Monday, October 7, 2019

Sunday Selfie - a day late

Today, I picked up my mother (93) and my Aunt  Mary (96) from their volunteer work counting the Sunday collection at their church. I drove around the block to my aunt's house.

"Don't get out!" Aunt Mary insisted. "Your mother can help me to the door."

I listen to my elders. I stayed in the car. I watched as my mother supported her big sister, step by step, up the walk. Two old women, gray and slow, side by side, walked together, as I imagine they have walked their entire lives.

I feel privileged to have seen the abiding sisterly love between them. It's unspoken.

Then, having delivered her sister safely to her home, my mother made her way, more quickly and surely back to the car. I drove her to her home where we wrestled empty recycling bins back into their places in the carport.

It is Fall.  We notice the empty places in our garden. We anticipate shorter days, colder nights and darkness. We look forward to loss and if we can stretch our imagination, to the growth that covers the bare spaces.

 Still, today is a good day because, for now, I still can watch these two sisters walk together.

Wednesday, October 2, 2019

Naked Mole Rat Saves the World - October 15th

Middle school is seriously bad enough without turning into a small hairless rodent in times of duress.

And is it true that a Naked Mole Rat Saves the World (by Karen Rivers) (Out on October 15th!)

Though kit (with a small k) has her own problems, such as having NO HAIR since birth, she needs to make life easier for her mom. kit's Mom had a brush with fame with a musical one-hit wonder. Now, she is afraid to leave their building.  So, kit picks up take-out. She goes to her doctor's appointments with a grown-up friend. Luckily, her mother's place of employment is right downstairs on the first floor. Luckily, kit has good friends who seem to understand without explanation.

Then, Clem falls, or is dropped by her twin, Jorge - on nationwide TV - as kit watched, at home, their chance at fame as aerialists - and in a matter of seconds kit is - whoosh - gone! A naked mole rat races through the building and out on the street. The first time it happens, kit - and probably the reader - wonders if it's not just kit's imagination. Then, it happens again - and again.

 How can kit get her Mom to go outside? How can she help Clem get back to being Clem after that awful fall? There is the small thing about Jackson, too, and the awful thing he told kit. And Jorge, what's his secret? What really happened that day on the tv show? Who is kit's dad? How can turning into a naked mole rat even be a thing?????

These are engaging characters with relatable problems. Readers will see themselves in kit and her struggles. In middle school, all students feel out of place. Friendships WILL change. Kids WILL question their roots. People will say hurtful or thoughtless things. Our parents and our siblings ARE the weirdest. BUT, true friends will remain true. Love will draw families closer together. We all evolve! 

Hopefully, we won't all evolve into small hairless rodents.

Saturday, September 28, 2019

Sunday Selfie - Time - The Little Prince

I wrote this last night after a day of not doing much. I titled it "Fugit"

It is all about time
that stretch between sprout and compost -
between droplet and the sea.

All about time...
The broom sweeps
the dust returns.

The pen scribbles racing against,
but keeping pace with,

Eyes closed-
blanket clenched -
waiting -
all about time.

I worked through several fairy/folk tale collections with my stuffie friends. So, two nights ago, I started reading The Little Prince (Antoine de Saint-Exupéry). Last night, I came to this paragraph.

"The fact is, I don't want my book to be taken lightly. Telling these memories is so painful to me. It's already been six years since my friend went away, taking his sheep with him. If I try to describe him here, it's so I won't forget him..."


I found tears running down my face as I read that. That paragraph is not at the end of the book when we know where the Little Prince went and how he got there. No, it comes not all that far into the book, right before we learn of the Little Prince's journey through the planets.

I know how the book ends. I know why the narrator is in pain. And I know what happened to the author, He met the same fate as thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands, of pilots during WWII.

No wonder I cried.

Time. There is no chance to go back, no do-overs, no insight that allows a gunner to lower his barrel. Or a chance for a word to be unspoken. Or the joy of a pleasure lived again for the first time.

Time is funny - funny peculiar, not funny ha-ha. It can feel, as it did yesterday, that we putter to just fill up the time, "between sprout and compost". Then, we read something that shows just how active time is against us - taking our memories, our only defense against erosion.

Sit under the falling leaves tomorrow. Walk in the crisp leaves. If time is only that stretch between, fill it with images that will sustain you as you slide toward the end.

Love widely. Work for others. Play hard. Sing. Dance. Read.

Take that, Time. I can fill you to the brim.

Friday, September 13, 2019

Slay! Read this book.


I finished Brittney Morris's book, Slay, two or three days ago. I worried that I'd be at sea in this book because I am not a person of color - seriously, I am so very, very white that I have to be loud and silly just so I don't disappear -, a teen, or a gamer. Morris kept me afloat with her smooth narration.

So here's the story. After a few racist incidents on popular virtual reality-role play games, Kiera creates a game for people of color. The game is called "Slay" because of the double entendre of the word - to dominate, or to kill.  Players challenge each other to duels. Their moves are determined by cards dealt at the beginning of each duel and by their cleverness in playing those cards. The cards all refer to Black American icons, heroes, and culture. Auntie's Potato Salad, anyone? Success or failure in the duels raises or lowers a player's status and can earn the player "coins".

Then, someone is killed over a misuse of "coins" and status, out here in the real world. Suddenly, the game is all over the news and Kiera - who has kept her identity as the co-creator of the game a secret from everyone around her -even her boyfriend, Malcolm, - hears the game vilified all over the media.  Life gets very interesting after this.

I mentioned this book in an earlier post and I mentioned that I was not happy with Malcolm.  Malcolm and his behavior make me sad. That is all I will say about that.

The book was an eye opener because of my demographic. Although every page showed me something new about gaming or color, even about teen life, I never felt excluded by Morris's prose. There is a universality about Kiera's desire to create something that shields her people from abuse, and in her horror that this creation is misunderstood. The arguments for and against allowing people of one group or another to have their own space are everywhere. Is it better for girls if we educate them without boys in their classes? Do Italian Americans need their own social clubs? When must these clubs, schools, activities be open to everyone? Discuss among yourselves.

One of Kiera's classmates is incensed that this game is closed to anyone who is not black. This limit, regardless of its intentions, even effects (is that the right word?) the game's co-creator who describes herself as bi-racial, though everyone around her thinks she's "African". 

Race is a minefield. Morris points out so many different shapes of these explosives. Then, she leads the reader through the field with barely a scratch  - or with assumptions shattered.

Kudos, Brittney Morris, and thank you.

Note: I read a paperback advanced reader's copy that I picked up at The Book & Puppet Company in Easton, PA.  This book comes out on September 24th, 2019. Order it now. Just saying.

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Remembrance - 9/11/01

I wrote this on September 12th, 2001. It was meant to soothe children when things - big or small - go wrong. The song does NOT address the event that evoked it.  I have no clue how to encompass the hugeness of that loss in a song. It has a melody to go with it.

When the world breaks in two -
now, I don't want to scare you
but skies always blue
are in stories alone -
well, you get out the glue and
you patch things together.
That's what you do 

when you have to move on.

Though your life's rearranged
and your smile may falter,
The stars will still shine in the sky.

With a crack in your heart,
or a scratch on your finger,
toys all in parts
or a friendship gone wrong -
Morning will come and
you'll pull it together.
One step at a time, you'll go on.

When the world breaks in two,
with my love as the glue,
you'll get by.

Authors try to help kids process big events.  Here is a list of books written about the terror strikes on 9/11/2001.

Remember. Look for the helpers, as Mr. Rogers' mother always told him. And whenever you can, be a helper.

Sunday, September 8, 2019

Sunday Selfie

I spend the week between the young and the old.

My mother called me last Sunday when she got stung by a hornet. She was fine except for the pain She called the doctor - my brother - so I got to talk to him when I got to the house.

On Tuesday, she got an odd message when she tried to pay a bill online. I went over and called the bank for her because I know the "trick" of getting a human to answer the call. Mom did everything right. But now, she knows why she got that message.

We went greeting card shopping on Thursday. So many people have birthdays, need condolences or reassurances. Then we picked up Gramps (my hubby) and went out to lunch.

Yesterday, we played Scrabble. I have been winning lately but only by a few points. I relish those wins. My Mom still plays a mean game of Scrabble.

She'll be in upstate NY this week with my brother, the doctor. She left this morning. I already miss her.

My granddaughter, on the other hand, is still in town. (She lives nearby.) She slept over last Saturday. We did not get to sleep until midnight and it was NOT her fault.

On Tuesday afternoon, we picked her up from school and for an hour and a half she played with me.

We pretend to text various stuffed animals when Gramps drives us to D's piano lessons.

D likes to mix things together - like glue and peanut butter - to see what happens, usually with no rhyme or reason. I'm a Nana so that's ok with me.

I let the toys lie where they land for a full day before I pick them up. These days will pass too quickly.

The resemblances between these two ladies fill me with awe and with melancholy. They both live life with joy, laugh at mistakes, worry about changes. One smiles because her life is full of memories. The other smiles because she has so much to do.

Today, after worship, someone asked me how I spent my summer. I told them I spent it with these two awesome people.

"One will grow up," I said. "One will leave me forever. I hope they stagger these huge changes so I don't find myself bereft all at once."

As the days shorten, I am grateful that I still have my mother. I rejoice in my granddaughter. And I appreciate the others, the quiet steady ones, my husband, my son and his wife, who stand by.

Friday, September 6, 2019

A Week of Books

Went to the library. Most of the books I wanted were not there.  Came home with three books.

Me and Sam-Sam Handle the Apocalypse by Susan Vaught.  Neurodiversity plus small cute dogs plus bullies plus new kid in school plus deployed parent plus mystery involving at home parent plus tornado. It all adds up to a fast-paced awesome read.

Sea Sirens by Amy Chu. There is colorful and graceful artwork in this graphic novel I am still reading because I get distracted by all the pictures and my visual literacy is not the best.  Storms and dementia add texture to the story.  I will tell you more later.
So pretty!

The Cardboard Kingdom by Chad Sell. I finally read this graphic novel about  kids who spend their summer making costumes and acting out their favorite characters. The kids don't keep to gender lines in their play. Each chapter is a different child's story. Problems abound and problems get solved with imagination and fun. I miss this kind of summer and hope that neighborhood like this exist everywhere.

And then I  read some of the books I bought. Let's start with the book I bought for the subtitle.

Shipwreckers: The Curse of the Cursed Temple of Curses (or We Almost Died. A Lot.)  by Scott D. Peterson and Josh Pruett.
This is the first in a proposed series. Lots of puns, lots of death-defying escapes and traps and jungle animals of the fatal kind. This will be an action packed, fun, pun filled cinematic roller coaster ride of a series. It should be a little shorter. Just saying.

Pay Attention, Carter Jones by Gary D. Schmidt.    On the first day of middle school during a horrific rain storm, Carter Jones opens the front door to find a butler - a true English butler - standing on his doorstep.  The book has a Bentley, a deployed father, flashbacks to an Australian rain forest, and...CRICKET!!  After years of Lord Peter Wimsey's saunters on the cricket pitch, during which I despaired of figuring out the game, I think it might even make sense. I have been enlightened, and the game is so much more than a cucumber sandwich and endless runs.
Cricket is just a metaphor for the family drama that unfolds. I need someone to talk to about this wonderful book.

Update: This post was started a few days ago.  More reading has happened. I started Slay by Brittaney Morris. (due out toward the end of the month). Reading takes us to unfamiliar places and stuff we are not always aware of - or aware of only peripherally. One of only four black students at a upper middle class high school, Kiera hides the fact that she developed the online virtual reality, role playing game, Slay, from everyone around her. When a player is killed right before his appearance in a tournament online, Kiera's world tilts. That is where I am right now!
Just one thing.  Please don't hate me. But Malcolm? Um, no.
So far, the book is a page turner.

Every now and then I read a book that I download from various "cheap e-book sites", like Early Bird Books or Riffle. I especially like mysteries and non-fiction for adults like me.

Murder on Amsterdam Avenue by Victoria Thompson. Charles Oakes is dead. His father suspects foul play. So, he calls Frank Malloy, a private detective, to find out what happened. Malloy gets help from his fiancee, widow Sarah Brandt. Set in NYC 20 or so years after the Civil War, the mystery is full of period details about lifestyles and social justice issues. It was edifying - also a good mystery and a new series to fill my vacation or escape reading needs.

Monday, August 26, 2019

Library Haul ACHIEVED!

I went to the library on Friday and checked out four middle grade novels.  Oh, no! I have to go back to the library and check some more because...I read them all.

Middle grade novels are short - ish.  200 pages or slightly more is a common size.  And the print is not big but it is not tiny either.  Still, I have been in a reading slump this summer.  It looks like I am back.

First book:
Song for a Whale by Lynn Kelly.  Iris is a spunky techie nerd who is Deaf. Her parents and older brother are Hearing.  Iris is the only Deaf person in her school and is having trouble because no one speaks her language.
When the science teacher shows a video about a whale whose song is higher than any other whale's song and who travels alone, Iris wants to fix things for the whale, (called Blue 55 in the book).  She comes up for a plan to "call" the solitary whale using her electronic knowledge and with help from the music teacher and her rebellious recently widowed grandmother.

The start of the book promises frustration and difficulty but things morph into a truly empowering - and fun - adventure.

Second Book:
Ra, the Mighty: Cat Detective by Amy Butler Greenfield.  Ra is the Pharaoh's cat, living the life of luxury.  His best friend, Khepri, a scarab beetle (dung beetle), convinces Ra to help a kitchen cat clear the name of a little girl servant.  This is light and fun.  Ra is not as inscrutable as he wants his friends to believe.  Egyptology fans and cat fans will enjoy this romp.  This is the first book in a series. The next book comes out in October.

Third Book:
The Missing Piece of Charlie O'Reilly by Rebecca Ansari.    No one remembers Charlie's brother, Liam.  There is no trace of Liam anywhere.  Even Charlie's best friend, Ana, who believes that Charlie had a younger brother, has no memory of the younger boy. His father travels a great deal for work, and Charlie's mother's depression grows worse daily. Charlie knows if he can find Liam he can slow his mother's illness down.  Then, someone messes with Charlie's comic books - just like Liam used to. And he finds a note telling him to talk to the assistant baseball coach, Jonathan.  The note looks like Liam's writing. What Jonathan tells Charlie and Ana leads everyone down a dangerous path.  I did NOT see the huge twist coming - not at all.
The past, regret, grief and forgiveness all play important parts in this novel that combines fantasy, time travel and horror in one. (Light horror but scary!)

Fourth Book:
Genesis Begins Again by Alicia D. Williams.  Genesis comes home to find her family has been evicted - again.  Her unreliable Dad never paid the rent.  When he moves the family - Genesis, her mother and father, into an empty house in an upscale housing development on the outskirts of Detroit, Genesis has to start at a new school. 
Genesis is convinced that her father hates her because, instead of being light-skinned and "pretty" like her mother, Genesis is dark black like he is. This preference for light skin seems to be a generations long attitude.  The only person who doesn't hold this opinion is Genesis' Mom. 
Trying to find real friends, dealing with self-loathing, learning for the first time what she wants to do, all adds up to an obstacle filled adjustment in the new school. Then, there is the specter of another eviction. 

Good reads and all different.  I hope you enjoy.

Saturday, August 24, 2019

Saturday Book Haul

A bookstore chain that I frequent is running a Book Haul for its members. I don't usually buy books.  I do the photo thing and then go to the library. But 50% off every book on the table - many of them 2019 books - how could I resist that?

Then, I added a new Phoebe and her Unicorn (I promise I will stop it. Honestly. Someday. But they are just so heavenly - like Marigold's Nostrils.) And a middle grade novel for which I might never read a review but the the subtitle "or We Nearly Died. A Lot." just called my name.

Here they are in their colorful glory.

 I will now explain my selection process.
1. A book by Gary D. Schmidt. That should be enough of a reason but this book features a butler.  Who doesn't love books with butlers in them? Pay Attention, Carter Jones by Gary D. Schmidt

2. A book about food - doughnuts in particular. (Turns out, it's the second book in a series.)  It has doughnuts on the cover!  Come ON! The Doughnut King by Jessie Janowitz

3. Roller skates.  I can't roller skate.  I am obsessed with roller skates.  I am also afraid, as most people my age are, of breaking a hip. So I read about it. The Astonishing Maybe by Shaunta Grimes

Those are my 50% books.  The bookstore chain promised me a tote bag but, surprise, they were out of them.  When I asked the young - very young - maybe college aged clerk for a rain check, he did not know what I meant. "Rain check" dates me.  I am old.

The other books in the photo include Unicorn Bowling by Dana Simpson. We know why I bought that. Now, I want to go bowling, at which I do not dominate. 

Last book - the one with the alluring subtitle; Shipwreckers: The Curse of the Cursed Temple of Curses - or - We Nearly Died. A Lot. by Scott D. Peterson and Joshua Pruett.

Problem: I went to the library yesterday and checked out these books. Sigh. These must be read first (except for Unicorn Bowling. Read it.).

Friday, August 16, 2019

Old Friends

I am now in the habit of reading out loud to myself, almost every night.  Well, not just to myself.  I make sure I have a stuffed animal or two in the room and I pretend to read to them. I pretend they interject from time to time.  Um, no, I don't think I need to seek professional help - yet.

Ah, you want to know what I read to the stuffies?  Well, I finished Winnie-the-Pooh and the House at Pooh Corner, then I found some Uncle Wiggily books and read those.  I went through several story collections. Eileen Colwell's Storyteller's Choice got quite a few visits.

But the best ever of all sources of stories - the most beloved, - the trip into my childhood and into timeless stories - are these two collections.

My Book House - edited by Olive BeauprĂ© Miller - is 12 volumes of stories, poems, rhymes, excerpts arranged in accessibility by age.  Each volume covers a different type of story and each volume is more complex and more challenging in readability and concepts than the volumes before it.

My favorite books right now are Collier The Junior Classics.  This 10 book set taught me my Greek and Roman myths, Celtic tales, animal tales that were considered the best in the 50's and 60's.  The series was first put out in 1918. In the 1970s, Junior Classics underwent some changes.  I know this because I had lost a volume from my husband's 10 volume set - almost identical to the set that ended up in one of my sibling's homes.  The local used book store got me that volume from a 1970's printing.  Wrong stories!  Different illustrations!  My childhood had been tossed away. 

Bless them, the ladies at The Old Library Shop found the book I wanted. The set is complete.  The stories I loved are all there.

See the source image

It's way past bedtime.  I have to "get ready".  Now, where did I put Felina Fairyfox and Nutty Romomlia?

Read an old story - out loud if you choose.  Good night.

Friday, August 2, 2019

Discontent - Lyrics

A while back, I found myself looking through Sunday paper's ads obsessively.  I realized I was looking for an answer.  Since then I pay attention to the way things are advertised. "Your life is incomplete," advertisers say. "There are better cars, medicines, cleaning products, etc., than the poor things YOU own."

No, they don't make fun of people who don't own the things they're selling. But they make their products appear iconic, liberating, empowering.

I wrote this. Now, I need a melody and a guitarist.

 Every thing’s for sale

 Every thing’s for sale and I scan the gaudy pages
For the key, the map, the clue that will unlock my goal.
I will save each cent and dime and then when I have found it,
 I will hold it in my palm and it will make me whole.

I will know it when I see it.  It will stand out from the others.
I will ring it up and bag it and clutch it to my chest.
I will know it when I see it, that one thing to ease my sadness,
that one shiny little trinket that will give my soul a rest.

Every week my hope rises as the ads come to my door.
Is the answer at the Walmart or at the Dollar Store?
I have bought so many gadgets in hope of some relief.
I have heard so many promises I’m losing my belief.

The ancients scanned the skies for the answers to the future.
The sailors ranged the seas in search of treasure and of home.
I wander down these aisles looking for the purchase
That will finally make me smile and not feel so all alone.

Every week my hope rises as the ads come to the door.
Is the answer at the Target or at the Superstore?
Can I fill this hole with objects made in far off distant lands?
Can I find peace in just being who I am and where I am?

Today I think that I will lie upon the hillside
 and watch the clouds until the very first star’s light.
I’ll walk through growing gloom to the home we shared together
I will unchain my bike, pedal off into the night.

Every week my hope rises as the ads come to the door.
Is the answer at Best Buy or at the Discount store?
Can I fill this hole with objects made in far off distant lands?
Why can’t I just find peace in who I am and where I am?

Saturday, July 27, 2019

Peace Camp!!

Peace Camp LogoWhen you work as a Youth Services Library staffer in a public library, your summers are never your own.  So, back when Peace Camp started, I was only able to help out as a visiting storyteller - ONCE!!

I retired from full time employment a long time ago - 8 years ago.  I worked most of the last 7 summers as a part time Youth Services staffer at public libraries so... Last year was the first time I could volunteer for Peace Camp. Volunteering is how Peace Camp is done.

What is Peace CampLePoCo, a local Peace and Justice organization, has run a camp for children in kindergarten through 8th grade for THIRTY YEARS!  This year was the 30th Peace Camp. For a whole week, from 9 am to 12 noon, kids meet to learn about cooperation, non-violence, mindfulness, diversity, and respect. Adult and teen volunteers lead non-competitive games - and they are so much FUN! - singing, folk dances, drumming, yoga, arts and crafts, STEM projects that encourage respect for the environment, storytelling, and anything else that can involve kids in peaceful interaction. The group I helped with this year met with a beekeeper, learned about aroma therapy, and made spinning fish, among other things.

LePoCo arranges for transportation. Camp fees are on a sliding scale. Every single adult and teen that helps with the camp is a volunteer.  Over 100 children and young teens sign up each year.

I have already blocked out my calendar for Peace Camp in 2020. If you live in the Lehigh Valley, consider helping with this worthwhile and fun program.
HUGE thanks to First Presbyterian of Allentown for letting Peace Camp use their facility from the very beginning.

Thursday, July 11, 2019

Phoebe and Her Unicorn - POETRY!!

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I discovered Phoebe and her Unicorn books by Dana Simpson a few weeks ago and I am in huge like with them.  (Sister Ann insisted that people can only love other people, not things.) So I really, really, really like these clever books very much - and a lot.

D LOVES them.  She never met Sister Ann so she's allowed.

I need to share poetry/lyrics written to the tune of Gibert and Sullivan's "I Am the Very Model of a Modern Major General" from Pirates of Penzance.  You can find these lyrics in Volume 2 of Phoebe and her Unicorn or Unicorn on a Roll.   Everything written and drawn in these books is done by Dana Simpson!

"I am the very model of a modern magic unicorn
I've information, magic and I never wear a uniform.
My entrances are heralded by trumpets and a flugelhorn.
I've eaten many bagels and my horn can write in cuneiform.

I make up for my lack of hands with magic ingenuity,
manipulating objects with a startling acuity.*
I'm also rather stunning in a way that's undeniable.
To stare at me in wonder is completely justifiable."

If you are not familiar with Gilbert and Sullivan's song, Veggie Tales does a clever and easy to understand version in this video. Enjoy and admire.

*This rhyme - alone - places Dana Simpson forever in the pantheon of poets I most admire.

Poetry Challenge - Writer's Digest

Poetry is not all that easy.  Some people, Edward Lear, for instance, made rhymes tumble effortlessly.  Poetry is more than rhyme and rhythm. As Karl Shapiro and Robert Beum state at the end of The Prosody Handbook, "...the rhyme exists for the sake of the poem, and not vice versa."

Fitting the poem to a specific poetic form, a couplet or a limerick or a sonnet, in which line length, rhyme scheme and  number of lines are predetermined is akin to solving a puzzle.  We have the idea and the image or emotion and then we find words to fit the poetic form. 

Over on Writer's Digest's Poetic Asides, Robert Lee Brewer has issued a challenge to write zejels!  Until the challenge landed in my inbox, I never even HEARD or zejels.  Brewer gives instructions on how this old Spanish, or perhaps Arabian, poetic form is constructed.  Check out the challenge here.

I love a challenge.  So, here is my entry.  Hopefully, my effort will show up on Poetic Asides someday soon.

Good or bad?

Every time I rip out a weed
I wonder - could it fill a need?
Does a cure hide in leaf or seed?

That discarded stem, root, or flower -
a blot cleared from my garden bower -
might hold calming good health or power
if left in place to spread and breed.

The foragers might find true worth
in these plants I pull from the earth -
oils to sooth or to promote mirth,
or hungry multitudes to feed.

Still I tug and tear, pull, reject
the plants that grow without respect.
There are rules I cannot reject,
that botanists, long gone, decreed.

Karen Maurer
zejel July 11, 2019

Saturday, June 29, 2019

Too much and Rumer Godden

I have been thinking about Rumer Godden's children's book, The Diddakoi.  Kizzy is taken in by a  single woman of just comfortable means when Kizzy's grandmother dies.  Kizzy has to adjust to the lives of "normal" British people after living in a gypsy caravan all of her life.

I don't remember all that much from the book. The woman who took Kizzy in was sensible and kind.  She was also frugal with the money she spent on her young charge. Kizzy had three outfits for school; one to wear, one for the wash, and one, just in case. THAT is the thing that keeps jumping to my mind.

A child doesn't need more than that; I remember that was the argument.  Children grow too quickly to lavish them with clothing they do not need.

As I move through the absolute chaos in my office made of THINGS, THINGS and more THINGS., as I search for that shirt in my closet or attempt to organize my scarves and my costume jewelry, I remember - three outfits; one to wear, one for the wash, one just in case.

Times were simpler then. The Diddakoi was first published in 1958. Clothing was not as cheaply made or readily available. Styles for children did not change rapidly until TV ads hit the airwaves. Hand-me-downs were normal, not a source of shame.

Still, imagine a world where even comfortable people purchased with restraint and used their money for only the things they needed.

The economy might collapse. OR we might find ways to cope with less things in our homes, in our landfills, clogging our waterways, wasting our money and ruining our happiness. We might use our money to fund education, the arts, science and health innovations.  The mind boggles.

One to wear, one for the wash, one just in case.  I'm not brave enough to try it - yet.

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Kevin Henkes and the inevitability of change

I just - JUST- closed Kevin Henkes' book Sweeping Up the Heart, (contented sigh).  So calm, yet so dramatic, I got what I expected from Kevin Henkes, who is one of the best authors and illustrators out there.  Also, rabbits.

I read somewhere that Kevin Henkes - who has written and illustrated lots of books about mice and kittens and rabbits - has taken to sculpting small rabbits from clay.  I can't find that interview so maybe I dreamed it up!  No matter.  Amelia, the hero of this new book, sculpts animals of all kinds and in this book, she concentrates on rabbits.

The book is about emotions, not clay rabbits, - especially the emotions of confusion and sadness.  And the book is about communicating with all kinds of people.  It covers a few days of Spring Break, meeting and making a new kind of friend, seeing adults in new lights, appreciating what has always been and worrying about the future.

The set up is simple. 12-year-old Amelia lives with her father because her mother died when she was only two.  Her father seems uncomfortable in his own skin, perhaps because of this great loss. They are lucky that their neighbor, Mrs. O'Brien, is there for them as housekeeper and friend.

During this Spring Break, Amelia runs to the clay studio, her home away from home, and meets Casey, the studio's owner's 12-year-old nephew! A new friend and a new kind of friend, Casey introduces Amelia to the idea of "signs" and he points out a red-haired woman as a "sign" for Amelia.

This red-haired woman ends up being more important than Casey or Amelia could imagine and not in the ways they both hoped.

Quiet, calm drama - no action scenes, no high-impact blow-ups, pulled me effortlessly along to the last page.  Read it.

I do have afterthoughts.

When I was 12, I had an insight so profound that nothing before in my life prepared me for it. My life was devoid of trauma. The most disrupting thing that ever happened in our life - I mean permanently re-arranging - was the arrival of a new sibling. That happened with such regularity that by 12, I was no longer excited by yet another kid. There were 6 of us by then.

Still, the emotions that Amelia feels; the magical possibilities, the sudden appearance of adults as people with unexpected facets, the realization of change as a constant, - I felt all of those things with aching force.

But without that trauma, or other upsetting traumas, such as moving to a new home, the end of a friendship, a divorce in the family, the death of a beloved older relative, - without a life altering trauma to initiate the plot, can an author write effectively about these emotions? I mean SOMETHING has to happen in the book. Something has to change. Without a missing mother, that red-haired woman would have had little or no significance to Amelia or Casey.

Of course, other things do happen in this book. The sculpted rabbits, the friendship with Casey, Casey's home situation, - in themselves they do not make a compelling story line.  It is that one fact of Amelia's person-hood, her motherless-ness, that moves everything along.

I am sure that someone has written a book that displays this time of change in a pre-teen's life, in a stable family without a huge catastrophe, effectively and well.  And I suspect that I probably read some of those books. Still, a major shake-up grabs the reader's attention.  That is not a bad thing.

A sudden afterthought:  If the reader is a more literal person than I am, will he/she relate to a character whose situation is so very different than his/her own?  Just wondering.

Saturday, June 15, 2019

LBB is ACTUALLY a Squirrel

After I wrote this, I realized that my loyal readers already KNOW some of this stuff - because of LBB's little sister, Snow.  I feel that the subject should be enlarged on because stuffie space travel is a little known and very risky venture.

Little Blue Bunny LOOKS like a bunny.  He hops like a bunny.  He chews on things - just like a bunny but, really, he's a squirrel.

How this happened is a little known phenomenon of stuffie space travel.

Nutsa and Acornio Acorn, Little Blue Bunny's parents, are Stuffie-World Renowned Astrosquirrels.  They have explored the planets of Bunnyvania and Foxler.  Their next mission might be to the underwater world of Oceanslovakia.  Not right now, though. Nutsa is expecting child number ??.  I lost count after Foxleer - he's soooo cute!

Nutsa took the first trip by an expectant squirrel mother to Bunnyvania - EVER.   Space travel can effect things like being pregnant, so Nutsa ended up giving birth to Little Blue Bunny on Bunnyvania.  She was not due to have her squirrelkin for several days.
It was a Universe-shaking event because this had never happened.  And when Little Blue Bunny was born, well, his parents were very, very surprised.  They were so surprised they insisted on tests to make sure they got the right baby.

They found out that Bunnyvania's atmosphere has a strange effect on unborn babies.  If the space-traveling mother is not inoculated before entering Bunnyvania's atmosphere, the child will look and act just like a bunny.  Every. Single. Time.

Here's the thing.  No one, not even the residents of Bunnyvania knew this.  Bunnyvania has other creatures living on it - not just bunnies.  Their offspring look like the parents.  They must have some kind of inborn resistance to the bunny-shaping atmosphere.

Until the Acorn family made medical AND space travel history, no one knew of this odd result of entering Bunnyvania's atmosphere.

Soon after Little Blue Bunny's birth, Nutsa and Acornio went to the planet Foxler, and wouldn't you know it?  Foxler has the exact same problem with the atmosphere.  That's why Felina Fairyfox is a member of the Acorn family.  The latest member of the Acorn family is Foxleer, a cute little fox boy - see his photo above.  I think that Nutsa should give up space travel and concentrate on fashion design.

And don't forget that about a year ago, Snow was born on Bunnyvania, too.

Nutsa is actually expecting another baby.  D held a "gender reveal" party two weeks or so ago and the baby is a girl.  (Sigh).  Also, the baby will be born at home so, no surprises there.  D let the twins, Chester and Pinella, pop the balloons to discover the baby's gender.  (I should probably say "birth gender" since gender is more than just anatomy.)

Needless to say, with her previous experiences of traveling to other planets while expecting, Nutsa does NOT want to deliver her little girl early on an underwater planet - just in case.

I never knew that stuffed animals - oh wait, Nutsa is actually made of terra cotta - anyway, I never knew toy animals could have such colorful secret lives.

What the heck is going on HERE???

Friday, June 7, 2019

Nuruture Nature (sigh) Again

So, we performed our pieces three times - once at the opening, once again in January where the performances were videoed and yet again this Spring individually - for a more professional audio.

Here is the video of the second performance.  I was so nervous and you can tell in my singing.  But Andrei supported me like a trooper.

I try.  I do.  I'm happy that there is probably a better audio out there of both the speech and the song.

Visit Nuture Nature Center of Easton's YouTube channel to watch the other poets and speakers.  They are wonderful.

Thank you.

#oops, #voicelessonsneeded

Friday, May 31, 2019

New Kid

I have an overdue library book on my nightstand.

I have no book to read right now - no book that appeals to me.

I don't even want to TALK about books right now but...

I read this book this week.  It kept me up - because I had to finish it.  It is a bright read!  That's my new word for books I thoroughly enjoy that light me up - teach me new ways to look at the world!

New Kid by Jerry Craft

I give it five stars.

The trailer tells you the basics.  The book cartwheels a few sterotypes and schools some "well-meaning" teachers.  Humor and Jordan's grandfather's wisdom often save the day.

Backson. Bisy. KM


Monday, May 27, 2019

New YA from Penguin Random House

I got this in my inbox today - a list of new YA from Penguin Random House.

The list has fantasy, thrillers, romance, suspense - you know easy reading for lazy days.

I am very interested in THIS title; Spin the Dawn by Elizabeth Lim.  It has fashion and feminism and fantasy and weaving cloth from starlight. 

Which of these books would YOU read?

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

The Best Time of the Day

I started to read to my collection of stuffies at bedtime about a month ago.

No matter how filled with self doubt, worry, sadness or stress I might be at bedtime - or even just plain tiredness - when I crack open one of my favorite story collections, it washes away.

I miss sharing these words with a small human.  My small human towers over me now.  And he only lends me his small human for overnights occasionally. For now, my stuffed animal friends, some of my own making, will do nicely.

Last night, we all enjoyed a lively reading of In Which Piglet Is Entirely Surrounded by Water.  Milne's run-on sentence at the end had the same soporific effect on me that Owl's story had on Piglet.  I pulled myself back just in time to save Piglet from slipping into the flood.

Uncle Wiggily, My Book House,  Hans Christian Andersen, the fairy tales of Oscar Wilde, and best of all, the stories of Pooh and Piglet and Christopher Robin, are all reminders that imagination rules.

Our imaginations, or MY imagination, can draw pictures of drastic events foreshadowed by the day's stresses.  Can I ever unearth my desk?  And if I don't, will bills go unpaid?  And if they do go unpaid, will I get into debt?  And if I... and those are not even big worries, like saving the world from climate change, or reuniting children with their parents.

Nurse Jane Fuzzy Wuzzy just sends Uncle Wiggily on an errand and, voila!, all is right with the world.

Hearing the words, as I look at Howard Garis' drawings with Felina FairyFox and Nutty Romomlia, - it's a time machine, a voyage into innocence.

It is the best time of my day.

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Magic for Liars

We sailed away for a week. Here is one of the books I read at sea.

Magic for Liars by Sarah Gailey.  Not for the squeamish at all!  Ivy is a private investigator and completely devoid of any magical talent.  When an "accidental death" occurs at the private school for magical teens, Ivy is called in.  Her twin sister teaches at the school. 
To "fit in", Ivy lets the students and teachers believe that she has some magical talent.  That is her first lie.

My take?  I knew who was responsible for the death fairly early in the novel and could not resist skipping to the end to see if I was right.  What I discovered was not what I expected, so I backtracked and read the whole book.  This is a book that is steeped in family tensions, envy, and a studied lack of envy.  There are two sets of siblings that take center stage in this book.  The teen siblings are wonderfully portrayed . all the drama, posturing, insecurities of that stage of life are writ large.

This book is intended for adults.  Older teens will enjoy the teen drama and a chance to view tmselves as an outsider might.  It's a good mystery, too. (I read the ARC.)

Magic for Liars

Sunday, April 28, 2019

PW's Middle grade booklist

Are you looking for new highly illustrated novels or non-fiction for your middle grade readers? Or titles about kids with physical challenges or learning differences?  The reviewers at Publisher's Weekly have your back.  A couple of weeks ago, they published an annotated booklist of books for the ever popular Middle School crowd - or ages 10 through 14 - that highlighted graphic novels, illustrated novels and the subjects of LGBTQIA+, physical challenges, such as failing eyesight or prosthetic limbs, and neurodiversity - think organic differences in perceiving the world or learning abilities.

Popular authors, such as former National Ambassador for Children's Literature, Jon Scieszka, best seller, Jeff Kinney, appear on this list.  James Patterson teams up with none other than Chris Grabenstein, of Mr. Lemoncello's Library, to introduce a rivalry between two mainstays of the pet world.

Check the titles out here.

The list is pretty awesome.

Monday, April 22, 2019

Earth Day and Make-it, Do-it Monday

Today is Earth Day!  For Earth Day, I hung out wash - even though the sky is GRAY!.  It is recycling day in our neighborhood - so, we recycled two big bins of stuff.

If the weather holds, I will walk around the block and pick up garbage. 

The Earth will survive Global Warming.  Humans will NOT survive.  We talk about "saving the Earth".  What we really mean is "saving our home, our children's home, THEIR children's home"...into perpetuity.   Maybe, if we re-frame the discussion, more people will listen.

Wash Day, Recycling Day, Earth Day and Make-It, Do-It Monday.

The Cardboard Kingdom by Chad Sell, et al.  This graphic novel follows a neighborhood of children who use cardboard boxes to create costumes, castles, hide-outs and more.  What a cool idea!  I like the story line idea to introduce a crafting project.  The Bethlehem Area Public Library (I linked to their listing for this book instead of the publisher or Goodreads), puts this book in non-fiction!

TRASH CRATES - an idea whose time has come!  Awhile back ,D and I tried to start a "subscription" crate.  We loaded a shoe box with junk and made a video.  Later, I made this little video about some of the items in that Trash Crate.  (BTW, Trash Crate is my intellectual property.  If you have the wherewithal to actually create this Crate subscription, please contact me about using this idea. )

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

What THEY Read


This list is so cool.  I asked the people sitting around the table at the Grade 5 and up Book Review session at the Kutztown University Children's Literture Conference (henceforth referred to a KUCLC) to write down the best book for children and Young Adults that they read in the past year.  I did not care if the book was a 2018/2019 copyright.  I wanted to know what books excited them in the past year.

The result is a marvelous list of recent and classic titles for children, teens AND adults.  I know you will approve.

Two of the books were from my review.  I will post this year's book list in the Lists section of  this blog or or check it out here.
Thanks to Nancy Mikitka for this photo of me holding up a book and talking, talking, talking...

Attendees Best Books 2018

This year I asked attendees to note the best book they read in the past year with only one restriction.  The books could be from any year but they had to be books for young people.  (Silly me!  ALL books are for young readers.)
Here are their choices.

Refugee by Alan Gratz. Scholastic, 2017.0545880831 (ISBN13: 9780545880831)
Gratz follows a Jewish boy from the 1930s, a Cuban girl from the 1990s, and a Syrian boy from 2015 as they and their families flee violence and deprivation. MG, YA, historical fiction, immigration, refugees, war
This book was mentioned twice!

Making Bombs for Hitler by Marsha Forchuk Skrypuch. Scholastic, 2017.1338170759 (ISBN13: 9781338170757)
Lida is forced to make bombs for the Nazis after she is sent to the camps.  But can she sabotage those bombs? MG, historical fiction, suspense, concentration camps

The Prince and the Dressmaker by Jen Wang. First Second, 2018. 1250159857 (ISBN13: 9781250159854)
A Prince, who secretly wears dresses, trusts this all-important secret to the dressmaker, his best friend.  Her dilemma is that she wants her creations to be seen and admired.  What is a designer to do?  This book received a lot of attention and several awards. YA, MG, gender identity, cross dressing, fashion, secrets, friendship, LGBTQIA, graphic novel

Sweep: The Story of a Girl and her Monster by Jonathan Auxier.  This book made my list so check the Booklist for details.  AWESOME!

Poisoned Apple by Katherine McIntyre. Decadent Publishing, 2015. 9781613337837
Neve’s stepmother tosses her to the curb when Neve turns 18. Neve’s father abandoned her when he found his true love, another man. Now Neve wonders if her bad luck is her own fault.
YA, abandonment, fairy tale, stepparents, LGBTQ+, depression, mental illness

Check, please! by Ngozi Ukazu (#Hockey vol. 1-2). First Second, 2018. 250177952 (ISBN13: 9781250177957)
The hero is a champion skater, a pastry chef and the freshman player on his college’s hockey team.  Hockey’s practice of checking is a whole new concept.  And his team captain?  WOW!
YA, graphic novel, hockey, LGBTQ+

Dig by A. S. King. Dutton Books for Young Readers, 2019. 1101994916 (ISBN13: 9781101994917)
The Hemmings grandparents left behind their potato farm to become land developers so that their children and grandchildren could “thrive”.  Five teenagers come together from terribly tangled backgrounds - poverty, Flea Circus? cancer treatments, eager-to-please, Pine Barrens.  Is this what thriving looks like?  A. S. King’s books are hard to describe. YA, mental health, poverty, wealth, family,

Circle of Friends  This is all the notation said.
 I found Circle of Friends by Maeve Binchy. Adult
 And a series by Mary Jo Putney Adult
 and a graphic novel series about teens by Sean McKeever, Takeshi Miyazawa and Norman Lee (Marvel Comics). YA, MG, superheroes, Marvel Comics
 AND a wordless picture book by Giori Carmi All ages, kindness, pay it forward

Symphony for the City of the Dead: Dmitri Shostakovich and the siege of Leningrad  by M.T. Anderson. Candlewick, 2015. 763668184 (ISBN13: 9780763668181)
“Absolutely loved this YA non-fiction book. It’s impossible not to cry while listening to Shostakovich’s 7th symphony- the “Leningrad symphony” - after hearing about everything the people of Leningrad suffered during (& before) WWII and the brave performance of the symphony in the city on the dat that Hitler claimed he would be celebrating their defeat.” KUCLC attendee. YA, non-fiction, history, WWII, music, Shostakovich, Leningrad, Hitler

Feed by M. T. Anderson. Candlewick, 2004. 0763622591 (ISBN13: 9780763622596)
“A dystopian Future Society. High School students have an Internet “Feed” implanted and have constant access to the Internet. It does not end well.” KUCLC attendee YA, future, sci-fi, Internet, dystopia

Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time Indian by Sherman Alexie. Little Brown Young Readers, 2007.  0316013684 (ISBN13: 9780316013680)
Semi-autobiographical account of a Native American teen who transfers to a “white” high school in order to improve his chances at success in the larger world. YA, cartooning, memoir, Native American, fiction,

Aru Shah - that’s all the notation says BUT I gave attendees a chance to pick their favorites from the listed books and the first book in this series is on the list.  Check The Booklist for more details.

Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card. Tor, 1994 (first published in 1985). 0812550706 (ISBN13: 9780812550702)

Andrew Ender plays video games for the government.  Little does he know that he is engaged in something far more desperate.  His older brothers vie for the power that Ender seems to wield in this first entry in the Ender’s Saga series. YA, adult, science fiction, classic, interplanetary conflict

Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins.  Scholastic, 2008. 0439023483 (ISBN13: 9780439023481)

When Katniss’s younger sister’s name is pulled out of the hat as a candidate for the Hunger Games, Katniss takes her place.  The Hunger Games are a yearly punishment for the outlying territories that dared to rebel against the government.  Every year, a candidate from each territory fights to the death with the other candidates in a televised competition. YA, science fiction, dystopia, survival, battles, books into movies.

Wonder by R. J. Palacio. Knopf, 2012. 978-0-375-86902-0 (0-375-86902-6)
After being homeschooled for five years to accommodate the surgeries on his malformed face and skull, Auggie finally enters a private school in New York City. The school is proud to have him and make sure that all the students treat him with acceptance and respect.  But how do the other kids in Auggie’s class really feel?  This book has helped feed the burgeoning movement toward kindness. MG, Elementary, diversity, different abilities, birth defects, kindness, acceptance, appearance

Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut. Dial Press, 1999 (originally published in 1969).
Billy Pilgrim discovers that time is constantly re-occurring in this anti-war book by one of the most important American authors of the 20th century.  The book was inspired by the firebombing of Dresden in WWII.  It introduced the fictional writer, Kilgore Trout, and a planet called Tralfamdore and the mantra “So it goes?” The book needs to be read to be understood. Adult, YA, anti-war, pacifist, science fiction, time travel, social commentary.


I will soon post my book list from last weekend's Kutztown University Children's Literature Conference.  While you wait here is my Addendum.  It is short.  One title is repeated her, even though it is on my list, because I can't stop thinking about it.

KU 2019 addendum

Here are a few more titles to consider, in no particular order.

Sal & Gabi Break the Universe by Carlos Hernandez. Disney Hyperion, 2019. 9781368022828 1368022820.  Sal learns to meditate to deal with the loss of his mother.  But he takes his practice a little too far, meditating things into existence. MG, grief, meditation, sci-fi, Rick Riordan presents, mythology, Cuban culture

The Waning Age by S. E. Grove. Viking, 2019. 9780451479853.  Emotions disappear by the time a person is a teenager. But Natalia still loves her little brother fiercely.  When he is kidnapped by a Big Brother-type organization, Natalia does everything to save him. YA, dystopian, future, sci-fi, kidnapping, emotions, love

Fear of Missing Out by Kate McGovern. Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2019.9780374305475 0374305471. When her brain cancer returns, Astrid goes on a road trip to find out if cryopreservation could give her a chance to experience a full life. YA, fatal illness, cancer, cryopreservation, road trips

The Stone Girl’s Story by Sarah Beth Durst. Clarion, 2018. 1328729451 (ISBN13: 9781328729453)
The marks carved on Mayka’s stone body are fading. Mayka tries to find a human stone carver to sharpen those marks and the marks on her friends. But can human stone carvers be trusted? MG, fantasy, trust, future, self-realization, adventure

*****We’re Not From Here by Geoff Rodkey. Crown Book for Young Readers, 2019. 9781524773050.
After 20 years of suspended life support travel, human refugees arrive at the only planet that will support them. The sentient races that welcomed them 20 years before no longer want them. Only one family is allowed to live on the planet in an attempt to change the minds of the ruling party. MG, sci-fi, immigration, prejudice, assimilation, humor, emotions

The Line Tender by Kate Allen. Penguin Young Readers Group, 2019.  9780735231603 0735231605
 Lucy’s mother died while researching the sharks she loved so much. Five years later, a Great White shows up off the coast of Cape Cod. Lucy throws herself into solving the mystery of why the Great White is there, pulling together a trio of mismatched friends to help her. MG, grief, ecology, sharks, ocean

Monday, April 15, 2019

Make-It, Do-It Monday

NEW FEATURE! Because all 12 of my regular readers need a new feature, I am introducing Make-It, Do-It Mondays. Once a month, I will feature books that encourage young readers and grown-ups to make things and to do things - not just read. (BTW, if YOU follow me maybe someday I'll have 36 regular readers or even more.  Just saying.)

Luckily, Brightly has offered a page of great activity books to help in my effort.  Here's the link.

Nice, huh!

My favorite make-it, do-it book is a book that I can't find anywhere.  I have forgotten the title and the author and I gave it away to someone with small children.  What was I thinking?  The title was something along the lines of "365 Things to Do with Children".  I am positive the author was Virginia Johnson but the book doesn't even come up when I look on the Library of Congress' website.  NOOOOOOO!!!  I know I will search again.

Then, there are books by Steven Caney.
I used Steven Caney's Toy Book with my son - who is a Bicentennial baby.  So, these books have been around a long time.  The black and white photos show children with unkempt hair, "play clothes", (remember play clothes, anyone?) and 70s hippy-ish expressions.

Caney's other books include:
Steven Caney's Play Book
Steven Caney's Invention Book
Steven Caney's Kids' America 


****By the way, wherever possible I will link to WorldCat from now on.  Independent booksellers have requested that bloggers avoid linking to Amazon and Goodreads is an Amazon affiliate.


Friday, April 12, 2019

15 Things I Might Never Have to Do Again

If tomorrows' Grade 5 and up book review session at the Kutztown University Children's Literature Conference, #KULITCONFERENCE, should be my LAST book review session, here is a list of things I will no longer have to do:

1. Enter every single chance to win YA and Middle Grade advanced reader's copies, paper or digital.

2. Get and attempt to read 4 to 7 enewsletters or blog posts that each include four or more book reviews EVERY SINGLE DAY, five days a week - and a few on weekends.

3. Save all the bi-weekly newsletters because I don't have the time to read them all the way through.

4.  Make sure I save every single book review I see on FB, Twitter and Instagram.

5. Visit Goodreads daily to make sure that my reading goal is being met.
   5 a. Make sure I steal my Goodread friends' recommendations.

6. Read the YA dystopian books that are the "groundbreaking" novels that all sound like last year's "earth-shattering" books. (Alas, sometimes they are so very similar.) (Also, girls with sharp things books.)

7. Run out of tissues when another middle grade novel discusses the loss of a much loved (Insert your favorite here), pet, friend, parent, author, imaginary buddy, grandparent, sibling, neighbor, bus driver, teacher, fantastic animal, superhero actor that the main character always hoped to meet, bicycle, other.

8. Discover that at least TWO new MG novels are about people "Destroying the Universe" and wondering how that happened.

9. Read proof, through current non-fiction, that people treat each other horribly for the most trivial of reasons.

10.  Occasionally laugh til I cry, or vice versa, at MG stories about middle school kids dealing with middle school (insert you favorite here), bullies, retiring teachers, Safety Drills, science fair contests, band practices, talent shows, school council elections, hair raising hijinks, ridiculous rules, cafeteria food, other.

11. Struggle through the "NEXT Harry Potter" OR "For readers who LOVED Harry Potter" offerings three times a year.

12. Groan out loud when another teenager chooses to do the WRONG things for the right reasons or the WRONG thing for the wrong reasons just to make sure the book doesn't end too soon.

13. Skip the third quarter of the book because I am pretty sure I know what kind of thing will happen and then discovering I was right.

14. Stay up ALL NIGHT because THIS book is so awesome I can't stop reading.

15.  Find a book I would never have picked up, if I didn't have to read it for a book review session and reading it THREE times because it is so good.

If this IS my last book review session - (I'll let you know on Monday) - it was worth every minute over the last decade - or more. I lost count.


Saturday, April 6, 2019

OH! So CUTE!!!

From Vera Brosgol, the graphic novelist, comes this so adorable picture book about the strength of sharing.

Friday, April 5, 2019

ABRAMS KIDS! You are awesome!

So, I ask publishers for a few books to hand out to the teachers and librarians who come to my book review session at the Kutztown University Children's Literature Conference.  And Abrams Kids ALWAYS sends me a carton or two of ARCs.  I've gotten books from Candlewick and Chronicle and Holiday House in the past and Toon books sent me a few titles - (not this year though).   Publishers are wonderful that way.

BUT this year, ABRAMS KIDS sent me THIRTEEN cartons of books.  So, sign up already.  Get your free books.  Load up your Summer Reading Club giveaway shelf.  Give new and upcoming titles to your teen book club.

The Kutztown University Children's Literature Conference is a TREASURE.  Also, Duncan Tonatiuh will be there! Andrea Warren, Brendan Wenzel and Marc Tyler Nobleman, too.

#books4kids, #KUchildren'slitcon, #freebooks

Friday, March 22, 2019

Ronan boyle - Harry Potter/Artemis Fowl??

Does this look like a mashup?  I plan to read it because - well, leprechauns and Tir Na Og!

Click through the the website.  You can get a leprechaun name, should you so desire.  Also, watch a trailer. 

It reminds me very much of the announcements that came with Artemis Fowl - the nemesis of leprechauns all over the world.  Ronan's cadet-ish-ness makes me think of young Harry swept off to Hogwarts.  With predecessors like those, this book has a very good chance of success!

Thursday, March 21, 2019

Butterfly Wings - almost a year late

I wrote this post back in May 2018, and never posted it because I was called away.  Every news cycle makes the theme of this post more and more relevant.

Kindness - once a virtue that everyone tried to emulate, kindness appears to be the exception.  It doesn't get attention, or bring in the big bucks.  So, authors jump into the void and provide books that make kindness the answer to our problems.

Together at Midnight by Jennifer Castle follows two teens who witnessed an accident and felt that they might have intervened in time to stop it.  Challenged by a waitress to complete a certain number of kind acts by midnight on New Year's Eve, the teens do the best they can.  Each kindness is followed by a chapter detailing the recipient's story.

Captain Superlative by J.S. Pullar. A mysterious student dons a costume - including a cape - and races through the halls of a middle school doing good deeds.  When shy Janey follows suit, the "hero" gains an unlikely sidekick.

One of the biggest kindnesses is adoption - opening your home to a stranger's child - like the kindness in this post's featured book.

If Only by Jennifer Gilmore - when Ivy's mother was Ivy's age, she had Ivy.  Then, she tried to find the best adoptive family for Ivy.  This book tells of Bridget's choices in finding a home for her child, and it tells of Ivy's search for her birth mother.

That brings me to my story:
17 years ago, my brother and his wife adopted a little boy.  I remember my first meeting with him - a wispy haired whirlwind of laughter and madness - tearing around their rented home in his diaper.  Madcap, unpredictable, he made his parents so happy.

 They knew that he might have serious learning disabilities.  They did not care.  As he grew, they met each challenge with all the determination of Mama and Papa Bear.

He had attention issues and was VERY hyperactive.  Spending time with him was hilarious and frustratingly tiring.  

When he entered High School, they discovered that the private school education - a great school, known for its work with learning disabilities - had not taken hold.  They had two choices; place him in special education or find another specialized school.

They sent him away to the Gow School in South Wales, NY.  On Friday, he graduated from Gow, with an acceptance to college.

In If Only, the teenage daughter wonders if she is the best possible version of herself.  The book records her teenaged mother's attempt to find the perfect adoptive family for her baby.  Each "possible" family is given a chapter.

If my brother and sister-in-law had not adopted their son, would he be a different version of himself?

All I can be sure of is this.  Watching my nephew graduate made me proud.  The speeches that he and his classmates had to give before they got their diplomas told similar stories.  Before they got to that school, many had been told they would never graduate, never go to college, never amount to much at all.

My nephew is lucky to have parents who were willing to put their financial security at risk to educate him.  The world would be so much better if all students had this kind of support.

Kindness - big, small and in between - is always the right choice.

PS.  He finishes his first year of college in May.  He has done very well.

Monday, March 18, 2019

10 Ways to Open a Chapter

LBB wants to add "Things I Am Sorry I Did" to the chapters in HIS book.
The trend to open each chapter in a novel with something only tangentially related to the action or to the main characters is spreading like wildfire.

In the past, this was a rarely used technique to grab readers' attention.  Now, those tidbits increase readers' understanding of the characters, the action, even the tensions in the novel.

These "starts" are different from the titles, or warnings, that 19th century authors placed at the beginning of each chapter...i.e., "In which Miss Irmegarde Discovers the Truth of her Heritage and We visit a Country Church."

Here are some of the items that might run across the top of each chapter heading:

1.  Odd Facts:  If the book is about sailing, or mountains, or the sea, these odd facts may reflect that.  In You Go First, Charlotte's chapters are headed by odd facts that distracted her. In Honeybees and Frenemies, the facts seem to be about bees.  Makes sense.

2. Journal entries.  These can be tongue-in-cheek - or sketchy reflections of much more detailed events, then chronicled in the chapter.  OR entries from someone else's journal that mirrors or widely differs from the main character's experience.

3. Snippets of poems or songs.

4.  Advice from old books or advice columnists, real or imagined.

5. Items from a list - any list at all;  grocery list, To Do list, list of real or imaginary animals,  places to visit, skills to learn, etc.

6. Observations from a case study - awesome if the book is about illness of any kind - or about an exploration.

7. Recipes - or the beginnings of recipes.

8.  Quotes from manuals or directions -

9. Rules from games, or codes of conduct.

10. Dates of events, real or imagined.

To be honest, I LIKE these openings.  I sometimes like them as much as the book itself.

Look around for these clever hooks.  How do you feel about this trend?

Thursday, March 14, 2019

You Go First

Books that portray outcasts in middle school and the mocking they undergo give me the heeby jeebies.  If I was in 4th grade and grabbed one of these books, I'd try to convince my parents to homeschool me, especially if I was just a teensy bit different  from the other kids.

Today, as I read You Go First by Erin Entrada Kelly, I had a disturbing thought. What if a reader wanted to avoid being the victim; would the reader be tempted to copy the behavior of the "cooler" kids in this book? I hope not.

Ben Boxer and Charlotte Lock have only one connection; they play Scrabble online and vie with one another for top billing.

In their separate lives, they share more than they know.  Their family lives suddenly become very complicated. Charlotte's father has a heart attack. Ben's parents announce their divorce. When Ben gets this news, he realizes that he has no one he can call. Friends from elementary school have pulled away from him. So, he calls Charlotte, or Lottie. Instead of sharing his upsetting news, Ben announces that he plans to run for student council.

There's the set up. Charlotte and Ben are both Talented and Gifted (TAG). Why this marks them as peculiar has never made sense to me, but it does. (This might be why I get the heebie jeebies.) In alternating chapters, we watch Charlotte and Ben make their way through changes and challenges. Ben runs for student council and is mocked and bullied at every turn. Charlotte's best friend has tired of Charlotte and Charlotte is set adrift.

On the phone, to each other, Charlotte and Ben are in control and doing well. In their "real" lives, they find new connections. They survive.

The way Ben follows his own campaign, the way Charlotte hides her pain, make me proud of these kids and this author. Let's face it.  There are dozens of pitfalls ahead of every middle schooler. Some are dramatic, such as public embarassment, harassment and bullying.  Others are simply painful, the way friendships end, for instance. Books that let readers know that there is hope, life goes on, in engaging ways, - those books are gold.

This is one of those books.

Wednesday, March 13, 2019


Just one excellent book!

History, entomology, butterflies!!! The book chronicles the triumph of a driven woman in an era when women had little power and were given even less opportunities for recognition.

The butterflies, foliage and creatures on this cover were painted by the subject of the book, Maria Merian.  Her observations and art work helped scientists understand the process by which flying insects develop.  She painted, worked, and researched in the mid 1600s.

I do wonder if Merian would have been as successful if she had been born outside of the Netherlands.  Just a thought.   That part of the world had more enlightened laws when it came to women, their rights to property and business, their ability to travel and achieve.

I truly appreciate Joyce Sidman's poetry and authorship.  In this book, she leaves poetry behind, except in the lyricism of her narration, in preference to facts.  The illustrations are archival drawings of the era OR Merian's artwork. 

This book is beautiful.  Offer it to your young person.  Let them flip through it at leisure.