I’m Erin Dealey, and I write books for kids. I’m a teacher, presenter, rhymer, blogger, and proud Drama Mama.

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7 Qs with John Schu + THIS IS A STORY = This is a #BookBirthday!

March 14, 2023

Today we’re celebrating the #BookBirthday of THIS IS A STORY by John Schu (aka MrSchuReads), Illus. Lauren Castillo, Candlewick!

Once a librarian, always a librarian, John Schu was one of the first people I met (long ago!), and a huge help when I was learning about that thing called Twitter. He is such a generous advocate for the #kidlit projects of others, I am extremely honored and thrilled to have the chance to do the same for him.

SLJ Starred Review: THIS IS A STORY

“An homage to book and library lovers everywhere, Schu and Castillo’s book takes readers on a journey that shows how words can lead to human connections. . . . Those in the know will have fun spying illustrated covers of actual picture books. . . . A valentine to reading, books, the love of books, and the rooms that house them, this charmer will find a home in every heart.”
School Library Journal

Interior spread by Lauren Castillo from THIS IS A STORY by John Schu, Candlewick.

Let’s get started!

7 Qs for John Schu:

John Schu in action at a school visit. (What lucky kids!)

Q 1. Happy Book Birthday! Since you champion the books of so many in our kidlit world (Thank you!), and I read that your 5th grade teacher, Dr. Mary Margaret Reed inspired you with her book talks way back when, what might Dr. Reed say to you, the 5th grader, if she were to book talk THIS IS A STORY?

John Schu: Thank you for the happy book birthday love, Erin! Thank you for featuring This Is a Story! And thank you for your beautiful picture books!

I recently reconnected with Dr. Mary Margaret Reed. A copy of This Is a Story will arrive at her house today. I truly wonder what she would say. She might say something like, “This Is a Story is John Schu and Caldecott Honor illustrator Lauren Castillo’s love letter to libraries, librarians, and how stories can help our hearts grow and connect.

Interior spread by Lauren Castillo from THIS IS A STORY by John Schu, Candlewick.

Q 2. I know we share a love of musical theater. Which of these might be a metaphor for your kidlit journey or writing process:

a.     Between the Lines

b.     Company

c.     Into the Woods

d.     A Strange Loop

e.     Hadestown

John Schu: Oh, wow! This is a pretty brilliant and deep question. I’m responding to your questions from Times Square. I can see the St. James Theatre from where I’m sitting right now. That’s where the recent revival of Into the Woods played, which I saw seven times. Into the Woods has been on my mind as I revise my debut middle school novel, LOUDER THAN HUNGER.

Please invite me back to your fabulous blog to discuss that book. I’ll share why Into the Woods feels like a metaphor for a lot of my childhood.

E.D. Gladly, John. Consider the invitation sent–and accepted. : )

“I put our book on the window ledge in my [ NYC ] hotel room as inspiration as I worked on a new picture book manuscript tonight. It looks like a billboard in this photo.”
John Schu


Q 3. Were there any surprises that illustrator & Caldecott Honor recipient, Lauren Castillo brought to THIS IS A STORY?

John Schu: So many surprises! I’m excited for readers to pore over the Easter eggs hidden throughout This Is a Story. Lauren had so much fun showing real books she and I love in the art. I wonder how many of the books you’ve read! Also, my cat, Lou Grant, makes an appearance!

Interior spread by Lauren Castillo from THIS IS A STORY by John Schu, Candlewick.


Q. 4. To me, THIS IS A STORY feels like, not only a magical portal to the joy of reading and books, but Professional Development for educators and parents. What do you want readers—young and not-so-young—to take away?

John Schu: In many ways, This Is a Story is a companion to THE GIFT OF STORY: Exploring the Affective Side of the Reading Life. The moment Lauren captures on the cover brilliantly shows how it feels when a book opens our hearts. That moment was on my mind as I wrote This Is a Story. I hope every child finds a book one day that inspires them to close their eyes, hug the book to their chest, and take in the beauty of the moment. A moment that stays with you for a long time. A touchstone book, a forever book, a book of your heart.

To hear more from John about Lauren’s illustrations, watch this YouTube from Candlewick.

Q. 5 Since we’re talking about connections to story, and you have given away endless copies of Katherine Applegate’s THE ONE AND ONLY IVAN, which character in the book did you connect to the most?

a.     Ivan

b.     Bob

c.     Ruby

d.     Julia

Newbery Award Winner THE ONE AND ONLY IVAN by Katherine Applegate (Harper Collins)
Illus. Patricia Castelao.

John Schu: I connected the most with Ivan. Again, I have a lot to say about why when Louder Than Hunger releases. J

E.D. LOUDER THAN HUNGER release date: Spring 2024. We can’t wait, John! Meanwhile…

TOMORROW! Go meet John Schu & Lauren Castillo at an In-Person event hosted by Anderson Books / Naperville. They will give a short talk, take audience questions, and have a signing line. Each ticket includes a copy of the book, along with an art print signed by Lauren Castillo. * Info here.

So many hats!

Q 6. How have your previous jobs —B&N (your college job!), Teaching 3rd & 4th, and your many Librarian “hats”– influenced your writing process or your approach to marketing?

John Schu: All of those hats and moments and memories inspire everything I do. Every student I’ve taught and met during school visits are on my mind and heart when I write and revise. Everything I do, I do for them.

Art by Lauren Castillo from THIS IS A STORY by John Schu, Candlewick.

Raising Readers

Q. 7. Taking a question from your blog, please finish this sentence: You should have asked me: about my advice for helping grow a love of books and reading at an early age.

John Schu: When we read aloud, purchase and promote books that honor a child’s individual journey, we take an extra step toward creating possibilities for stories to heal and inspire their young hearts. The most powerful read-alouds bring to life an image in our minds that we observe, and through that observation, we can experience a jolt of empathy. I see it happen all the time.

Happy Book Birthday to THIS IS A STORY

Thank you John, for taking time from your crazy-busy schedule to join us today!

To learn more about John Schu, check out his web site: JohnSchu.com

Twitter: @MrSchuReads

Instagram: mrschureads

FB: John Schu

And his Linktr.ee / MrSchuReads

And come back in Spring 2024 to find out the answers to Questions 2 and 5
when LOUDER THAN HUNGER releases : )

Next on the blog:

It’s a Happy (belated) #BookBirthday to HAPPY BIRTHDAY BELLY BUTTON with Qs for the author/illustrator team of Kalli Dakos & Luciana Navarro Powell (Amicus)–also releasing TODAY!

No comments on this post yet.

  1. I’m so excited to read this book. Stories were my lifeline as a child–long before I ever thought about becoming a writer. Congratulations, John/Mr. Schu!

  2. Congratulations, Mr. Schu! You are doing such important work and I’m most excited to read your new book. I still remember the ALA where I have a photo with you as well as a card-board cut-out of you.