In Which Snow Is Falling and the Day Is Cold But Our Hearts Are Warm
by Matthew
October 14, 2022

Robbi planned our tour route to avoid cold weather, and especially snow.

The bus isn’t insulated and there are six external mirrors to defrost. Minnesota didn’t get the memo.

We woke to snow and cold on the morning of our visit to Garden City Elementary. Our host, Callíe Bray recognized my (Matthew’s) distress and started our visit by handing me a coffee. This helped, but I was still cold. A trip into the hallway took the edge off.

As the kids streamed into the school, they gathered in clumps and whispered, pointing at us surreptitiously. We make a customized video for each school we visit, which we send in advance for our hosts to share with the kids and teachers before we arrive. The point is to create anticipation for our visit and to let them know we’re just regular people, ready to laugh and have fun. The result is high excitement and whispers of “They’re really here!” and “We saw you on TV!”

We introduced ourselves, and the second the kids realized we were friendly and approachable, we were buried in mountains of big, soul-affirming hugs. The snow was forgotten.

There was nothing but warmth in that hallway.

I went down to the cafeteria to have breakfast with a group of kids, getting the chance to see them joking and laughing with each other. For a second, it took me back to fifth grade, which was a pretty good year, as I remember.

The kids in our small group were amazing as always—curious, creative, eager to share their ideas for a better world.

Callíe didn’t sign up to be our host. But when her colleague who applied for the tour last year left the school, she took over with gusto, doing all the planning and coordinating it takes to host a visit.

When the time came to leave, Callíe sent us off with a backpack full of art supplies for the kids and a ziplock full of espresso shots for me. Something to keep us all happy and warm on the long road ahead.

Needless to say, we love Callíe, and we heart Minnesota.

 

 

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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: 6.18.24
In which Robbi reports from a rainforest near Anchorage.
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And they’re off!
 
Robbi and the kids (the dogs) left home early afternoon yesterday. They flew to Seattle last night and caught an overnight flight to Anchorage, where they landed just after midnight Alaska time. To kill time during their 12-hour layover, they’re going to rent a car and drive down the Turnagain Arm to Portage. It’s a gorgeous stretch of road along the water.
 
Later today, they’ll catch a flight to King Salmon, a small tundra town which is the jumping-off point for many sport fishing adventures—and the place where the fishermen in our district catch the bush planes that take them to their various fishing camps.  
 
The whole trip will take about 36 hours, at which point Robbi and the kids will land on the beach and be greeted by Robbi’s brother in a pickup truck. They’ll drive to our compound, take the plywood off the windows, head to the spring to get water, hook up the solar panel, and then start setting up our fishing lines.
 
It’s so much work to get started every year, but they’ll be up and running by the time I reach the tundra late next Monday evening. It’s possible I’ll jump off the plane and straight into my waders. Once the fishing starts, it waits for no one.
 
PS - This illustration is from our picture book Sunrise Summer, which tells the story of Alden’s first season as a member of the fishing crew. It’s a great way to get a glimpse into our lives in Alaska.
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The Daily Minute: 6.17.24
In which we tape up the coolers, and Robbi’s hair proves tundra-ready.
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The Daily Minute: 6.16.24
In which Robbi leaves for Alaska tomorrow and the dogs are running free.
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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!