One family. One nation. One year.

A whole heaping busload of books.

Hello!

We are Matthew Swanson and Robbi Behr, husband/ wife, author/ illustrator creators of middle grade and picture books—here to tell you about the Busload of Books Tour.

We 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), doing presentations on creativity and collaboration, and giving away 25,000 hardcover books to students and teachers from underserved communities.

Along the way, we’ll be conducting a major research project, making a picture book about America, and inviting our followers to join us for the ultimate virtual road trip.

Home Sweet School Bus

Our 24-foot Thomas school bus/tiny home has a galley kitchen, rooftop pop-up bedroom for the kids, and no toilet (because there simply isn’t room). Matthew will drive. Robbi will navigate. The kids will never, ever ask if we’re there yet.

Inside of bus showing bench seats and kitchenette

The Ultimate Virtual Field Trip

We invite you to join us for a virtual tour of America’s unsung wonders and off-the-beaten-path communities. At every step, we’ll be documenting our travels via daily photos, essays, sketches, and videos. Check out our route!

 

To join the adventure, follow us on Instagram, Facebook, YouTube, or the tour blog.

The Schools We’ll Be Visiting

We’ve partnered with the incredible nonprofit First Book to select Title I schools in all 50 states (plus DC)—prioritizing communities where our books and programming will make the biggest impact and selecting schools from the widest range of sizes, settings, and demographic profiles.

Busload of Books Research Project

We’re partnering with the departments of education and sociology at Washington College to conduct the first-ever, large-scale study of how author/illustrator visits impact attitudes about literacy and creativity among elementary school students. The resulting data will fill a critical gap in the research on this topic—and could provide powerful tools for school administrators and teachers trying to secure funding and priority for literacy programming.

We’re partnering with a national nonprofit, a leading liberal arts college, a beloved local arts organization, and our generous publisher.

FIRST BOOK

helped us identify the schools we’ll visit—and is working with our publishers to get our books to students and teachers.

WASHINGTON COLLEGE

is using our tour to conduct a major study that will fill a critical gap in the research on the impact of author/illustrator visits.

KENT CULTURAL ALLIANCE

is filling our bus with hometown pride and accepting tax-deductible donations on our behalf.

RANDOM HOUSE

is helping with publicity and making a major donation of books.

FIRST BOOK

helped us identify the schools we’ll visit—and is working with our publishers to get our books to students and teachers.

WASHINGTON COLLEGE

is using our tour to conduct a major study that will fill a critical gap in the research on the impact of author/illustrator visits.

KENT CULTURAL ALLIANCE

is filling our bus with hometown pride and accepting tax-deductible donations on our behalf.

RANDOM HOUSE

is helping with publicity and making a major donation of books.

Matthew Swanson and Robbi Behr are the author and illustrator of the Cookie Chronicles series, The Real McCoys trilogy, and the picture books Sunrise Summer, Babies Ruin Everything, and Everywhere, Wonder. When not advocating for local schools, giving talks on creativity, or commercial salmon fishing in Alaska, they live in the hayloft of an old barn on the Eastern Shore of Maryland.

Read more about us
in the Washington Post!

MATTHEW

Author, Dad,
Tundra Nanny

ROBBI

Illustrator, Mom,
Fisherwoman

ALDEN (13)

Actor, Artist, Entrepreneur

KATO (12)

Athlete, Gamer,
Engineer

AUGUST (10)

All-star Hugger,
Magical Being

JASPER (5)

Shouter, Jester,
Autocrat

DUMBLES (1)

Snuffler, Mooch,
Grumpy Old Man

PRINT MEDIA

WASHINGTON POST 2019

An in-depth profile of our journey from independent publishers to commercial children’s book creators. Click here to read.

WASHINGTON POST 2021

The wonderful Mary Quattlebaum writes about the launch of The Cookie of Perfection and the Busload of Books Tour here.

PUBLISHERS WEEKLY

The official book-world announcement of the Busload of Books Tour is here.

WE NEED DIVERSE BOOKS

A conversation about how illustration can be a form of authorship—and a tool for increasing representation in kid lit. Click here to read.

RELUCTANT READER BOOKS

Our favorite-ever review of The Cookie Chronicles—and why these books are a good match for readers trying to find their footing. Read it here.

FAMILY CIRCLE

The Modern Life column profiled our family and the “joys and challenges of raising kids while working from home” here.

NEW YORK TIMES

An interview with the ArtsBeats blog about our indie press Idiots’Books. Read it here

NEW YORK MAGAZINE

Classified our self-published work in the “Brilliant and Lowbrow” quadrant of their Approval Matrix. We wouldn’t have it any other way. Check it out here.

SELECT PODCASTS

HELLO MONDAY

We join LinkedIn’s Jessi Hempel for a conversation about leaving our day jobs to make books and kids. Listen here.

END BOOK DESERTS

We talk with teacher, scholar, author, and literacy advocate Molly Ness about the Busload of Books Tour here.

THE AUTONOMOUS CREATIVE PODCAST

Our conversation with comic artist Jessica Abel about risk, reward, and making your own luck can be found here.

THE AUTONOMOUS CREATIVE - with video!

Our conversation with comic artist Jessica Abel about risk, reward, and making your own luck. The crowdcast can be found here.

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.

#busloadofbooks
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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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Dumbles loves his new toy. Thanks Beckie Nieman and all our friends at North Pike Elementary School for including even our ridiculous dog in your generous hospitality.

#busloadofbooks
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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!