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: 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!