Thursday, July 20, 2017

Chopped! for Kids' Crafts. Challenge me!

School bus ?  Stone Henge?  Castle Greyskull? Dinosaur?

So, here's my idea.  Someone sends someone - me or even you - a box of random recyclables of the sort that we use for children's crafts.  Cardboard tubes, jar lids, paper plates, paper bags, straws, small plastic bottles, corks, string, milk cartons etc.  Surprise me!

The second part of the challenge is this. The recipient will record the process of opening the box and MUST come up with a children's crafts that uses the stuff in the box.  The recipient makes something and records the finished product. The challeng-ee can even record their attempts.    To do this right, all participants should reference sites and books that are used to find ideas.  Recording COULD be video, but photos are good.

What do you think?

This might make a good program for tweens and teens.  Make unboxing videos with your book club.  You can even use a book theme.  For instance, they have to use the items in the box as resources in a Hunger Games challenge.  Or, the items in the box must be used to create a character or item from a popular series.  Don't just think adventure or fantasy series, either.

The best thing is that the person putting the box together just throws things in.  It's up to the opener to be creative.  OH!  I love it. 

Nothing perishable or hazardous.
The unboxer can add or use the following items: scissors, hole punch, glue, tape, color-adding technology (crayons, markers, colored pencils or paints) string or yarn or ribbons, rubber bands, fabric scraps, and scrap paper.  Googly eyes or pompoms? Not sure about the googly eyes or pompoms.

If you want to challenge me, just send me a list of the random items.  I will box - and unbox - them myself. 

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Ooh! I WANT One!

It's a tea dragon.  The leaves sprouting from its branch-like horns can be brewed as tea.  This is BRILLIANT!   The genius behind this idea - and the graphic novel that stars these little (insert cooing, baby smooching noises here) creatures - is Katie O'Neill, the Kiwi artist who also created Princess Princess Ever After.

Click here to find out how you might win a copy of Tea Dragon Society (it is also a web comic) and a copy of Princess Princess Ever After.  Thanks, Diamond Book Distributors, for bringing these books to the USA.

Shelf Awareness - my favorite site for scoping out new books - posted this on their Maximum Shelf edition for today.  How could I NOT share THIS little (unintelligible coochy-coo noises) sweetie with all of you??

  My heart is melting!

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

6 Things I Did Last Week

1.  Moravian Academy Reader's Theater workshops!  15 kids, paper hats, original scripts - all based on Jack tales.  Why, oh why, didn't I take photos?
A meager showing of the awesome hats.  The rest went home with the makers.

2. Took over the Universe.  Trixie, evil genius, and Grumpy Girl (me), captured the entire Universe.  Why stop at the world, am I right?
3. Froze chard for winter use.  So much chard!
4. Read the following books; Geekerella, Magpie Murders, I Hate Everyone But You, Caleb and Kit.
5. Bought an action camera and almost immediately regretted it.  I. Will. Learn. How. To. Use. This.
6.  Went to a wedding and saw the bride vanquish the groom in a sword fight.  Beat that!! 

I also lost my high school roommate and foster sister to ovarian cancer, and gained a great-niece.  Life goes on.

Reviews will follow but here's the nutshell.  Geekerella 👍, Magpie Murders 👍. The other two get possible thumbs ups but require discussion.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Let's Not Forget - Artemis Fowl

Is it too early to "remember" Artemis Fowl?  A coworker brought Artemis out for a young reader who wanted fantasy AND adventure all rolled into one.  And I remembered the total rush of WOW! that I experienced when I read the first book.  (BTW, what happened to the movie plans?)

Artemis is your typical evil- genius- with- a- soul.  Heir to a multi-million dollar criminal empire, Artemis must save his father from kidnappers.  His mother is lost in a haze of depression.  Their money is inaccessible to Artemis so he decides to steal a hoard of fairy gold.

Yep.  He's Irish - in Ireland - where caches of fairy gold are rumored to abound.  Oh, Artemis, you know not what you are about to unleash.  Those "little folk" live in the 21st century and they have the technology to prove it.

Gosh, I L.O.V.E. these books.  It is time to re-read them.

Eoin Colfer has a several other books to his credit.  He has just started a new series, W.A.R.P., that features a time traveler from the Victoria era who is swept up into an intelligence nightmare.  Be still, my reader's heart.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

How Does He DO That?

Chronicle Books presents "How to Draw A Maze" by Sean C. Jackson, the author of "From Here to There".  And it's amazing.  (See what I did there?)

I've been away.  Did you miss me?  I've read some awesome books. More later.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Hattifant Minion Card

I love to craft even though my results are less than perfect.  My dream life would be equal parts reading, crafting, and being outside in all weathers (preferably sheltered).  (Note:  I did not mention eating because that would just be embarrassing.)

I subscribe to Hattifant, a marvelous paper engineering site.  Every few days, I get a link to a new download for a paper toy or ornament or coloring page.  I don't always take advantage of these offers.  The videos are often enough.

Here is the latest.  Enjoy.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Happy Fourth of July!

Happy Fourth, everyone!  🎆🎇

Enjoy the fireworks and be careful with those sparklers! If the excitement gets too much for you...if you look around and wonder how we got where we are - good or bad - here's a book to read.

The Fragile Flag by Jane Langton.   The president wants to build a bomb - a huge world-ending bomb.  To garner support, his administration runs an essay contest in the schools.  Then, the president and his government try to redesign the flag, adding sparkles and glitz. 

In Concord, Massachusetts, Georgie Hall and her cousins decide to carry an old cherished flag, one said to infuse the viewer with patriotic visions, from their home to Washington D.C. on foot.  Even though they gather followers on the way, they also meet challenges. They wonder if their protest will have any effect at all.

Published in 1984, toward the end of the Cold War, this book might sound dated in its political setting (historical fiction!).  In 2002, Kathleen Karr, another favorite author, wrote that the book was not "appropriate for our political climate".  She wrote her critique right after 9/11 and might have been referring to our, at that time, friendly relationship with Russia.  Things had changed since 1984 but the pendulum kept swinging.

Personally, the danger of patriotic fervor turning into nationalistic insanity is all too real.  This book's message is true.  Read it and let me know how you feel.

More on Jane Langton, here.

Over at literacious, Laura has put together a Revolutionary War reading list for your middle grade - and older - readers.  Enjoy.

Friday, June 30, 2017

Let's Not Forget - The Green Book

First published in 1981, The Green Book tells the story of the last colonists to leave a dying Earth and rocket towards an unknown planet.
My favorite edition!

The most appalling privation they suffer is that each colonist, adult or child, can bring with them only ONE book.  When Pattie's book is shown to be an empty notebook, the other colonists are appalled.  The only entertainment they have is reading.  Musical instruments were too unnecessary to be loaded on the ship.  Paper is too precious to be wasted on drawing.

Technology has changed a lot since 1981.  The science of this book may feel dated.  But the tension of trying to make a new life on a planet that is similar to our own, and still so alien, is the main thrust of the story.  Once the colonists start making a life on the planet that they call Shine, all old world technology is moot.

The voice is that of one of the children in Pattie's family.  One is never sure, until the very end, which child is telling the story.  The point of view seems to shift among the siblings and that adds to the suspense.

Shine appears to be uninhabited and then, in a most magical scene, the denizens of Shine arise.

As I write, I keep remembering small details that delight me.  The colonists discover that the sap of the trees is edible through the children's play rhyme.  (NOTE TO SELF:  research the political and social significance of children's play rhymes.) The children end up leading in this book in so many ways.

This is a gentle tale, a cautionary tale.  The death of Earth has been caused by extreme pollution.  Shine is clean and clear and almost purely crystalline in comparison.  And yet, if they cannot produce their own food, the colonists may not survive.

 (Thanks to Chavivah (Cyndi) Simen for reminding me of this awesome book.)

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

LBB...One More Time

(His name is Little Blue Bunny.  D says he is 8 years old now because she wants him to get a cell phone soon.)

It gets harder and harder to find trouble that Little Blue Bunny has NOT gotten in to.

Flooded the Squirrel family abode?  Done that!
Messed up his parent's closet?  Check!
Turned fairy princesses into flowers?  Duh! Of course!
Climbed the Eiffel tower?  At least twice.
Scaled a volcano?  Yep.
Kidnapped various toys with the help of various other toys? Ho hum.  It's been done.

He got trapped on an amusement park ride.
He joined the pirates.
He swung from a ceiling fan.
I think he bungled up Project Runway: Toy Edition at least once.
He ran away from home.
He ate too much cake and threw up.
He stepped on everyone's toes at the Ball.
He teases his sisters and his older brother.
He causes Mammy Mammoth to have conniptions almost weekly.
Poor Mammy!

His favorite escapade of all is climbing.

So, yesterday, Little Blue Bunny decided to climb the lamp connected to the lamp table.  The bottom of the lamp table is Little Blue Bunny's room and it's also where we store the board games.  The top of the table is Lila's room.  She's a teenager and likes to be near the phone.

D warned him not to do it.

"I know how to climb." He scoffed.  (He's a good scoffer.) Off he went, higher and higher.  He got to the bend in the lamp's arm and slid close to the base of the bulb.

D covered her mouth.  "No!" she breathed.  Then, she turned stern.  (Whoa, no one does stern like D!) "You will burn yourself, you silly bunny."

D reached over and took Little Blue Bunny and made him climb up the inside of the lamp shade - away from the bulb.

Just then!!  The front door opened and in walked Daddy to take D home.  Startled, Little Blue Bunny lost his grip, bounced off the bulb, and landed on top of Lila who never even noticed because she was texting someone on her domino phone.

Nana took care of the rascal.  D gathered her things and Daddy heard about her day and talked to Gramps.

But before she left, D took Nana aside and whispered what Little Blue Bunny should do the next time we play with him.

It's a good one!  Honestly, I can't wait.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

5 Intriguing Title Words

1.  Bone.  Stick the word "bone" in your title and people will pick that baby off the shelf. 
The word is fluid enough to suggest darkness when it may mean simply "the essence, core" of a matter, or something that is used to mollify or placate, as in "throw him a bone".

2. Glass.  Glass is solid but old glass shifts and ripples with time.  (New glass might shift in years to come.  We won't be here to see it.)  Glass is transparent.  It is fragile.  It is reflective.  The word "glass" is used to indicate any barrier that is not easily seen.  Bingo!  ("Crystal" can work, too.)

3. Colors.  I mean the names of actual colors - not the word "colors".  The book may be about lions but if you add "golden" to the title, you have an attention grabber.  "Blue", "green", "red", - oh, and this is a winner - "amber" all give your title an edge.  "Amber" is much better than "yellow" or "orange", by the way.

4.  Moon.  This is a perennial favorite.  Anything about the night sky will make readers take a second look, but "moon" is top of the list.

5. Directional words.   I mean the class of words that indicate direction, - "into", "on", "through", "over", "under".  These prepositions give a sense of depth to the title, a sense of things not easily seen.  The book will take the reader somewhere else and reveal details that only the author can impart.

So, how about this title?  "Bones Under the Amber Moon".... oh, I want to read THAT book.  Oh wait, I skipped "glass". 

How about, "A Bone Moon in a Purple Glass" ?

Write me some books. Carry on.

Monday, June 26, 2017

Moody Monday

Actually, Friday, Saturday and Sunday were the Moody days.  Today, I feel cooooolll - as in summer breezes blowing through my window.  Yeah.

Man, I was in a funk.  I had some very angst-ridden conversations with two people - about each other - and I came away wondering which version was closer to the truth.  When that happens to me, I begin to find cracks in all the safe places.  I start to wonder if other people have secrets that would shock or upset me... if everyone is hiding some horrid past.

Then I snipe at those people closest to me.  And I cringe at my own tone of voice.

I found the absolutely PERFECT book for my mood; Lauren Myracle's The Forgetting Spell. 

I suspect I may have found Darya's confusion a bit much at another time, but I was that perplexed and twisted that it was a relief to read about someone - even a young teen - who had similar feelings.   

If you read Wishing Day, you understand the set up.  The girls of Darya's town have a tradition of making three wishes (one impossible wish, one wish she can make come true, and one wish closest to her heart) by the wishing tree three months to the day after their thirteenth birthday.  Darya's family, rumored to possess magic,  started the tradition ages ago. 

The flashbacks - most involving the mysterious Bird Lady - help fill in the gaps.  Darya approaches her thirteenth birthday full of doubts.  A new friend missed the tradition of wishing.  Darya wonders if she should use one of her wishes for that friend.  Someone from Darya's family pressures Darya to use one of her wishes to solve a long standing problem.  The request is almost threatening and certainly creepy.  Darya doubts everyone, including herself.  

It was like we were emotional twins.  I feel your pain Darya and I am 5 times your age.

She makes her wishes. Whew!  That pressure is off.  And, like almost everyone else who admitted their wishes, she regrets them and hopes they work out in the end.  The pressure ends but not the drama.

Darya is the second of three sisters, all aged a year apart.  There will be one more book, for sure.  This is good because a lot of stuff is left hanging.  And I want someone to let me, and Darya, know that her wishes -or anyone's wishes -  are not the cause of happiness or pain in other people's lives. 

I had one wish - to return to equilibrium.  I read a book.  It worked. 

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Let's not Forget - Friday - Betsy and Eddie

So, who remembers Eddie?  Or Betsy?
They were stars in their day.  (Does anyone remember "Betsy's Little Star"?)

Carolyn Haywood (1898 - 1990) wrote 47 books about every day kids doing every day things.  They were free range kids, sort of, wandering the neighborhoods, playing with friends, making grandiose plans of the Leave It To Beaver variety.

These truly were the perfect first "chapter" books for second, third and fourth graders - accessible, interesting and easy to relate to.

For instance, in Eddie the Dog Holder, Eddie and a friend go into business painting dog portraits.
I picked the oldest book covers I could find.
Eddie gets to hold the dog while his friend does the portrait.  Just imagine how this rather inspired business could go awry.

In Haywood's New York Times obituary, (also referenced above) a reviewer, Phyllis Fenner, is quoted as saying this about Haywood's books. "...Carolyn Haywood makes the everyday doings of children exciting and funny, entering into them from a child's level. That is sheer genius and can't be done by calculation."

 It is hard to find Carolyn Haywood's books in print today.  But check your public library.  These books are still readable and fun.

BTW, does anyone remember Phyllis Fenner's great story collections?

(I vegged yesterday. No excuse. At all. None.)

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Little Blue Bunny Climbs

(His name is Little Blue Bunny. D says he is six years old.)

Which, by the way, is TOO YOUNG to go mountain climbing alone!!  Does this bother Little Blue Bunny?  It does not!  He is a Free Range Bunny, running wild and free.

Ready to climb.
 Because he is being brought up by squirrels, Little Blue Bunny has NO FEAR of heights.  (He is afraid of carnivores - and dryers.)

He loves to climb - towers, bannisters, just about anything.

On Tuesday he decided to climb a mountain.  Not just any mountain - oh no! - LBB wanted to climb a volcano.

D sprang into action.  Volcanoes don't just burst through the floor around here.

"I need black paper, orange paper and a stapler!"  D ordered.

In short order, a volcano appeared.

Meanwhile, Nana made Little Blue Bunny a backpack, with a water bottle and a pair of binoculars.  (I know people say "pair of binoculars" but doesn't the "bi" indicate two already?)

Have backpack!  Will Climb!

With lava flow and everything!
Bunny!  You dropped your bottle and binoculars.

 He made it to the very top but he burned his paws.  A trip to the aloe vera plant restored his paws to normal.

WARNING:  Little Blue Bunny is NOT a role model. He is a toy.  (He doesn't like to admit it, but it's true.  Just a toy.) DO NOT CLIMB A VOLCANO!  DO NOT TURN FAIRY PRINCESSES INTO FLOWERS!  DO NOT SLIDE DOWN THE EIFFEL TOWER!

Thank you.

(Next adventure:  Little Blue Bunny and the ice cream truck.)

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

3 Lists to OOMPH Your Summer Reading!

Need ideas to spark your reading lists for young (even if in mind only) readers?  Take a look at what the book-makers  suggest.  (That's publishers, not the other book-makers.  Kidlit, remember?)

Brightly has must-read lists for all age groups here.  Brightly is a Penguin/Random House product but their suggestions are right on target.

Griffin Teen touts it's summer list here.  Look at the line-up in THIS book.  Oooh, summer love💕💕💕

If you don't already subscribe to The Book Reporter newsletters, take a look at  With reviews written by actual readers, not just by industry spokespeople, these newsletters have a homespun, authentic feel.  PLUS, they give stuff away!!!

Monday, June 19, 2017


I am off to Emmaus Public Library, tomorrow, to start a six-session workshop on storytelling with teens (ages 12 and up.)

Workshops are a lot of fun.  I love seeing what the participants come up with, how they interpret stories, how they open up.  Sometimes, I think I like the workshops even more than telling stories.

I wrote an article for the National Storytelling League's magazine, Story Art, last year on Telling with Tots, Tweens and Teens.  Click through to read it.  Thanks to Denise McCormack for editing my article and making it more readable.

Expect a report!

Friday, June 16, 2017

Friday - Let's Not Forget

I found a copy of By The Great Horn Spoon by Sid Fleischman in the sale pile at a local bookstore.  Just like that I was transported to San Francisco during the Gold Rush.  No, wait.  I was thrashing on a boat at the southern tip of South America.  No, wait.  I was stowing away on said boat as it sailed out of Boston.

Newbery Award-winner, memoirist, biographer, - Sid Fleischman wrote accessible books for kids.   This guy could write a book that kept the pages turning.  Short cliff-hanging chapters, likeable characters and the kind of historical details that stick in your cranium, Fleischman's fiction turns blah readers into RAH! readers.  (Ooh, I like that!  I think I made a meme.)

Want to explain what a tall tale is without introducing legendary characters?  Use one of Fleischman's McBroom books.  McBroom's adventures cross the line of believable, even while the character maintains that they are ab-so-lute-ly true.

Give your young readers a template for creating their own Tall Tales.  Just take the truth and stretch and stretch and s-t-r-e-t-c-h, just like Josh McBroom.

The Whipping Boy earned Sid his Newbery Award.  Jemmy is the whipping boy, a servant who is punished when the prince, Prince Brat, does something wrong.  When kidnappers sneak into the castle, they end up taking both boys. The one who can read MUST be the prince, right? Wrong...

Fleischman left us in 2010, a day after his 90th birthday but before his last book,  Sir Charlie: Chaplin, the Funniest Man in the World was published.  His books are still in stores and libraries.  They still make kids laugh and learn.

It's Friday.  Let's not forget Sid Fleischman.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

10 Kids' Book Blogs!

Children's Book Council has an informative blog.  Librarians, take note.  The June 14th entry covered a list of books for kids reading beyond their age level.  Huge help here!

My FAVE!!!  Betsy Bird at  A Fuse # 8 Production offers book reviews, book and publishing news, some opinions, lots of award predictions and good writing.  Books featured are picture book through middle grade.

First Book puts new books into the hands of very young children and into the hands of older children as well.  Dedicated to literacy, First Book has done its work for 25 years now.  Check out their book picks, articles and suggestions for literacy activities.

Like Picture Books and illustration?  Check out Seven Impossible Things before Breakfast. 

Literacious.    She is the director of a small public library.  And five days a week she posts book lists, book reviews, book news from her own library stacks and from the entire country.

 Girl Plus Book deals ONLY with YA books - books for teens and younger adults.  But that girl does a fine job of reviews. The New2YA segments let readers know what is on the bookstore shelves NOW!

 Erik started his blog when he was 9.  He's 15, now.  This Kid Reviews Book is the place for you to find the perfect book for the kid in your life. 

Kids Book Review is Australian      Features Australian publishers and authors but also talks about international English language books for toddlers through teens

Children's Book Daily.   Those Aussies!  This blogger is a writer, a librarian and a book reviewer.

Big Book Little Book is British.  It features lots and lots of book reviews divided into age groups.

Blogs are ephemeral.  I tried to pick useful blogs that have posted within the last two months.  So many great blogs have dropped into disuse because their writers found full-time employment, family life intervened - or in my case when I drop from view - distraction!

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Further Adventures - Little Blue Bunny

(His name is Little Blue Bunny.  D says he is six years old.)    

Yesterday, Nutty Romomlia, celebrated her fifth birthday.  Little Blue Bunny wasn't going to give her a present.  She is just his little sister, after all.

But Nana found something that he could give her so he wrapped it up in aluminum foil.

Everyone wore stickers on their tummies (except Cuttlefish.  She hardly has a tummy.).  Nutty Romomlia was so excited.  D made an oreo cake and almost didn't have enough (imaginary) oreos to complete it.  Then she wrecked the icing and had to do it over.  Such drama for a small person birthday!
See the invisible cake?  It's on the green plate.  YUM!

The presents were wonderful; a pinecone, a wiggily head turtle, a huge noise maker, a box of crayons(!!) and a picture of stars!  Nutty Romomlia loved all of them.
Nutty and her presents and someone blue.

Little Blue Bunny had to wash up afterwards and that made him mad.  It WAS his turn to wash the dishes but there were so many of them.  Boy, he splashed and crashed and rattled those dishes clean.  And, then.... and then.... (DUM, DUM, DUMMMMM)

He left the (pretend) water faucet running - ON PURPOSE.  (D insisted that LBB did it on purpose.  The game had changed to Little-Blue-Bunny-Gets-In-Trouble-One-Last-Time, except even D realizes that it is never a "last" time.)

The (invisible) water overflowed the sink and soaked the floor and D slipped and slid and fell and couldn't get up.

Little Blue Bunny didn't even know about it.  He was off somewhere playing with his friends.

Nana had to help poor D who was now (pretend) cold and wet and sad and D had to huddle under a blanket while Nana made sure she was warm.

What a shock!  Nana called the water removal pros with their suctioning device and Little Blue Bunny got sucked up into the device!

Nana suggested that Little Blue Bunny be washed down the sewer - quite an adventure THAT would have been!- but D said No!.  LBB had to pay for making her wet and cold and possibly even sick.  So instead, the water was emptied into the sink and LBB climbed out, none the worse for wear.  Actually, he thought the whole thing was a riot!!

But NOT when Nana got hold of him.  Oh, he got such a talking to!  AND he got time-out.  AND he had to write D an apology.  AND he has to wash the dishes every night this week - WITHOUT overflowing the sink or breaking anything or making a mess.

Little Blue Bunny is sorry.  He's not sorry about the water overflowing, or the mess.  He's not at all sorry about the water suctioning pros - that was fun!  He's sorry that D got cold and wet and caught the (imaginary) sniffles.  Little Blue Bunny loves D.  She's his favorite "cousin" in the whole world.

Hmmm, what will happen to Little Blue Bunny today?

Monday, June 12, 2017

5 Things About Me - and the New Back Porch

1. I decided to get voice lessons. I have thought about doing this for YEARS. I found someone on Thumbtack.  And now I am making strange noises with my voice.

2.  I don't pay attention to detail.  Sometimes, this works out to my advantage.  More on that later.

3. I make up songs all the time.  I can't say I write songs because I rarely put them down on paper.

4. I am easily frustrated.  That might have something to do with #2.

5. People confound me.  Sometimes, I think hermits have the right idea.

So about #2 and that new back porch....

Our enclosed back porch had not been renovated since it was enclosed around 1926. 
The original porch railing and posts were still visible.  Above that railing two tall sets of windows had been sort of tacked in place.  This filled the porch with sunlight making it an oven in the summer.  BUT, since the windows weren't weatherproofed, the porch was a freezer in the winter.

I decided to get rid of those big drafty windows and replace them with a sliding glass door and put a window in where the original door was.

What I envisioned was a space full of sunlight in which I could grow plants during the winter.

The contractor did not offer me drawings of the finished project. We just talked it out.  (See #2 above.)  I expected a tall window where the door had been but I NEVER gave a size and he never offered a size to me.  He suggested a small overhang over the sliding door to minimize rain and snow hitting the glass,  but he did not explain what that would do to the quality of light.

With the overhang and the smaller window, what I HAVE is a clean, cool shaded area.  It's a wonderful mud room with built in enclosed storage.  It is not a quasi-greenhouse.

Right now, it is 90 degrees outside.  As soon as I step onto my new back porch from the deck, I feel the temperature drop. 

Maybe, it's not the back porch I envisioned. This back porch will keep us cooler this summer and that is no mean feat.  It is weather tight and that will keep us warmer in the winter.
Taken from my new kitchen window.

HOWEVER, I hope I learned something.
1.  When significantly remodeling an area, (changing door  or window or plumbing fixture placement), INSIST on drawings.
2.  Make sure you understand how the light or airflow or water runoff will be impacted with any built on improvement.
3.  Pay attention to details.  (In my case? HA! to that.)

Friday, June 9, 2017

Friday - Let's Not Forget

Let's Not Forget - Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle!   Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle lived in an upside down house and knew magic!   If ever a parent was at his or her wits' end because a child wouldn't go to sleep, share, tell the truth, eat vegetables - Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle had a cure.  The series, written by Betty MacDonald and illustrated by a number of different artists, including Hilary Knight, debuted in 1947.  The last book by Betty MacDonald and her daughter, Anne MacDonald Canham was published in 2007. 

The Wikipedia article has a nice little chart that lists bad habits and Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle's cures for them all.

And NOW!  Ann M. Martin, Newbery Award winner, author of the Babysitters' Club books and other marvelous novels, has started a new series about the upside-down house.  Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle has gone off to find her husband, the pirate, Mr. Piggle-Wiggle.  Missy Piggle-Wiggle, a great-niece, arrives to take care of the pets and the other animals and to welcome the children for all kinds of fun. 
In Missy Piggle-Wiggle and the Whatever Cure, Missy has her hands full with a whole family of annoying children and their less than perfect neighbors.   There is a hint of friendship for Missy herself as she spends more and more time with the owner of the bookstore.  I am looking forward to the next book in the series.  Those LaCarte children can't possibly be as good as they sound.
So, don't forget Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle!  What books will you never forget?

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Open Mics - Speaking up

Last night, I went to an open mic at Coffee house without Limits in Allentown PA.  My youngest brother and I offered up three children's songs we have been working on.  And we had FUN!

He stayed until closing.  I hung around for the next few artists.  Overall, awesome!!  Musicians sang and played original music - and they played and sang very well.  Poets spat words that wove the air around them with images.

Getting up and strutting your stuff - it's the subject of a lot of middle grade fiction.  Finding the nerve to weather possible ridicule, possible embarrassment - just thinking of it can give a person a wiggly stomach, and a dizzy feeling.

Catching a Storyfish by Janice N. Harrington focuses on just this problem.  Keet has moved from Alabama where she was a world class storyteller.   In her new home, her accent amuses her classmates no end.  Soon, Keet is as quiet as a mouse.  Fishing with her grandfather becomes her refuge.  How she finds her voice again is a touching story.

Monday, June 5, 2017

Climate Change - or Cleaning House?

Climate ChangeI know people who think climate change is just part of the earth's cycle - or a hoax - or unconquerable.   It boggles my mind that it even matters.

The Earth is our HOME.  I don't let garbage pour over the sides of the containers. I don't spray the air with toxic chemicals, or smoke, or fumes. I don't add lead to my drinking water. I don't breed bacteria on my leftovers. I don't dig holes in my backyard to get at rocks and other things I might need and then let the holes create an unsightly mess and hazards.  Do YOU?? 'Course not.

Think about this.  When The Lorax was written, the terms "global warming" and "climate change" were not even in common usage.  The campaign to keep earth livable is not new.


Rant over.

I don't understand climate change as well as I'd like. Here are books and book lists to help explain the effects and causes of climate change. And some that give us ideas on how we can take action.

Climate Change: Discover How It Impacts Spaceship Earth by Erin Twamley and Josh Seideman.  STEM and STEAM aficianados will enjoy this illustrated guide.  It includes 25 projects to increase students' and readers' understanding of the science of climate change, planetary movement, solar system....

Even Goodreads has a list of kids' books that explore climate change and pollution.

Crystal Ponti posted a list of 10 books about Climate Change over on  There is some repetition, but still a great list.

I really like Inhabitots Earth Day post.  The books featured here are all about cleaning up the world.  This site is well-designed, colorful and useful and the 6 books featured are accessible to even our youngest earth cleaners.

And for all you grown-ups out there.
Climate Change and Children is a report out of UNICEF that will make your eyes tear up.  The Resource List offers articles and books that support UNICEF's claims.  This report is for grown-ups but share it with your older students to support discussions on possible solutions.

Friday, June 2, 2017

2 Publishers Announce Books for Fall !

Catalogs!!!  I joked that the library could build an addition with the catalogs that flooded into the building every season.  Since I retired, publishers reach out online.  So, get a head start on your Fall To-Be-Read list.  Macmillan and Scholastic have some bragging to do.

Macmillan editors gush about their favorites!!

Scholastic Online Preview.  Click on THIS link to watch short videos about new books coming in the Fall.  You might even win a book!

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Mustard Icing a La Little Blue Bunny

His name is Little Blue Bunny.  D says he is 6 years old.  Although we constantly remind him that he is a toy, he continues to get into trouble.

Here are the games we play with Little Blue Bunny:
1. Squirrel Family.  Little Blue Bunny is adopted!  His parents and two of his sisters are squirrels.  The Squirrel family does a lot of traveling and partying and needs endless wardrobe changes.  They also do Project Runway; Toy Edition.

2.  Little Blue Bunny Gets in Trouble One Last Time. (LBBGITOLT)  In our world, there are a LOT of "last times".

3.  Wizard World.  This game is AWESOME! It includes other characters, played by D, myself and a range of lesser toys and a slew of spells and wishes and spinning and dancing and other things.

4. School.  This is often a version of LBBGITOLT with trips to the Principal's office and time-outs.

5. Teenagers.  Little Blue Bunny falls in love with the fairy princess or the paper bunny.  They text on their domino phones.  They go on dates. They break up. When LBB kisses one of his girlfriends, he tends to float in the air like a cartoon character in love.  I. AM. NOT. READY. FOR. THIS. 

Last month, Little Blue Bunny invented a recipe for chocolate bacon and baked bean cake, (probably actually been done) with mustard icing.  MUSTARD ICING???!!!!  Yuck!  Bllleeewwwh!  This was for his cooking show on TTV (Toy TV).  (According to Nana's imaginary poll, that non-existent cooking show has been played on YouVu a kazillion times.  Little Blue Bunny has charisma.)

I couldn't get mustard icing out of my mind.  Then, I found a small container of cream cheese icing in the freezer. I HAD to try it.  I HAD to.  Little Blue Bunny would have approved.  I added some brown mustard to the icing and ...
I did not die.  Or get sick to my stomach.

My rating of mustard icing is minus 4.  I'm not going to write it off as a total waste because I suspect someone out there will like it.  In the hands of an actual chef, it might work. 

That said, don't try this at home.

Also, if mustard icing becomes a thing - especially if it adorns a chocolate bacon and baked bean cake, - remember that Little Blue Bunny came up with it first.
He's hiding in the stocking.

Monday, May 29, 2017

10 Facebook Pages I Love to Follow

In alphabetical order...since I am mostly retired, I did not give you a Dewey Decimal System number.  You are welcome.

Bangor Maine Police Department.  Almost every day, T.C. posts happenings in Bangor Maine and mulls over their meaning - or not.  TC is also the keeper of the DOJ, Duck of Justice.  Funny, thoughtful and as yummy as blueberry pancakes!

Brightly / Read Brightly - LOTS of book reviews, but lots of literacy activities as well, this Penguin Random House site puts up colorful info on getting kids to read.

The Children's Book Review  This FB page is about 1. Books, 2. for children, and 3. they write reviews. So, yeah.

Cricket Media is the home to all my favorite kids' magazines, LadyBug, Spider, Cricket, Cicada, ASK, - the list goes on and on.

Hattifant - because we all need colorful paper thingies to confuse and baffle our fingers.

 JP Sears, the genius behind Ultra Spiritual makes fun of all the non-aggressive aggressive sorts out there.  Nothing is sacred.  This is for adults, mostly.  You have been warned.

Kiwi Crate  So, this is a company that wants you to buy things.  Still, they post great crafts and science experiments, too.

The Niblings - the most prolific bloggers from School Library Journal stick their posts here.  Book REVIEWS!!!  I love it.

Red Ted Art .  She has kids and knows how to keep them busy.  She also has a delightful British accent.  Check out her site to find out how to make homemade fidget spinners and all kinds of other stuff.

 Young Adult Books Central   They give away books!!!  Nuff said.

Friday, May 26, 2017

Rescued by Social Media

Life in a Fishbowl by Len Vlahos  By the time that Oregon state legislator, Jared Stone, discovers he has an inoperable brain tumor, the nasty thing has already done some damage.  That's probably why he thought that putting his life up on eBay was a good idea.  The auction ends - (it's illegal to sell a human life on eBay, FYI) - but not before it's been noticed.

A TV producer offers Jared a lot of money, if he will allow the entire family to be televised until Jared's dying breath.  YIKES!  Jared's wife and older daughter hate the idea.  Jared just wants them to be taken care of when he dies.

The older daughter, Jackie, gets in touch with her best FB friend and an online role playing "fan" of the show and using social media - AND World of Warcraft - they fight back.  They pit their collective wits against the frightfully clever and unscrupulous brain of the TV producer.

The book is shocking, clever, scary, embarrassing, and sad.

See You In the Cosmos by Jack Cheng.  11-year-old Alex has a dog, Carl Sagan, named after Alex's hero.  Though his dad died when he was only 3, Alex has an older brother in LA, and he still has his Mom.  As long as he makes sure there is food in the fridge and the laundry gets done, he can do whatever he wants.  What he wants to do is make a recording of earth sounds on his golden iPad and launch it into space with the rocket he built himself.

So, he buys tickets to an amazing convention of rocket enthusiasts - he learned all about it online at Rocketforum - and he and Carl Sagan head to Arizona from Rockview Colorado, by themselves.

A random email from, about a man with Alex's father's name and birthdate, and a couple of college students on a summer mission, sends Alex to Las Vegas where Alex finds questions - lots and lots of questions. 

SO... somewhere along the way, Alex ends up in the hospital in serious condition. (Read the book!)  AND Rocketforum comes to the rescue.  Cue the William Tell Overture - lots of brass!!!  Ta DAH!!! 

Alex does more thinking than most people, no matter their age.  As he tries to grasp the complexity of what he is learning about his family, he makes some poetic connections between emotions, humans and the cosmos.

Life is complicated.  Sometimes, social media can help.
(I just noticed something.  BLUE must be the hot new color for book covers!!!!)

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Cricket Media Giveaway

iPad!  Free magazines from my all-time favorite children's magazine company!  Or, sample their magazines for $5.

Here's the link:

Cricket Media produces advertisement free magazines for toddlers through high school on a variety of subjects.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Who knew?? 5 Things I Learned from Books

Image result for Cream with Hot Coffee

Who knew??? 

Over the years, I have picked up tidbits that had little or nothing to do with the plot of the book I was reading.  I have carried these things with me, years after I forgot where I read them.

1.  Who knew that if you put the cream in FIRST, you don't have to stir your coffee?  No idea what book that came from - just that it was YA and starred a Renaissance Fair following Mom.

2.  Who knew that a wet paper towel is an excellent way to pick up those little glass shards that you can't see?  Just wipe the area of the floor where the glass broke with the wet paper towel and you will be amazed at what it picks up. Use a disposable wet mopping cloth as a substitute. (They weren't invented when I read that book.) This middle grade book featured the son of his school's headmaster.  That's all I remember.

3. Who knew that tuatara have third eyes on top of their heads?  This came from a Nocturnals book.  It's a fun series for young readers (third grade and up) that features a team of problem solving nocturnal animals.

4. Who knew that a messy bedroom can signal a lack of self-respect?  OK.  That one is an opinion but I think it holds water.  A messy bedroom can also signal a lack of discipline, a sense of entitlement (as in, someone else should clean this up), an over scheduled life, a sense of rebellion... but the lack of self-respect made me stop and look at myself. It's from one of the Anna Pigeon National Park Ranger mysteries by Nevada Barr.

5.  Who knew that halfway down the stairs was "somewhere else instead"?  Sit there.  You'll see. Oh, A. A. Milne, I love you!

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

2 Chances To Learn Storytelling

I TELL stories.   Powerpoint, YouTube, videos, TV, - you CAN use all of these to share a story.  Painting, music, dance, animation - without a story at the basis, these things can be mere exercises.

I can teach your children and teens what makes a good story and how to be a better storyteller and I don't need this computer - or the Internet to do it.   Want to find out more?

The Allentown Public Library will offer Build a Better Story Workshops (led by me) on Wednesday nights at 6 pm, beginning June 28th.  This series runs for six weeks. The workshops are open to young people (and their adults), preferably 7 years old and older.

Teens and tweens can come to Storytelling Workshops at the Emmaus Public Library on Tuesday afternoons from 2 to 3:30 beginning June 20th.  The dates are not consecutive so please check with the Emmaus Public Library for registration information and all dates and times.

Both workshops will end with a performance.  Workshop participants get to show off what they learned.  Don't worry.  You will love it!  I am good at telling stories.  And I am good at playing.  Come tell and play a story with me this summer.

Contact the library is question to find out when registration opens and how to sign up. 

Friday, May 19, 2017

Bike to Work Day

Happy Bike to Work Day - even though you biked home by now!

I have a bike in the garage.  Its tires are flat and no one has ridden it for years.  The thought of setting out on our increasingly congested streets both exhilarates me and scares the bleep out of me.  I have fond, fond memories of taking my son and his friends on bike hikes long ago.  What an awesome feeling of freedom!  Is it too late for me to start biking again?

If more people rode bikes on short journeys, we'd be healthier; we'd use less fossil fuels; our streets would be friendlier for pedestrians and cyclists.  So much GOOD on just two wheels.

Bikes feature in a lot of books.  Kids on bikes?  Must be an adventure in the offing.  So here are great books about kids (and grown-ups) on bikes.

Hokey Pokey by Jerry Spinelli.    The world of Hokey Pokey is childhood.  Bicycles are the best friends of this odd and mesmerizing book about childhood.  In Hokey Pokey, adults do not exist.  It is a land of games, riding, popsicles, dreaming.  When a boy's bike is stolen - by a girl! - his attempt to get it back begins his journey out of Hokey Pokey.  I think this book is for adults - like me - who never really wanted to grow up.

The Red Bicycle by Jude Isabella.   Follow Big Red as the bike journeys from its original owner in the USA to a girl in West Africa who uses it to help in the sorghum fields.  Then Big Red moves on to a young woman who needs to carry medications to sick people and even bring those peopl to the hospital.  Perhaps, that bike in the garage should find a more useful home.

Wheels of Change : How Women Rode the Bicycle to Freedom by Sue Macy. Macy gives an overview of women's quest for equal rights by showing how two wheels added mobility to women and impetus to their struggle.

Messenger, Messenger by Robert Burleigh.  This picture book, illustrated by Barry Moser, celebrates the bicycle messengers who weave in and out of city streets.

Off we go: a Bear and Mole story by Will Hillenbrand. Today is the day!  Mole is ready.  Bear takes off the training wheels and hovers as Mole careens off the road and through the fields!

The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley.   This is the first of several mysteries starring pre-teen sleuth, Flavia DeLuce.  On her trusty bicycle, Gladys, Flavia tools around her small British village in the early '50s.  Every book features multiple scenes of Flavia flying along the roads, her braids flapping in the wind.  If any series champions bicycles, it's this one.  BTW, the series is intended for adults but hardy young readers can handle the slight goriness and disguised adult behavior.

Around the World by Matt Phelan.  This graphic novel chronicles three around-the-world adventures from the late 1800s.  One of those adventures is on bicycle - undertaken by Thomas Stevens, a former miner.  His feat is even more impressive since it was done on a high-wheeler, a bike with an enormous front wheel and a high seat.

Summerlost  by Allie Conde.  New to a small town, a girl looks out the window to see a boy in medieval dress fly by on a bicycle.  There you go, an adventure on wheels.

Genevieve's War by Patricia Reilly Giff.  How Genevieve ends up at her Grandmother's farm in Alsace as the Germans march into France is only part of this World War II story.  After the Germans steal MeMe's horse and cart, it is her father's bicycle that allows Genevieve to run errands and even, to help the Resistance.  Vivie le velo!

Personal note! My nephew is a coach for Pennsylvania Interscholastic Mountain Biking.  Mountain bikes can go almost anywhere - to work, to school and over the hills!   Check out the PAMB's Facebook page here.