All posts by newhouseon

Return of the 5-1-1: Welcome Tommy Greenwald and Katie!

What a great pleasure it is to welcome author Tommy Greenwald to the 5-1-1 tonight! Tommy and I have known each other ever since before the first Charlie Joe Jackson graced the shelves of bookstores and filled the mind of reluctant readers with the shocking thought, “Hey! I just read a book and I loved it!

Awesome Signed Shirt

It’s a big year for Tommy! First off, is the release this very day, February 17th, 2015, of his latest book, spinning out of the CJJ-verse, Katie Friedman Gives Up Texting!, which dares to ask are teenagers phones truly attached to them, or can the cord (pun firmly intended) be cut (click here for Tommy’s post on why)! Coming later this year is the latest in the Charlie Joe Jackson series, Charlikatiee Joe Jackson’s Guide to Planet Girl, which ponders the mysteries of the female mind in a way that only CJJ can, and happens to drop just 10 days after my birthday on August 25th!

cjj planet girl

As if the sweet duet of humorous releases were not enough, Tommy also has a new series coming out in October from Scholastic! CrimeBiters! promises to be another funny series from the man who once was inspired by three boys who just did not like reading!


On to the questions! I call this the 5-1-1, as we feature five somewhat serious questions, followed by one nice and frivolous fun question, and then give the subject the chance to shoot a question back at this interviewer and/or his students! And here we go:

Tommy and Charlie Joe Newhouse 2tom-greenwald

Question 1: What was it like moving from writing for theater (Yeah, he’s a playwright with a show out this week!) to writing for children and what similarities and differences did you notice?

Tommy: Creating stories that entertain and surprise are pretty much a universal theme to anyone who tries to write. The biggest difference is in the audience. People who go to see your show will tell you they liked it even if they didn’t. Kids will tell you the cold, hard truth every time.

Question 2: What is the one genre or audience of book that you would love to tackle if given the chance that you have not yet done?

Tommy: I have an adult (how adult this librarian wonders) comic idea kicking around in my head that I really hope to get to in the not-too-distant future. (Translation from Tommy: within the next 20 years)

Question 3: Share one or more of your most memorable visits/communications with students about your books:

Tommy: I got an amazing email from a kid the other day. All it said was “Can you tell me about you?” I loved that, but the most meaningful by far are the ones that tell me that my books helped them become more interested in reading.


This librarian needs to jump in here with a quick story. When I first read CJJ1, I began an email dialogue with the author, one Tommy Greenwald. There was a student working in my media center who was not a big reader, let’s call him Mikey. I showed Mikey the ARC (Advanced Reader Copy) of the book one day, and he begrudgingly took it home to try it. One or two days later he was back looking for more. It was the very first book he had ever read cover to cover!

Tommy and Mikey began talking via long distance. It was around 2 years later that Tommy came to visit our town on his first victory lap tour. When I was able to invite this student, now a high schooler, and his family to come, and he saw Tommy and had the chance to meet him up close and personal… it was just a beautiful thing! For me, that is my current best Tommy story! Though who knows what the future may bring!

Michael and Tommyb

Question 4: What is your advice for students and/or adults who would like to break into the field of writing?

Tommy: Keep reading, keep exploring, and remember that an IDEA is one thing, but a STORY is another – it has to have a beginning, a middle and an end.

Question 5: Who is your favorite supporting character to write who is not currently published in a spin-off or is not currently an adult (sorry Brody Newhouse, and yes, he is a relation… read on below)?

Youngest Groupie Engrossing

Tommy: Eliza Collins is smarter than she looks — and she just might get her own book soon! (Sounds like she needs a new best friend or maybe a little sister, may I suggest the beautiful name Kara?)

Question 6 (silly): Who amongst you and your wife and kids has spent the longest time intentionally unplugged from social media and texting, for how long approximately, and for what reason? (In other words have you pulled a Katie?)

Tommy: I don’t know if i could pull a Katie. I’d love to but I’d probably get fired from my day job. and my kids will NEVER EVER EVER give up their phone — unless it’s for a fancier phone.

Question 7 (Tommy turns it around): What authors make you guys laugh the most? (besides me, of course.)

Newhouse and Company: This seems like a softball question, yet I run the risk of forgetting somebody, so while I will give it a go, if I forget someone amazing, please let me know in the comments below. I will give you my son’s picks first, then a selection of my students, and then a few of my own:

Brodie: I love Peanuts but Charles Schultz is dead (direct quote). He also loves Big Nate, Captain Underpants, Calvin and Hobbes, Weird School and Bad Kitty among other books!

A selection of students from my school: Dr. Seuss, Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Dork Diaries, Nerds, Babysitter’s Club comics, Bone, Familiars and a selection of surprising choices that I am told have funny parts including The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins (really?) and Bang! by Sharon G. Flake, two books whose authors I respect and titles I have enjoyed but ones that stretch the definition of funny!

In No Particular Order from this Librarian: Tom Angleberger, David Lubar, Bruce Coville, Yotsuba series of Manga, Gordon Korman, Chris Grabenstein, Free Thaddeus, Berkeley Breathed’s Flawed Dogs, Terry Pratchett (love the Truckers trilogy). However, for sheer milk shooting out of my nostrils humor, I have to nominate Planet Tad and the sequel by Tim Carvell! If I drank milk it would be rivileting in a puddle having been flung from my nose cavity for sure!

Thank you Tommy for being a guest on the 5-1-1! I am very excited that Tommy will be returning to my fair city for another victory lap! His first visit was so successful, that my son Brodie (though I lost the spelling war) was immortalized in Jack Strong Takes a Stand!


I am wondering just how cute my daughter will have to be to have Kara appear in an upcoming book… maybe Eliza’s solo effort? Maybe this cute:


Until next time have a wonderful evening… this is Newhouse the Librarian signing off!


FETC Tuesday Thoughts

Drove in this morning from Tampa and had the pleasure of being presider with Kati Searcy at her workshop! As Kati’s assistant (gopher) I was given the privilege of being a part of her workshop!

Today can best be seen in my twitter feed from the session. Some highlights include taking another look at Kahoot, working as a group to compose a poetic performance about the butterfly life cycle, creating a magazine cover with my mustached son using, creating a fake chat between Dr. Seuss and William Shakespeare using, creating a mock newspaper clipping with, and viewing a very touching and poignantly timed Animoto!


imageIt was a great conference start and I would recommend volunteering to anyone! With three full days left, it’s only the start!

Follow the #fetc hashtag and keep an eye on the latest and greatest tips aimagend technologies out of Orlando! Have a great night!

FETC, Creatures and Boston, Oh My!

Good evening to all!

This is the first day in 20 that my brain is allowing me to somewhat coherently put together words, hence the delay in this blog and the brevity of it! Darn this funky flu vaccine evading flu bug! Thank goodness I am finally over it!

First off, Happy New Year to all! I spent mine in style in beautiful Boston where I walked about 40 miles and rode the magical T around for a week! On the actual evening, I was 750 feet in the air watching the fireworks with my family from the top of the Prudential Center! As a Boston University graduate it was a pleasure to return to one of my favorite cities.


As I mentioned to author Skylar Dorset, subject of my last blog entry, when I rode the red line T, there was a moment between stations where the T paused, the lights flickered and it got unnaturally quiet, making it clear where she got her marvelous use of the T in the Girl Who Never Was Duology! I did not see any goblins however, though that means nothing! (Review is coming of the two book epic after FETC, really!)


Then I returned to a flu funk! You know this librarian feels ill when he can’t read his usual intake of children’s and young adult literature! And you know I am back when today I was able to polish off Robert Paul Weston’s Creature Department in a day! Let me just say I loved this book! It’s a healthy mix of Roald Dahl, Dr. Seuss, Monsters Inc. and some other books blended together into a fun fantasy and may be one of those rare sequels I read right away! I just wish the author was in the continental United States so he could be an SSYRA candidate! Great book for grades 3 to 7!


Now FETC is this week, and I have recovered just in time! In keeping with a pattern propogated by some of my wonderful colleagues including Sundi Pierce and Diana Rendina, here are some of the workshops I plan to make priority stops at this amazing conference in Orlando, Florida:


8am-3pm – Authentic Assessment Using Free Digital Tools (WTF008)- Kati Searcy    I’ll be volunteering and this otherwise paid workshop sounds very interesting!


11-12:45pm: TechShare Live!   This is just an awesome gathering of Tech gurus!

3:30-5pm: Opening Keynote – Jane McGonigal These are always inspiring, and judging by her website this will be entertaining and informative!


6-7pm: FETC Tweet Up! Communicating with the greats!


8:3-9:45am: General Session Keynote: Twelve Years from Now, Jenny Lawton, CEO Makerbot

10-11am: Journey to a Makerspace, Abbe Waldron  Recommended by my friend and colleague Diana Rendina

12-12:40pm: Telling the Story: Lessons Learned from the Outside World, Kathy Schrock    Kathy Schrock always will rock!

3:20-4pm: Transform Your School: Practical Tips for Starting a Makerspace, Diana Rendina    Hillsborough’s own mover and shaker!

4:20-5pm: Digital Group Smackdown: Audience Participation Encouraged, Leslie Fisher     Leslie always leaves me invigorated and excited about new frontiers!


1-1:40pm: Three Ways Google Tools Can Save Teachers Time, Rushton Hurley   This is another of my must-see Tech Gurus!

2-2:40pm: Tools You Can Use Tomorrow, Leslie Fisher   Leslie never disappoints!

3:15pm-4:15pm: Closing Keynote Session, Bob Wise

I will try to blog while at the conference, but if not expect a wrapup and review chock-full of great resources and ideas from FETC sometime in the next 2 weeks! And expect a new author 5-1-1 in February!

Author Skylar Dorset! Welcome to the 5-1-1!

And we’re back after a brief hiatus with a brand new feature called “What’s the 5-1-1?” In this new interview feature we will alternate between authors and librarians and technology visionaries asking them five somewhat serious questions, followed by one nice and frivolous fun question, and then giving the subject the chance to shoot a question back at this interviewer and/or his students!

I chose to begin with author Skylar Dorset for several reasons. First of all as I will share in a moment, my mechanism of connecting of her book was a bit unusual for me, while secondly as we are both Boston area college graduates and I was planning a trip to Boston shortly, it just seemed kismet. Of course the fact that Sourcebooks Jabberwocky, noted publisher of many excellent volumes including hers was exceptionally nice in connecting us did not hurt.

For those of you who don’t know, I am a middle school library media specialist who absolutely loves books! I have been involved with Florida’s Sunshine State Young Readers Award committee for nearly 10 years, currently serving as a scout and future selections coordinator and in that capacity I am always discovering amazing reads. This book however I can squarely tie into one recommender, my 8 year old son!

While my son does love to read, this was a little bit mature for his tastes. However one day I was wandering with him through our favorite local Barnes and Nobles bookstore in Carrollwood, and just browsing the shelves in the Young Adult section. I see him stop and just stare at one shelf. When I go over to see what has his attention, he grabs a copy of “The Girl Who Never Was”, Skylar’s debut, and thrusts it in my face. “Daddy, you should read this next!”9781402292538-PR

I read the back and see the word “faerie”, not usually my wheelhouse, but he is insistent. Something tells me I should at least give it the 50 page test.

Suffice it to say I finished the whole book and eagerly awaited the sequel. I will be coming back to you next Friday with a review of the series, but here without further ado is the very first episode of the 5-1-1!

Question 1: As a Boston University graduate, the T was a very important part of my life. What gave you the idea of giving the T such an important role in your story?

Skylar: The fact that when I was living in Boston, I spent so much of my life on it! I used to use the Green Line to commute into work every day (I later moved to a place on the Red Line, but as anyone who has lived in Boston knows, it’s the Green Line experiences that really stick with you the most…) [I would definitely agree Skylar!] and I would frequently be stuck underground thinking, “…WHAT IS THE PROBLEM?” And then I would get out my BlackBerry (I know, that’s how long ago this all was) and I would start typing stories to myself. Because I did so much typing while stuck on the subway, the subway really entwined itself with the story!

green line

Question 2: As a newer novelist, do you feel like you have found a niche writing this type of book, or do you think you will spread your wings and try something very different next time? What would be your dream type of book to create?

Skylar: I do like writing young adult and writing fantasy. I’ve had a great time working on young adult fantasy stuff and I’m still working on young adult fantasy stuff now. But I don’t know that I will write young adult fantasy for the rest of my life. I’ve written adult stuff in the past, and I just finished up my first middle grade novel, actually. And, believe it or not, this was my first attempt at writing fantasy. In the past I’d written more realistic fiction.

I would love to try my hand at magical realism at some point. Just…coming up with a world where nobody even blinks at goblins on the T, instead of being shocked by it. That sort of thing. [As someone who lived 4 years on the Green Line, I think that world may already exist, Skylar:)]

Question 3: Your book is one of a few which did not contain a romantic triangle in the main characters. Was there ever any pressure to add that kind of a story-line or did you feel support in your choice?

Skylar: No, no pressure at all. I felt very supported in where I wanted the story to go and how I wanted it to develop. I really didn’t want a triangle, because I felt like I could tell a story with conflict that came from within the couple, and I think I accomplished that! [No argument here!]

Question 4: In these days of social media, how important do you see outreach to teachers, librarians and readers from the author? Is yours driven by your own tastes, or do you feel like this is something necessary to survive in these social-media saturated times?

Skylar: I think it is super-important, if only because I remember how awed I was the couple of times I met an author, and what an impression it made on me. I think it’s important to make personal connections, to be able to exchange words with people and sometimes look them in the eye and just have conversations.

That said, I think social media is amazing because now you can go and connect with your favorite author even if your favorite author is never going to come within a thousand miles of you. And I get to chat easily with readers from around the world. I love that, I feel like it’s given me so much more contact than I could ever have hoped to have before social media.

So it’s all a delicate balance!

Question 5: Cliched as it may sound, what advice do you give to beginning authors toying with their first novel, or with an interest in writing for a middle grade or young adult audience?

Skylar: My advice is just as clichéd, I think, which is to write what you love. If you love it, the love will leak through onto the page and we’ll all feel it. Your writing should make you happy!

Question 6 [AKA the Bonus Question]: Would you rather be trapped on the Red or Green T-line for a couple hours ride in real life, and why?

Skylar: Ha! This is a good question, but I’ll go with the Red Line because it has fewer stops so I’m less likely to be motion-sick during the whole experience! [True and you might even get a comfortable seat as opposed to subway-surfing the Green!]

Question 7 from Skylar [The Tables are Turned… uh oh!]: Tomorrow you wake up with a superpower. What do you want it to be and why?

Newhouse: This was a terrific question and I spent almost a week considering my answer. I first got the question right in the midst of dealing with the loss of a grandparent which may have colored my response. All the usual suspects came to mind, flight [Nyah. Motion sickness would probably ensue!]; invisibility [Nope! I’d probably be drafted into the service of national security, so not for me!]; the power to end death [Sadly this would cause more problems than it would end.]; all kinds of cool powers… none was working for me just now.

Then I thought about one of my favorite shows Doctor Who… yes! I would like the power to travel instantly anywhere in time and space! I imagined the idea of meeting the historical figures who had changed our society and even bringing students on a field trip or bringing them into our time. I would love the power of the Tardis. Closer to home the notion that I could introduce my children to my departed grandparents… wow! Of course there would need to be the added imperative that whatever was changed would not affect our timeline… hello Butterfly Effect!

So there it is, magical powers genie, please grant me the power to travel with people safely and instantly in time and space without changing my own timeline. Piece of cake!

Ho9781402292569-PRpefully you enjoyed this edition of the 5-1-1! Please leave comments below or contact me if you have questions, thoughts, ideas, suggestions or want to be a spotlight guest on a future edition! Thank you to Kathryn Lynch, publicist at Sourcebooks, and of course to the amazing Skylar Dorset! The duology of The Girl Who Never Was and The Boy with the Hidden Name will be reviewed next Friday, along with a few other reading suggestions, and assorted tidbits!

Have a wonderful week! This is Newhouse the Librarian signing off!

(images courtesy of Wikipedia and Sourcebooks)

Fame Part 2: The People in Pictures

Enjoy some of the faces of FAME with a few words below. A quick shoutout to Paul Griffin who somehow I missed catching a pic with, but who was one of the nicest guys I have ever met, and Wendy Mass who I had a lovely time chatting with but somehow also missed in the pics! Marianne Berkes and Diane Z. Shore were also really great to meet (unpictured), yet somehow I missed entirely meeting Jude Watson. Anyway, welcome back to Newhouse On… and enjoy!

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Fame! Part One: The Beginning…

Not to mislead you I’m not yet famous outside of my local media world, however here is my first step down that road. Today’s blog title is actually referring to the FAME (Florida Association for Media in Education) Conference 2014 that took place last week in Orlando!

I was inspired to Connect the Dots by Tiffany Whitehead (@librarian_tiff) who was introduced to me by future movers and shakers Diana Rendina (@dianalrendina) and Okle Miller (@OkleMiller) in building a stronger PLN! To that end, active tweeting for the first time since FETC and in a more prolonged fashion,  joining my first TweetChat tomorrow, and this blog!

The plan is to update the blog on at least a weekly basis focusing sometimes on Great Reads, other times on Cool (Free!) Tech Tools, and other related professional topics. There may be interviews with the aforementioned rockstar librarians, authors and others. Good times will hopefully be had by all as well as information, our profession’s lifeblood.

I would be remiss if I did not mention Mr. Schu (@mrschureads(, another name I put with a face at FAME, and who I desperately wanted to homage with Mr. New Reads… then thought it might be a little creepy who shared lots of awesome websites for teaching and learning including one of my new favorites Kahoot, and slipped me a free book for my Kahoot gameplay!

This was in fact my 10th FAME! And in many ways it may have been the greatest! Part Two will focus on the authors and faces of FAME and will have more pictures! Until then…