In Which We Spend a Day (and a Night) as Part of the Ludlow Elementary School Family
by Matthew
September 30, 2022

Last week’s visit to Ludlow Elementary began the night before we arrived at the school.

Our host, grade four teacher Lisa Marks, invited us to spend the evening (and night) at her home.

Lisa’s family made us a delicious dinner (and breakfast), gave us a place to plug in our bus, and even let us use their bathrooms. Our kids and hers played together like old friends.

The next morning, we headed to the school and parked where the Ludlow students would be able to see the bus on the way in, setting a colorful tone for the day.

Ludlow Elementary has bright classrooms, great energy, and a close-knit, family feel. The walls are decorated with murals and plant material that add warmth and fun and a quintessential Vermont vibe.

Ludlow is a small school (less than 100 students), and the excitement was evident from the moment we arrived. We got lots of smiles and waves and hugs as we poked our heads into each classroom, saying hello.

To prepare the kids for our visit—and to keep track of our continuing adventures—Lisa’s fellow teacher Shona Tremblay made a bulletin board that includes our route and highlights of our travels. We love that we’ll be spending more than just one day in the hearts and minds of the Ludlow community.

The fifth grade and kindergarten teachers invited Augie and Jasper to spend the day in their classrooms. I look forward to reading Jasper’s comprehensive essay on the depth and variety of American kindergarten experience.

We gave our two assemblies in the gym—which belonged to the district high school before it shut down for lack of funding.

We met with a small group of students, answered their questions, and asked them each to let us know 1) their favorite meal, 2) what makes them happiest, and 3) what they’d do to make the world better if they were in charge. I was particularly excited with this young woman’s belief that more writing is the solution!

Among my favorite moments of the day: one of the Ludlow students became the first person to successfully guess the Matthew Draws portrait I painted on the hood of the bus, shocking Robbi and affirming my artistry.

Before we left, Lisa painted Vermont on our mural. We’re so happy to have a bit of Ludlow traveling with us as we go.

We felt so lucky to spend a day (and a night) as honorary members of the Ludlow Elementary community. The warmth and good feeling that shines throughout the school is the clear result of Lisa and her fellow educators working with heartfelt purpose to create a culture of learning, respect, and support.

Their students are so lucky to have such wonderful teachers. And we are so lucky to have met them.




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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:

The Daily Minute: 12.8.22
In which we bask in the sweet Louisiana night and brace ourselves for the enormity of Texas.


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Hello, Friends! Isabel here. We’re rounding out the week in a state I’m pretty familiar with: the Bayou State, the Creole State, the Boot.

You might know it as a swampy place, the site of the country's largest gator population. I know it as a place I grew up: Louisiana! 

The world alligator, by the by, comes from the Spanish el lagarto, or: the lizard. The BIG lizard… they grow up to 12 feet long.

Although the state song is “You Are My Sunshine,” Louisiana's famed for its hurricanes. Not so many people know about the tricks of LA's grittiest survivors: oak trees. Full-grown live oaks can drink up more than 20,000 gallons of stormwater a year!

Floods especially affect New Orleans, which has LA's lowest elevation. 8 feet below sea level! 

That doesn’t stop residents from living the city’s motto: laissez les bons temps rouler. “Let the good times roll!” 

The city spent time under Spanish and French rule before being sold to the US. In 1803, LA’s territory encompassed what is now 13 separate states; the Louisiana Purchase doubled the size of the US.

If you've only heard of one thing in New Orleans, it’s probably Mardi Gras. Every year, parades roll through the streets. Riders on papier-mâché floats throw beads, and marching bands perform in between. 

This leans on another New Orleans tradition. Jazz! Born when improv, emotion, and brass clashed like cymbals in the hands of extraordinary artists like “Jelly-Roll” Morton and Louis Armstrong.

This wouldn’t have been possible without NOLA's incredible diversity. From the Native Americans who first lived here, to the historical African, Caribbean, and European influences, NOLA's a melting pot.

LA's food wouldn’t be the same without its Haitian Creole and Cajun influences. If you’ve seen The Princess and the Frog, you’ve heard of my personal favorite — gumbo, a delicious stew. And frog legs! Rayne, LA, is the center of the frog industry and even has an annual Frog Festival.

You know, NOLA’s connected to the rest of the state by the Causeway, the world's longest bridge over water. Some say you can even see the curvature of the Earth while driving it. Robbi and Matthew — let us know if you check it out!

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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!