Wednesday, October 7, 2015

My Dogs

The first dog my husband and I got was Brenda, a brilliant, deaf dalmatian. We named her that because dalmatians are fire dogs and the name, Brenda, means fiery.  She learned to understand about 300 signs in American Sign Language and taught us about 30 dog signs. She was amazing! A story I wrote about her is in the Chicken Soup for the Soul book, I Can't Believe My Dog Did That.

Then we got another deaf dalmatian as a companion for her, who we named Buttons because his spots looked like buttons. He wasn't as smart as Brenda, but was a great pet.

We had the dalmatians for a long time. Unfortunately neither of us had raised a dog before and we didn't know coffee was poison for dogs. We let them lick coffee off our fingers every morning and both dalmatians died from damaged livers at about 14 years old.

Our next dog was Bungee. We named him that because he was bouncy and his tail had stripes like a bungee cord. The stripes disappeared when he got older. Bungee was a tan, terrier mix and, judging by his long body, short legs, and colors of his undercoat, he was part corgi. Terriers are bred to hunt rodents and corgis are herding dogs. Bungee had an amazing instinct to herd rodents. He'd herd our daughter's guinea pig around the floor and keep it from going under furniture, He'd lick the guinea pig and it would lick him back with its tiny tongue. He also made friends with a squirrel and a racoon.

We got the dog we named George on Washington's birthday as a companion for Bungee. He was a black mongrel who had some sort of brain injury and wasn't very bright. George would jump high into the air and catch flies. Once he caught a bee that stung his tongue, but he was back jumping at flies a minute later.

Both those dogs also died in their teens.

Then my allergist said I could only have a dog that didn't shed. At that time my aunt was terminally ill and asked us to take her dog, a Lhasa Apso named Nicky.  We did, but he only lived for a few years.

Then we got a poodle/bichon-frise mix who we named Suds because her white, curly hair looks like soapsuds. She's smart as a poodle and loves to snuggle for hours like a bichon.

I love Suds and hope she lives for a long time.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

My Pets

Pets are important for kids, and grown-ups, too.

My first pets were fish because my mother didn't like animals.

Later I was allowed to have a hamster.

Then my mother let me have a cat the kids in the neighboring summer cabin had taken in when they were going home. It was a male cat, but my mother wouldn't tell me how to tell the gender of a cat and I wanted one that would have kittens, so I named him Susie. He was never allowed to spend the night in our house, but went into the basement through a hole.

I also had other cats as a young adult but I couldn't have cats anymore after I got married because of my husband's extreme allergy to cat hair.

Then I became a dog person. I'll write about them in my next post.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Happily After All

Happily After All is one of the best Middle Grade books I've read, and I've read thousands.

I got it from the library because of the title, which is a clever referral to fairy tales. I loved it because of the characters, setting, and plot, all of which were excellent.

The book is about a girl who is sent to live with her birth mother after her father, who has had custody since she was a tiny tot, dies.

Becca doesn't want to go from sunny southern California to the woods of Vermont.

When she gets there she likes the horses, and does get to know some other kids, but is careful not to get close to anyone since she plans to return to CA.

Then she discovers some mysterious things about her own past and others about a boy in her class and is lead into danger.

I won't give away the plot but it's exciting, and I'm sure lots of kids would love this book.
 Unfortunately, it was published in 1990, so  it's probably be hard to find.

I googled the author's name, Laura C. Stevenson, and learned she's written a lot of other books since this one.  She's a great writer, so I'll definitely try to read those.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Magical Max and Magical Mickey

Penelope Anne Cole has written another cute book in her Magical series.

Since Magical Matt and Magical Mea had outgrown their powers, it seemed like the series was over.

Then, to their surprise, their mother has identical twin baby boys. Will the babies also have magic powers?

Readers must wait several chapters to find out, but, of course the title of the book lets us know Max and Mickey do get their powers eventually.

It's fun to see their older brother and sister and other characters from previous books in the series again, and to experience Max and Mickey's first use of their powers to help someone.

I hope there will be more books about them in the future.

As usual Cole has written a story kids will enjoy, and Kevin Scott Collier did a good job on the illustrations.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

FairyTale Town

Next Saturday I'll be giving a presentation at FairyTale Town in Sacramento, CA about one of my books. I'll be one of many authors at the ScholarShare Children's Book Celebration.

I'll be sharing with the kids about one of my books, Slime & All and expect to have a good time doing so.  As a parent, grandparent and former teacher, I love spending time with kids.

But something surprising has happened.

I found out one of the people presenting immediately after me is a distant relative. And I do mean distant.

His name is Andy Domek and I think he's my second cousin's cousin's son-in-law, but I may have missed someone in between.

I have a very complicated group of people who I see at family gatherings and consider them all family, but the relationships are hard to keep straight.

When we got married my husband soon gave up on figuring out who was a second cousin twice removed or a Cousin's cousin's grandchild and coined the term, step-neighbor-in-law, to refer to all of them.

So, besides meeting some wonderful kids and telling them about my book, this weekend I'll get to see one of my step-neighbors-in law at FairyTale-Town.

And that sounds sort of like a fairy tale itself. ;-)

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Little Dog in the Middle of the Road

When I was a little girl back in the 1940s my parents used to read to me every evening.

Little Dog in the Middle of the Road is a newly published book by Sharon Stanley that reminds me of the story books I heard when I was a kid.

I especially enjoyed the way the author repeats the sentence, "And so it was" throughout the book.

The book tells the story of a little dog who is left with a stranger when his "person" goes away for a few days. The dog escapes, gets lost, and doesn't know it's dangerous to sit in the middle of the road.

What will happen to him?

I don't want to give away the plot, but I will say the story has a comforting ending. Any child who has or wants a pet will enjoy hearing about the Little Dog in the Middle of the Road

And Deidre Carr's illustrations add to the enjoyment.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015


My name is Janet Ann Collins, but many of my friends call me Jan.

Nobody called me that when I was little because, due to World War II, everyone knew Jan was a boy's name in Holland.

When I was a kid I only knew one other person named Janet until the movie star, Janet Leigh, became famous. Then hundreds of girl babies were named Janet. I'm in several writers' groups and all of them have at least one other member named Jan or Janet.

It's amazing how many other people have similar or related names. John, Jane. Juan, Shawn, Sean, Shanna, Juanita, Hans, Giovanni, Zane, Ivan, Jeanette, Jean, Jonathan, Janice, and many others are all related. (In case you can't tell, I've always been interested in Linguistics.)

I understand the original version of those names was Hebrew, and the meaning was something like "God gives grace," ""God is gracious," or "Gracious gift of God."

With a meaning like that it's no wonder so many people chose similar names for their babies. Of course, as the name spread through various cultures and languages, lots of parents were unaware of the original meaning and simply named their children after other people.

It's no wonder there are so many of us in the world!