Winter Wish

Whoa! Where did the last two months go?

The winter issue of "The California Reader" has arrived and it's beautiful. It features a glorious poem by Joan Bransfield Graham, "Wish for Peace." It's from the book AMERICA AT WAR with poems selected by Lee Bennett Hopkins. Lee just received the NCTE Excellence in Poetry Award.

Best wishes to you.

National Parenting Publications Awards

Each year I’m a judge for the National Parenting Publications Award. I’m a judge for the book category, but you’ll find award-winning DVDs, parenting resources, storytelling, toys, and more listed on their website:

SAY DADDY! by Michael Shoulders ( was one of my favorites this year. It's the perfect baby shower gift. It was published by Sleeping Bear Press (

Please Vote

Last night we watched the movie REWIND with Kevin Spacey and Laura Dern (as Katherine Harris). It presents the events surrounding the 2000 presidential election and the counting of votes in Florida. It’s an important reminder to each of us that every vote is important.

Please vote.

And, if you haven’t watched the DVD, I think you’ll find it interesting.

Crusing in Mexico

We've been in Mexico on a 7-day cruise on Holland's Oosterdam. We visited Cabo, Mazatlan, and Puerto Vallarta. Magician Illusionist James Cielen ( and Joel Mason with his salute to Elton John ( were two of the terrific headliners. I also loved the culinary demonstrations.

It was a terrific cruise, but I'm making this "short and sweet!"

A Thousand Never Evers

Yesterday I posted the National Book Awards, but today I want to tell you about one of my favorites of 2008: A THOUSAND NEVER EVERS a novel by Shana Burg. It received a Gold National Parenting Publications Award (NAPPA).

Here’s a summary: “In Kuckachoo, Mississippi, 1963, Addie Ann Pickett worships her brother Elias and follows in his footsteps by attending the black junior high school. But when her careless act leads to her brother's disappearance and possible murder, Addie Ann, Mama, and Uncle Bump struggle with not knowing if he's dead or alive. Then a good deed meant to unite Kuckachoo sets off a chain of explosive events.”

Here are some reviews:
"Told in the first person through the eyes of a perceptive African-American girl living in the deep south during a period of racial tension and social upheaval, this first novel is a gripping page-turner. Without being didactic, the author teaches what it was like to be poor and live under the injustices of segregation."
— Parent’s Choice 
"References to significant historical events (Medgar Evers’s assassination, the March on Washington) add authenticity and depth, while Addie’s frank, expertly modulated voice delivers an emotional wallop."
—Publisher's Weekly, Starred Review

If you teach or work as a librarian with sixth, seventh, or eighth grade students, you are not going to want to miss this book!

National Book Award

The Young People’s Literature finalists for the National Book Award have been announced and you can learn more about the award and each book at

Laurie Halse Anderson, Chains (Simon & Schuster)
Kathi Appelt, The Underneath (Atheneum)
Judy Blundell, What I Saw and How I Lied (Scholastic)
E. Lockhart, The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks (Hyperion)
Tim Tharp, The Spectacular Now (Alfred A. Knopf)

Celebrate # 8!

Hooray! S IS FOR S’MORES: A CAMPING ALPHAGET is listed as #8 in the Union-Tribune on the “Local Bookstore Best-Sellers.” They were given the update by the Yellow Book Road children’s bookstore.

Here's the website listing:

Now that’s something to celebrate!

What's Cooking

I took a class today with “The Opera Singing Chef.” She is informative and funny, and her recipes are delicious.

She has some upcoming classes at the Natural History Museum and Quail Botanical Gardens that sound terrific and are listed on her website:

If you love food, laughter, and song, she’s got a class for you!

Got Crisp Air?

We have crisp air and the beginning of fall leaves at our cabin so we invited some folks to enjoy a fall festivity last weekend.

Mt. Laguna is located about 70 minutes away from San Diego’s shore, but at 6000 feet elevation our San Diego mountains offer a completely different scene. I love that about San Diego—beach, mountains, and desert are all nearby to enjoy.

Yellow Book Road

I met with Boy Scouts at the Yellow Book Road children’s book store this evening. The kids were terrific and I enjoyed talking with them about camping and writing.

The Yellow Book Road is the only children’s bookstore in San Diego. They have a knowledgeable staff and the store is owned by two educators.

Here’s their info:

Yellow Book Road
7200 Parkway Drive, Suite 118
La Mesa, CA 91942

A Laughlin We Will Go!

We just got home from Laughlin, Nevada. We went with Full Circle Tours and had a lovely time in the desert. Going on a bus trip makes this trip easy. We enjoyed a boat trip down the Colorado River, an exhibit of vintage and classic cars, plus the solitude of the desert.

Here’s the Full Circle Tours info:

Full Circle Tours

"26 Miles Across the Sea . . . "

We took our annual Catalina Island trip and camped at the sea’s edge in Two Harbors. We snorkeled (I saw a starfish!) and kayaked, but the most memorable moment was when we sang “The Hamster Song” around the campfire. You might know this as “The Gambler” made famous by Kenny Rogers, but to our favorite four-year-old it’s the song his papa’s battery-operated hamster sings. You haven’t really enjoyed a campfire until you watch a four-year-old sing:

”You got to know when to hold ’em.
Know when to fold ’em.
Know when to walk away.
Know when to run.”

Nana had to explain “ . . . when the dealin’s done.” I guess a four-year-old doesn’t have prior knowledge on that experience, still Kenny Rogers would have been proud.

I'm Not Scared of No Bears . . . I'm Not Scared

We visited Yosemite in August staying at White Wolf in a tent cabin and in an historic cabin in the Valley. Both were interesting experiences, but the White Wolf bear attack might be the most memorable portion of the trip.

We attended a forest ranger campfire program on our first night where the ranger shared his “I’m Not Scared of No Bears, I’m Not Scared” rap. You had to be there to really get the full flavor, but trust me . . . I was soon singing it while taking my late night comfort walks as I tried to feel brave and clutched my flashlight. This rap was complemented by the second day’s ranger program on bears and the ranger’s confirmation that there was “bear activity” in the area.

While we were at White Wolf a bear tore into a heavy fenced area where garbage was collected. I heard the late-night ruckus with employees yelling and beating pots to scare the bear away. In the morning, we surveyed the impressive damage. The next night . . . a repeat performance. On our fourth night, we were stunned when we learned that a man left his tent cabin at night without his flashlight to go to his unlocked bear box . . . Can you say “Clueless?” A bear was making an evening buffet out of the man’s bear box and was startled when the man approached him. The bear gave the man a “bear hug” and the man was soon toted to the Valley’s hospital.

Moral of the story: Lock your bear box and use a flashlight. Please help keep bears wild (and you safe!).

The most amazing sight in Yosemite’s Valley this August? No water in Yosemite Falls. Can you imagine? Still, we had a fabulous time and have already made reservations for next year, but we’ll be returning to the Valley in May when the dogwood trees are in bloom.
Hmmm . . . silly me . . . I prefer dogwood blossoms over bear activity. Who would have guessed?

Xploration Studios

I’ve been experiencing a bit of tech problems recently and I’ve been busy, busy, busy reading! But, instead of telling you what I’ve been reading (that will come another day!) I’ll tell you what I’ve been doing.

We went on a trip to Baja to visit the seaside village of historic Rosarito Beach. We made a promise that we’d visit again and spend more time, but we had to move on our journey to the Xplorations Studios near Puerto Nuevo. This is a small movie studio complex located along the Pacific Ocean and was originally built for James Cameron’s film, TITANIC. Since that time other movies, television shows, and commercials have been filmed at this location.

We watched TITANIC (again) before our visit so our visit would have more meaning for us. We had a fabulous time visiting the sets and learning how visual and sound effects are made. It’s a small complex with great guided tours (in English or Spanish).

We had a terrific time, but I’ll offer you this advice: Eat before visiting. We should have, could have, would have had lunch before our visit if we had known that the only places to get lunch at the Studios was Dominos Pizza and Subway. Both are fine, but not nearly the same as enjoying a delicious Mexican lobster meal before the visit. If we had known . . . so I share my advice with you.

That’s all for now—I’ve read 60+ children’s books, but I’ll share the best-of-the-best later.


States of Mind

I met Brad Herzog ( at the California Reading Association’s state conference last November and met up with him again at the Kern Reading Association’s Young Authors’ Fair. He’s the author of several sports alphabet books from Sleeping Bear Press ( and two travel books.

I was interested in reading his travel books and this weekend, that’s what I did. I read and savored STATES OF MIND. Brad and his wife Amy packed up their life and Winnebago and hit the road to visit 18 towns with virtuous names like Unity, Harmony, Freedom, and Faith. Brad’s journey is an insightful look at small town America and readers go along for the ride viewing a town’s history and seeing how well the town mirrors the meaning of its name.

I frequently read a book and think, “Why didn’t I think of that?” But, this book I also asked, Why didn’t [or don’t!] I go on that journey? I love traveling the backroads of San Diego and wonder how I would enjoy a similar journey across America. Makes me want to pack my bags and hit the road.

Happy Swiss National Day

August 1 is Swiss National Day. This date is equivalent to America’s Fourth of July.

To celebrate Swiss National Day, I’m featuring the Swiss flag. Did you know that the Swiss flag is the world’s only square-shaped national flag?

The Red Cross emblem is the reverse of the Swiss flag. It honors Switzerland, where the Red Cross was founded in 1863.

Ah. The joy of trivia.

Happy Swiss National Day!

Pageant of the Masters

Bob and I went to the Laguna Beach Pageant of the Masters last night. If you haven’t been, you really should try to attend. It’s an amazing celebration of art and music. Art comes alive as “living pictures” in this annual event with 75 years of history.

The setting is an outdoor amphitheater with a professional orchestra, original score, and live narration. Classical and contemporary works of art are recreated with real people who pose and look exactly like their counterparts in the original pieces of art.

One contemporary piece of artwork, “Olympic Spirit,” is on display at the Festival of Arts and we were able to take a close-up look at it before the Pageant. The bronze sculpture was created by Edward Eyth ( who was one of only eight Americans selected to exhibit in the 2008 Beijing Olympics Landscape Sculpture Design Exhibition.

This year’s theme was “All the World’s a Stage” and celebrates theater from its primitive origins to its many modern variations and includes work by Wedgwood, Toulouse-Lautrec, Leonardo da Vinci, and Edgar Degas.

The program had some wonderful quotes I’d like to share:

”Spend time every day listening to what your muse is trying to tell you.” —Saint Bartholomew

“Art is not what you see, but what you make others see.” —Edgar Degas

“Laughter is an instant vacation.” —Milton Berle

Fartiste—A Collaboration

This week I had lunch with some of my favorite local writers: Kathleen Krull, Paul Brewer, Carolyn Marsden, Jean Ferris, and editor Jeannette Larson. We all had much to share about writing, favorite new reads, and the recent ALA conference.

Kathy and Paul updated us on one of their newest books. They collaborated on FARTISTE (An Explosively Funny, Mostly True Story), illustrated by Boris Kulkov (Simon & Schuster, 2008). It’s the story of Joseph Pujol, a real person, born in Marseille, France in 1847. He found he had an unusual talent and became “Le Petomane—a polite variation of the French peteur, one in the habit of farting.”

He performed in Paris at the famous Moulin Rouge and became wildly popular. Sigmund Freud kept a portrait of him in his office and Thomas Edison filmed some of his show. Pujol’s friends included Pablo Picasso and Toulouse-Lautrec.

Kathy and Paul included an eyewitness account of a Moulin Rouge performance of Le Petomane in 1895:

”I can truthfully say that I have never seen [people] laugh, cry, shout and scream as they did when this little man with his . . . deadpan face pretended to be unaware of his incongruities. People were literally writing about. Women, stuffed in their corsets, were being carried out by nurses.”

The story is told in rhyme and an “encore” section provides readers with additional information. The book has received star reviews and is a unique and fascinating new picture book biography.

Tilapia Tasting

Last night we went to Red Lobster and I had Macadamia Tilapia with White Chocolate Beurre Blanc (half order!). I’ve been watching THE NEXT FOOD NETWORK STAR (guilty pleasure) and this was the winning fresh fish dish on one of the episodes. It was created by contestant Kelsey Nixon—a really positive and talented cook. I hope I see more of her on future cooking shows!

The dish features fresh tilapia topped with toasted macadamia nuts and coconut over a buttery sauce with a hint of sweet white chocolate. (Think LOW cal.) I had a Christmas gift card for Red Lobster, so off we went to try it. I can’t tell you how yummy it was—I love tilapia and I couldn’t resist trying it with white chocolate. The photo is from the Red Lobster website.

Bon appétit!

Terra Cotta Soldiers

We visited the Bowers Museum yesterday. It currently has the largest exhibit of Emperor Qin's Terra Cotta Army ever seen outside of China.

From the Bowers Museum website:

“China's First Emperor, the boy king who united the country in 221 BC and began construction of the first Great wall, was not only obsessed with building but also a fanatic about death. After experimenting with potions to prolong his life, the megalomaniac king resigned himself to death on his own terms. He would build a standing army of 7,000 soldiers to enforce his rule over the afterlife.”

“Since his birth in 259 B.C., China's First Emperor was destined to become one of the most important political leaders to rule the country. Beginning at age 13, and for the next 38 years, he assigned over 700,000 workers to build an enormous mausoleum with life-size terra cotta warriors to protect him throughout eternity.

This terra cotta army of soldiers, servants, musicians, acrobats, and animals silently remained underground for two thousand years. Until, in 1974, Chinese farmers digging a well made the startling discovery of a terra cotta head.”

There was another visiting exhibit, GEMS! Colors of Light and Stone, an amazing collection of colored gemstones, diamonds, and gems.

The Terra Cotta Soldiers exhibit will be at the Bowers Museum until October 12, 2008, but the GEMS exhibit is closing in August.

Deborah Ford in Annie Get Your Gun

Last night I saw ANNIE GET YOUR GUN staring one of my all-time favorite children’s book lovers—Deborah Ford! Hooray for Deborah. She was Adorable with a capital “A.” I always admire Deborah for the professional and snappy way she shares her favorite books including her “Books for Boys” sessions, and I have even more admire after watching her strut her stuff in this endearing production. What amazing energy. She’s like the Energizer bunny!

The play is based on the book by Herbert and Dorothy Fields and Vanguard’s production reflects the revisions done for its 1999 Broadway revival by writer Peter Stone.

The fun is at the Westminster Theater, 3598 Talbot St. in Point Loma. Performances will run through the weekends through July 27 with an added Thursday performance on July 24. Friday and Saturday performances start at 8 p.m. and Sunday performances begin at 7 p.m. For reservations and more information, call (619) 224-6263 or visit

What's Cooking

Here’s what’s cooking with me: We left for the cabin on Tuesday right after I took a cooking class at my local cooking school. How cool is that? I’ve got a cooking school within walking distance of my house.

This is the second class I’ve had with Phillis Carey. She’s a great cook and teacher—what a combo! She taught the soup class last spring that I loved. She always has wonderful new gadgets to talk about and easy/helpful tips. Her website,, lists upcoming classes and posts recipes.

Tuesday’s class was: “Quick and Easy Lunch—Mediterranean Summer Style.” The lesson and luncheon featured chicken with fennel-paprika spice rub with a caper, olive, and tomato salad; orzo with fresh thyme, grilled corn, zucchini and feta cheese; and blueberry turnovers with lemon curd cream. Yum-O.

The photo is of the cooking class.

Here’s the info for Great News:

Great News!
Pacific Plaza
1788 Garnet Avenue
Diego, CA 92109
(858) 270-1582

I’m ready to sign up for another class asap! I promised myself I would take another one this summer.

Two Miserable Presidents

TWO MISERABLE PRESIDENTS (EVERYTHING YOUR SCHOOLBOOKS DIDN’T TELL YOU ABOUT THE CIVIL WAR) by Steve Sheinkin and illustrated by Tim Robinson (Roaring Brook Press, 2008) is sure to make readers interested in the events and people of the Civil War.

Sheinkin writes in the preface, “Confessions of a Textbook Writer,” that he was a textbook writer who loved finding interesting stories about historical events, but they never made it into the textbook. He says he “filled up notebooks with good [stories]—funny, amazing, inspiring, surprising, and disgusting.” This book is a result of his research and it makes history zing off the pages.

I was fascinated by the interesting pieces of information I read (and had never heard before). The backmatter includes biographical sketches, source notes, and quotation notes.

I’m hoping Sheinkin has other notebooks filled with stories—We could use companion books to this offering.

A fabulous read for history lovers, but also an appealing read for those who find history “dull.” Sheinkin proves history isn’t dull . . . not at all.

A Pig in Provence

Who would have guessed it? Yes, I found (and read) another book about Provence: A PIG IN PROVENCE: GOOD FOOD AND SIMPLE PLEASURES IN THE SOUTH OF FRANCE by Georgeanne Brennan. Georgeanne fell in love with Provence and returns time and again over many years to enjoy the community, customs, and food of that glorious place. Ah. Every time I read a travel memoir I’m tempted to buy a villa and restore it. Of course, I love living in San Diego and I would be miserable at restoring an old place, but that doesn’t stop me from daydreaming.

Her website at describes her other books and her cooking classes.

Gene Autry Museum

I went on a Joyce Swan Tour to the Autry National Center yesterday. A bronze statue of Gene Autry and Champion with the label “Back in the Saddle Again” welcomes guests. The museum “is committed to displaying, explaining, and sharing its extraordinary collections and program.” They are “keepers of the tradition of storytelling as each object” they conserve, preserve, and share is a “collective history of those who have come before us.” I especially liked the area with the TV and movie cowboys and their outfits and vintage collectibles. Who wouldn’t enjoy a room where you can see the Lone Ranger’s outfit along with Gene Autry’s guitar? I had a buffalo burger for lunch! Yum. Here’s their website:

We also stopped at the W.K. Kellogg Arabian horse center at Cal State Poly Tech in Pomona. The great race horse, Abu Farwa, was born here. We were guided through the complex and the horses were quite amazing.

Here’s a little history from their website at

“The W. K. Kellogg Arabian Horse Center traces its origins back to 1925, when the late W. K. Kellogg, founder of the Kellogg Company in Battle Creek, Michigan, purchased land and built his ranch in Pomona. In 1949, Kellogg donated his ranch to the state of California, providing that (1) the property be used for educational purposes, and (2) the traditional Arabian horse shows, started by Kellogg in 1926 to demonstrate the beauty and versatility of the Arabian horse, be continued. The program at Cal Poly Pomona has been developed with these wishes in mind.”

Happy Trails to you!

Blogging Class

I took a blogging class today with Teri. Hope it helps! It was great fun and there's so much to learn. And, of course, we had to have lunch at Ruby's Diner after class. 

The Sorta Sisters

“What if your best friend was
someone you’d never met?
And what if that best friend
you’d never met wrote you a letter?”

Anna is a foster child who hopes she’s found a permanent home with Miss J. Mica has been living on a small boat with her father. They are never in a place long enough for Mica to make true friends. Mica and Anna begin writing letters to each other and a friendship is started. The book contains illustrations by the author. (Impressive.) Visit to learn more about the author and this fascinating read.

Here are some reviews I got from Adrian’s website:

“Fogelin offers a readable combination of narrative and letters that are infused with details about science, as the girls send seed pods, shells and other specimens to each other. Readers will appreciate the pen-pal friendship and the hopeful ending.” Kirkus

“The lively, third-person narrative alternates between each girl’s perspective, and the frequently inserted letters bring intimacy and depth to the characters. Lovely sepia drawings by the author depict wildlife and the packages that the girls send to each other throughout the novel. A heartfelt story that shows the many factors that create family, friends, and a home.” Booklist

I don’t have a sister, but I wish I did. If I had read this book when I was young, I would have easily tapped into the idea of having a “sorta sister” and I suspect there are many young readers out there who will embrace this book and the joys of a close friendship—a “sorta sisters” friendship.

Bird by Bird

A quote of inspiration from one of my all-time favorite books about writing: BIRD BY BIRD: SOME INSTRUCTIONS ON WRITING AND LIFE by Anne Lamont.

“Thirty years ago my older brother, who was ten years old at the time, was trying to get a report on birds written that he’d had three months to write. [It] was due the next day. We were out at our family cabin in Bolinas, and he was at the kitchen table close to tears, surrounded by binder paper and pencils and unopened books on birds, immobilized by the hugeness of the task ahead. Then my father sat down beside him, put his arm around my brother’s shoulder, and said, “Bird by bird, buddy. Just take it bird by bird.”

These are the basic instructions Lamont provides as she encourages you, me, and even herself (I suspect!) to write. Just take that writing challenge . . . “bird by bird.”

Sourpuss? Sweetie PIe?

Are you a sweetie pie? A sour puss? Norton Juster and Chris Raschka have teamed up for SOURPUSS AND SWEETIE PIE, a companion book to their Caldecott-winning THE HELLO, GOODBYE WINDOW.

I had the pleasure of attending Scholastic’s Literary Brunch at ALA and Juster (author of THE PHANTOM TOLLBOOTH) read his newest picture book. He explained that his young granddaughter was the inspiration for the book as she was capable of moving from a sour puss to a sweetie pie without a moment’s notice—in a blink of an eye. Of course, the librarians at the table I was at giggled and saw themselves in the granddaughter’s seesaw of emotions.

Here are the details:

Reading level: Ages 9-12
Hardcover: 32 pages
Publisher: Michael di Capua Books (October 1, 2008)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0439929431
ISBN-13: 978-0439929431

Deborah Halverson

On Saturday, July 12 at 2:00 Deborah Halverson will be speaking at the Barnes & Noble on 10775 Westview Parkway, San Diego, CA 92126, 858-684-3166.

Deborah will be talking about her recent book, BIG MOUTH.

I love Deborah’s blog: (Click on BLOG.)

Hate That Cat: A Novel

I loved LOVE THAT DOG by Sharon Creech and at ALA I found an Advance Reader’s Edition of HATE THAT CAT: A NOVEL (HarperCollins). I read it just after I found RIVER OF WORDS and the two books are a great pairing. Creech presents some of the poetry of William Carlos Williams as Jack continues his second year in school with his favorite teacher, Miss Stretchberry.

Due on sale September 23, 2008, teachers who loved LOVE THAT DOG (like me!) will want to be sure and find this companion work to read and share with their students. There’s a “Teach Creech” button on her website (, but right now there’s no info on HATE THAT CAT. I’m hoping something will be posted as the book’s publication date nears.

On a personal note: We went to the Norton Simon Museum and the Irving Museum with daytrippers ( today and had a lovely time. What amazing art treasures. We’ve never been to either and were quite impressed.

One Thousand Tracings by Lita Judge

I’m a very lucky lady to have Lita Judge illustrate my book, S IS FOR S’MORES: A CAMPING ALPHABET. I admire her work, and wanted to mention ONE THOUSAND TRACINGS: HEALING THE WOUNDS OF WORLD WAR II.

Lita was inspired to write this story when she discovered hundreds of tracings of feet in her grandparents’ attic. After World War II, they sent packages of food, clothing, and shoes to Germany offering help. Tracings of shoes began arriving at their home and they enlisted their friends to help meet the needs of Europeans.

The illustrations are a combination “of paintings and collages of original photographs and foot tracings.” This is a fascinating story and one that make each of us think, “What can I do?”

It has definitely been an award magnet:

ONE THOUSAND TRACINGS Awards and Recognition!

• 2008 Winner of the IRA Children's Book Award
• 2008 ALA Notable Children's Book
• 2008 Jane Addams Children’s Book Award Honor
• NCTE Notable Children’s Books in the Language Arts
• Bank Street Best Books of the Year 2008
• 2008 Michigan Notable Book
• CCBC Choices 2008
• IRA Teachers' Choices for 2008
• IRA Notable Book for a Global Society
• New York Public Library 100 Books for Reading and Sharing (2007)
• 2007 Society of School Librarians (SSLI)
• NAPPA Gold Award
• 2008 Storytelling World Resource Award
• 2007 Cybil Award Finalist
• Book Links Lasting Connection of 2007

You’ll want to visit her website to learn more about her and her work at The November 2007 issue of BookLInks features the on the cover and there is a great article also.

I’ll say it again—I was so lucky to have her be the illustrator of S’MORES!

Elijah of Buxton

I’m probably one of the last people to read ELIJAH OF BUXTON, the Newbery Honor winning novel by Christopher Paul Curtis, but this weekend . . . that’s what I did. What a voice Curtis has developed for his Elijah. From the moment the novel begins you are interested in the character. And, I just read in “Booklist” that the novel has been made into a CD (Listening Library, read by Mirron Willis) and that it received a star review. That’s a CD I’m looking forward to hearing.

ELIJAH OF BUXTON also received the Coretta Scott King Award. The award is “given to African American authors and illustrator for outstanding inspirational and educational contributions. The Coretta Scott King Book Award titles promote understanding and appreciation of the culture of all peoples and their contribution to the realization of the American dream. The award is designed to commemorate the life and works of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and to honor Mrs. Coretta Scott King for her courage and determination to continue the work for peace and world brotherhood.” To learn more about the award and to read a list of past recipients, go to the American Library Association’s website at

I say this frequently, but it always surprises me how much I learn while reading a children’s book. I was intrigued by the historical facts Curtis reveals in his Author’s Note. I particularly liked learning about the Liberty Bell and how it was rung whenever a newly freed person reached the Settlement. I confess: I like to read the Author’s Note before I read the book and then reread it when I complete it.

Christopher Paul Curtis received the International Reading Association’s Children’s Book Award for BUD, NOT BUDDY the year I was on the committee. It makes me even more interested in his success as a writer. Info about the award: “Children’s and Young Adult’s Book Awards are given for an author’s first or second published book written for children or young adults (ages birth to 17 years). Awards are given for fiction and nonfiction in each of three categories: primary, intermediate, and young adult. Books from any country and in any language published for the first time” are considered. For a list of past winners visit the International Reading Association’s website at

A River of Words

The American Library Association’s exhibit hall is packed with the best new books for all ages. But, I’d like to tell you about one of my favorite finds: A RIVER OF WORDS: THE STORY OF WILLIAM CARLOS WILLIAMS, written by Jen Bryant, illustrated by Melissa Sweet (Eerdmans Books for Young Readers, 2008). It is fabulous and I have to confess I went a bit nuts at the booth when I saw it.

I have always liked his poem, “This is Just to Say.” It’s one of my all-time favorites—so simple and clearly expressed.

This Is Just To Say

I have eaten
the plums
that were in
the icebox

and which
you were probably
for breakfast.

Forgive me
they were delicious
so sweet
and so cold.

I remember reading a lot of work by William Carlos Williams when I was in college, but it never was presented in such an attractive way.

The book is a picture book biography of Williams. Sweet’s illustrations are fascinating collage. There is an Author’s Note and and Illustrator’s Note and three parallel timelines present the life of Williams, his poems, and what was happening in the world at the time. Teachers will love the timelines—they fit so nicely into the California Standards.

A fabulous new read and a wonderful way to share poetry with your students.

Fortunately by Remy Charlip

Brian Selznick mentioned FORTUNATELY by Remy Charlip during his Caldecott speech and the mention of the title swept me away to high school. I had “Teacher Prep” during my senior year. We visited the local school, Briar Patch Elementary, and helped a teacher for our class credits.

One day my teacher asked me to select a book to read aloud to the entire class. This was a big responsibility for this seventeen year old. After much careful consideration, I selected FORTUNATELY. It was the first book I ever read aloud to a group of first grade students. It’s a terrific book so the kids sat spellbound as I read. I was a huge success or at least I felt like one.

Brian’s mention of this book is sure to bring it to the attention of some folks who have never heard of it and others, like me, will enjoy reminiscing about their past encounters with the book.

Books and Friends

I haven’t finished writing about my ALA adventures, but today I had a fun adventure with my friend, librarian Teri MacDonald. We met at Barnes and Noble, had lunch, and then went back to Barnes and Noble for more talk about books.

We found I'M THE BEST ARTIST IN THE OCEAN! by Kevin Sherry. It’s the companion book to last year’s I'M THE BIGGEST THING IN THE OCEAN.

If you do direct drawing with your students or just want to savor a bit of art in a picture book read aloud, this is the book for you. We loved it and here’s what the reviews are saying:

“This new outing should, like its predecessor, excite enthusiastic responses from young audiences.”

“The enormous squid has a childlike enthusiasm that encourages youngsters to follow him past doodling efforts and an exhibition of his artistic flair.”


Reading level: Ages 4-8
Hardcover: 32 pages
Publisher: Dial (June 12, 2008)
ISBN-10: 0803732554
ISBN-13: 978-0803732551

More about ALA later . . .

Roaring Brook Press Bowled Me Over

That’s right: Roaring Brook Press did bowl me over at ALA! It happened on Friday evening. I was invited by Lauren Wohl to attend this lovely event. Lauren is responsible for many literacy memories for me.

I walked into the bowling alley where Roaring Brook had an entire room of lanes reserved for their event. Lauren instructed me to get some bowling shoes and find a lane that could use another bowler. I looked down the lanes and the lane farthest away had only one bowler. Plus it had the added advantage of being against a wall on the left side of the lane (rather than having lanes on either side.) So, I grabbed some bowling shoes and scooted down the lanes finding a just-right, light, red bowling ball along the way.

I trotted up to the bowler and introduced myself. He introduced himself to me. It was David Macaulay. What good luck I have! (He won the Caldecott for BLACK AND WHITE.) I joined him for a few practice frames and then Simon Boughton, publisher of Roaring Brook, joined us. Did I say what good luck I have?

During our practice frames, before starting our game, I released the bowling ball and slid down the alley. I fell, landed on my rear end, and started to slide. You know how when you are in distress you see things in slow motion? I could see the pins getting closer and bigger and I thought I might slide into the pins. Fortunately . . . I guess you could say fortunately . . . I slid into the gutter and that stopped my free-sliding. I thought for a second I was going to slide down the entire lane and end up knocking down the pins!

I bet David and Simon will both remember me . . . okay they might have to be prompted by the event, but I think there is a pretty good chance that they’ll always remember the woman sliding into the gutter.

Now that’s a literacy memory.

Brian Selznick's Caldecott Acceptance Speech

Perhaps you’ve already heard, but Brian Selznick’s Caldecott acceptance speech was award winning. He had all of the 1000+ attendees in the palm of his hand as he shared his journey to THE INVENTION OF HUGO CABRET and the Caldecott Medal. He presented a sequence of illustrations showing Hugo receiving word that he had won the Caldecott and how Hugo boarded Air France and flew to Anaheim. On the plane, Hugo read the Caldecott Honor winning books. Adorable.

Brian described how he was at a point in his career where he didn’t quite know which direction his work would take him. He shared how he was inspired by Remy Charlip (the book is dedicated to Remy) and Maurice Sendak. He spent six months reading and not writing or illustrating.

He learned a lot about children’s books by working in a children’s bookstore in New York. One day a woman came in to buy a book for her grandchild and he struggled to please her. Finally, he showed her GREEN EGGS AND HAM and she responded, "Do you have it without the ham? They're Jewish." As always—it's about getting the right book in the right hands.

Brian’s illustrations graced the program and it was absolutely the most beautiful dinner program I have ever seen.

Brian wore a black, sparkly shirt and his speech was kind, insightful, delightful and sparkled even more than his shirt.

Each attendee received a CD of the Caldecott and Newbery acceptance speeches, so if you know someone who attended, be sure and give it a listen. The disc also includes “Sous le Toit d’Anaheim” (“Under the Roofs of Anaheim”), the illustrated sequence I tried to describe above that opened Brian’s acceptance speech.

As always, an upcoming issue of “Horn Book” will include Brian’s Caldecott and Laura Amy Shiltz’s Newbery speech.

A is for ALA

ALA was fabulous! I had an amazing time including the opportunity to sit with editor Paula Wiseman at the Simon & Schuster booth where she shared her upcoming titles with me and just one other librarian. Such personal attention . . . I couldn't believe it.

As you probably can guess, I love alphabet books and I was impressed with A IS FOR ART: AN ABSTRACT ALPHABET (Paula Wiseman Books, 2008) written and illustrated by Stephen T. Johnson. (He received a Caldecott Honor for ALPHABET CITY.) This is truly a book for all ages and one that older students (and adults) will find as fascinating as young readers.

For this book, Johnson created abstract art for each letter of the alphabet and paired it with an alliterative caption. Each letter is hidden within the art work and a guide at the back of the book shows exactly where each letter is hidden.

Art and alphabet book lovers will embrace this smart and imaginative book. Johnson has a website under construction:

I'm presenting at San Diego State University's literacy conference next week on "Easy as A, B, C . . . or Is It?" so this book fits perfectly into that presentation. What a great find at the right time.

S'mores and BOOK LINKS

S IS FOR S’MORES A CAMPING ALPHABET is mentioned in the July issue of BOOK LINKS! It’s in an article entitled “S’mores and More: Books about Camping Out.” The title, I heard, was inspired by my book. You’ll find the article on pages 34-36, and it’s by Angela Leeper, an educational consultant, writer and longtime camper from Wake Forest, North Carolina. I’m pleased to have BOOK LINKS mention S'MORES.

You can find a link to BOOK LINKS at the American Library Association’s website. Here’s the address:

At the website, you’ll be able to explore past articles in the newest issue as well as past issues. Right now you can download the entire November issue which features Lita Judge’s work on the cover. Lita is the illustrator of S IS FOR S’MORES A CAMPING ALPHABET.

America At War

AMERICA AT WAR is an anthology of poems selected by Lee Bennett Hopkins and illustrated by Stephen Alcorn. This collection includes more than fifty poems and is divided into eight chronological sections from the American Revolution to the Iraq War.

Here are the details:

Reading level: For all (including adults!)
Hardcover: 96 pages
Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry, 2008
ISBN-10: 1416918329
ISBN-13: 978-1416918325

The back cover features a concrete poem, “Wish For Peace,” by California’s own favorite poet, Joan Bransfield Graham. (

This anthology belongs in every school and public library shelf and every teacher who teaches history and/or peace and conflict issues will find this a valuable resource.

And, my wish for you today is “peace.” Have a lovely, calm day.

Camping Days

I’m the author of a camping book so I’m always on the lookout for other interesting camper books. AMELIA’S ITCHY-TWITCHY, LOVEY-DOVEY SUMMER AT CAMP MOSQUITO by Marissa Moss (and the camper in Cabin 5, Amelia!) makes my list.

Marissa is a California author and illustrator. Her website,, has great teacher advice for writing notebooks. I especially liked this tip, “The first rule is: No one’s the boss of your notebook except you. You can do whatever you want. The second rule is: Since you can do whatever you want, have fun!” (Hmmm . . . sounds like good blog advice, too.)

Here are the details:

Reading level: Ages 9-12
Hardcover: 80 pages
Publisher: Simon & Schuster, 2008
ISBN-10: 1416947221
ISBN-13: 978-1416947226

Here’s a quote from the front cover:

“The best part of summer—in camp or out—is STILL not doing nothing!"

I’m all about that!

Literacy Resources

I just learned of THE 2008 KIDS AND FAMILY READING REPORT™ conducted by Yankelovich and Scholastic. You can get a downloadable copy of the report at:

Here’s some introductory information Scholastic has on their website:

“A new study . . . finds that 75% of kids age 5-17 agree with the statement, “No matter what I can do online, I’ll always want to read books printed on paper,” and 62% of kids surveyed say they prefer to read books printed on paper rather than on a computer or a handheld device. THE KIDS & FAMILY READING REPORT ™, a national survey of children age 5-17 and their parents, also found that kids who go online to extend the reading experience—by going to book or author websites or connecting with other readers—are more likely to read books for fun every day.

The 2008 KIDS & FAMILY READING REPORT, a follow up to a similar 2006 study, both of which were conducted by Scholastic, the global children’s publishing, education and media company, and TSC, a division of Yankelovich, a leader in consumer trends research, again found that the time kids spend reading books for fun declines after age eight and continues to drop off through the teen years. ”

Here's another resource: PUBLISHERS WEEKLY invites you to sign up for their free newsletters by going to

Paddle to the Amazon

I usually like to focus on children’s books, but today I decided I needed to mention a nonfiction book for adults I just finished—PADDLE TO THE AMAZON: THE ULTIMATE 12,000 MILE CANOE ADVENTURE by Don Starkell. I stumbled upon the book on a take-a-book-leave-a-book shelf. I hadn’t heard about it, but I love reading travel adventure stories, so I thought I’d give it a try.

I was fascinated. In 1980, Don Starkell and his two sons set for a grand canoe adventure. They started their trip in Winnipeg and paddled their way to Brazil. One son was discouraged and left the voyage in Mexico, but Don and his son, Dana, traveled over 12,000 miles in their 21-foot canoe. They were confronted with every imaginable obstacle from lack of food to crazy folks with guns, but they also encountered kind and generous people who helped them survive.

Don kept a comprehensive diary throughout the two year trip and this book was developed from those notes. It’s an amazing and fascinating journey. I love to travel and I love reading books about travel, but I typically like to read books about buying old villas and living a charmed life on a sweeping hillside. This wasn’t that, but what a compelling read.

Robin Cruise's Excellent New Adventure

Having lunch with friends is one of my favorite activities, and when they are writer friends . . . well, that’s just a real treat. Yesterday I met with five writer friends including the talented (and kind) Robin Cruise. ONLY YOU is one of her picture books and I had the joy of taking Robin to Lilac School when the book was fresh off the press.

Here’s a little about ONLY YOU:

* A Children’s Book-of-the-Month Club Main Selection

* Society of Illustrators Annual Exhibition, October 2007; New York, New York

* Highly Commended, Charlotte Zolotow Award

* A Chicago Public Library Best of the Best Book

* ”This parent-child love poem reaches out and cuddles its dual audience close. The simple verse celebrates the small, everyday ways small children endear themselves to their parents . . . As a statement of childhood’s most unalienable right, it doesn’t come any clearer." —Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

You can learn more about Robin and her work at

Robin is moving to Washington. We’ll miss her, but look forward to hearing about her new work in the future!

Kathleen Krull and Hillary Rodham Clinton

I’m so excited! I just got to see/read the proofs for Kathleen Krull’s upcoming biography, HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON: DREAMS TAKING FLIGHT, illustrated by Amy June Bates. It’s a smart picture book biography that features 16 spotlights of Hillary’s life using flight as a metaphor. Inspirational words float across the words complementing each vignette. The reader roots for Hillary’s success while applauding her persistent and caring spirit.

I especially liked how the Author’s Note is organized. (I do like my Author’s Notes!) It is segmented and referenced by page number so readers can learn more about Hillary’s life or do research. By placing this information in the backmatter, the story itself will make an excellent classroom read aloud that will prompt discussion of character traits.

Here are the details:

Reading level: Ages 4-8
Hardcover: 40 pages
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing
Pub Date: September 2, 2008
ISBN-10: 1416971297
ISBN-13: 978-1416971290

I’m a long-time fan of Kathleen’s biographies, but this one just knocked my socks off. Enough said for now. but I reserve the right to gush more about this biography in the future.

National Parenting Publications Awards

I’m happy to report that I will be judging the Book Category of the National Parenting Publications Awards again this year. You can view our past award winners at There’s a wealth of information at the site including top DVDs, toys, storytelling, and music.

If you are interested in submitting a book for review, please contact Dana at or call 617-522-1515 x23.

LIBRARY MOUSE was a winner last year. I’m looking forward to a lot of reading and can’t wait to see which books will receive top honors this year!


Greetings! We just got home from Switzerland last night. We went through Untours ( It’s a great company—We used them for our Provence trip also. We had a lovely apartment in Gunten (by Interlaken) with a balcony overlooking Lake Thun. Our apartment was on the top floor of this Swiss chalet. It was the same place we stayed at seven years ago and we loved every minute of our time.

Switzerland reminds me of the book, HEIDI, and it’s been way too long since I read it. Time to settle in to writing and catching up on my reading. I’m sure tomorrow’s mail will bring plenty to read.

The Elephant Quilt

I’m currently working on a book about California, so I’m on the lookout for all things Californian. Imagine my delight when I found THE ELEPHANT QUILT: STITCH BY STITCH TO CALIFORNIA! by Susan Lowell (Melanie Kroupa Books, Farrar Straus Giroux, 2008). Susan is the author of some of my other favorite books including THE THREE LITTLE JAVELINAS.

Lily Rose and her grandma stitch a quilt as they travel from Missouri to California by covered wagon in 1859. An Author’s Note supplies readers with the background for the idea of the book. (I’m a nut about Author’s Notes. Love them.) Every fourth grade teacher in California will want this book and everyone who studies westward movement will find this a helpful addition to their school or classroom library.

Those who love quilt books will want to add the book to their favorite quilt stories including SWEET CLARA AND THE FREEDOM QUILT by Deborah Hopkinson, THE QUILT STORY by Tony Johnston, The JOSEFINA STORY QUILT by Eleanor Coerr, THE PATCHWORK QUILT by Valerie Flournoy, THE KINDNESS QUILT by Nancy Elizabeth Wallace, SAM JOHNSON AND THE BLUE RIBBON QUILT by Lisa Campbell Ernst, LUKA’S QUILT by Georgia Guba, THE KEEPING QUILT by Patricia Polacco . . . okay . . . you get the idea! (By the way, Patricia Polacco’s website ( is a favorite.)

I hope people find their way to this book . . . Whoop-De-Doo!

As for me, I enjoyed the morning at the swap meet and then took my mom to World Famous for brunch. (One of my favorite ocean-side restaurants.)

A Visit With San Pasqual’s Second Graders

Hooray for the second graders at San Pasqual School!

The picture is of the school library. It has a fire place and a “reading silo.” How cool is that?

I had a great day talking about writing (and telling camping knock-knock jokes) with the second grade students at San Pasqual School. Many thanks to the school’s librarian, Teri MacDonald, and the second grade teachers.

By the way, if you know a camping knock-knock joke, I’d love to hear from you. I need to add some more jokes to my repertoire!

California, Here I Come

I’m excited to report that I’m working on a book about California for Sleeping Bear Press. The details are being worked out right now, but it’s for their “The Reader Series.” This series is patterned after the popular nineteenth century McGuffey Readers which were traditionally used to teach life lessons and reading skills to young children.

I started collecting early readers or primers when I started teaching first grade. I’ve found McGuffey Readers in California antique malls and at old Vermont barn estate sales. I really love it when I find an old Dick and Jane reader, but that’s a whole other topic.

THE PENNSYLVANIA READER by Trinka Hakes Noble is one of the books in the series. You can learn more about this book and the series at

I’ll take this opportunity to tell you that you can find outstanding teachers’ guides for Sleeping Bear Press books at their website. They are available free-of-charge and downloadable from their website. This a fabulous resource for teachers and librarians.

As for me, I’m taking a little break from my writing for a few days. Yesterday I enjoyed lunch with six friends and today I’m visiting San Pasqual School’s second graders.

Celebrate the Day

Sometimes I find a book and think,”Wow! I love that idea . . . why didn’t I think of that?” MRS. MUDDLE’S HOLIDAYS by Laura F. Nielsen (Farrar Straus Giroux, 2008) is a perfect example. People who know me know that I love wacky days to celebrate. My favorites?

August 10 National S’mores Day

August 30 Toasted Marshmallow Day

August 31 National Trail Mix Day

I’ll be busy in August celebrating. Can you guess why these might be some of my favorite wacky celebrations? A great website for finding holiday info is

Mrs. Muddle loves to celebrate holidays in style including “First Shower of April,” “First Robin Day,” and “Earthworm Appreciation Day.” Katie comes up with a special celebration for one of her own favorites . . . one that Mrs. Muddle hasn’t even thought of.

Release your inner holiday celebration and find something to celebrate today! As for me, yesterday I had lunch with two writing friends, Jean Ferris and Deborah Halverson. I think meeting with friends is always a celebration.

California Young Reader Medal

One of my happiest committee experiences was serving on the California Young Reader Medal committee. They were a great group of people and it’s a super program. The winners for 2007-2008 have been announced this month so visit and see the list of winners and the list of nominees for the 2008-2009 school year.

Congratulations to California author Neal Shusterman in the middle school category CYRM for THE SCHWA WAS HERE (Dutton Children’s Books, 2004).

ALA Is Coming to Anaheim!

Hooray! The American Library Association is headed to Anaheim in June and I’ll be there.

One of the highlights of the conference is the celebration of the children’s book award winners for 2007. Carmen Agra Deedy received the Pura Belpré Medal for her newest book: MARTINA THE BEAUTIFUL COCKROACH: A CUBAN FOLKTALE (Peachtree Publishers, 2007). Who would have thought I’d like a book that has a cockroach as its main character? But, I do. Martina’s grandmother gives her some shocking advice when she’s trying to find a husband . . . one with patience and understanding. (The book is also available in Spanish.) Visit to learn more about Carmen and this Cuban folktale.

The Belpré Medal honors a Latino/Latina writer and illustrator whose works best portray, affirm, and celebrate the Latino cultural experience in an outstanding work of literature for children and youth. Find out more about the ALA children’s book awards at (click on awards).

See you in Anaheim!

Book of the Day!

I was just looking at one of my favorite blogs: (Interesting Nonfiction for Kids) and noticed they have Kathleen Krull’s book, LIVES OF EXTRAORDINARY WOMEN: RULERS, REBELS (AND WHAT THE NEIGHBORS THOUGHT), as their “Book of the Day.” Hooray for Kathy! I’m having lunch with Kathy tomorrow and decided I’d make her book the “Book of the Day” on my blog too!

I.N.K. is a very cool website jam-packed with great information about children’s books by nonfiction children’s book authors. You’ll want ot check it out. And, of course, if you haven’t already . . . you’ll want to check out Kathy’s website at

Memorial Day Weekend

Bob and I celebrated our 21st anniversary on Sunday. We were at the cabin and drove to Lake Cuyamaca’s restaurant for brunch. Franz, the owner, treated us to a surprise cheesecake with candles and cued the accordion player to play “Anniversary Waltz.” What a lovely way to enjoy the day.

When we returned to the cabin I read WORDS IN A FRENCH LIFE: LESSONS IN LOVE AND LANGUAGE FROM THE SOUTH OF FRANCE. It’s been three years since we enjoyed Provence’s countryside, but the book swept me away to that glorious place.

Kristin Espinasse, the author, has a blog at

San Pasqual School Library

Last night I was at the San Pasqual School library as part of a fundraiser. The school had previously auctioned me off to the Stanley family! A big thank you to the Stanley family for their support of their school library.

My friend, Teri MacDonald, is the school’s librarian. Teri and I worked on FINDING THE WONDERS OF OUR WORLD, an article for BOOKLINKS. You can find a link to the article on my website. It was inspired by THE SEVEN WONDERS OF SASSAFRAS SPRINGS by Betty Birney. ( It’s one of my favorite books.

Squeeze the Moments!

Friday evening the Greater San Diego Reading Association held their annual Recognition Dinner. It was great fun to see many longtime friends and participate in the celebration. Several of my friends were recognized and it is such a joy to see their hard work and literacy contributions recognized.

It’s a beautiful sunny Sunday in San Diego and I’m grateful. I thought I’d post the image of SQUEEZE THE MOMENT by Karen O’Connor. Karen wrote for children, but now her focus is on inspirational writing and speaking. Years ago, I had the pleasure of taking her to many rural San Diego schools as part of the Meet the Author program. You can learn more about her at

Meet Paul Brewer

I love working on THE CALIFORNIA READER, the journal of the California Reading Association. Each quarterly issue I have a chance to feature a book by a California author or illustrator. The spring issue features the very talented writer and illustrator Paul Brewer and an "About the Cover" article describing his joke books.

Check out his website at to learn more about him, his books, and his school visits. You can learn more about the reading association at