One Country: Three Questions
by Matthew
August 7, 2022

Friends, perhaps you can help us with something.

One of the great opportunities our family will have on the Busload of Books Tour is talking to people all over the country—getting to know them and picking their brains if we care to.

We purposefully selected schools that represent a wide range of sizes, locations, and demographics—from a 900-student school in Wilmington, Delaware to a 7-student school in Port Heiden, Alaska.

Which means we’ll be spending time in a wide range of communities.

I’m guessing Robbi and I aren’t the only ones discouraged by the prevailing narrative of division and discord. It’s a complicated moment to know what it means to be an American (of the USA variety).

But we have a suspicion (or maybe it’s just hope?) that perhaps we’re not quite as divided as it seems—or at least not quite as hopelessly different as we think we are.

To test the theory, we plan to ask the same three questions to everyone we encounter—from the students in the schools we visit to the people we meet on the street to the friends whose driveways we crash in.

Our hope is to get a glimpse into the heart of the American identity and ethos—in order to discover what (if anything) unites us as a nation. Fingers crossed we’ll find it.

But what questions should we ask? Here’s the start of a list, but we’d like to hear from you. What would you ask if given the chance? How do we get to the heart of the matter?

  • What is America?
  • What does it mean to be American?
  • What one thing do all Americans have in common?
  • What’s the most American thing you do?
  • What is the best thing about America?

Just getting the ball rolling here. We turn to you for more (and better) ideas.

We’re so much smarter together.



The Busload of Books Tour is a year-long project to promote literacy and raise awareness of the challenges facing our nation’s public schools.

Author/illustrator duo Matthew Swanson and Robbi Behr (that’s us) and our four kids will spend the 2022-2023 school year traveling the country in a school bus/tiny home, visiting Title I schools in all 50 states (plus DC), and giving away 25,000 hardcover books to students and teachers from underserved communities.

As we travel, we will be blogging, vlogging and posting frequently to social media. All of our content will be appropriate for bringing families and students along on our ultimate road trip.

The latest on Instagram:

At BWI, waiting to board the first of four flights. The mail has been held. The coolers are packed. I’m ready for another summer in Alaska.

Looking forward to smelling the tundra, drinking from the spring, looking for agates, picking fish, baking cakes, and seeing the Bristol Bay sunrise.

But mostly looking forward to seeing my crew. Apparently, the fishing is already underway. When I finally get to Coffee Point, I’ll hop out of the bush plane and into my waders.

So long for now. Will be back before you know it with more photos and stories to share.

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The Daily Minute: 6.23.24
As Matthew packs for Alaska, he needs your help deciding between protein and joy.

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The Daily Minute: 6.22.24
In which garlic is needed, Goji is cold, and we are grateful to the librarians and students of Japan.

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Whoever you are, take your seat on the bus!

Our adventure is your adventure. Our country is your country, too. Follow along with us!