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.