Monday, December 28, 2015

The year is winding down

Well, The Day of Many Presents is over.

And we ate delicious food.
And we gathered with friends and relatives.  (I had two gatherings. How many did you attend?)
And we were afraid to look at the scale to see how much we had gained.  (We'll wait to do that sometime in January.)
Some of us had rain, some had snow (and travel delays), and some had unexpectedly warm weather. (enjoy that while it lasts because Winter Is Coming.)
But, the best thing is -- the days are getting longer.  Someday soon we'll have daylight after 5:00 in the evening!

Monday, December 21, 2015

More Newbery suggestions

Oh dear.
Besides Echo by Pam Munoz Ryan , I now have more books that I want to receive the Newbery.

One is The Hired Girl by Laura Amy Schlitz. Somerville, MA: Candlewick, 2015. 
Ya - I know she already won a Newbery. But there's no law against winning another (or honor book). Supurbly done, well researched story of a girl who runs away from a cruel father on a farm and goest to the big city of Baltimore.  (Having lived in Baltimore for years, I can verify the accuracy of it. But Schlitz works at a school in Baltimore, so of course she'd get it right. And having not only lived in a 17th century house with items from all centuries in it plus having worked with a wood stove that heated my house, I can also verify what was in the Baltimore house in Schlitz's book and how to clean them.)
As a hired girl and a Catholic, Joan finds herself working as the Shabbos Goy (the person who does the work around a Jewish household on Saturday - the Jewish holy day when they are not allowed to work.  Told in Diary format

The other book that I love, love, love probably won't get the Newbery - because it's funny and for some reason funny books don't seem to win this award. But I loved, loved, loved Unusual Chickens for the Exceptional Poultry Farmer by Kelly Jones. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2015.
Illustrated with cartoony figures this is the tale, told in letter format, about Sophie, a girl whose family has inherited a farm and who discovers she had become the caretaker of very unusual chickens.
Invisible chickens
a chicken who can unlock the chicken coop
a chameleon chicken 
a really fast chicken that Sophie calls - the roadrunner
and more.
Additional review of this book is on the Educating Alice blog (by Monica Edinger).

In additon, I'm currently reading the latest by Kimberly Brubacker Bradley - The War that Saved My Life.  I have always felt most all of her books have deserved the Newbery, so why not this year.
A world War II tale about a girl with a club foot who is evacuated to the English countryside after being held prisoner by her mother for about 9 years and how she discovers the world.
People that take care of you and don't beat you and starve you.
a Pony!
"This isn’t merely a story where the main character has to learn and grow and change. She has this enormous task of making Ava strong in every possible way after a lifetime of systematic, often horrific, abuse. And she has to do so realistically. No deus ex machina. No sudden conversion out of the blue. That she pulls it off is astounding. Honestly it made me want to reread the book several times over, if only to figure out how she managed to display Ada’s anger and shock in the face of kindness with such aplomb. For me, it was the little lines that conveyed it best. Sentences like the one Ada says after the first birthday she has ever celebrated: “I had so much. I felt so sad.” It’s not a flashy thing to say. Just true."
Actually she says much more than this. Go read her review 

Saturday, December 19, 2015

My last attempt to play Bridge

I love to play Bridge. But I just play it for fun. 
Do you play Bridge?
Other people are more serious about it. Much more serious. (My best friend in 7th grade Annette Rapleyea's father was one - he played professionally, whatever that means.)That ordinary people would be deeply serious about the game of Bridge hit home with me one year when we went down to the Ocean (actually the Delaware Bay) with the MG "T" Series club for a weekend. A group of the ladies needed a fourth, so I joined them - just for fun.
I soon learned that these ladies were cutthroat about Bridge - and they were very upset about my casual attitude. Verbally so. Several of them didn't talk to me again during that weekend - and the looks they gave me would have replaced the air conditioner in the beach house. 

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Wright Brothers' Day

December 17 is the day the Wright brothers flew their first working airplane.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Doctors prescribe Reading Aloud to children

There's an article in the New York Times that indicates that Doctors are beginning to emphasize Reading to Children as better than all the electronics parents give children these days.

Now, this is something that librarians have known for over a century and something that the Headstart program also emphasized.
In fact, There's a library that has a sign over the doorway to their Children's Room that say something to the effect that "The Best App for a Child is an Book and Your Lap."
(If I find that picture, I'll try to post it here.  It shows up periodically on Facebook.)

Some parts of the article say:
With the increased recognition that an important part of brain development occurs within the first three years of a child’s life, and that reading to children enhances vocabulary and other important communication skills, the American Academy of Pediatrics  which represents 62,000 pediatricians across the country, is asking its members to become powerful advocates for reading aloud, every time a baby visits the doctor.

     . . . . . and . . . . .

The pediatricians’ group hopes that by encouraging parents to read often and early, they may help reduce academic disparities between wealthier and low-income children as well as between racial groups. “If we can get that first 1,000 days of life right,” said Dr. Dipesh Navsaria, an assistant professor of pediatrics at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health, “we’re really going to save a lot of trouble later on and have to do far less remediation.”

Follow the above link to get the whole article.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Time to bake the Pies.

Not that pie!

Yes, it's time to bake pumpkin pies.
First you gather the ingredients.  (yes the whipped cream is very important. If you can't whip your own, the canned whipped cream is a satisfactory substitute.)

Readers of my blog will remember the years when I baked lots and lots and lots of pies.
For the workplace.
For home.
For my husband's birthday. (he hated cake)
For Thanksgiving. With enough for relatives to take home with them.
For after Thanksgiving because the pies are gone and we want to eat more PIE!

Well this year, we did it again.
Baked pumpkin pie in memory of my husband's birthday.
And now I just took the Thanksgiving pies out of the oven.
And later - more pies. Because we want to eat more pie - and the teen wants to give one to her boyfriend.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

A day in my life with the SMOG people

Monday -
A frustrating day.

Received a letter from DMV saying they could not send me my car license tag sticker until they had a copy that I had passed the California SMOG test.  (Environmental car test)
Thinking back, I remembered that I had enclosed the SMOG test results (passed) with my payment for license tag renewal.

So I went to the SMOG place and asked for a copy or two of my test so that I could keep on and the other could go to the DMV.  They suggested I take it to the nearby AAA office and get my sticker faster.

So, I went to AAA.
Showed them the letter from the DMV, the SMOG test paper, and asked for a sticker.

No Can Do.

It seems that I got my SMOG test too early. It had expired one week before I received the renewal notice from the DMV.  Expired!

Back I went to the SMOG people.
Got a second SMOG test.  (passed, of course)
Took the new SMOG test result back to AAA and asked for my car license tag sticker.

No Can Do.

Because I paid by mail, I now had to wait for the DMV to MAIL my sticker to me. AAA couldn't help me. They could only handle transactions that they had been in on from the beginning.  They assured me that the California DMV was just waiting for the SMOG results and (she checked) they had received it electronically the minute my car took the second test.

But Now I have to wait.
And since this is Thanksgiving week, when lots of people go on vacation, it could be into December before I get that sticker.

Drive Carefully.
Stay away from the highway patrol.
Crossing fingers and toes that nobody will notice that my automobile plates still have out of date stickers on them.
Don't anybody tell.
Maybe they won't notice.

Monday, November 9, 2015

Nonfiction Monday - another Gary Paulsen autobiography

Gary Paulsen. This Side of Wild: Mutts, Mares, and Laughing Dinosaurs.  New York: Simon & Schuster, 2015.

Another snidbit of Gary Paulsen's life, this time ranging from himself at age 18 to an elderly 67-year old preparing to run the Iditarod race in Alaska. For the third time.
At age 18 he was part of the army's nuclear-warhead school and he had just learned that atom bombs wipe out huge populations so fast that people don't know what hit them - just POOF, and they were evaporated. And the dog who conversed with him.  Yes, he talked to a dog and it not only answered, but offered to share her stick and ball with him to make him feel better.  She couldn't change his job in nuclear-warhead school, but she could make him feel better inside.

The tale of the third Iditarod actually opens and closes this book. Firstly it is not about the Iditarod itself. (Eventually he decided that although the mind was willing, the body just wasn't cooperating.)  This first story is about the tiny house dog ( a toy poodle) who made it his charge to protect Paulson - from bears and other dangers.
And the last story is about how very, very, very smart ravens are - and how they train people and their dogs to serve their (the raven's) needs.  Mostly about food. His sled dog's food which became the Raven's food.  (with a side comment about how ants are the most successful species on the planet.)

In short - this book is all about dogs who interacted with Paulson's life. (except for the ravens who interacted with his sled dogs in training)

Written in the style of one of his other autobiographies, How Angel Peterson Got His Name (a book every mother of a young boy needs to read to learn some of the various disasters boys get into - on purpose), each chapter begins with an intriguing title and ends with a zinger. (see above about the ants.)

Friday, November 6, 2015

Writing Advice

Patricia Wrede says:

There is "No ONE True Way to Write!"

That is all.
Think about it.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Sunny Side Up

Sunny Side Up by Jennifer Holm and Matthew Holm. New York: Scholastic, 2015 

The minute you see that Jennifer Holm and Matthew Holm have done a new graphic novel, you immediately think of Babymouse or Squish
But not this time.

Sunny Side Up takes you back to Florida again.  But not quite the Florida of Turtle in Paradise.  This is based on another side of Jennifer and Matt's family - addiction from a child's viewpoint.
It's 1976 and Sunny's brother is either addicted to drugs or alcohol (it's not clear). Sonny is caught between him wanting her to not talk about what he does and the worry of their parents.

All Sunny knows is that suddenly she's being sent to Florida to spend a month of her summer with her grandfather - who has his own devils to fight - addiction to tobacco.
Despite this being a retirement community, strictly for older adults, Sunny does find a friend about her age who introduces her to a love of comic books. As the story, in comic book form, goes back and forth from this summer in Florida to what led up to her being sent there, the reader begins to understand how emotionally stressed Sunny is about all this.  Until she finally explodes. (Like a Volcano)

A deeper, more emotional graphic novel than Jennifer and Matt have ever done, and I predict awards and honors to come.

Click on these for book reviews:

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Pumpkin time

Have you bought your pumpkin, yet?

Now is a good time. They're probably on clearance sale.

(confession - I bought mine a few days ago and got a nice $13.00 one for $5.00.)

Also Pumpkin ice cream.
Teen insists on pumpkin ice cream.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Nonfiction Monday - Halloween

It seems that I forgot to post this Halloween book.
Everything you wanted to know about Halloween but didn't know that you didn't know.  Stories, Facts about the holiday, Crafts, and Party Plans.  (Available at your local library or at online bookstores.)

One week to go.
Are you ready?

Usually the teen has her costume planned by August.  Changes her mind several times, then either creates one or we buy one.  (then she uses that bought one the next year to base her next costume creation.)

What do your kids do?

Monday, October 19, 2015

A Tale of Highly Unusual Magic by Lisa Papademetriou

I was only a few pages into this book when I suddenly thought - Exquisite Corpse??? There's a book in this story that is acting like Exquisite Corpse?  Hey! I bet Lisa Papademetriou had Sharon Darrow for one of her workshops at Vermont College of Fine Arts, Writing for Children and Young Adults.  (Because Sharon Darrow also ran one of my workshops where we spent part of the time working on a group Exquisite Corpse.)

What is Exquisite Corpse?
It's where someone begins a story, writes several sentences or even a paragraph, then folds back all but the last sentence of their writing and passes it along to the next person to continue the story - without knowing what the first person had written.  (The person who passed the group story to me had drawn a monster, then folded it back until all I could see was the feet of the monster, which made it quite difficult for me to figure out how to add to the story. But I managed. Mostly because I had seen him doing the drawing out of the corner of my eye.)

What if you found a book that at first looked like it had all blank pages, but when you decided to use it to write your journal opened it, you discovered someone else had already begun writing in it.

Now, what if there are TWO such books, with the story appearing in both of them.  And, no matter what you or the other girl wrote, the book merged your writing into the story it was telling.

Here's the publisher's description:

Kai and Leila are both finally having an adventure. 
For Leila, that means a globe-crossing journey to visit family in Pakistan for the summer; for Kai, it means being stuck with her crazy great-aunt in Texas while her mom looks for a job. In each of their bedrooms, they discover a copy of a blank, old book called The Exquisite Corpse. Kai writes three words on the first page—and suddenly, they magically appear in Leila's copy on the other side of the planet. Kai's words are soon followed by line after line of the long-ago, romantic tale of Ralph T. Flabbergast and his forever-love, Edwina Pickle. As the two take turns writing, the tale unfolds, connecting both girls to each other, and to the past, in a way they never could have imagined.
A heartfelt, vividly told multicultural story about fate and how our stories shape it.
There are many 5-Star reviews of this on Goodreads, plus a flood of excellent reviews in the national review media.

Here's a link to a great review of this book on ReaderKidZ blog.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

October is National Dinosaur Month

Did YOU know that October is National Dinosaur Month?
Neither did I.
(That's certainly better than my having previously designated October as national spider month. whew!)

However, Sandra Markle knew about it - and she wrote a fantastic blog post about it.

Read ON, giant reptiles.
(or giant birds - whatever you are)

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Guest post - Jane Yolen - Development in a novel

Another rambling thought (about blocking out novels this time) from Jane Yolen:

A thought about writing novels. I reworked chapter 15 of my current novel and in the process added 300 words, mostly to define and redefine characters. It's a travel chapter, not much plot, really at base simply getting us from there to here. But a necessary trip for three reasons: setting up setting, plot, tension. And along the way I realize the last part of the chapter was really the beginning of the next chapter.
I find with novels (I still consider myself a novice, though I have written over 60 of them!) that I have to re-learn how to write them each time I start a new one. And what did I learn today?
1.Unlike picture books and poetry where compression is the guide, novels need to breathe, need specificity to make them live. What kind of trees, what color of eyes, is this spring or winter and what makes the difference?
2. Yet adding for the sake of bulk is not what is needed. Again, specificity is key. But also threading in what came before. I will have to go back and thread in a whole lot of stuff. This draft is more about getting the story told, start to finish. The next draft I will take careful notes about my characters who I have learned a lot about during this draft: what they wear, look like, facial tics, what they know (or don't know). What has someone said before, and do I repeat it too often or not enough? Do I make reference to it? Is it key to their development.
3. In fact development is probably the most useful concept in writing a novel. In poems metaphor and the lyrical line quickly follow compression in importance. In picture books one has to always be aware that the book needs to be visual at its core, else what can an illustrator draw? But novels are all about development--plot development, character development, philosophical development/sub=textual development.
Have I told you how I hate to plot?????

Sunday, October 4, 2015

A tribute to the Honest People in this World

Recently, on Facebook, there was a discussion of purse thievery. Other people chimed in about times they had been robbed.  But I had to put in a good word for the honest people in this world:

1 - Once I accidentally left my wallet on top of a pay phone and only remembered it halfway home. (remember pay phones?  If you are too young to know what they are - The telephone company used to set up stand-alone phones that you inserted coins in to use.)
    I drove back to that pay  phone (stuck to the side of a building right there on the sidewalk side of the building - with no phone booth around it) and discovered that my wallet was still there.

2 - Same wallet (different year) was accidentally left at a fruit and vegetable stand. Evidently I had gathered up my bags of goodies, but forgot to also pick up my wallet.  When I returned, a kindly neighbor had offered to take it home to me, but since I returned so quickly, she simply handed it to me with smiles.

3 - Once I shopped at Staples but didn't find what I needed. So I parked my cart with the other carts inside the store and drove to another store. When I reached for my purse, it wasn't in the car. Went back to Staples and didn't find it in the stack of carts. A cashier saw me looking and told me that another person had pulled out the cart to use, discovered my purse in it, and had turned it in to the store office.  I got my purse back - intact.

Now - yes, each of these times I had had huge anxiety attacks as I drove back to retrieve my wallet/ purse.
Such a relief to discover the nice people who did NOT steal it.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Newbery/ Caldecott predictions

It's time for me to make up a reading list for the fall.

Every year I check out Elizabeth Bird's Newbery/ Caldecott predictions and print out a list of great books for my fall reading.

Then I go check the ShelfTalker blog to see if she also has suggestions.  Hmm. September 3's post seems to have some suggestions.  Keep on checking this blog for more as fall progresses.

All of which gives me piles of reading to keep me happy - for a while.

Go thou and do likewise!

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Visit to Grandmother's - 1950s

This is another memory I have of growing up in the 1950s.

            I was alone on the train which swayed back and forth and rata-tat-tated over bridges.  Just me. Not my mother and father. Not with my brother and sisters. I went alone to visit my grandmother. I was good. I didn’t talk to anyone on the train. I just watched out the window as the trees and cliffs slid by, my eyes following the lines of different layers of rock, some going up, some going straight and some curving up, over, and down.  We passed the art museum on the river and then, underground, and we were at Penn Station.
            Grandma mushed me into her broad body with her hug, then she picked up my suitcase and we walked. And walked. Oak. Chestnut. Spruce Street.  Along came the Spruce Street trolley, cling-clanging its bell, sparks flying above where the trolley’s metal rod touched the electric wire.
             My grandmother lived in an apartment in West Philadelphia, not far from the site of the farm she grew up on. I’ve seen pictures of it – a house in the middle of farmland.  No longer.  Philadelphia grew and grew and swallowed her farm.  I loved visiting her apartment. The oriental rugs glowed on the floor and all the cabinets held treasures. 
            No sooner had we unpacked, than out we went again.  This time by bus to the Robin Hood Dell to hear the Philadelphia Orchestra. (It seems that nobody in our family in Philadelphia drives a car.) The orchestra had concerts all summer long at the Dell, and tonight was the night. And we had tickets.
            I just wish she would simply take her place in the general seating, but no.  Not Grandma. “Do you know who I AM?” she accosted the poor college student collecting tickets.  (Every time. Every time we go, she does this.) “I am Marion Corbin and I started these concerts.” The poor guy didn’t know what to do about this. I, on the other hand, wanted to either hide behind her, or pretend I was with someone else.
            “I see that the Mayor’s seats aren’t taken tonight,” she said, pointing over to a fenced off area. “You can put us there. Just call up to the main office. They know who I am.”
            By this time, I was ready for a hole to open up and swallow me.  But I just stood there with a frozen smile. (at least I thought I was smiling, I have no idea.) And, yes, we sat in the mayor’s seats that night. 
            After the concert, we boarded the city bus again, making our way slowly through the nighttime traffic.  It was brightly lit inside, dark outside. We really couldn’t see much out the windows.
            Something broke a bus window and flew into the bus. A bottle? I saw an empty Coke bottle rolling down the aisle of the bus.
            More crashes. Sounds of rocks or more pop bottles hitting the sides of the bus.  Angry yelling.
            “Everyone down,” the bus driver shouted. “Get away from the windows and Get DOWN.”  He began driving faster. We slid to the gritty floor. The bus swayed and we bumped our heads against the seats.
            “What’s happening?” I asked grandma.
            “This is a negro area of town,” she said. “They saw a bus with white people on it and that set them off.”
            “But why?”

            I never understood why. 

Friday, September 4, 2015

Scrivener and Me

Author Lesa Yee uses Scrivener.
Author Coe Booth uses Scrivener.
Scrivener. Scrivener. Scrivener.
I’d been hearing so much about this writing computer program that when my husband offered to buy the program for me and install it on my computer, I jumped at the chance.  
(What a great birthday/ Christmas/ anytime present!)

But –
Then I had to learn it.

I read the tutorial.  And promptly forgot most of it. 
Corkboard?  Do you doubleclick on the corkboard card to get into the manuscript page that I KNEW was hidden under it?  Click. Click-click. Nope.
What the heck is a split screen and why would I ever need it?
After working with this new program, and running my fingers through my hair over every frustration, my tussled hair look would probably scare small children.

(I never did reach the point of frustration with this program that I reached with my first experience with MS-Word for the Mac in the early 1990s. I had been using it to write my George Washington book when suddenly the whole manuscript disappeared.  After searching all over the computer screen for it, I screamed, ran over to my bed, flopped down on it, and gave in to a full blown tantrum, complete with feet flailing and arms pounding.  And more screaming. Hours later I managed to find my manuscript – MS-Word had tucked it up in the upper right hand corner – invisible to the eye.  I transferred THAT manuscript to Appleworks and never touched MS-Word for the Mac until the mid-2000s, when Microsoft finally had learned how to make it more Apple-like.)

Well, since I wasn’t going to remember the details in the tutorial, what about having a reference book beside me?  After all, I’m an old-fashioned librarian and I’m used to using Paper material, not online tutorials.
 So I bought Scrivener for Dummies.

MARCH 19, 2012  Vermont Novel writing workshop --
Even though my husband was sick, he insisted I attend the Novel writing workshop that I had signed up for months ago.  I won’t go into the frustrating experience I had flying there and back – needless to say, I will always fly Southwest from now on.

As soon as I arrived, my assigned roommate took one look at me and moved out. I was of two minds about this.  In the first place, I was a bit ticked off because all my other roommates had told me that I was a great roommate. But – in the second place, I couldn’t wait to be alone in the room working on my Magic Cat novel, using my new writing software, Scrivener.  (for once I was treating an event as a thing half-full, instead of my usual half-empty, pessimistic attitude.)

Wow, I was going to spend the whole Saturday at my favorite place, Vermont College, doing one of my favorite things – writing.  I sat impatiently during the opening lecture.  I couldn’t wait to get back to writing. (This time I wasn’t going to waste time with workshopping my writing in a group where the only experienced people were the group leader and me.  That just wasn’t helpful.)

As soon as I loaded my fantasy story into Scrivener, I promised myself I’d take my laptop outside on the sun drenched green, and write, write, write.  Just as soon as…  
How do you do this again?  (checking my book for dummies) Oh yes. And oh yes. And oh DAMN, the whole afternoon disappeared and I was still trying to figure out how to use this thing.  Grrrrrr.

April 7, 2012.
I attempted to figure out how to use those tiny cards on the Scrivener bulletin board as note taking cards for a nonfiction project (as suggested by another writer), but so far -- not so good.
Actually, it’s terrible.
 I may have to go back to the old-fashioned way -- using pen and 4x6 paper note cards.  

May, 2013 – Kindling Words --
I tried writing outside here in Taos, but it was too dusty.  The wind blew brown, gritty dust all over everything, including my laptop. Then a dust devil meandered through the patio. Yuck! It dropped dust all over everything. I was covered with it. This couldn’t be good for the laptop, so I scurried back inside the lodge.  (I had to clean up the laptop, wash my hands, and eat a fresh made cookie.)

I LOVE Scrivener:  One of my editors asked me to put a nonfiction aspect into the picture book I sent her, so I set the story up on scrivener and then began searching the internet for facts. All I had to do was grab information for each animal from web pages and throw it into a Scrivener file for that animal under the folder - Research. (One or two of the web pages had pictures and they transferred into the files as well.)

Now, all I had to do was zip through my picture book manuscript, inserting facts, hopefully in an interesting way – and everything I needed was there on Scrivener – I could bop back and forth between the story and the facts with a simple click. 
So much easier than having things stored in Word files and having to open each one, not find the info I needed, close it and switch to another.  Repeat. Repeat.  

I LOVE Scrivener!

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

First Week of School

At my teen's high school, we have to report to the office before going onto campus and get a special visitor sticker
Which is fine except that the office is at the lowest level of the campus with nothing close to it. 
To get to where you consult with counselors or teachers, you have to go up two long flights of outside stairs and across quite a bit of the open campus. I cannot handle stairs and the handicapped elevator is always locked, so I usually simply drive around the campus and enter any of the OPEN gates close to the school buildings. But I can't park in the upper parking lot. It's only for teachers. (they only use one-third of it, but you get a ticket if you use any of the empty spaces.)
Sometimes I simply skip the office and walk onto campus to the building for the meeting. And NOBODY questions me.

There are no public school buses, so you have to drive your child to and from school every day - what a mess.  
I've never seen an accident at the pick-up lane, but there have been very close misses. 
(Two crazy cars almost got me today. Must have been ninth graders' parents. The rest of us are pretty courteous and take turns nicely.)

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Read Across the Globe

You've heard about Read Across America?  Well, there seems to also be a Read Across The Globe.

Here is an opportunity to join in bringing an awareness of literacy to  your  community -- Join the 25 points of light initiative - October 19th.

A picture book biography Farmer Will Allen and the Growing Table by 
Jacqueline Briggs Martin has been selected as the book to read in President George W. Bush's 25th Anniversary celebration of his Points of  Lights initiative. The celebration will include an effort to enlist thousands of volunteers to break the Guinness Book of World Records listing for the number of children being read to in a 24-hour period as part of the "Read Across the Globe" initiative. 
A gigantic conference is planned October 19-21, 2015 at the George R. Brown Convention Center, Houston, Texas. The record is 238,620 and officials are aiming to go past the 300,000 mark with 10,000 volunteers fanning out to Houston area schools and day care centers during the conference to read aloud the children's book, Farmer Will Allen and the Growing Table. 
Even astronaut Scott Kelly plans to read the book aloud from outer space, although he won't be counted in the tally since he won't be in a classroom.

Connect here to get more information regarding information on how to get involved in this
day to bread the record.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Jane Yolen - On the Writing Life

Another wonderful quote from Jane Yolen, the Hans Christian Anderson of the United States of America:

Today I want to talk about the Everyday-ness of writing. How the extraordinary must become ordinary.
Just as I do my morning exercises to get these old bones moving, I write every day. Every single day. Sometimes it's a chapter, sometimes it's a poem. Sometimes I make lists of things: nouns, verse to revise, ideas for new books, suggestions for stories with my children (in case you haven't been paying attention, they are all writers!).
Even if I am ill, traveling, caring for a sick husband, running around a convention, walking the Royal Mile--even then I will manage to write something. Because being a writer means that kind of commitment. It doesn't have to be something for publication (though what does get published is almost always a surprise.) It i something to get the brain, the heart, the imagination, and the fingers coordinated, working together. Not strangers but a good team.
After my big back operation, part of my recovery was to walk a mile (or more) a day. As the amazing nurse Donna explained it to me: if you walk a mile at a good steady pace (mine is fast) outside, taking in the fresh oxygen, your spinal fluid moves up and down oiling the spine. Well, that's what writing every day does. It keeps the fluid moving about our brain, oiling its parts. Writing needs such fluidity.
Yes, life happens. It interrupts all our careful plans. A person from Porlock, an auto accident, a shooter in the movie theater, or more happily twins born, a friend stopping in for tea, your book winning the Caldecott, your editor calling to say you won the Nebula, your agent messaging that you sold a book, falling in love.
But the bottomest of lines is this: if you are a writer, you write. And you turn all of life's hiccups into poetry or prose.
How lucky are we--accidents, incidents, handicaps, heartbreaks all become research, become prompts. So don't ignore them, but use them. Every day.
Every single glorious, bloody day.

(quoted from a Facebook Post on Monday, August 24, 2015.)

Monday, August 10, 2015

Nonfiction Monday - 10 Rivers That Shaped the World

Peters, Marilee. 10 Rivers that Shaped the World. Illustrated by Kim Rosen. New York: Annick Press, 2015.   (available now)

The Awash, a river of bones
The Tigris & Euphrates, twin rivers of civilization
The Nile, the giving river
The Rhine, An International River
The Amazon, a world of water
The Zambezi, exploring the river of freedom
The Thames, the river that built an empire
The Mississippi, a river of song
The Ganges, river of faith
The Yangtze, a changing river

Glossary, Acknowledgements, Sources, and Index.

Traditionally, I mostly review picture book nonfiction for preschoolers and up to 2nd grade, but this book, although skinny, would probably be of interest more to third grade and up.

Each chapter begins with a story about a possible child living near one of these rivers - from ancient history to modern day.  Then there's a quick sketch about what made the river famous or important to the people living near it - from farmers to kingdoms, to robber barons charging ships who tried to pass their castles on the rivers.

Besides large chapters on those major rivers, the author often includes one page sketches of other important rivers.

Heavily illustrated with photographs, maps, and artwork.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Nonfiction Monday - Dick King-Smith

King-Smith, Dick. Chewing the Cud. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2001.

This isn't a children's book. It's Dick King-Smith's autobiography and it's definitely aimed at fans of his books.
What books?, you ask.  Hmmm. You do remember that little pig who herded sheep?
Yes, he wrote Babe, the Galant Pig (known as Babe, the Sheep Pig in the United Kingdom where it was first published.)
Babe -- the very popular movie.

But this wasn't his only book. (he wrote over 100 books)  Nor was writing his only means of support.

Dick King-Smith was a failed farmer, a soldier, a salesman, a factory worker, and a teacher.  But he always loved animals, he and his family always had animals around, and this shows in the books he wrote, which are well-loved by children all over the world.

Readers will see how this collection of experiences gave him much fodder which he used in his writings.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Losing weight - Reasons why

Once home, I discovered that I'd lost 4 pounds while in Vermont. 
Must have been all the walking I did. 
I'm glad I had gotten myself up to walking at least one mile before I arrived, because walking around the VCFA campus meant for 10 days I walked at least 4 miles a day. 
Plus the only way to the cafeteria was to go slowly down some stairs. And then pull myself back up them. 
(Stairs count as exercise, too.)
However, I"m still losing - because I just got two wisdom teeth pulled and the darn tooth surgeon said "no chewing" for a week. My water and consume' diet expanded yesterday to include chocolate pudding. 

Crossing fingers and toes that I make it for 3 more days until I can sink my teeth into meat and potatoes, again.

The question is -- can I then keep those pounds off?

Saturday, July 25, 2015


What was I doing the last few weeks?

I was attending a 10 week Residency at Vermont College of Fine Arts - my final Residency,  where I earned a second Master's Degree.

Critical Thesis - Check - (about an aspect of Children's Book Writing that had not been written about before - First Chapter Books)
Creative Thesis - Check 
Reading from my Creative - Check (they laughed in all the right places)
Presentation of my Lecture (based on my Critical Thesis) using Keynote instead of Powerpoint for the first time.

Attended the Masquerade Dance celebrating the Graduating Class - Check

and Marched across the stage in the beautiful Chapel and was Capped and given my diploma, along with the 23 others in my graduating class. - Check 

(Yes, that is a real pipe organ behind us.)
As you can see from the symbol at the top of this post - this graduating class called themselves the Craftographers.
Home again, home again, Jiggidy Jog. 

Monday, July 20, 2015

Nonfiction Monday - On a Beam of Light

Berne, Jennifer. On a Beam of Light; a Story of Albert Einstein. Illus. Vladimir Radunsky. San Francisco: Chronicle Books, 2013. Print.

            This is a really focused picture book biography, presenting the mind    of Albert Einstein – how he wondered about everything and wanted to understand the mysteries of how things worked – how he spent his life figuring and thinking and imagining. 

                        Unfortunately, clever as this is, it fails as a biography because Berne concentrates on Einstein’s mind and only mentions a few of the things he discovered. 
                        It’s possible this biography was forced into this narrow view of his life by the recent demand that picture books and even picture book biographies be only 500 words long. Berne intends for the reader to think about some of Einstein’s unanswered questions and perhaps attempt to solve them. She succeeds in this goal, but fails to answer basic questions about his life, ignoring his German birth and his work in the USA, which resulted in the development of the atomic bomb. Even the author’s notes ignore specific necessary information such as birth, death, and his relationship to world events.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Jane Yolen and how books come to be

Here's another post by multi-published author, singer, mother, grandmother, and much, much more - Jane Yolen.  I agree wholeheartedly.  My books also take time and come in their own time.
Jane says:

I want to talk this evening about taking time. Books gestate, stories need cooking, even single lines need to be shaped and reshaped in the brain and eye and mouth.
But sometimes writers (or at least I know I do) write in a white hot burst of creation. This is when the time may not be in the gestation but in the aftermath.
I sometimes tell people that I spend half my time creating and the other half re-creating. If you visit me and we are laughing over a cup of tea, trust me, I am also fully gestating something. Sometimes several somethings. Long before I was a published writer, I would wool-gather, turn my face to the window and watch the wind wind-up the branches of the trees. My mother understood that I was gestating a poem or a tale, but my father would call me back from some awful imagined precipice. I think he hated not knowing what I was thinking, or at least hated that I was not thinking about him.
Yes, to some people I seem very quick when I write. But you have no idea how long I have been thinking about a book before I begin actuvely working on it. I am poking about a picture book now called DAWN CHORUS but I have been carrying some form or another of this book around inside me from the day I went for a weekend at Montauk Point with my then boyfriend, David Stemple, and really listened to the birds under his tutelage for the first time.
I wrote OWL MOON fifteen or so years after he first took our children out owling.
I wrote my books about women pirates (PIRATES IN PETTICOATS, SEA QUEENS, BALLAD OF THE PIRATE QUEENS) decades after I first read about Ann Bonney and Mary Read and had put them in a book of pirates I'd made for sixth grade, with cover, binding, side sewing and all. Gosh, I wish my mother had kept a copy of that!
What I am trying to say--and a bit nostalgically at that- is that we must carry the book inside before we let it out into the light of the world. The rest--rejections, editorial letters, bad reviews or good are the consequence of publishing. But first there has to be the dawn chorus in your soul.

 ©2015 Jane Yolen all rights reserved.

Monday, July 13, 2015

NonFiction Monday - Parrots Over Puerto Rico

Roth, Susan and Cindy Trumbore. Parrots Over Puerto Rico. New York: Lee & Low Books, 2013. Print.
            2014 Sibert Medal book. Americas Award for Children’s and YA Literature.
                         This is the story of the disappearance of Parrots in the Jungles of Puerto Rico and a rescue breeding effort that has brought those numbers back up.

                        Roth begins in second person (You look up) to draw the reader in, but quickly moves to third person omnipotent in order to relate a simplified history of this Caribbean island. She creates tension in this book as she relates how less and less parrots survive, until only thirteen remain in the wild.  
                      This is an unusually shaped book arranged vertically across the double page spread to make the most of the tall trees with birds flying above with the related human actions taking place below.  Roth places the simple text under the pictures. 
                     Of interest to me because my sister participated in this work to reestablish the parrots.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Peanut Butter Science

I used to give a program at the library called Peanut Butter Science.  Today someone on FaceBook asked me how to make homemade peanut butter and I was reminded of this program.
You could use this in a homeschooling session, or simply with your family for fun:

  •  It seems to me that we first did some experiments with unsalted peanuts in the shell, then unshelled them and compared raw and cooked ones. (yes, I had bought both kinds from a nut company near where I lived.)

    I let them each take some raw ones home to grow (many reported back to me about them.
    Then we skinned the shelled peanuts and tossed the peanutsinto the blender. It usually was about a third full. I would begin blending. I like to use the burst mode. I think it gives me more control and I can pull the spatula out before it burst again. If it seemed a little dry, I would add vegetable oil to make a smooth mix and keep grinding until I thought it was blended. Can't remember if I added salt or not.

  • I had a huge box of plastic spoons. The children lined up and tasted each kind, throwing their spoon away after each taste so no saliva contaminated the jars. Then they filled out a form, voting for the one they thought was best. I'd put the score up on the white board. Fun.

    Naturally, I don't need 6 open peanut butter jars at home , so I had them put their names in a container and pulled out names. The first person could take home his or her choice. The second chose among the remaining jars, and so on until all the jars were taken. Fun.