweet! We have so many fun episodes of The Yarn on the horizon.



I ran into this superstar (Tom Angleberger) in the bathroom. It was pretty neat to see him wearing his Yarn t-shirt. Picture taken outside of the bathroom.



Jewel Parker-Rhodes is my new favorite person. She brings so much joy to those around her.


I interviewed both Grace Lin and her editor Alvina Ling for The Yarn. You may need to bring tissues with you to that episode.

Left to right: Me, Cardboard Schu, Real Schu

I love this selfie from editor Grace Kendall.

Most distinguished.






5, 4, 3, 2, 1 Interview: Brian Farrey

A few weeks ago I finished Brian Farrey’s awesome middle grade novel The Secret of Dreadwillow Carse. I found Brian’s world fascinating, and I found myself trying to figure out the mystery even when I wasn’t reading the book.

It was a lot of fun interviewing Brian for today’s post. Enjoy!

5,4,3,2,1 Interview

1. Can you tell us a little bit about THE SECRET OF DREADWILLOW CARSE ?

I wrote THE SECRET OF DREADWILLOW CARSE for anyone who was ever told not to ask questions and I hope that they walk away understanding how important it is to be curious.


2. What is best part about being a writer?

The best part about being a writer is playing with words. It’s not just throwing a bunch of letters down on the page and hoping they make sense. It’s playing. It’s writing and re-writing and playing and playing to find just the right way to say what absolutely needs to be said.

3. What’s the hardest part of being a writer?

The hardest part of being a writer is dealing with the voices in your head that tell you your writing is horrible. All writers have these voices. I silence mine with a very liberal consumption of chocolate.

4. If you could spend one day living in the world of a book, which book would you pick?

If I could live in any book’s world, I’d spend the day fighting corruption in the magician government and brokering peace between the humans and djinn in Jonathan Stroud’s Bartimaeus books. I probably wouldn’t get much accomplished in a single day but I’d give it my all.


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

Here is my advice for young creators: don’t give up. Ignore the voices in your head that try to trick you into stopping. Ignore anyone who tells you you’re not good enough to do what you’re trying to do. There’s a quote attributed to Thomas Edison that goes: “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”  When you create and fail, start again with Way #10,001.


The Yarn Unravells Kelly Barnhill


A new episode of The Yarn! Sitting down with Kelly Barnhill at Anne Ursu’s house during NCTE was a whole lot of fun. We talked about her book The Witch’s Boy. Enjoy!

Did you miss an episode of The Unraveller? Never fear! We created a playlist on Soundcloud.





Did you miss Season 1? It is never too late to catch up!

5, 4, 3, 2, 1 Interview: Randall de Seve


It has been a while since I’ve ran a 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 interview here on the blog, and I’ve missed them. Thankfully, I had the chance to interview Randall about her beautiful new book A Fire Truck Name Red.


5,4,3,2,1 Interview

1. Can you tell us a little bit about A FIRE TRUCK NAMED RED?

In A FIRE TRUCK NAMED RED, a little boy named Rowan (Gaelic for “red”) wants a shiny new fire truck toy for his birthday. Instead, his grandfather gives him his crusty, old truck, and the promise to fix it up “better than new.” But what could be better than new for a child? That’s the central question of this story. And as Rowan helps to restore Red while listening to Papa’s exciting boyhood adventures with his beloved toy, he answers it: older things and people with stories can be the best of all. (5)

A FIRE TRUCK NAMED RED_cover image.jpg

2. What is the best part of your job?

More than anything, I love reading my stories to children. I love seeing their squirmy bodies settle into the imaginary worlds I’ve created for them. (2)


3. What is the hardest part of your job?

It can be so hard to start a new story! Sometimes I have an idea, and I walk around with it for weeks (or longer), waiting for that first fragile line to come. I know that if I rush it, if I make a false start, I might ruin it. I might break the spell and end up with an overworked mess. (4)


4. Tell us your first reaction to when you saw Bob Staake’s art for A FIRE TRUCK NAMED RED.

Yes– it’s absolutely perfect! (1)


5. What advice do you have for young readers and writers?

Readers, keep reading; only good can come of it. Writers, ideas can spring from anywhere, anyone, anything. Keep your eyes and ears open, and when you find inspiration, grab it (in a notebook) before it flees. (3)

Randall de Seve_author photo credit Larry Ford.jpg

Randall de Seve

The 2016 Nerd Camp Art Raffle


Last year the Nerd Camp art raffle was a huge success. We were able to take the more than $1500 raised, and turn it around to purchase additional books to give away to our Nerd Camp Junior campers.

We are excited about this year’s raffle. A huge thank you to the book creators that have donated pieces. If you’d like to donate a piece, just shoot me an email and I can give you the details (colbysharp@gmail.com).

I will be updating this post as art comes in. 


I want to frame Deborah Marcero‘s donation and hang it in my house. It is beautiful!



This beautiful piece of original art was donated by Cupcake Cousins illustrator Brooke Boynton Hughes. The author of Cupcake Cousins, Kate Hannigan, will be joining us for Nerd Camp this summer.


Debbie Ridpath Ohi created an amazing piece of art for this year’s raffle. Our Nerd Camp attendees are giant fans of Debbie’s work.


Larry Day‘s art is breathtaking. I can’t wait to see the smile on the face of the camper that wins the paintings that Larry created for camp.