April 04

This Is a School by John Schu and Veronica Miller Jamison

Happy, happy Monday! My name is Becky Calzada, and I am so excited to debut my FIRST blog post on The Nerdy Book Club website. It’s especially memorable because I get to share my dear friend, Mr. Schu’s debut picture book, This Is a School, illustrated by Veronica Miller Jamison and published by Candlewick Press. I’m turning the table around and asking him all the questions and sharing his wonderful thoughts with all of you. Are you ready? Here we go!!

John Schu: Hello, Becky! Happy, happy Monday to you! Happy School Library Month! I’m thrilled to celebrate This Is a School with you on the Nerdy Book Club’s website. Thank you for everything you do for children, libraries, and librarians. You inspire me every day. 

Becky Calzada: Hello John! I’m so excited to interview you and discuss your beautiful book, This Is a School. I read your book on the first day of spring. It was a perfect Sunday afternoon to read as I prepare to start my week back at work as a district library coordinator. I’ve been a public school educator for 35 years and know how important schools can be to students, parents, teachers, and administrators. I love how your book highlights schools being communities for everyone to come together to share, help and learn. I also love how beautifully illustrated your book is. Veronica did a spectacular job on every page and spread showing us so many different spaces in a school and all the beautiful people inside that keep the school buzzing and humming. I can’t wait to share your book with my friends and colleagues. Can you share what planted the seed for this special picture book?

John Schu: Thank you for your kind comments about This Is a School. They mean the world to me! Truly! This Is a School wouldn’t exist without the students I taught and experienced stories with in Seoul, Kankakee, Oswego, and Oak Brook. It wouldn’t exist without the thousands of students I’ve met around the world. It wouldn’t exist without WONDERFUL librarians like you. It wouldn’t exist without my brilliant and kind editor, Karen Lotz, and Molly O’Neill, friend and agent extraordinaire. All of these experiences and people helped plant the seed for This Is a School, my love letter to schools.

Becky Calzada: Reading This Is a School made me think back to my school experiences growing up. Many don’t know this, but I was a very shy child growing up; starting a new school year always made me anxious. Fear of the unknown, a brand new teacher, and uncertainty about friends being in my class often had me clinging to my mom. I love how all the parents and students interact together, know one another and are happy. Can you share about your school experiences growing up with us? 

John Schu: Thank you for telling me about your early school experiences. Like you, I was a very shy child. I was quite unsure of myself. I wanted to blend in. I did whatever I could not to stand out in a classroom. I spent most of elementary school with butterflies dancing around inside my stomach. I was a child who constantly came up with excuses to visit the school nurse. I’m just starting to talk about that child during school visits. These necessary conversations have led to a lot of students opening up to me about their own anxiety. It has helped me open up my heart even more. 

In The Creativity Project, edited by Colby Sharp, I write a letter to Dr. Mary Margaret Reed, my fifth-grade teacher. That was a good school year. A year that gave me a lot of hope. A year during which I had a chance to heal a bit of my heart thanks to the books she read aloud and booktalked. I felt safe and loved when I was in her classroom. Thank you, Dr. Mary Margaret Reed! 

Becky Calzada: Thank you for sharing your very personal story about your school experiences with us. There are so many great spaces and interactions highlighted in This Is A School. Did you imagine any of these things as you were writing this story? What were you excited to see?​

John Schu: It felt as though Veronica Miller Jamison looked inside my brain and heart and knew exactly what I was referring to in each stanza. (This Is a School was written as a poem.) I emailed Karen Lotz a lot of exclamation marks (!!!!!!!!!) when I saw the final theater scene for the first time. There are two things I know a lot about: children’s literature and musical theater. My dream is to write This Is a Theater. 😉 

Becky Calzada: Squee!!!! There are many theater lovers that would be excited for that book. John, please finish the following sentence starters:

Veronica Miller Jamison’s illustrations are SPECTACULAR. They are WARM. They are JOYFUL. They make my heart SING. I love them so, so much! 

Story is what changes us, inspires us, connects us to others, answers our deepest wonderings, and helps us heal. Story is EVERYTHING. 

Becky Calzada, you should have asked me if I am looking forward to giving you a BIG hug at the Texas Library Association’s conference in late April 2022? The answer is: Yes!! 

I can’t wait for your hug in Fort Worth, Texas. Thank you for sharing with us John! Congratulations on your FIRST published book, THIS IS A SCHOOL!

Thank you, Becky! See you in Fort Worth, Texas! 

Becky Calzada is a first generation Texas educator with 35 years of experience; she is currently the District Library Coordinator in Leander ISD, a fast-growth suburban school district northwest of Austin, Texas. Becky serves on the American Association of School Librarians Board as AASL Director-at-Large, a member of the Legislative Committee for the Texas Library Association, past chair for the Texas Association of School Librarians and is co-founder of #FReadom Fighters. She is an avid reader who loves sharing what she reads with her grandkids and anyone looking for a book recommendation. Becky can be reached on Twitter @becalzada.

John Schu is the children’s librarian for Bookelicious, was the Ambassador of School Libraries for Scholastic Book Fairs, a part-time lecturer at Rutgers University, and a former classroom teacher and school librarian. He has visited schools all over the world and has met with over 130,000 students, teachers, and administrators as he advocates for the people and things he cares about most: kids, books, schools, and the libraries — and librarians — that connect them. This Is a School is his picture book debut. John Schu lives in Naperville, Illinois. 

Veronica Miller Jamison is an illustrator and surface pattern designer who was trained as a fashion designer. She has created art and patterns for Hallmark, Essence magazine, and Lilly Pulitzer. The illustrator of A Computer Called Katherine, written by Suzanne Slade, Veronica Miller Jamison lives in Philadelphia.