Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Giving Thanks

Yes, I know the traditional time to talk about giving thanks is at the end of November, but it's a good idea to express gratitude all year long.
A few weeks ago I was crossing a street where work was being done and traffic was only allowed through in one direction at a time. Since there was a break in the traffic I thanked the woman who was directing it and she was amazed. She said a few minutes earlier someone had called her a name which I won't repeat here because she'd made them wait.
Once a lot of work was being done on a street in front of a house where I used to live because wires were being moved under ground and some repairs were needed. Every few days a crew from a utility company would dig up the street, work in the hole for a while, and fill it in until the next crew came out to work on it, usually a few days later.
The work had been going on for weeks when I called the city public works department to ask if they knew when it would all be completed. After getting the estimated date I mentioned that I appreciated the landscaping they had done a few blocks away.
There was a moment of silence. Then, with a choked voice the man told me that was the only expression of gratitude he had ever gotten. Usually he just had to listen to complaints all day long.
Both those people were thankful for my thanks and reminded me how important it is to express gratitude to those who serve us even if that service is sometimes an inconvenience. The mail carrier who brings bills, the cashier who takes extra time helping a customer in line, the police officer who gives a ticket, and those who repair our streets and utilities are not only doing their jobs. In a small way they're helping to make the world a better place.
Please join me in thanking them and all the others who deserve our gratitude.
Thank you.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Songs for a Teenage Nomad

I seldom review books for young adults but recently read a YA novel that's so good it had to be shared. Songs for a Teenage Nomad by Kim Culbertson is too edgy for younger readers because of the sorts of problems Calle, the protagonist, experiences, but it's so beautifully written I couldn't resist telling you about it.
Calle's single mother has kept moving around and changing boyfriends for her daughter's entire life so the girl has never been able to have friends or feel like she belonged anywhere. Finally they've arrived in a community where Calle (pronounced like Callie) develops relationships. Then her life falls apart again.
The plot is exciting, the characters are realistic, and the writing is beautiful and poetic.
I highly recommend this book for teens who like to read.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Amazing Award!

Guess what! I just won a Newberry Award.
Before you get excited, let me explain that it's not the Newbery Medal for the year's best books for children. (Oh, how I'd love to get one of those.)
When the authors and illustrators with Guardian Angel Publishing who live near the West Coast of the US met in Oregon last week we had a tour of the Newberry Volcanic Monument. Just for fun our publisher, Lynda Burch, agreed to create the Newberry Award for those of us who were on that tour. Here it is:

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Emily the Chickadee

Someone sent me the Emily the Chickadee series of picture books for young children by Carol Zelaya. The three books in the series are Emily Waits For Her Family, Caring For Emily's Family, and Emily's New Home.
The books are educational because they provide information little ones wouldn't know about the life of a bird. However they're all told in rhyme, which is often forced. The first one, which uses the same rhyme scheme for every single sentence was annoying to me, but very young children probably won't mind hearing the constant repetition of the same sound as the books are read aloud to them. In fact they might like it.
The illustrations by Kristin Metcalf are beautiful and manage to be scientifically accurate and charming at the same time.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Books, Etc.

Sorry not to have posted anything on Saturday, but I was out of town at a wonderful event and didn't have internet access. The publisher of my books and a group of other authors and illustrators who work with the same house gathered in Bend, Oregon to meet each other and have a shared book signing at the local Barnes and Noble. We also got to see some of the beautiful sights in the area and have fun together.
I got some books by other authors and will probably review some of them here in the future.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Emma Lea's Tea With Daddy

Emma Lea’s Tea With Daddy is one in a series by Babette Donaldson about the same little girl, all of which involve tea. Although I’m not into it myself, I understand there’s now an entire tea culture in America and this series helps to introduce it to children.

Even though tea isn’t my thing, I found this book about a child managing to prepare a fancy meal for her father to be delightful. In the long run, the book is more about family relationships than the beverage they share, and I’m beginning to get the impression that’s true of the tea culture as a whole. It encourages good manners, too.

The illustrations by Jerianne Van Dijk do an excellent job of expressing the warm feeling of the story and the simple recipe at the end adds to the appeal.

Some other books in the series are Emma Lea’s First Tea Party, Emma Lea’s Magic Teapot, and Emma Lea’s First Tea Ceremony.

For people who love tea and want children to learn about the tea culture the best place to buy them is in a local tea shop. The books are also available online at Barnes & Noble and Amazon, but not in bookstores.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Author Questions

Cheryl Malandrinos tagged me! That means that I have to play tag by answering a few little interview questions! Then I have to blog tag someone else! So, here are my answers and here are the bloggers I am tagging! I guess I’m it!

1. Which words do you use too much in your writing?

Suddenly, just and the verb to be. I was just amazed when my editor suddenly asked me to remove most of them from my manuscript.

2. Which words do you consider overused in stuff you read?

To tell the truth, I seldom notice the words when I’m reading. They’re like a transparent window that lets me view the fictional universe of the story.

3. What are your other favorite blogs?


to name just a few.

4. Name a favorite word:

Acceptance. I love getting those from publishers.

5. And a word you’re not so keen on:

Rejection. Getting those proves I’m a writer, but it doesn’t make me like them.

6. What would you like to improve about your writing and/or blog?

I’d like my words to be so fascinating people would be flocking to read them.

7. What’s your writing ambition?

Seriously, I would like at least a few people to have their lives changed for the better because of reading things I write.

I now blog tag the following blogs / bloggers:

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

A Horse, of Course

A while back I blogged about a horse book for kids. Here's another that's quite different.
A Horse, of Course by Shari Lyle-Soffe is a funny picture book about Aaron, who gets a horse for his birthday. However, like a little brother or sister, Horace the horse gets all the attention, treats, and other things that used to be Aaron's and makes a general nuisance of himself. Can Aaron find a solution that's best for everyone, including Horace?
The illustrations by Eugene Ruble capture the humorous feeling of the book perfectly.
Although this is a picture book, many older children will find it amusing. Some girls who are "horse crazy" might prefer a more realistic book about horses, but any kids who appreciate humor should like this one.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Teeth and Reading

Learning to read is a lot like getting teeth. While the process may be unpleasant, it's definitely worth it because so much more can be taken in.
Another similarity is that children are ready for the process at different ages.
While most babies start getting teeth when they're around six months old, once in a while a baby is born with some teeth already showing and others don't get their first teeth until after their first birthdays.
Reading readiness also happens at different ages depending on when the myelin coating on nerves in the brain finishes growing. Usually kids are ready to read when they're about six years old, but some are ready in preschool while others may not be until they're around eight years old. Becoming ready to read at an earlier or later age doesn't necessarily show intelligence levels any more than the age of getting teeth does.
However children who are expected to learn to read before they are physically ready to do so my learn to fail. If they become convinced that reading is something they are not capable of doing, they may give up. And if, when they do become ready, they're expected to use material designed for kids who are already fluent readers, they won't be able to do it.
That's why I believe children who are developmentally ready should be allowed to learn reading in Preschool and Kindergarten, but that should not be a requirement. If a child doesn't learn to read in First Grade there should be no stigma attached to repeating that grade.
And parents certainly don't need to be ashamed if their babies don't get their first teeth as early as others do.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

School Lunches

There has been quite a bit of information in the news lately about the problems with unhealthy school lunches. High sugar and fat content and lots of advertising are certainly not good for kids.
But what's the alternative?
Way back in ancient history when I was a child schools didn't provide lunches except for one day a week when mother volunteers would come in and cook food for those who would pay for it. Everyone else brought their own food from home as they did the rest of the week. Usually we had a sandwich, a piece of fruit or some carrot or celery sticks, and something sweet (often home baked) for dessert. We would have either fruit juice or milk, which might be in a thermos bottle or a small carton.
However so many mothers now have jobs outside the home that there's not much chance of having enough volunteers to cook for a whole school and health departments probably wouldn't allow that anyway. Some kids do still bring their own lunches, but those usually contain pre-packaged food that's probably as unhealthy as the things sold in cafeterias. And low income kids count on school lunches to get adequate food.
With budget cuts in many school districts (especially in California where I live) selling school lunches might be a way to make a profit, but chances are the programs may be discontinued in some places and more families will be cutting corners by making lunches at home instead of buying them.
At least now we have good freezers so it's possible to make enough sandwiches for a whole week at a time.
Peanut butter and jelly, anyone?