Wednesday, August 20, 2014

The Secret of Ferrell Savage.

I'm impressed with this book by a new author, J. Duddy Gill. I wonder if the author's name is a pseudonym because it's so unusual and the character names are all original and amusing even without the story.

But the story is exciting, adventurous, and fun. There's real danger involved, too. It's about a boy, Ferrell Savage, his friend, Mary Vittles, and a threatening, new kid, Bruce Littledood.

 One of the things I like best about it is the lack of stereotypes. So many books for kids have similar characters and conflicts, but this one is completely original.

Yes, the main character will be in a dangerous competition (or two,) another character is threatening to him, and a girl is involved, but their interactions and reactions are not at all what the reader would expect. And the secret is very unusual!

I don't want to give away the plot so I won't go into more detail.You'll need to read it to learn more.

I hope the author writes a sequel because, while the ending is satisfying, there are a few unanswered questions. Why does Bruce Littledood need to be a winner? Why is Ferrell's mother a strict vegan? And how will his relationship with Mary develop in the future?

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Recycle! A Children's Musical

I don't usually review plays, but this one is worth making an exception for. Recycle! A Children's Musical by Joni Klein-Higger should be performed in schools everywhere. With twenty characters there are enough parts for lots of kids and others can serve behind the scenes. That means a whole class could be involved in the play.

And it's educational.

Recycle! is the amusing story of some modern kids who time travel back to 1950 with the help of  a mysterious, "nutty" professor. While there, they learn how people got along without all the plastic and other things that are damaging our environment and come to understand the importance of reducing, reusing, and recycling.

That's information kids everywhere need to learn.

But the play isn't boring and didactic and it could also be performed by groups of kids outside of schools.

It's amusing and has lively, catchy music kids will probably go home singing when the play is over. And performances would be only about half an hour long.

The script is available on Amazon, but the music and recording of it must be purchased from Guardian Angel Publishing, at least right now. I think it will become available elsewhere soon.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

The Mystery of the Haunted Toilet

One of the toilets in my house seemed to be haunted.

Once in a while, sometimes several times in a week and other times not for a month or two, it would flush itself when nobody had been near it.

The other day I talked to a plumber and learned the problem was called "ghost flushing." It happens to other toilets and apparently I'm not the only one who thinks it seems spooky.

What actually happens is a tiny bit of water leaks out of the tank over a period of hours or days until the water level gets low enough so the mechanism opens and allows new water to refill the tank.

That's what causes the flushing sound.

Okay, the mystery is solved. 

However, as a writer,  I like the original concept better. I can think of all sorts of story possibilities about a haunted toilet.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

The Fearless Grandpa

The Fearless Grandpa by Mary Esparza-Vela is a cute and amusing book. 

It's about a visiting grandfather who tells his grandkids not-very-scary ghost stories and claims to be fearless.

But then something happens that scares him a lot.

I don't want to spoil the book by giving away what scared him, but it's funny.

This is a sweet portrayal of the relationship between a child and her aging grandfather.

The illustrations are cute, too, but I have a problem with them. The names of the characters sound Spanish but the pictures don't make them look that way. However that's a minor point and most kids won't notice it.

I think this is a book lots of kids will enjoy.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Getting Books

As an author I must admit I want people to buy my books. Like everyone else, I need money.  But, as a reader, I must admit I often read books for free, or for very little money.

First, I've used public libraries since I first learned to read, and I love them. I usually read about five or six library books (mostly middle-grade fiction) every week.

Libraries are wonderful. A few years ago our county considered privatizing our libraries and the entire community banded together to keep that from happening. Obviously I'm not the only one who loves libraries.

Then there are second hand book stores, and book sales, many of which raise funds to help libraries or other organizations.

In our community we have a monthly free book swap where people can donate as many books as they want and take home as many as they want.

Sometimes people who know me give me books as gifts, or I exchange books with author friends.

And, although I'm old fashioned and prefer hard copies to e-readers, I've downloaded free e-books from the internet and even bought a few.

Of course if I'm buying a book as a gift for someone else I get them new hard copies, and if I expect to read a book again and again or use it for reference I do sometimes purchase new ones for myself.

As my bumper sticker proclaims, "Bookaholics Unite"

What kind of books do you like to read?

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Why I Love Language

As you probably know, my blog is about words, books and kids. I post lots of book reviews, but I thought it might be time to explain why I also talk about language.

I’ve been fascinated with language ever since I was a little kid. I was about four years old when my little brother was learning to talk. I felt very proud because could often understand him when our parents couldn’t. I now realize that’s because they were trying to decipher his words but he used intonation patterns to communicate.

Later when I was five years old we moved from New Jersey to California and was surprised to hear people used different words for things than we did back East. For instance we had a sofa, but our California neighbors had couches. Dialects are different in different parts of the country.

When I got a little bit older I thought it would be fun to learn  every language in the world when I grew up. Obviously that didn’t happen! I am fluent in American Sign Language, took Latin and German in High School and French in college.

A family from Germany moved in next door to us the first week I started taking German. Since they had little kids I wasn't embarrassed to try using that language with the children. However my first attempt was a big failure. I tried to ask their names but was actually asking them what color they were. However our communication did improve after that. Because I actually used that language I learned it better than the others I studied in school and plan to take some informal lessons to brush up.

Of course nobody speaks Latin today. However I once worked in a school where the kitchen staff were all from Mexico and had very limited English. I used Latin based English words to communicate with them and they could understand everything I said. Everyone else used the “simple” English, which is based on the Anglo-Saxon language and those words were the hardest for the kitchen crew to understand.

I took French in college in the 1960s. (Yes, I'm old.) The French professor was from Quebec and they were trying to get French accepted as an official language in Canada. She kept telling us French was the best language in the world and much better than English. Even then I knew enough about Linguistics to realize one language isn't better than another. I resented her attitude and flushed the French out of my mind once I had passed the tests. That was stupid since I had taken the classes in order to learn the language.

Later in college I took a lot of Linguistics electives just for fun.

Back in the 1960s my fiancé knew I was interested in languages and introduced me to a friend who was a Sign Language interpreter. That friend taught me ASL and I married him instead of my fiance'.
To be honest, I'll admit there were a few years in between but it makes a better story if I don't mention that.

I did become fluent in ASL, though I've been out of the Deaf community for a while and don't know the newer signs.

And, of course, I use my native language all the time, both in  everyday activities and as a writer.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Prairie Dog Play Days

Margot Finke has done it again.

She's written another fun book that teaches kids about the natural world and it will be published soon. I'm lucky to get to see it before most other people and you're lucky to be getting a sneak peek at it.

 While her other books are mostly about Australia, this one features creatures in North America.

As the title implies, the first section of the book, Prairie Dog Days, is about prairie dogs, but equal coverage is given to skunks and eagles in the sections called Little Stinkers and Bald Eagle Rules.

Written in rhyming style and sharing a lot about the youngsters in each species, this book will be a pleasure for kids to read or have read to them.

And they'll learn a lot, too. I even learned something I didn't know about the reason bald eagles are called that. (No spoilers; you'll have to read the book to find out.)

There's plenty of educational material at the end of the book for teachers and home schooling parents to use, and I think kids will enjoy all of that, too.

The illustrations by Kathy Iler are both charming and accurate.

I think lots of kids will love this book.