This Is a Story

by John Schu (Author) Lauren Castillo (Illustrator)

Reading Level: K − 1st Grade

Children's literacy advocate John Schu and Caldecott Honor recipient Lauren Castillo celebrate the power of finding the perfect book--in a story that's more relevant than ever.

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.

Select format:

Kirkus Reviews

The soft illustrations, created with ink, watercolor, and pastel, suit the gentle narrative. . . [a] sweet tribute to a book’s ability to create deep, lasting connections with readers.

Publisher's Weekly

Starting in close and pulling back, this love letter to libraries foregrounds their gift for connecting each reader with just the right story. Schu (This Is a School) starts with books’ basic element-"This is a word"-then widens out from word to page, page to book, book to shelf, and to the world, "full of humans," who sometimes need help "connecting." In thick-lined ink, watercolor, and pastel art from Castillo (The Ramble Shamble Children), the first book shown-Chris Butterworth’s Sea Horse-is just right for a pale-skinned child who totes an unwieldy seahorse kite into the library after visiting a New York City park. A light-skinned librarian knowingly proffers the title, and the child is soon belly down with it on the round rug. Subsequent pages introduce variously diverse "readers/ with minds full of questions," whose visits lead to finding a book that aligns with their interests. Realistically drawn, recognizable book jackets cover the pages, creating jumping-off points and sparks of recognition in a title that’s both the next best thing to an actual library visit and fine preparation for a first foray. 

Copyright 2023 Publishers Weekly, LLC Used with permission.

School Library Journal

Starred Review
K-Gr 2-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. The main character is a young girl whose love for seahorses leads her to the local library. There she meets the librarian, who looks a lot like Schu, and other children who love books. The sentences are simple, often with just one word per page. The main character is depicted as white, but a diverse group of children and adults are included in all other aspects of the story. Castillo uses ink, watercolor, and pastel to create a beautiful and vibrant library setting that invites everyone into the spreads. Those in the know will have fun spying illustrated covers of actual picture books. VERDICT A valentine to reading, books, the love of books, and the rooms that house them, this charmer will find a home in every heart.

Copyright 2023 School Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.
John Schu

John Schu has made a career out of advocating for the people and things he cares about most: kids, books, and the people that connect them. He was named a Library Journal Mover and Shaker for his dynamic interactions with students and his passionate adoption of new technologies as a means of connecting authors, illustrators, books, and readers. He is the children’s librarian for Bookelicious, a part-time lecturer at Rutgers University, and shares his love of reading with countless educators and students around the world. He served as the Ambassador of School Libraries for Scholastic Book Fairs for almost 6 years.

He is the author of This Is a School (Candlewick Press, 2022) illustrated by Veronica Miller Jamison, This Is a Story (Candlewick Press, 2023) illustrated by Caldecott Honor artist Lauren Castillo, Louder Than Hunger (Candlewick, 2024) and The Gift of Story: Exploring the Affective Side of the Reading Life (Stenhouse, 2022). He is a contributor to The Creativity Project (Little, Brown, 2018), edited by Colby Sharp. John Schu lives in Naperville, Illinois.

Lexile Measure
Guided Reading Level
Candlewick Press (MA)
Publication date
March 14, 2023
BISAC categories
JUV047000 - Juvenile Fiction | Books & Libraries
JUV051000 - Juvenile Fiction | Imagination & Play
JUV039090 - Juvenile Fiction | Social Themes | New Experience
Library of Congress categories

Subscribe to our delicious e-newsletter!