A Gift of Many Stories with John Schu & You!

Something magical happened on a Tuesday evening in the land of Zoom. Over 70 school librarians gathered together to listen to stories, not just from author John Schu but from each other as well.

Thanks to generous funding from ALA President Emily Drabinski, AASL was able to offer free copies of John Schu’s book The Gift of Story to members.

Because of the generous gift of John’s time, we were able to bring people together from all over the country to meet with Mr. Schu and discuss this book as well as a few of his others. I am so thankful to both of them for their generosity!

I think The Gift of Story reminds us of why we all became educators and especially school librarians. It celebrates the work we do with learners each and every day. It definitely was the right book at the right time for me as we were ending a challenging legislative session in my state and heading into the final months of the school year which is always a mixture of poignant and stressful.
This book was such a gentle, breath of fresh air that helped revive my school librarian mojo in the best way possible. And, I wasn’t the only one. As I contemplated what to include in this post, I kept coming back to the idea that my thoughts weren’t sufficient as there were so many brilliant ones shared in the chat during the Town Hall event. Thank you to everyone who joined us live that evening and sharing your thoughts with us.

If you missed it, you can watch the recording for this and other Town Halls here: https://www.ala.org/aasl/about/townhall

One attendee at the Town Hall said, “John, the design of this book is so beautiful and enhances the message. I want to keep it nearby always to refer to again and again. And what a beautiful object to have on my desk at all times!”

Another attendee’s feline weighed in on the aesthetic of the book as well, “On a lighter note, John, my ginger cat LOVES the smell of The Gift of Story. He can’t stop smelling and purring as I’m on this Zoom.” And, of course, my cat Momo had to join us for a little bit, because she thinks that this book is a “purrrfect” addition to my professional learning shelf.

There are five categories that make up the framework of Mr Shu’s book. During the Town Hall, I asked participants to share which category was speaking to them most at the moment and why. While each category had a shout out, Connector and Compassion showed up most often. Below are a few of their thoughts.

“Connector – I connect with students and staff when I’m helping them choose a book from our school library. I feel that I can connect something in the book with a student.”

“Connector – I try so hard to connect everyone in our school.”

“Connector – It’s the bread and butter of what I hope I do each day at school with students.”

“Compassion – Building empathy is why I love sharing books with students.”

“Compassion – I try every day to make our library a place for each of our students and show a variety of books to try to reach everyone. We all need to understand those around us and accept them as they are.”

Because this book lends itself so naturally to my presidential focus of building relationships, the next question asked our attendees how they could use the ideas in the book to grow relationships in their school communities. Several people discussed how the categories in the book can help expand understanding. 

  • “Healer – students can identify with characters that are experiencing the same challenges.  It gives them the understanding that they are not alone and can relate.”
  • “These categories can be used to help understanding about what books can do for readers with everyone in our community. There are some that don’t understand how books can help a reader.”
  • “I love the idea shared earlier about how these elements are what is missing as we study, challenge, weed, and select books. I love the idea of using the categories to strengthen our understanding in our own schools.”

A few saw the potential for sharing it with fellow educators in their schools.

  • “How to connect in a school – When teachers are given PD books to read, there’s typically a behind the scenes groan. This is light, readable and filled with joy. I think teachers will be inspired use the things in it with students. Using it won’t feel like JUST ONE MORE mandate.”
  • “As I read I was trying to figure out how to get more copies to host a book group for the teachers at my school.”

To close out this post, let’s take a look at another magical part of this Town Hall when attendees shared the Books of their Hearts. In The Gift of Story Mr. Schu shares about the book of his heart and asks readers to think about which book changed their lives. Which one feels like a best friend? Which one they think everyone should know about? And more.

I always struggle when someone asks me for my favorite book, and this was no different. The book of my heart in my childhood was Anne of Green Gables. I read the entire series and so very much wanted to live on Prince Edward Island. And, Anne may very well have been the reason I wanted to become a teacher!

Here are the books shared by our attendees. What would you add to the list? Share below in the comments!

  • Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White
  • Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
  • Walk Two Moons by Sharon Creech
  • Love That Dog by Sharon Creech
  • Winnie the Pooh by A.A. Milne
  • A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett
  • The Remarkable Journey of Coyote Sunrise by Dan Gemeinhart
  • Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein
  • On the Banks of Plum Creek by Laura Ingalls Wilder
  • A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness
  • The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
  • Matilda by Roald Dahl
  • James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl
  • Need a House? Call Ms. Mouse! By George Mendoza
  • Frindle by Andrew Clements
  • The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats
  • The People Could Fly by Virginia Hamilton
  • Wish Tree by Katherine Applegate
  • The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare
  • Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery
  • Holes by Louis Sachar
  • Simon Sort of Says by Erin Bow 
  • The Tiger Rising by Kate DiCamillo
  • The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett
  • All-of-a-Kind Family by Sydney Taylor
  • The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
  • Stormy: A Story about Finding a Forever Home by Guojing
  • Wonder by R.J. Palacio
  • From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil D. Frankenweiler by E. L. Konigsburg
  • The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane by Kate DiCamillo
  • Watsons Go to Birmingham, 1963 by Christopher Paul Curtis
  • White Fang by Jack London
  • The Serpent King by Jeff Zentner
  • The Lost Year by Katherine Marsh
  • The Beatryce Prophecy by Kate Dicamillo
  • A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket
  • The following books were originally published for adults:
  • The Book Whisperer by Donalyn MIller
  • The Love-Artist by Jane Alison
  • The Women by Kristin Hannah


Author: Courtney Pentland, AASL President 2023-2024

Categories: Literacy

Tags: ,

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.