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.


Saturday, March 9, 2019


(I started a Mucus Journal on Facebook around day #6 of my head cold. It is Day #10 and here are some of the highlights of my Mucus Journal.

        The mucus in my airways sounds like the creaking rig on a sailing ship.

        There is no commercial use for human mucus.  I checked.

         Some nasal sprays are miraculously effective - also addictive.

         Washing dishes by hand can loosen up your sinuses.  Also, eat hot sauce!

You. Are. Welcome.)

Even though both Gramps and I compete for the stuffiest nose prize, D came for a few hours last night. And you won't believe what happened.

The evening started with a few hands of poker. Little Blue Bunny won the first two hands and D got bored. So we threw all the red buttons in the pot and played one last hand. D won!! And there was NO CHEATING by anyone. Not even the dealer, who was Gramps.

(In the following true account, I will designate who came up with different plot points in this way: One asterisk means that D came up with the idea. Two asterisks are Nana ideas. Three asterisks are combination ideas.
A sad, sad day for the Acorn family.  More below.

Suddenly, we discovered that Little Blue Bunny had a terrible illness. Scarlet Fever*. I looked and he had a decidedly purplish cast to his skin - because scarlet and blue mixed together make...purple.

He had to go into quarantine which D did not know about yet - so another part of her medical education has been achieved. But before he even had a chance to get medication, he developed appendicitis***. (D wanted to operate. I suggested appendicitis.)

We had to operate, and quickly, so we both donned masks, (I wore one for most of the evening anyway.) And we operated and sent Little Blue Bunny to the Recovery Room.
Can you see his stitches?  I can't and I put them in.

He was quarantined there as well and his family could not come to see him.

Well, I had to tell the absolutely TRUE story about my little sister, Heidi.  When she was a toddler - no older than 2 and probably younger - she developed a dangerously high fever and went to the hospital. The doctors and nurses told my Mom and Dad that they could NOT visit Heidi in the hospital. So for that whole week and a half, my Mom drove to the parking lot outside the Children's Ward window, every day, and the nurse brought Heidi to the window. That was the only contact my Mom was allowed. One day, we all went. I remember standing in the parking lot and waving up at the windows on the third or fourth floor. (I was around 6.) I couldn't see that Heidi was there at all, just a curtain twitching and the nurse's hand. Heidi DID survive. She lives in Texas. I miss her.

"Well," D announced. "This is long ago times, like that."

Nutty Romomlia sneaked into the Recovery Room and got quarantined as well. Mr. and Mrs. Acorn could not see TWO of their children.

I needed a break so we did "Art Therapy" with some paint. Little Blue Bunny sneaked down to the art room to help.

During one of my bathroom and annoying cough breaks, D discovered something very distressing.

"Little Blue Bunny's Great Grandfather just died! We have to have a funeral*!"

Oh no! "How? Where? Who?" I stuttered. "I know. He was playing golf and the human golfers ran over him with a golf cart.**"

D laughed. Gramps came out to see what the noise was about and said, "I hate it when grandfathers die."

"GREAT grandfather!" D assured Gramps.

We found out that Great Grampsie's name was Squirilo (Squih -rill-oh) Acorn. He was born in 1927 so he was 91 when he died.  That was some impressive math, actually.

I don't have another squirrel toy to use as Squirilo but D assured me that we did not need one. On the side table, in the living room, she had already set a small black chest between two battery operated candles*. That's the photo at the top of this post and to the right.
Looks like a casket to me!

We found fake flowers and some pine cones and made an arrangement.  And she printed out a memorial stone.*** (Her words, my styrofoam tray.)
The family gathered with crying all around. Everyone had kind words to say about Great Grampsie. Each family member broke into tears while they extolled his gentleness, his funny ways, his golfing skills and his pranks.

At one point, D wanted us all to turn our backs to the casket and throw flowers over our shoulders*. I got confused. "So the one who gets their flower nearest the casket is the next person to have a funeral?"

D explained that it was a way to determine who got to kiss the casket first at the end of the funeral.*

Oh!  Okaaaayyy!

Then Big Grey Rabbit showed up. He told stories about his school days with Squirilo that made Squirilo sound awful. Lila, the teenage daughter, told Great Grampsie's version of these stories but Big Grey Rabbit (BGR) persisted. Nutsa Acorn was so upset that anyone would malign her grandfather-in-law at his own funeral.

D to the rescue. She pulled out her Orb of Truth*. She spun around, and there, on the orb, we could all see each event just as it happened.

Squirilo was not an angel.  HE DID play a mean prank on his best friend, Squirellarry.  Squirilo did a wintery version of the banana peel on the sidewalk prank.  Squirellary slipped and fell on the hard sidewalk - NOT into the snowbank.  Squirellary sprained his wrist.**

Squirilo was so upset.  He thought his friend would fall into the snow.  He did not think before he played this prank.  He offered to carry all of Squirellarry's books until the wrist healed and he shoveled the snow at the Squirellary household for the rest of the winter.  He did the lawn that summer, too.** The two squirrels remained fast friends their entire lives, even when Squirellary became the Mayor of the United States of Stuffies.*

BUT BGR said that Squirilo laughed and laughed and ran away. The Orb of Truth showed all. BGR laughed and laughed when Squirellarry came to school with a hurt wrist. Then, BGR played the same mean trick on Old Man Chipmunk - but Old Man Chipmunk caught BGR and never got hurt.  Thank goodness**.

(I could use an Orb of Truth. Just saying.)

Meanwhile, Stripe, the Green Rabbit, showed up. He went to school with Nutsa and he always wanted to date her. Stripe is magical* and has lived for almost 200 years*. He was born in the 1800s*. He also knew Squirilo. He said that Squirilo was the reason he, Stripe, became a Bad Guy**.  Not true. But Stripe hypnotized Lila into believing Stripe's stories. He also hypnotized Lila into thinking she wanted to marry Stripe.*
He's a bad one, that Stripe!

"NO!!! NO! No weddings! We have had illness, an operation, family separation, a death, a funeral and horrible lies.  NO WEDDINGS**!"  I dissolved into a coughing fit at this point.

OK. No weddings.  Lila was hypnotized into believing that she wanted to marry Stripe when she got old enough. Her father, Acornio Acorn had to unhypnotize her**. Stripe hypnotized her again*. Only D could help her.*

D explained that she, too, was magical and that SHE had been born in the 1700s so she knew a thing or two about Bad Guys*.  Also, I was magical and I had been born in the 1500s*.  (Thanks a lot!  I am not that old!)

There was a lot of to and fro-ing between Nutsa, Stripe, Acornio, D, and Lila and, quite frankly, I had story-creating-overload at this point. I actually forget what happened next but I know we decided that BGR - who ended up in the accordion case - could not be in the same prison as Stripe since they planned escapes together**.

Oh, I FORGOT about how we played music for the funeral. D played "Fur Elise" on the piano. (It sounds just like Fur Elise - although it's a simplified version her teacher found.) I played a song that Squirilo wrote on the accordion. He was a wonderful accordionist**. Also I played some songs that D knew so she could sing along.
My accordion, not Squirilo's.

I also forgot that Stripe hypnotized Lila into playing an awful prank on D and me. He had Lila put pepper in the cinnamon sugar jar so that D's cinnamon toast would be all peppery**. (I have to find pranks that are surprising but not actually dangerous, especially after falling down prank which could be very dangerous.) Don't worry. D smelled the pepper and only took a tiny bite. She had to drink a lot of water (Not really. Also, we did not really put pepper in the cinnamon sugar jar.)

It was almost time for Mommy to come and take D home to bed. We went up to the bedroom for a quick storybook reading. I think D did not know just how tired she was.

Mommy came and D went home to bed. And it took me less than 10 minutes to fall asleep after I went to bed.

May our adventures with the Stuffies continue for a long time, especially with the Bunny of Blue Persuasion as Gramps likes to call him. Love to D, to Little Blue Bunny, to Gramps, to Mommy and Daddy and to all of you. (Also to MY Mom and all my siblings, especially Heidi because part of her story was told last night.)

Back in the arms of his family.

Friday, March 1, 2019

Read Across America Day

 Everyday should be Read Across America Day.  The special events calendars list March 1st as that very special day.

The SAG-AFTRA Foundation enlists screen and theater performers in reading picture books.  Then they post these readings online.  For Free.  Is that the most wonderful thing?  Hint: the answer is YES.

Click here to scroll through the Storytime Online library of read aloud videos.  Classics from long ago are mixed in with the best picture books of the day.

Like this one:  Harry, the Dirty Dog by Gene Zion, read by Betty White.

Thursday, February 28, 2019

Good grief

Book - The Wind Blew by Pat Hutchins 

The wind BLEW on Monday.  It reminded me of the picture book (The Wind Blew) by Pat Hutchins. The night before, recycling bins all up and down our street gave up their contents to the howling gales. Cans, plastic lids and newspapers shuffled and tap danced up and down the sidewalks all night long.

On Monday, the sky was bright.  The sun shone. So we, D and I, took Little Blue Bunny to the playground for an ordinary windy day adventure.

UNTIL...I, known as Nana, suddenly felt years younger than I am and tried to dismount the climbing tower via the monkey bars. I landed on my face. For a second, I worried that my glasses had been crunched. No, they were fine. Then, I worried that my nose was going to bleed. No, that didn't happen either. I managed to pick myself up and sniffling, just a little because of the shock, I found that D had not noticed my clumsy fall - not at all. Good grief. I was relieved and at the same time disappointed.  I FELL DOWN.  HARD.  FROM A GREAT (not) HEIGHT!  And it HURT! and no one noticed at all.

I have to admit that I have been feeling ever so slightly sorry for myself ever since. I grieve for a younger self who might have been able to jump from the tower without falling. I miss that woman.  Never all that athletic, she was still able to jump without tumbling. Sigh.

Grief. We delegate that term to major losses - most particularly the death of a loved one. We grieve for large catastrophes - house fires, earthquakes, the loss of a home, even the loss of a job. Yet, every day we lose things, things that we become nostalgic about, things we find ourselves pining for.

D is changing. Every few days, she looks and acts like another child. The words that come from her lips are words of a much older person than I think she is. I find myself missing her four-year-old self, five-year-old D, six-year-old D, at the very same moment that I rejoice in her understanding and skill. Heck, I miss the D of last week.

At 12 years old, I looked out the kitchen window and realized that the hillside I saw would change. (A house sits there now.) My breath caught in my throat when it hit me that I could never return to younger times and younger perceptions.

Even earlier, no older than D is now, I tried to duplicate the magic of a cartoon I saw. I spread a map on the floor and took a hop, a skip and a jump. But no matter how often I did it, no matter which direction I took, the map remained just a map. I never entered the land of talking animals. My best toy friend did not come to life. I ran weeping to my bedroom. I forgot the disappointment the next day. Lesson learned; life resumed.

At 12, the realization was deeper. The grief, though not accompanied by silly tears, was real. It was the beginning of grieving for things that no longer are.

We have so much to anticipate. Why look backwards with regret? We should remember those bright days that we "grieve" for and view them as harbingers of more wonderful days to come.

I am fortunate to have good memories to mourn. I can relive the good times - even the tumbles - until my memory fades.  Good grief. 

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

The Richest Bunny in the World

All the goodness that Little Blue Bunny has been radiating is B.O.R.I.N.G!  He is tired of all the new brothers and sisters. (Acornio and Nutsa went to Planet Foxler so that Nutsa could deliver a chubby little fox brother for Felina Fairyfox and the whole Acorn family.  That was just last week!)
Foxleer - the sweetie! See what you can do with pompoms and hot glue.

So Little Blue Bunny had a great idea.

His parents had stellar careers as astrosquirrels and they did so much to advance toy astrophysical science, that Little Blue Bunny sold his parents' life stories to a major publisher.  He found an agent who never even questioned whether or not LBB is old enough to legally sign contracts. And the money LBB made on that story was - wait for it - astronomical!!  (See?  What I did??)

He made so much that he moved into a mansion with a butler. He invested the rest of his money until he HAD ALL THE MONEY IN THE WORLD!!!!
His own space shuttle?  That's rich, all right.

Well, almost all the money in the world. He wanted MORE. So, he hired his criminal nemeses Big Grey Rabbit, (sometimes known as Monsieur Lapin Lupin) and Stripe -the green bunny, to help him swindle money out of everyone else.

Sadly, D and I came face to face with the power that being the richest bunny in the world can bring.

LBB bought off every jury that tried him. (TRUTH alert! Every time I was ready to put LBB in jail, D told me he got out of his punishment somehow. It was D who insisted that no one could stop LBB. Unfortunately, I never found out why she wanted him to be invincibly bad.)

Please don't worry. LBB found out that his money could not buy him true friendship. When his sisters and brothers refused to visit his mansion; when his mother looked at him with sad reproach; when his father told him that "I am so disappointed in you. You have such promise.";  when the girl he was almost sure he was in love with broke up with him; when he was rejected by the good faithful people in his life, he turned away from crime.

I mean how much money does a Little Blue Bunny really need? 

Right now, he is on a year long punishment of doing the dishes every single night even on holidays AND he has to babysit Pinella, Chester and baby Foxleer every Saturday.  He doesn't mind - well, not much.
Felina F. Acorn gets Saturdays off.  Yay!

All the Kids

In the past two weeks, I read the following books:

Harbor Me by Jacqueline Woodson
Finding Langston by Lesa Cline-Ransome
Lu (Track #4) by Jason Reynolds

Not long before that I read;
Blended by Sharon Draper.

What these books all have in common is simple.  They deal with kids of color.

But what I imagined as I read the books was kids - just kids.  I imagined their skin was darker than mine and I imagined that their lives were way different.  But the authors of these books are that good, that any reader can pick up these books and see themselves in these characters - even as they learn just how different their experiences are from the lives of these characters. 

And that is important.  These books are not strident or pontifical. The kids in these books have kid problems.  A parent is missing in action.  Or parents don't get along.  Or the main character learns that his or her adult role model has faults - a problem that plagues us all.  Or the family moves to a strange and different neighborhood.

Finding Langston takes place before I was born, right after World War II.  Langston and his father move far away to a big city after Langston's mother dies.  The city is a confusing, noisy and crowded place.  Langston is left to manage on his own as his father works to support the family in the South.  Taking refuge in the library, a wonderful place free to all "colored" people, Langston learns where his name comes from and discovers beautiful words.  He helps his father come to terms with grief. 

In Blended, the main character is caught in a police action and ends up in the hospital.  She seems so typical, almost boringly normal, that when that happens, the reader - if the reader is white - is stunned. It got my attention.

In Harbor Me, one of the kids in the special group is white.  His friends, because they ARE all friends, try to explain why he is privileged.  He is.  When the main character sees what happens to that white boy as he walks home from school, the group doesn't let their friend walk home alone.
The other kids in the group have bigger problems,; the threat of deportation, a father in prison, fear of being found guilty because of skin color.  They make sure that their friend is protected.  That's what friends do.

I can't even begin to explain what Lu (Track #4) is about because it is ALL the THINGS!  Lu has to face a new challenge in track, accept the disturbing pasts of people he loves and admires, and face, again, the dangers of living in his neighborhood.  Also, a camel made of kiwi fruit and bananas???  And a new baby?  How did the author get all that into such a skinny book?

I have read other, more pointed books that describe the pervasive atmosphere of discrimination that anyone who doesn't fit the White Privileged mold lives in.  The books I write about today offer vignettes of different lives, without calling anyone out - except perhaps the mean kids.  Those different lives are are relatable and real.

They help young readers consider how very different each of our burdens are. Underneath it all, we each offer something special to any tribe we belong to. Underneath it all, kindness, honesty and acceptance can make friends of us all.

I am white. I am a woman. I am privileged. I love these books, without exception. 

Sunday, February 24, 2019

What We Don't Need

I went to the store today - primarily to recycle a HUGE plastic bag filled with plastic bags. But, I needed things I can't get at the discount grocer of my choice. (Aldi's, if you must know.) I wanted a scent free spot remover for my laundry. I wanted white whole wheat flour.

I came home without the scent free spot remover. 

I don't need it!  Freedom!

Someone came into worship today wearing a beautiful necklace. Another person sported lovely rubber boots. I wanted the necklace AND the boots.

I don't need them! Freedom!

All winter I have worn the same three pullovers to the gym and to the library. I finger the new long sleeved tees and blouses at the store. Then I remember.

I don't need them! Freedom!

We don't need all the things we see in Sunday's paper, or on television. We don't need a car to make us feel powerful. We don't need the spinning broom to clean our floors.  (I bought one. We don't need them. Really.) Yet, we spend a lot of time making money to spend on things we don't need.

More than anything, we don't need things that make us feel inadequate. We don't need to be in a constant state of envy or desire. Look around. Unless you are homeless or nearly there, starving or very ill, you have what the things you need.

And if your heart hurts, if you are lonely, sad or angry, there is not a single thing in this world that will take that pain away. Then you must find the answer among your friends, among nature, in the hands of whatever you view as divine.

Marie Kondo talks about things that give you joy. We DO need those; a new journal, a box of sharpened colored pencils, a clever tin, a cozy throw. For some, joy will come with a new hair color - play! Or a jacket that fits just right. Or a custom car cleansing done by someone else. Or a new sautè pan.

Invite in the things YOU need, the things that give YOU Joy. Don't be seduced by ads, fashion, and what you think is required of you. Think how easy your life will be when everything that surrounds you, warms you.

Me, I need empty tea tins, my family and a Little Blue Bunny.

Friday, February 22, 2019

RIP Paul B. Janeczko

So Peter Tork died.  I bet you recognize his name.  "Hey! Hey!  We're the Monkees!  We just monkey around.  We're too busy singing to put anybody down!"  (That's how I remember it.  Don't mess with my youth.)

Someone else died.  Paul B. Janeczko. His name - I always spell it wrong. The "z" and the "c" sometimes change places.  I drop the "e" or stick it where it doesn't go.  But his writing, ah, his poetry - and the poets he introduced to hundreds of thousands of young people - well, I will never forget those.

His poetry is what we think of when we remember Paul B. Janeczko. Even in his obituary, written for Publisher's Weekly, his non-fiction works on spies and spy craft get little or no mention.  I found them fascinating and fun to hand to that kid - the one who wanted to write in code, or play James Bond.

Still, it is his poetry that stands out.  His anthologies introduced me to Naomi Shihab Nye and J. Patrick Lewis.  So I bought their books as well.

And now he's gone. 

You won't find Janeczko's obit all over FB - unless you're a friend of mine.  I doubt that people my age will gather at a tribute band concert or a poetry reading to mourn his passing.  That's a good idea, though.  Anyone want to join me?

I hope that Paul and Peter meet up in the Big Beyond. Maybe Peter could use some help with his lyrics. Paul's got the beat but a little bass accompaniment never hurt.

Another voice silenced. I am grateful for books.

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Trailer of the week - New School

Jeff Kinney REALLY likes this new graphic novel.  That means that a lot of your middle grade readers will like it, too.

Check it out.  New School by Jerry Craft.

Thursday, February 7, 2019

We're Not From Here by Geoff Rodkey - a stolen review.

I am not on here very often lately.  Because - um - stuff!  And right now, I am sick.  I am NOT sick as a dog.  I am sick as a cloud of cotton in my head.

Because I have a great deal of respect for the Nibling bloggers, I am stealing one of their reviews.  The author is Betsy Bird, my all time favorite blogger for books for young and younger readers.  I am putting this title on my to-read-as-soon-as-possible list (TRASAP).

We're Not From Here by Geoff Rodkey - a review by Betsy Bird.

Hashtag things: Do they work?  Discuss among yourselves.

#bookreviews, #sciencefiction, #BetsyBird, #niblings, #GeoffRodkey, #humor, #differences