Wednesday, December 5, 2018

An Absolutely Remarkable Thing - Read The Book

I am a stubborn person.  No one can tell me what to do or what to read - even when I know the suggestions will be "good for me".  This is why I have the second piece of pie.  This is why I play games instead of exercising.  This is also why Hank Green's debut novel,
 "An Absolutely Remarkable Thing" sat on my bed stand for over a month before I picked it up.

That, and the fear that the book would not be as good as I truly hoped it would be, kept me from reading the first line.

I read the book.

An absolutely remarkable thing happened to young graphic designer, April May, on her way home from work at 2 a.m.  She "discovered" a huge sculpture.  She called her best friend, Andy, to come over and make a video.  Within 24 hours, her life and all life on earth was changed. Well, a huge number of people's lives were changed,

The book was every bit as good as I hoped it would be and MORE! Read it.

Is this book about the identical robot-like sculptures that appear all around the world?  OR is it about the evolution of April May and Andy Skampt from art nerds into social media darlings?  OR is it about making money, lots and lots of money?  Or is it about how fame, money, stubbornness, the need to control, and the sudden acquisition of power can change a person? OR - big OR here - is it about how easy our communications technology makes it to vilify and inflame huge numbers of people based on what they believe and/or applaud?  Or is it about something else entirely?  Read the book.

The robot, April and Andy name it Carl, scares and delights people.  The world wants to know more.  April and Andy become media superstars. They share videos.  They get a  manager.  They rake in the money. April May consults a young scientist about Carl's weird qualities.  Read the book.  The scientist makes some suggestions.  Another person self publishes a book about the dangers of Carl.  A social media battle ensues.  Then there are the puzzles, lots of puzzles, starting with a song that plays in the background of Carl videos.  And misspellings on a Wikipedia page.  And dreams. And danger.

And relationships are formed and firebombed and people change and stay who they are. I'm not sure if good triumphs over evil.  Read the book.

I can not tell you more.  The book is exciting and twisted and thought provoking.  But it has so much going on in it that trying to recall it is like trying to recall a dream or the words to a song you heard once or twice in high school.  You have to      Read.   The   Book. 

And then, read the book, again.

Thursday, November 29, 2018

Clouds - Science on a Sphere

I am embarrassed that I have not posted here for such a long time.  SO, just to let you know that I am alive, I will share something that I did at the beginning of the month.

First, have you ever visited a Science on a Sphere? For people in the Lehigh Valley, the Nurture Nature Center hosts one of these orbs.  The experience of watching information projected on these large room-sized white globes is wonderful.

The Nurture Nature Center invited artists of all kinds to use one of the datasets designed for their sphere as inspiration for poetry, sculpture, stories, essays, visual art of all kinds.  This is the fifth year of this collaborative effort, titled Perspectives: Art on Environment.  I chose Clouds.

Wow!  I'm sure I chose the most beautiful dataset.  I wish I could show the dataset to you.  However, if you visit Science on a Sphere,  you can learn more about Clouds in Real Time here. 

I wrote an essay, included below.  But the big challenge was writing a song.  I have not recorded the song but I have added the lyrics here as well.

On November 9th, artists presented their work.  At the Nurture Nature Center, there are several rooms dedicated to art inspired by the environment.  Seven poets and other writers presented in front of the sphere as the information that inspired us displayed on the sphere.  It was ... I am at a loss for was inspiring, enthralling, emotional, AWESOME!!!!

I read my essay and then - deep breath - without accompaniment - I sang my song.  And I hit each note so it was GOOD!

What else have I been doing?  Telling, kid-sitting, mom driving, reading, cleaning, attempting to control the chaos that is my life.

If you want to read the lyrics and/or essay, here they are - lyrics first.  While I read the essay, a docent changed the projections to match what I wrote about.  I need some more short words that indicate wonderfulness.

 Cloud dreaming lyrics  by Karen Maurer

I have dreams I release in the moonlight
I have hopes I share with the sun
Like a mist, they form clouds of wishing
And around the world they run

All those dreams will fall with the raindrops
All those hopes will sparkle like snow
With each breath, I fill clouds with promise
Never knowing just where they will go

I breathe in the dreaming of others
I breathe in their hopes and their cares
Like the clouds, my sister’s and brother’s
secret wishes fly through the air.

All those dreams will fall with the raindrops
All those hopes will sparkle like snow
With each breath, they fill clouds with promise
Never knowing just where they will go

Deserts bloom when clouds burst upon them.
Mountains sleep in blankets of white.
Children dream of castles above them,
Watch them drift out of sight.

Share your dreams with the stars and the planets.
Share your hopes with the wind rushing by.
Make a wish for peace all around us.
Send good thoughts to the sky.

All those dreams will fall with the raindrops
All those hopes will sparkle like snow
With each breath, we fill clouds with promise
Never knowing just where they will go

Cloud Wish: or 6 Ways to Look at a Cloud by Karen Maurer

My friend watched as storm clouds raged high above the mesa.  Lightning flashed.  Even from that height, she heard the growl of thunder.  The cloud opened and rain fell. It disappeared in the searing heat, reabsorbed into the thunderhead.  It never touched the ground.

“It felt as if I could see the grace of God,” she told us later.  “But my despair kept the rain from reaching me.”

Humans imbue nature with hidden mysteries.  Clouds are among the most mysterious natural phenomena.  They are at the mercy of wind, thermals, the contour of the land and the waves in the sea.  Generations upon generations of farmers have used clouds to plan their harvests and plantings.  The clouds don’t always deliver. The promised rain is whisked out of range.  A blue sky darkens without any warning.  Like the storm above the mesa, promises are broken.

We waited more than two years to gather, children and grandchildren, on the family plot to lay our father to rest. The kind Deacon said a few words about his friend. He called my father “Francis”. We muttered, almost in unison, “Franklin”. 

The sky was blue, dotted with white clouds. Had I paid attention to the clouds that day, I would have sent my hopes and love to my far-flung brother and the sisters who were not able to attend. 

We have viewed clouds as messengers, used by gods and demigods for centuries. A pillar of cloud preceded the Israelites into the desert.  An Indian demigod used a cloud to reassure his wife that he would return to her.  Zeus hid in a cloud when he visited his lovers.  Clouds obscure the face of Yahweh, in the Hebrew Canon. 

Walking home with a small can of muddy water, the boy looks across the parched plain.  A shadow crosses over the ground.  A cloud!  He sighs.  His heart has leapt at clouds before, just to be disappointed.  The water hole is deeper now than it has ever been. Only a few handfuls of dank water can be  scooped up each day.  He turns back to the path, not noticing that another cloud rises from the horizon.

We fear clouds, wonder at them, read visions into them, deplore their existence.  Clouds carry life, portend disaster, bring us joy.  The single cumulus cloud our Ethiopian boy saw might carry water in tiny droplets to equal the weight of 100 elephants, approximately 600 tons.  The swirling clouds in a hurricane can carry water that weighs as much as every elephant on earth.

I pretended to see the puppy, the shark, the giant, the scissors, that my older brother and younger sister claimed was in the clouds.  But to me, in my pre-spectacled days, those clouds were just a mass of white against the blue of the sky.  My favorite days to watch clouds were windy days when the clouds raced like white horses out of sight.

Spend one full minute contemplating white clouds on a fair day.  In that minute, depending on the speed of the wind and the height of the clouds, you can watch small cloudlets gather to form a larger mass.  A cloud will change shape, break apart, blow away, right before your eyes.  No wonder the ancients thought clouds were magic!

Around Antarctica, clouds twist in intricate patterns,  like a middle eastern dance.

In the North, clouds follow the wind, obstructed by land masses.  They scatter, depending on the warmth or direction of the air.

My best friend’s mother always knew when a new batch of paint brewed in the mill not far from her house.  Even when there was no wind, a cloud of red dust fell onto her freshly washed laundry. 

The rain fell red during mixing season.  No amount of scrubbing or painting took the stain off the house.

“It’s a nice color,”  I reassured my friend, “sort of a brick red.”

“You don’t have to live with it,” she snorted.

Clouds are made of water vapor.  Every raindrop has a particle of dirt, or sand, or dust inside it.  Clouds carry the grit from sandstorms, ashes from volcanoes and fires, toxins from smokestacks, dust from deforested plains.  Humans determine the make up of clouds in more ways than we want to acknowledge.

I breathe in the wood smoke.  I love this smell.  I poke a stick into the fire until the end of the stick glows.  I pull it out and write my name in the early evening air. My breath rises in a small white cloud.  I breathe out again and this time I make a wish.
Our exhaled breath contains nitrogen, carbon dioxide and oxygen as well as water vapor and a small amount of argon.  Other chemicals are inhaled and exhaled depending on the air around us.  Just like clouds, we carry poisons from second hand smoke, automotive exhaust and other gases. We can breathe those chemicals out into the air to rise with the water vapor -perhaps to join a cloud.

Imagine if your every wish or worry was translated into breath and carried across the world.  It might fall on a village in drought stricken Ethiopia.  Could your anger flavor the water?  Could your hope clear a muddy puddle? 

Now, when I look at clouds, I wonder what they carry.  Hope? Worry?  Promises?  Threats?  I wonder who might be riding on those winds.  Like the ancients, I search for messages from far away, or clues to my future, or advice for living.

I breathe out a wish for peace.  May a cloud carry it across the world!


Johnson, Doug. “The Chemical Composition of Exhaled Air from Human Lungs”, April 26, 2018,

Krulwich, Robert. “How Much Does a Hurricane Weigh?”, September 3, 2003,

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. “Clouds with Precipitation - Real Time”, (no date given).

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. “Clouds - Real Time”, (no date given)

Pretor-Pinney, Gavin. The Cloudspotter’s Guide : The Science, History and Culture of Clouds.  illustrated by Bill Sanderson. New York. Perigree Trade, 2006.

Revkin, Andrew. Weather; an Illustrated History. with Lisa Mechaley. New York, Sterling, 2018.

Wilcox, Eric M. Clouds. London, Duncan Baird Publishers, 2008.

Monday, November 5, 2018

Dactyl HIll Squad - ON Sale NOW!

The Dactyl Hill Squad by Daniel José Older is an odd mix of sci-fi - dinosaurs roam the world;  historical fiction - the setting is the Civil War; and coming-of-age.

The main character,  Magdalys Roca, lives at the Colored Children's Orphanage in New York City during the Civil War.  During a trip to the theater, Magdalys begins to suspect that she can communicate with the dinosaurs that New Yorkers use as messengers and transportation. This secret skill becomes more and more important as slavers attempt to kidnap the orphans and angry New Yorkers take out their frustrations about the Civil War on citizens of color.

It took awhile to build the background. Magdalys' missing siblings, her relationships with the other orphans, the network of adults and teens who work to reclaim kidnapped children, and the ways that dinosaurs helped and worked for humans - these are all pieces that must be fit together while the story moves along.

But once those pieces fall into place, this is a rollicking good tale with action, tween angst and obstinacy, twists and lots and lots of bad guys!

I mean - dinosaurs?  and kids? and flying? and good vs evil?  It's all in here, along with some awesome historical perspective on race and racism.

I read the ARC.  Older references real Civil War battles and racial strife.  I hope the book adds some references to explain the historical events in the book.

 Book - Dactyl Hill Squad by Daniel José Older

Saturday, November 3, 2018

Cry Baby

I was a cry-baby.   I owned my crying-ness until I turned 9.  That year I made a brave attempt to stop sniffling every time my feelings or any part of my person was hurt or frightened or angry.     My attempts resulted in a stupendous wail of pent up tears after an almost fight with a bully in the school yard.  I did not cry when I was scolded by Mother Superior.  I did not cry facing down the boy who taunted a school mate and tried to play connect-the-dots with her freckles.  I did not cry until almost an hour later when the hot angry tears erupted in a wail that sounded like a fire engine in our quiet classroom.  My teacher, who was not present at the "fight" or the scolding had no idea what happened.

By college, I decided I was someone who cried easily and that it was all right to be that person.  But years of not crying when I wanted to had confused my "weirdness" radar.  Like a lot of young women, I ended up in positions I did not want to be in because I did not want to make a scene.  Even reclaiming my emotional self did not reset my ability to know when to run.  Heaven forbid, that I hurt someone else's feelings or that I be a "coward" for not wanting to "try something new"! 

My granddaughter likes to cry when she's afraid or something hurts or she gets mad or feels sad.  She likes to cry.  She knows it.  And she is not apologetic.  It can be wearing for her parents and other family members.  She is so good at it, so heartbroken.  Those tears fall and, alas, we rush to comfort her.

In this world of trying to respect other people's rights to be who they are AND of wondering how to teach all children, but especially girls, that they have the right to their feelings, how do we help a child  learn when to cry and when not to cry? (Whew!  Long sentence!)  And is this something we  need to teach?

Humans continue to amaze and confound me.  The way we adapt to society's expectations is not always good.  Books help.

Off the top of my head, I can't think of any books to tell children that crying is okay - even for little things.  I can't think of books that help children calm themselves down.  As my opening story shows, bottling strong emotions didn't work for me.  I find a private place to cry when the urge is too strong. 

However, there are LOTS of books that help children understand what is going on when they are confused, frightened, angry, sad or overwhelmed.

Some websites are great for booklists.  Check this one out.

Brightly's Books to Handle All Kinds of Uncomfortable Emotions.  

I hope these books will help you and your children become comfortable with your feelings and learn how to use them to help the world.

Smooch and a hug to you all.

Friday, October 5, 2018

Book trailer - The Wall in the Middle of the Book

Can a wall keep you safe?  Well, that all depends.

Jon Agee's The Wall in the Middle of the Book shows young readers that a wall can keep bad stuff OUT but it can also keep bad stuff IN.  

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Hey, Kiddo - on sale Oct. 9th - Order today.

Update:  On Goodreads, the date mentioned for publication is September 25th.  I mistakenly assumed that was the correct date.  Not.  October 9th is the publication date for this book.

I met Jarrett J. Krosoczka years ago when he visited the little library for which I worked.  (Grammar lovers, you are welcome.)  His picture book, Annie Was Warned, had just come out.  He stopped by the library, spoke to a bunch of kids and did some line drawings - 15 years ago.

With his Lunch Lady series, Krosoczka has achieved Kid Book Author stardom.

Now, Krosoczka enters a whole new arena of book greatness - the graphic memoir*.  Krosoczka's Hey, Kiddo recounts his childhood and teen years being raised by his grandparents.  His relationship with his mother is strained, and geographically challenged, since she spends most of his life in treatment or prison for drugs and addiction. Kroscozka met his father when he was in late high school. His grandparents, though loving and supportive, are by no means perfect.

As trying as Krosoczka's childhood was, this graphic memoir wins at telling the story in a matter-of-fact voice.  This was his normal.  For many, many children, this kind of fragmented family life IS normal. The story is painful to read and, yet, it reflects the confusion that pervades childhood.  The questions are always the same; who am I? where am I going? what am I good at?  In a family like Krosoczka's, the answers are so much harder to achieve.

The message that family comes from the people who give you support makes this book a triumph.    Always, no matter how acid mouthed his grandmother could be, no how many secrets his grandfather kept from him, they honored his talents and helped him flourish.

One virtue this book offers its readers is hope - hope that by staying in school, by following their talents, they can do okay.  And then there is forgiveness.  In the end, Jarrett forgave his Mom and his Dad and his grandparents - for being human. 

Hey, Kiddo has been longlisted for the National Book Award.  It's on sale soon.  Buy a copy.  Read every page.  It's all good.

*BTW, this is not a book for young readers.  The language reflects how teenage boys sometimes speak.   There are scenes of illegal activities and sexual behavior - though never shown in detail.

Friday, August 31, 2018

Back to School Calendars - and more!

The first day of the third year of D's public school career was Monday. She was pumped and soooo happy when she came out the Big Kid door.  Second grade will be awesome!

"Why don't we have an Advent Calendar for Back-to-School?" she asked.

I think the calendar idea is stellar.
If you like the idea of a calendar that marks the days in special ways, here are some websites to visit.

Learning To Give is a teacher resource page with the mission of teaching kindness and responsibility across the curriculum.  Spend some time on the page to see all that it offers. You can find lesson plans for all ages K through 12.  I am linking to their printable school calendar.  It only gives one mini-challenge per month but it's a good starting point.

Kiddy Charts is an online resource based in Britain that offers calendars, reward charts, coloring pages, etc.  Check out the adorable printable calendar for next year.   Each month has a little blurb explaining what is happening in nature during the month - to give you ideas for what you might want to put on your calendar.

Woo Jr.! offers all kinds of printables for ages 1 through teen.  Check out the different calendar ideas here.    I like the calendar jar, myself.

Do you want to know what National- Day- of  is celebrated on a particular day?  Check out the The National Day calendar.  I linked to September 2018.  Go back to the Home page to find links to Weekly Observances, and International Observances.  Religious holidays do not appear to be listed.

Another source for special holidays is the 2018 Holiday Calendar.  This list includes holidays from various cultures and faiths along with notable events, such as Wright Brothers Day.   

A quick search engine hunt will lead you to endless printable calendars and countless lists of special events.

OR go to the library and look at Chase's Calendar, a resource that lists ALL the special days, commercial, national, religious and facetious that have been named in the English-speaking world and beyond.  The book is EXPENSIVE ($90 approximately) and access to their website comes with a purchase of the annual publication.  Your library may have Chase's online.  Believe me.  It's worth a look for entertainment value alone.

So how do you set up an activity calendar?  

Life is complicated so simple is better!   Your calendar doesn't have to have something every single day.  You might decide that a certain day of the week needs a lift.   You can put stars throughout the month's calendar page to randomly assign fun things to do.

Make sure that YOU have ideas to suggest on these special days.  If time is short, pick activities that can be done quickly, or on the run.

If you use a calendar jar, you can assign a day as Calendar Day and children can pick from all the ideas below.   That's what I'm doing!

 Community Action Day -
1. Pick up litter on your block.
2. Go through your cupboard and set aside duplicate soups for the soup kitchen.
3. Make a box to collect used markers to return to Crayola, com for recycling.
4.  Visit the food bank, soup kitchen, or the animal shelter just to find out what they do.  Look at their websites for hours of operation and directions.

 Family Day
1.  Play a game that can include everyone in your family.
2.  Make a meal together.
3.  Learn how to do string figures like Cat's Cradle.  So many videos are available for string figures.
4. Take a walk together.
5.  Make up a story together with each family member adding a sentence until the story is done.

 Kindness Day -
1.  Remind your family to smile at people, even people they don't know well.
2.  Children can write nice notes and hand them to people they meet - even to family members.  Here are printables to make this easier.
3.  Go over kindness rules such as holding the door open for others; helping people carry things; picking things up when others drop them; speaking to classmates who might be left out.  This Cootie Catcher, also from Coffee Cups and Crayons, can help with the discussion,
4. Visit The Hunger Site to donate with your click.  You can do this every day.

 Learning Day.
1.  Learn how to say hello in another language.
2.  Go outside and look at leaves and grass with a magnifying glass.
3.  Pick a word from a dictionary that starts with the first letter of your name and find out what it means.
4. Go to the library!  Or visit the library's website to check out audio books, use online research resources.
5.  Do a simple science experiment.  Pinterest can help with that.
6.  Spin the globe and then look up the country or area your finger landed on.  It might be part of an ocean - the globe has lots of them.
7.  When it's dark, go outside and try to find constellations you can recognize.

Make one day Silliness Day.  Tell jokes.  Wear costumes.  Do silly walks.

How about Prize Box Day?  Keep a box with small surprises; pencils, dollar store notebooks, ribbons, keychains, snacks, Happy Meal toys - stuff like that!

Or Food Day.  Try new recipes.

Or Arts Day.  Use a different medium.  Create an art gallery.  Put on a recital.

Or Sports day.  Run.  Ride your bike.  Play wiffle ball, or corn hole, or bocce, or bowls. 

OR I Love You Day.  Say something special about each other.  Hug!

I better get busy making my calendar.  Have fun.

Sunday, August 12, 2018

LBBReviews - Mac B. Kid Spy

37825392  Nana got Mac B. Kid Spy #1 by Mac Barnett in the mail.  It took her no time at all to discover all kinds of things about Mac B., Kid Spy.  His mother's boyfriend sounds like a jerk - just saying.  He lo-o-oves his Gameboy.  And he learned a lot about the world when the Queen of England called him up and gave him his first - though probably NOT his last - spy mission.

I told D about it and Nana read a bit to her.  Then D sat down and read the rest. (Win! winwinwinwin!)

However, we (D and me) have our doubts.  We would very much like to see photographic evidence that Mac B. actually was a spy when he was a kid - all those many long years ago.  He says that the book is entirely true - like one of those memory things people write that possible?  And why wouldn't the Queen of England asked an Englander kid to do the spy stuff?  Many, many questions...

 D is 6 years old and I am even younger still because of the toy thing.  Mac B. Kid Spy is written for kids three years - or more - older than D is.  There were things in the book that we had trouble understanding.  How many 6-year-olds know what the KGB is?  Or what the Cyrillic alphabet looks like?  And, what is a Gameboy?  And why isn't there a GameGIRL...or a GameBUNNY?

So this book is a winner on many levels.
1.  Kid Spy!!! Duh!
2.  Actual reliable factual pieces of background in here.  I estimate that 95% of the time that Mac B. tells the reader to look something up the looked up thing is an actual fact.  It's hard to tell with this author though.  He's tricky.
3.  Great drawings - especially the drawings that take place in the USSR.
4.  Funny!  Don't take my word on it.  Read the book!  (When it comes out - which is on September 11th, 2018.)

Downside!  None!  Because guess what?  Mac B. and his mom have bunnies for pets.

Little Blue Bunny signing off.

Saturday, July 28, 2018

Summer! We Hardly Know Ye!

Yesterday, D and I wandered over to her house and her lovely pool to hang.  D does not get a lot of time to hang in her own space - no more than her parents do.  But yesterday, Little Blue Bunny watched D practice getting her face wet, swimming to the deep end and back.  He was super impressed.  He tried to get his face wet and it scared him.  Poor bunny!

We made him a boat from a juice carton and he lazed while we dunked underneath the water and paddled and just messed around.  Then we went indoors and D found something to do.  So did I.  It was the most relaxed afternoon we've had in months.

Summer has changed. 
Long ago, we slept in. We did our chores and then we went outside.  Everything else was left up to chance; bikes, puddles, clouds, lightning bugs.  We played capture the flag and shadow tag under the streetlamps.
We joined the summer reading club and picked out books we weren't "allowed" to read during the school year.  Nancy Drew!!!  Cherry Ames!!! Hardy Boys!!  GooseBumps (not my generation, but still a sturdy series).

Summer was a huge blank canvas.  Now summer looks like a paint-by-numbers scene.

Day camps - known as daycare during the school year - arts camps, gymnastics camps, dance camps, science camps, sports camps- that's where our kids spend the summer days.  They have to get up as early as they do during the school year because their parents have to work.    If they are lucky, they have friends at camp.  Or, they have grandparents or caregivers who come in to help care for them.  More likely than not, kids are hustled off to care arrangements.

I think that summer leisure is encoded in our DNA as a necessary part of life.  We want the rhythm to change with the seasons.   When we don't get a chance to control our days, we get anxious and testy.  Or, - and this is worse, - we lose the ability to find things to do, retreating into screen time, food or whatever we are told to do by others, whether we want to do those things or not.  BLAH!

Kids don't know or care that summers are different until they start reading books that show children enjoying freedom!  Like The Penderwicks!  Or The Swallows and AmazonsGone-Away Lake or  even One Crazy Summer  (OK, that one IS about a summer camp in a hot crowded city but there's a lot of free time in there.)

So, are summers just different or worse or better or something else entirely?  How can things change for the better?

Ah, well, that's fodder for another post.

Let me know about your favorite summer book in the comments.

Friday, July 20, 2018

Let's Not Forget! Philip Reeve

Some authors became Darlings of the Moment.  But once they have proven themselves, book people just take them for granted.  Sad but true. 

Philip Reeve, a former Darling of mine, dropped from my radar.  A scan of my "read" books list reminded me of Reeve's splendid awesomeness.

His Mortal Engines series (once known as Hungry Cities) is ground breaking, combining dystopia with steampunk and sci-fi with lots of BIG landscape gobbling cities.  (Also, "ground breaking"! Good, huh?)  Peter Jackson is turning the book, Mortal Engines into a movie.  Trailer!  Release date is December of this year.

My favorite Reeve title is Larklight and its sequels because the characters are Victorian and modern all at one go.

When you are looking for a riveting adventure to read this summer, DON'T FORGET PHILIP REEVE!  Not just for steampunk aficianados - Philip Reeve writes for all of us.

Friday, July 13, 2018

Sex, Gender, Woke-fulness

CONFESSION AND WARNING:  I'm not sure I understand what everyone means by "Woke".   I have no worries over how people want to be considered, about gender identity - although someone could explain it all to me again, - about respecting the preferred use of pronouns when addressing nonbinary and other gender non-specific people. 

That said, a recent edition of Shelf Awareness for Readers offers TWO books out now that might help people like me and my peers, AND teens - the ones for whom gender identity is such a big question along with sex, life, the universe and other things - understand gender and sex issues.
WARNING:  Some sex terms here.
NOTE:  I do know that gender is NOT all about sex.

A Quick & Easy Guide to They/Them Pronouns

Archie (who uses they/them as their preferred pronoun) wants us all to understand the whys, hows, whens, and wherefores of non-specific pronoun usage.  His friend, Tristan, (he/him) helped put together this clever guide to language and address when approaching the wide spectrum of gender differences.
  The graphic book format makes the guide easy to read and fun to flip through.

Doing It!  Let's Talk About Sex by Hannah Witton.   

 This one IS about sex - and all that comes with it, including gender identity.  Witton is a sex educator and this book covers contraception, masturbation, LGBTQ+ issues.  Body image, sex shaming, sexting, anatomy, STDs - if there is anything that deals with genitalia and their uses, it is in this book.  Every generation approaches the subject of sex in a different way.  This book might be this generation's guide.  (I did not actually read this book.  I will soon.  I still have questions!)

I use she/her for my pronoun.  When I was a child, I wished I was a boy - but I realized in my teens that that wish was rooted in the freedom that boys had, compared to the social strictures placed on girls.  

Dar Williams wrote a song about this very thing.   Enjoy - after you wipe the tears from your eyes when you realize that we put our selves in cages just to survive.

Be kind.  Just be kind.

#woke #gender #DarWilliams #bookreviews #sex

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

The House with a Clock in Its Walls

Time for a movie trailer - a blast from the past.  Books by this author flew off the shelves during the summer.  Those readers are now adults so...

#booksintomovies  #horror  #housewithaclockinitswalls

Friday, July 6, 2018

Button, Button, Who's Got the Button?

When Patryk finds an old button in the forest near his Polish village, he ignites something fearful in his friend, Jurek.  Jurek challenges the group of friends to a "Button War".  Whoever finds the "best" button will be King.

Once war, real war, hits the village, there is no going back.  Things  just get worse.  That decline of civility, of certainty, is mirrored in the actions of the boys.  Jurek steals the schoolmaster's cane and threatens to use it when he becomes King.  Patryk finds himself lying, sneaking out, stealing to stop Jurek from winning.

Buttons are cut from Russian uniforms, pulled off dead soldiers' coats and hats, taken from drunk Germans.  The village is caught between the Russians in the forest and the Germans in the town.  Then the French show up and the Austrians - all with enticing, desirable buttons.

It is war.  People die.  People spy on each other.  "Accidents" happen.  At the end, is Patryk any better than his ruthless "friend"?

Avi offers an unsettling look at human acquisitiveness, competition, and a desire for power, set in the early stages of World War I.  Two days after I set the book down, I revisit the last night in my mind.  How do you come back from the brink of barbarism?

The Button War by Avi

Sunday, July 1, 2018

Woes! Wants! Wishes!

My iMac died.  Seven years of trouble-free operation - except for the time it fell off its shelf, smacked me in the head and got a crack in the screen -and now, static and frozen screen.  Apple Support told me my computer is Vintage or Obsolete.  Note the capital letters - their choice, not mine.

All my photos and files are on that computer.

I bought an external hard drive and backed up the aforementioned files but I need a Mac to open them.

 I bought a PC laptop along with a year of Microsoft Office.  I thought my iMac had been resuscitated and would live forever.  WHY!!!???  I should have bought a MacBook.!!

(My Office log in card has not arrived - minor woe.)

Kindness!  Honestly, I want that more than anything.  The system we had to process asylum seekers worked for over 90% of cases.  Slap on an ankle bracelet and send them off to find a place to stay.  Call them back for their day in court.  Cheaper for tax payers and so much kinder than separation and imprisonment.  Donate to RAICES or ASAP.**

Renewable energy!   This is a no brainer.  Energy companies will quickly find a way to make money off of renewables, so they should just make solar, wind, wave and geothermal energy more readily available. Ecotech Institute of Colorado features 8 renewable energy organizations here.

Clean Water!  Puerto Rico, Flint, MI, and a large part of the Third World do not have clean water.  Clean the water!
For organizations and charities that work to provide clean water to Third World Countries, read this article. 
Unidos, The Hispanic Federation's Puerto Rico Relief initiative is still in operation.  Mercy Corps also collects and distributes water in Puerto Rico.
Flint, MI, suffers from being poor, black and not fun to report.  It is hard to find organizations that help with the water situation in Flint.  Don't get me started about the awful source of this problem.  (GREED!  POLITICS!  GREED! )  Most of the articles found in an internet search are 2 years old or older.
The City of Flint is offering bottled water and water filters to its residents.  This initiative began in April, 2018 (huzzah).  Scroll down on their page to find out how you can donate money and/or water to Flint's residents.

OK.  This is the me! me! me! portion.

**I wish you would all go to Chiles' Play on Amazon and/or Bandcamp and buy a CD or song.  WHY? Because we will donate 10% of the purchase price of every CD to ASAP.  This offer also extends to CDs you buy from me or Dan.  

Did you already buy the CD? Say something nice about the CD on Amazon and we will donate 10% of YOUR purchase price to ASAP.  Comment below to let me know when you do comment on Amazon.

#benefit, #Chiles' Play, #immigration, #RAICES, #Cleanenergy

Sunday, June 24, 2018

A Benefit SALE! and Three Middle Grade Books to Read this Summer!

That TBR pile never gets any shorter.  Here are three books to take off the pile but I received two in the mail this week. Will it ever end???  I hope not.

The Adventures of a Girl Called Bicycle by Christine Uss.  A foundling, an order of Mostly Silent Monks, a bike, a cycling hero, a "parenting" dilemma - and a girl who knows her own mind.  This is a lighthearted cross country adventure with a ghost, wonderful food, a mysterious woman in black and lots of fine friends on the way. I read the ARC. 💕

The Orphan Band of Springdale by Anne Nesbet. Gusta's father puts her on a bus to Springdale, ME, where Gusta's grandmother runs a home for orphans.  With Europe at war, and the USA considering joining in, Gusta's German last name causes some strife.  Her French horn, her love of music, and her habit of righting what she sees as wrong, result in a quick middle grade read.

Like Vanessa by Tami Charles.  In 1983, Vanessa, her PopPop and her cousin, watch as the Miss America crown goes to an African American for the very first time - Vanessa Williams.  13-year-old Vanessa dreams of singing on a stage.  The music teacher at school decides to start a pageant for the students.  While preparing for it, Vanessa finds her voice, her confidence, her courage and the answers to her father's pain and family secrets.

Dan and I are rehearsing for our second ever Skype show at a local library.  If it goes well, we may try to do something Skype-ish at a more public venue.  The library program is just for Summer Readers at that library.  (The program is at 10:30 am here, which is 11:30 pm in Japan! The world is round.)
Buy a CD!  Help immigrants!  Win a frankenbunny??? It could happen.

ALSO, if you haven't purchased the CD or a song from the CD, know this.  10% of every sale from Bandcamp or Amazon from now until August 15,  will go to ASAP, the Asylum Seekers Advocacy Project.   We hope this small effort will get families back together.  ASAP is a team of lawyers and social workers who help people seeking asylum in the US.  Since many of the families separated at our southern border are people LEGALLY seeking asylum, Dan and I hope that ASAP can help them stay together or be reunited.  That's 10% of the PURCHASE PRICE, not our "net proceeds".  Spread the word. 

Friday, June 22, 2018

Out Next Week

Busy.  Backson.

In the meantime, PW has it all going on.  Here are YA, Middle Grade, and Picture Book titles coming out next week.  Alert your favorite bookstore of your preferences NOW!

In the meanwhile, I will try to fit reading the wonderful ARCs, e-galleys and library books on my t-read shelf, in between gardening, writing, singing, accordion and telling stories. (And making Frankenbunnies to keep LBB company. Oh and bison.)

Love you all.  Keep reading.

Thursday, June 14, 2018

LBB Around the World

Summer vacation has started badly.  Someone human had bronchitis on the last day of school and was introduced to the world of inhalers.  Yuck!

Still, Little Blue Bunny, who continues to be well-behaved, is always there to help a friend.

On Tuesday, D announced that Snow, Little Blue's younger sister, was now old enough for adventures with her big brother.  They were explorers.  D wanted them to climb high places or travel around the globe!!!

So, they did!  We spent an hour traveling to places on the globe and gathering treasures.  Then there was a sale of the treasures - including a singing giraffe from Africa, and an entire llama family from Peru, a fairy penguin from New Zealand, a terra cotta soldier from China, a rock from the Grand Canyon, a never-melting icicle from the Arctic, an elephant statue from India.  The money went to help the Acorn family with their expenses.

We missed a whole bunch of excellent places.  We might need to do this again.

Meanwhile, Nutty Romomlia is back in Squirrel hospital with a missing ear.  Nana (me) replaced her ear a week or so ago but I don't have the needle felting thing down quite right - yet.

And that reminds me that I have to go to the yarn store.   I'll be back with more adventures soon!

Monday, May 28, 2018

12 Favorite Book Families

 I finished The Penderwicks At Last by Jeanne Birdsall.  Thank you, Ms. Birdsall, for reminding me of endless summer days of pretending and running and spinning and tracking and...all those things we can do when we are not quite teens. 

1.  The Penderwicks are one of my all time favorite Book Families.  The blended family of His; Rosalind, Jane, Skye and Batty; Hers, Ben; and Theirs, Lydia, grows over the five book series.  Neighbors become lifelong friends or banished enemies.  Summers are long and idyllic when not beset with possible runaways, thieves and sibling disagreements of the mild kind. School years are beset with classroom anxieties and friendship struggles.  

2.  The Casson Family (Start with Saffy's Angel by Hilary McKay)  - Mom, Dad, Cadmium, Saffron, Indigo and Rose.  This "artistic" family and their neighbors delve into all kinds of problems from finding one's passion to finding one's soul mates.  The adventures start when Saffron suspects that she is actually a cousin, instead of a sister and she sets off to Italy (!!!!???)  with her neighbor and best friend to learn the truth.  Oh, the madness never stops with these four.

3. The Conroy sisters - also by Hilary McKay.  Ruth, Naomi, Rachel and Phoebe appear on the scene when they are shipped off to Big Grandma's for the summer, hence the title of their first book, The Exiles.   Phoebe, the youngest, is intractable and endlessly creative in indicating her displeasure.

4.  The Fitzgerald-Trouts from Look Out for the Fitzgerald-Trouts by Esta Spalding. Kim, Kimo, Peppa and Toby are sort of related to each other.  No matter, they live in a car on the beach and every now and then, one or the other of their assorted parents hands over some cash.  The kids look after themselves, cooking, washing their clothes, getting to and from school.  But when the older kids' legs get too long to sleep comfortably in the car, the four head off to find a real home.  There are two books about this crazy family.

5.  The Incorrigibles.  Start with the Mysterious Howling by Maryrose Wood.  What list of favorite book families is complete without siblings raised by wolves?  Miss Penelope Lumley, barely more than a girl herself, has been hired to teach the three Incorrigibles how to behave like regular children.  They were found in the forests that surround Lord Ashton's estate.  All three children, Alexander, Beowulf and Cassiopeia, are delightfully smart, brave and loyal although their speech is punctuated by howls.  Their governess is beyond reproach and quite a lot of fun.

6. The Applewhites.  Surviving the Applewhites by Stephanie Tolan.   Jake Semple has one last chance to keep out of Juvie and that's as a foster child at the artists' colony/school run by the Applewhite family.  Every single Applewhite, - parents, aunts, uncles, cousins, the lot - has some kind of artistic genius - except for E.D.  Their talents make them absolutely worthless in the real world.  So it is up to E. D., who has a special genius of her own, and Jake, who fits in better than he likes, to keep the "school" afloat.

7. The Stanleys.  (The Headless Cupid by Zilpha Keatley Snyder).  David and his three siblings welcome Amanda, their new stepsister, into the family in this first book of four.  Amanda studies witchcraft and beguiles them all.  Then ghostly things begin to happen in their new house, where a ghost decapitated the wooden cupid at the foot of the banister.

We can't forget THESE families, either...

8.  The Blossoms by Betsy Byars. (Not-Just-Anybody Family). Pap is supposed to be watching his grandkids while their mother is traveling with the rodeo. But how was he to know that Junior would try to fly off the barn roof?  Then, HE gets picked up for littering when the tailgate of his truck comes loose.  And Maggie can't get in touch with her mother.  Sounds sad?  It's a hoot.  All the Blossom family books are.

9. The Moffats by Eleanor Estes, Mrs. Moffat has her hands full trying to keep a roof over the heads of her brood.  But they all help whenever they can, keeping an eye out for each other, doing odd jobs, learning to read and write, creating museums and other great stuff.

10. or the Melendy family by Elizabeth Enright. While their widowed father works in the city during the week, the Melendy children are left home with the gardener and loving housekeeper to explore the countryside, rescue an abused neighbor who becomes their brother, travel into the  city on the weekends and create games and codes and mysteries.

11. or the five children or Five Children and It by E. Nesbit.   I enjoy them best because of the sand fairy and the adventures he/she sends them on.  Still without these five siblings we'd never have this classic fantasy.  (Alas, I don't know their names.  I did once.  But I've forgotten.)

12. OR - and here I am showing my age - the Pepper family of Five Little Peppers and How They Grew by Margaret Sidney.  Totally old-fashioned, earnest and full of "family values", these fatherless children manage to help their struggling mother keep body and soul together while having plenty of "scrapes" and "adventures". 

Friday, May 25, 2018

The Murderer's Ape - Five things to like.

Now, that's some title! The Murderer's Ape by Jakob Wegelius.

When Captain Henry Koskela is unjustly accused of murder, only his ship's engineer, the gorilla Sally Jones, believes that he is innocent.  She saw the whole thing!  She saw the man pull a gun on Henry.  She saw Henry chase the man down the pier.  She saw the man slip and fall into the water.  It was an accident.

But, she can't tell anyone.  Gorillas can not talk.  And the police search for her, as well, in order to put her in a zoo.

Sally Jones finds a friend in Ana, and a job with Ana's landlord, who builds and repairs musical instruments.  As the Chief, as Sally Jones refers to Henry in this account, sits in jail, Sally Jones tries to find proof of his innocence.

Here are five things I like about this book:

1. Accordions - mostly button variety, but there is one fabulous piano accordion in this book. 

2.  The settings:  Lisbon, Portugal is where a lot of the action takes place.  A Maharajah's palace in India also sees a lot of action. Let's not forget the ship that takes Sally Jones from Lisbon to India. Although dates are not mentioned, the time period seems to be in the 1910s or 1920s, not long after the end of the Portuguese monarchy.

3. The music.  I could almost hear Ana sing a fado - a melancholy Portuguese singing style.  Listen to a famous fado singer here.  Listen to the guitars and Amalia Rodrigues' voice.

4.  Sally Jones.  She is not a human in a gorilla's body.  Her thought processes seem to be different, more meticulous, perhaps.  That makes her an excellent ship's engineer.  Her heightened senses and her attention to detail save her more than once.

5.  The intrigue:  Why did the young man hire Koskela and Sally Jones to pick up four crates of "tiles"?  Who was the laughing man known as Papa Monforte?  How are the police involved?  Will the Chief ever be freed? 

I do have questions.  What happened to Ana's secret admirer?  What is next for  Sally Jones?  Will she head back to sea? Could we have another adventure, please?  

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Storyteller? Teller? Oral Interpreter? Wordflinger?

If you search for the term "storyteller" online, you get posts about writing, music, and videos for little children.  You might get info on nationally famous tellers, such as Jay O'Callahan or Elizabeth Ellis or Donald Davis.  But a large percentage, (I'd estimate 80%), of the listings are for song and story writers.
How's this for a costumed children's performer?
The videos of lesser known storytellers telling to young children are charming, but they sometimes fall into the category of "cute video of Pirate Fred goofing around in front of the first grade".  (I suspect that videos of my classroom presentations would fall into that category as well.)

Professional storytellers, those who work hard every day to learn the best way to present stories to adults and to children, struggle with how to identify what they do.  The confusion between storytelling and story time is maddening.  Tellers find that what they do is equated with "reading aloud from books", rather than tailoring a story to their audience.  When audiences read or hear the word storytelling, they envision a motherly woman holding an open book in front of a group of preschoolers.

What should we call ourselves?  Tellers?  Are we tattling on our peers, or folklore characters?  (And when did folklore turn into "stories for children"?)
Oral Interpreters?  What does that even mean?  "Listen as I interpret the words of Homer." (from the original Greek, perhaps)? Story artists?  I see visions of someone quickly painting a "story" on a canvas.

Wordsmith means the same thing as poet or writer.  Wordsinger -  'nuff said. Aha!  Wordslinger!  I see impassioned spectacled poets declaiming during a Slam.  Wordwinger!  Word bringer!  Word clinger!  Word springer!  Ooh, I like that one! Word stingers - no, that's poets again.

OK, let's forget the word "word".  Are we tale tellers?  How is that different from storytellers?  Story performers?  One Person Shows?  Folklorists? Liars?  That one is used from time to time for Tall Tale festivals.

Eventually, we go back to storytellers, where we are lumped with preschool story readers and costumed children's entertainers.   Some of us use our years of experience, and the countless workshops and courses we've taken, to call ourselves Master Tellers.   If that title was reserved for people who had a certain amount of experience, or who had finished more than X number of workshops, it would carry more weight.

Until there is some kind of criteria levied on the title of Storyteller, every "life of the party" can hang the moniker of storyteller behind her name.  Those of us who work to present the very best stories that we can find will struggle to find a worthy title for what we do.

Oracle?  Hmmmm... oral historian?  He who talks out loud without ceasing?  Myth weaver?  Mythologist??  Wait, what about.... Word swinger??  Nice.

Friday, May 11, 2018


I've been "resting".  Isn't that what actors say when they have periods of downtime, planned or not?  And it's true.  I got new lenses.  They make it harder for me to read comfortably.  By the time, I remember that I have reading glasses by my bed, my eyes are so tired that I nod off, ten minutes into any stories.

So, I HAVE been resting - my eyes, that is.

A recent ad for the second book in the Longburrow series, The Gift of Dark Hollow, by Kieran Larwood, reminded me so much of Redwall that I stopped resting to tell you about it. (By the way, that ad allows you to request a galley of the new book.)

I actually read Podkin One-Ear, the first book in this series and it was pretty darn good.  It had quests and danger and good-vs-evil and clever rodents and disguises.  There was food - but not exactly Redwall worthy food - is there any series that reveled in food like Redwall? - and singing or, at least, cryptic rhymes.  But the battle against evil-spewing iron overrode all else.  Podkin One-Ear has the advantage(?) - or disadvantage - of being at least 100 pages shorter than a standard Redwall entry.

So, fellow Booklings, if on long evenings you have wished for a series like Redwall, where intrepid animals fight the followers of evil to bring peace to their woods and meadows, where swords and trickery combine in heart-racing battles, your wish may well have been answered.

Saturday, April 28, 2018

MunMun's the Word

MunMun by Jesse Andrews.
When I read that this book came out this month I was soooo excited.  Jesse Andrews is a brilliant writer.  I expected madcap humor and razor sharp wit.

I mean, here's the set up.  In an alternate world, the amount of wealth you have - Munmun - determines how BIG you are.  The poor are as small as rats.  But the very, very wealthy are as tall as skyscrapers.  How cool is that!

I was game.  Warner, our narrator is a littlepoor, the poorest rank or class of citizenry.  Since his father was killed when a boy - probably a Middlerich because he was normal sized - running from a bully stepped on Warner's dad, Warner, his older sister, Prayer, and his crippled mother, must come up with a way to get Munmuns and up their scale.

Plan 1:  Meet a nice Middlerich or even Middlepoor fellow in Dreamtime and get him to marry Prayer.  Confused yet?

See, in Dreamtime, everyone is the same size regardless of their size in Reallife.  PLUS, Warner makes the BEST dreams and he can include all kinds of people.

Plan 2:  Go to Middlerich Law School and get a law student to fall in love with Prayer.  So, off they go.  So does Usher, a Littlepoor fellow who is so in love with Prayer.  Usher can read; Usher is strong; Usher has a terrible stutter.

So when Plan 2 explodes in pieces, I stop waiting for the storyline to become funny.  Do you know why?  Because Warner's situation was just too real - as in REALLY real; as in change size to color or other differences and you have our life, right here, right now.

Littlepoors are our inner city residents, black, hispanic, just not WASP.  Everything is stacked against them and every time they find a way out, it gets blocked or taken away. (I know - huge generalization!)

So around the time that Warner gets into the home of a Big where he will go to school with MiddleRich's, I turned to the ending in hope....

I don't even remember what I was hoping for.  I am curious as to how Warner got where he ends up but I think I need a lot of sunshine and silliness before I can dive into the Yewess (their country) again.

People are going to be talking about this one, fersure.  I can't stop thinking about it and I didn't even read the whole book.

Wednesday, April 25, 2018


I went for my Medicare Wellness "event" today.  Your tax dollars at work!!!  And really, what else would you want to spend your tax dollars on but the chance to keep me around long enough to record my new song - or a podcast - or write that, no, THOSE books I keep nattering on about writing?

Growing old is ... better than NOT growing old. 

There are some things that I will never get the chance to do.  Those things are pretty much related to my aging body and to my lack of interest in doing them; i.e. I will never have a second child; I will never climb Mt. Everest.

But important things like -
Make a difference
Write a book
Paint a picture
Help a child find their passion - for this week - and another one next week
Sing a song
Share a story
Learn to dance
Understand physics??? -
there is still a lot of time to do those things.

I wish I could decide where to place the time I have left.  There are so many, many things I hope to do.  My biggest wish of all?  It's that everyone realizes that it is Not Too Late to do most of the things you dreamed of doing.  In the doing of those things, you will ease the regret that might come from those dreams that will never come true.

I wish you hope!

Friday, April 20, 2018

They Did NOT make the List - not even the addendum!

I cap my book list for KUCLC at 7 pages.  That gives me about half a page to brag on myself - my 30+ years in public libraries, this blog, my kids' CD - and to give contact info so people can help me find good books.

THEN, I usually add another page or two of books I forgot.  The following books are noteworthy and I MIGHT mention them tomorrow but, they didn't make either list.  Some books did not make the list because I want to feature them in a future list.  Some did not make the list because they are fluff. If I mention them, it will be to illustrate a trend in children's literature - because I am a Trend Identifier.

The Worthy Ones:
The Night Diary by Veera Hiranandani. Dial Books, (9780735228511), 2018.  When Pakistan and India are divided there is wide spread strife and violence among the various religious sects.  Nisha and her father, brother, and amah must flee - on the titular night train - to save their lives. The book is a series of journal entries that Nisha writes as letters to her Muslim mother, who died when she and her brother were born.
Observations: 1. Sometimes a book is worthy because it brings attention to a concept, a philosophy, a time period or an event that needs a spotlight.  MG, religious conflict, war, discrimination

Turtles All the Way Down by John Green. Dutton Books, (9780525555360), 2017.  Aza suffers from anxiety and OCD but she keeps it together.  When the search for a missing billionaire offers a prize for finding him, Aza's best friend, Daisy hatches a plan to find him. Since Aza went to camp with the billionaire's son, Daisy is sure they can get info that will lead to the runaway dad.  That's as far as I got.
My observations: 1.  John Green's writing is smooth as glass, a joy to read. 2. Reading about anxiety disorders and OCD behavior makes me uncomfortable because I am that person - the one who starts having the symptoms that she reads about.  3.  When I finally finish reading this book, I expect to put it on a list because I heart the Green Brothers.  YA, mental illness, fugitives

Some Fluff!
First: Fluff is good.  There is nothing wrong with an amusing book that makes a kid giggle - unless it's a mean giggle and then, well, then we will have to have an intervention and years of therapy to deal with the trauma.  That said, the success of the Wimpy Kid and the Dork Diaries have caused a wave of imitators like:

Take the Mummy and Run: the Riot Brothers are on a Roll by Mary Amato. Holiday House, (9780823438686), 2017.  This is book #4 in this series about Wilbur and Orville Riot and their detective efforts or missions or whatever.  I did not actually read this book. I read a page or two.
My Observations: 1. It's funny - funny dialogue, goofy people with goofy mannerisms. 2.  There actually seems to be a story going on here.  Some of these fluff books are all jokes and very little story.  Stories are good.  MG, humor, mystery

Stick Dog Craves Candy by Tom Watson. Harper, (9780062410948), 2107.  I don't know about this book.  I read a few pages and it moves very slowly.  It appears to be about dogs who are looking for food.
My Observations: 1. Lots of people think that they can think like dogs.  I think that this author thinks he's one of those people. 2.  Dogs really like food. 3. I find it hard to imagine that dogs can understand concepts like "witches" but these dogs seem to be very frightened of "witches". 4. This MIGHT be a Halloween themed book; witches, candy, also orange heads.  5. One of these observations is not like the others.  Can you guess which one? MG, humor, dogs, candy, witches

Welp, that's it for now.  I hope to see some of my scads and hordes of readers at the Kutztown University Children's Literature Conference tomorrow.

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Swell Books!

I have a pile of books to flip through before April 21st, when once again for the 9th or 10th time, I will wax rhapsodic or grouse about the state of children's books at the Kutztown University Children's Literature Conference- at Kutztown University, Kutztown PA - just in case you wondered where it was.

YESTERDAY, I read, not one, but TWO, great books as different from each other as books can be.

Vincent and Theo: the Van Gogh Brothers by Deborah Heiligman had me in tears less than a third of the way into the book. I knew where this was all going to end up, still, I don't know how Heiligman does it exactly - she manages to imbue her biographical works with emotion.  Her writing never strays from fact, although she does ask the readers to imagine how the characters may have felt at certain times in their lives.  She uses short chapters, divides the book in sections by types of artwork, and gives a full sense of place and time.  I will buy this book.  I need to read it again.

Granted by John David Anderson is a middle grade fantasy about wishes.  Ophelia Delphinium Fidgets is a cobalt blue-haired fairy whose job is to grant wishes.  The "algorithm" (my word, not the book's word) that controls magic in the world has limited the number of wishes granted each day to a mere 12. Ophelia has never gotten the chance to grant one - UNTIL the wish of a girl whose bike was stolen falls from the Great Tree.
Wish granting doesn't sound hard.  You find the object used to make the wish and then you sprinkle the object with a little magic dust and say the four magic words. Easy peasy - EXCEPT for the planes, trucks, birds, animals, humans, trash, hunger, pain, feet, traffic, wind, humans and dogs...
When the wish object doesn't stay where it was tossed, when it travels from human to human, when Ophelia loses the ability to fly and has to depend on a sloppy, smelly dog - a sweet, adorable, smelly dog - to get around, when the wish object is used to ....  no, no, that would be telling.  This is one day Ophelia Delphinium Fidgets will never forget.

So, I started the day carried away with the sadness of the Van Gogh brothers' lives and awed by Vincent's talent and Theo's loyalty.  And I ended the day cheering on an imaginary creature whose mission was to grant a wish and grow magic in the world. 

I LOVE reading.

PS:  I'm reading Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor.  I don't know how I missed this one last year.

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Chiles' Play CD Release Party

On Saturday, April 7, at 7 pm, at 707 N. 4th Street, (you thought I was going to say 7th street, but no!) - that's 707 N. 4th Street, Allentown, PA 18102 - the site of Coffee House Without Limits - we will hold a CD release party for our baby, "I Can Make It Myself", music for kids and their grown-ups.

I am so choked up with emotion.  I NEVER thought I'd see the day that I would actually put out a CD.  I could not have done it without Dan Chiles, my sibling and co-conspirator.  Actually, Dan did MOST OF THE WORK - including the production and the design and the backing tracks and some song-writing and vocals.  I did some song-writing and vocals.

We will have games, crafts, CDs for sale, A Skype session with Dan, who now lives in Sapporo, Japan. 

Please come.

The CD is up on Bandcamp.  You can listen to it there for free.  You can download the songs, one by one for $1 a pop, or the whole CD for $9.

Or you can go to and purchase the CD there.  The CD will be cheaper at the CD release party! Just saying.

Monday, April 2, 2018

A Year's Worth of Books - Jane Yolen

With the publication of A Bear Sat on My Porch Today, Jane Yolen reached the amazing goal of writing 365 books!  That's a book for every day of the year.

Someone should attempt to read a Jane Yolen book each day for an entire year and then vlog about it.  Some of the days will just be the vlogger reading a picture book.  Other days can be book reports or cosplay - Yolen books offer lots of cosplay opportunities - or even "travelogues".  Oooh, this is a great idea for someone with lots of energy.  I want a cut if the idea goes viral.  Just saying.

A YEAR OF YOLEN.  You are welcome.  Oh....wait....over on Jane Yolen's website, they already have plans for a year of Yolen.  My ideas are almost as good.

With the huge success of the How Do Dinosaurs Say... franchise, Yolen cemented her place in picture book lore.  The Dinosaur books are not my favorite Yolen picture books.  I preferred the Piggins books with illustrations by Jane Dyer.
The poetry of Owl Moon earned a Caldecott Award for the paintings it inspired illustrator John Schoenherr to create.

Yolen's fantasy novels delight middle grade, YA and adult readers.  Her poetry is contemplative, or funny, or sprightly, or inspiring.  She writes biographies, collects and rewrites stories from the bible, and the spiritual traditions of other cultures.  She even composes cookbooks!

Do you have a favorite Jane Yolen book?  I have several and I read them so long ago, I can't remember the titles accurately.  I do remember Boots and the Seven Leaguers: a Rock and Troll Novel  and Wizard's Hall.  I like Yolen's fantasy best of all.

Friday, March 30, 2018


There is simply not enough time to do all the stuff.  Housework stuff. Reading stuff. Blog stuff. Raising money for causes stuff.  Kid care stuff.  Spending quality time with all my family stuff.  Getting ready for the Kutztown University Children's Literature Conference Stuff.  CD release party stuff.  LOTS OF STUFF.  (I won't go into weddings, babies, etc.  I just won't.)

Instead, I will tell you what we did today.

D came over.  It's Spring break and her school decided that Spring Break is SACRED.  They will make up snow days at the end of the school year.

She brought two of her LOL dolls AND...oh my gracious!  An LOL BIG doll that her mother made out of D's out grown recital tights and other stuff. IS this not the most adorable thing you have ever seen?  Her name is Dawn and she is very closely modeled on the actual LOL doll named Dawn.
Poor Dawn ended up being the babysitter for two other LOL dolls and you-know-who.  You-know-who was up to his old tricks but then we remembered that he is good now so we introduced a new bad guy, Smunch.  Smunch flooded the school and all the aquatic stuffies - cuddlefish, frog and an LOL doll who developed the ability to swim under water indefinitely - had to save everyone. 

However, bad guy-ness seems to be running its course.  Slime making, however, never grows old.  So, before long, D was seated at the counter and working with cornstarch and water.  That's it.  Cornstarch.  Water.  Oh, and a little food dye.

Yep. Cornstarch, water, some food dye and maybe a little more food dye.

Sure thing.  Cornstarch, water, food dye,  a little more food dye.  How about some more food dye?
That is Little Blue Bunny - slimed.

I LOVE cornstarch and water slime.  We called it Oobleck and I bet parents and teachers still call it that.  When you get the right consistency - and finding that mixture is a big part of the fun -it is hard and dry to poke and touch.  Then you scoop it up and it runs through your fingers like ooze.

If you want a better idea of how much water and cornstarch you need, there's an approximate amount on Steve Spangler's Science website. 

You can click to watch his video, but honestly, it's more fun to toss in cornstarch and stir in water til you get it right.  OK, about a box of cornstarch to 1 or 2 cups of water.  There?  Are you good?  Food dye is optional.  Considering that D an I still have blue fingers, we maybe should have skipped that part.

The glue and borax slime is actually a toy.  I end up wanting to save it for further use.  So I need to find a container and then the stuff sits on a shelf for months.  But oobleck?  Throw it away!  Let it dry up and toss it in the garbage.  Done.  And done.

Oobleck forever.

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Unicorn Rescue!

Adam Gidwitz!  (sigh) His books are sooo good and now his writing concentrates on saving mythical creatures from capture - or worse!!!  Watch this.