In Which We Acquire Corn Socks, Meet the Mayor, and Make Five Hundred New Friends
by Matthew
October 27, 2022

On Monday, we visited L.B. Williams Elementary School in Mitchell, South Dakota.

Among all the schools in South Dakota, we chose L.B. Williams, in no small part because of the graciousness of our host, Deb Bartscher. At the end of a compelling essay about what our visit would mean to her community, she ended with this, “Thanks for providing this opportunity to whatever school is chosen in South Dakota.

”That generosity of spirit was clear throughout our visit. Deb was waiting with a group of kids and a huge banner to welcome us when we arrived.

Also there to greet us was Principal Becky Roth, who ushered us inside for a special treat: local mural artist (and L.B. Williams parent) Stan Sherwood had painted cafeteria columns to look like the spines of our books.

These are just small examples of how prepared they were. The students had read another book before we came—“The Energy Bus,” a bus-themed book about positivity. The community has been tracking our progress on a map. Bus-themed art lined the hallways.

Deb and Becky made the most of our visit, inviting education professors and education students from local Dakota Wesleyan University. A reporter from the local paper came to talk with us. And the district superintendent. And even…the mayor!

We could not have felt more welcome. The two students in charge of student government presented us with a basket of treasures: corn socks, corn balls, corn magnets, and personalized bookmarks made by Deb.

Upon learning Jasper would be joining her class for the day, his teacher made a desk for him—with his own name plate.

After our second assembly, one young man asked me for a hug, which I happily gave. Afterward, he gave me a smile and the best compliment I’ve ever received. “Somehow you inspired me.” I gave him another hug for good measure.

Eventually, we had to leave. It’s the worst part of these visits. But we’re glad to know part of us will remain. Not just on the cafeteria walls—but in the hearts and minds of the students and teachers.

A mom wrote us that night saying her reading-averse first grader had eagerly read to her from his copy of Everywhere, Wonder on the way home from school that day.

That’s why we’re doing this, friends. That, and the corn socks, of course.



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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!