Exclusive Cover Reveal: This Is a Story by John Schu and Lauren Castillo
Come with me, way back to 2018. Such a simpler time (ha). I open up my Publishers Weekly Rights Report and what do I see? This:
John Schu and Lauren Castillo – two of my favorite people in children’s literature – teaming up for a picture book: This Is a Story.
Now, let’s return to 2022, because now that book has a cover. And today we get to see it for the first time.
But first, I had some questions for the creators . . .
Travis: Hey John! What was the inspiration for THIS IS A STORY?
John Schu: Thank you for hosting This Is a Story’s cover reveal, Travis! I’m grateful for everything you do for your students, readers, and school libraries.
I’m SUPER excited to celebrate Caldecott Honor artist Lauren Castillo’s heartwarming and joyful cover illustration for our picture book, This Is a Story. I’ve looked at the cover at least 500 times since it arrived in my email inbox last month. Whenever I look at it, I send out a BIG thank-you to agent Molly O’Neill for encouraging me to put my heart on the page, to Lauren Castillo for sharing her heart through art, to editor and publisher Karen Lotz for her guidance and support, and to art director Heather McGee for being brilliant.
Lauren beautifully shows how it feels when a book opens our hearts. An experience I love talking about during school visits. This sharing always seems to bring us closer together, growing our hearts and community. Lauren’s art helps our hearts grow.
This Is a Story contains everything I believe in about the power of stories and libraries.
The moment Lauren captures on the cover was on my mind while working on the manuscript: how story and art can help us grow and connect. What it feels like to close your eyes, hug a book to your chest, and take in the beauty of the moment. A memory that stays with you forever. It is everything.
Travis: Lauren, how do you usually approach creating cover art? How did you approach the cover for THIS IS A STORY?
Lauren Castillo: Each book ends up being a little different, but I like it best when I’m able to wait to draw the cover until after all the interior art is complete. That way I have a clearer vision of how best to capture the story in one image. I sketched a few different ideas for the cover, but the one we all ended up loving best was the book hug.
The image reminds me of second grade when I bought my first book at a Scholastic Book Fair. The book was Imogene’s Antlers by David Small. I loved that book so much and carried it around for days, close to my chest. It is how I imagine any of us feels about a favorite book. You just want to hold it tight. To stay connected. And to maybe even help others connect to it, too.
Travis: John, you’ve worn a few different hats: teacher, librarian, book fair ambassador, and you currently work for Bookelicious – what’s been the most unexpected part of becoming an author?
John: I love this question, Travis! I’m going to share two unexpected parts of becoming an author.
- Many students call me John instead of Mr. Schu. I love it so much! It was totally unexpected.
- Below is part of a blog post I wrote for Two Writing Teachers about This Is a School, a companion to This Is a Story.
Even though I’ve delivered thousands of presentations, a Q&A segment wasn’t built into the experiences. I use every moment. I’ve never felt as though there was time or a real reason to incorporate a formal Q&A. I thought it would change the energy of the experience. I thought I might struggle to answer questions exactly the way I wanted. I thought I would toss and turn in bed each night imagining how I should have answered the questions. I should have said it this way. I should have included X, Y, and Z. Something I experience after almost every interview. It takes a lot of energy. It makes me doubt myself. I thought if someone had a question for me, they could ask it after the presentation. I enjoy one-on-one questions.
On March 29, 2022,
something I almost
didn’t welcome in
To an enthusiastic group of students, I said…(Please visit Two Writing Teachers blog to read the rest of the story.)
Travis: A cliffhanger! Lauren, I’ve heard This Is a Story contains some picture book Easter eggs – can you talk about that?
Yes! There are MANY Easter eggs! Because our book mostly takes place in a public library, John and I discussed showing real books that we love in the art. I had so much fun drawing recognizable titles throughout the book. I think I was able to squeeze in about 45 favorites!
Also, take a good look at the librarian. You might recognize that guy 😉
Travis: He looks familiar! What is one thing you do that helps with your creativity (something you’d recommend to others)?
John: I take a joywalk. Maybe one day I’ll put a story out into the world about joywalking. It helps. It truly does.
Lauren: Like Schu, I am a big fan of inspiration walks. (“Joywalk” sounds much sweeter, and I really hope you’ll write that book, John!) I also love listening to podcasts about the creative process while I draw and paint. There’s an especially great one called THE YARN, if anyone’s looking for recommendations 🙂
Travis: Thank you John and Lauren!
And now, for the first time, the cover for This Is a Story by John Schu, illustrated by Lauren Castillo and designed by Heather McGee
The book is published by Candlewick Press and arrives on March 14, 2023.
A bit about the book from the publisher:
This is a word on a page.
This is a page in a book.
This is a book on a shelf . . . waiting.
With a sea-horse kite in hand, a child heads out with Dad to the library. On the way they stop at a park, joining lots of people, some of whom are flying kites, too. At the library, a person toting a big pile of books hands over a story on a favorite subject: the sea horse. All around, there are readers poring over books, each with their own questions, ideas to explore, hopes for the future, and imaginations ready to spark. With a warm, lyrical text and tenderly expressive illustrations, John Schu and Lauren Castillo invite us to imagine the myriad ways that books can foster connection and understanding—and how they can empower children, through their own passions, to transform the world.
Filed under: Cover Reveal
About Travis Jonker
Travis Jonker is an elementary school librarian in Michigan. He writes reviews (and the occasional article or two) for School Library Journal and is a member of the 2014 Caldecott committee. You can email Travis at firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow him on Twitter: @100scopenotes.
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