Saturday, December 29, 2012

Infinity Ring

This is a new series for kids published by Scholastic. It's Sci-Fi with a touch of historical fiction about some kids who time travel to try to stop bad guys from destroying the world. The story starts in a time like ours that's dystopian because of the history the kids must try to change.

So far I've read the first two books and can't wait to read more because they're so well written.

To my surprise, they don't have the same author. James Dashner wrote the first one and Carrie Ryan wrote the second, but the realistic characters, the underlying plot concept and the style of writing are the same. I know lots of traditional series for kids have been written by various authors under the same name, but I always felt that was dishonest. I appreciate Scholastic's integrity in letting the authors of this series use their own names.

These books are action-packed adventures and I can't wait to read the next one.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012


No, I'm not talking about recovering from addictions, although that's a good thing. Nor is this post about recovering from illness, though I hope everyone who is sick can do that soon. I'm talking about recovering from Christmas.

Some people are still away from home visiting relatives and the celebrations won't be over for a while because of New Year's Eve. But soon we'll all be done with taking down decorations, throwing away gift wrap, sending thank -you notes (yes, some of us still do that,) finishing up the cookies, and putting away the gifts we received. Then things will be back to as normal as they're likely to get.

This year, with all its drama, is almost over and it's time to evaluate it. New Year's resolutions often get forgotten before long, but let's look back and think about 2012. What was the best thing that happened to you this year? Did you accomplish anything special? And what are you thankful for?

Let's all approach 2013 with a positive attitude and start keeping track of all the good things so when we look back next year our gratitude list will be even longer than today's.

Saturday, December 22, 2012


Okay, I'm sure thousands, if not millions, of people are blogging about Christmas this week, but I couldn't resist doing it too.

While there's a lot of doubt that Jesus was actually born at this time of year, Christians have celebrated his coming into the world at this time for nearly a thousand years.

Caesar Augustus would have been stupid to require everyone in the Roman empire to travel to the homes of their ancestors in the winter because lots of people in the northern areas would have died from the extreme weather. The best time to collect taxes would have been at the end of the harvest season and, being from the Mediterranean area, he would probably have chosen early Fall for the date, although many scholars think it was in late August.

But most cultures in areas where winter is a bleak season had some sort of celebration when the days began to get longer again. The Romans' Saturnalia was held at that time and early Christians who were being persecuted needed to celebrate or risk being arrested, so they chose to honor the birth of Christ at that time.

Today lots of people who aren't Christians celebrate Christmas, partly because it's something people in our society have always done, and partly because it brightens the winter. Unfortunately, many people in our culture seem to worship Mammon, the god of money, and celebrate Christmas by showing off how much they can afford to spend on gifts, etc.

But there are still plenty of us who focus on Christmas as a celebration of the Incarnation. So be it.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Better Late Than Never

When I started blogging back in 2009 I wondered how I'd ever think of enough things to write about. Well, the ideas are still coming. Usually I post things around 10:30 or 11:00 a.m. on Wednesdays and Saturdays.

This morning I didn't post anything, not because I couldn't think of anything to write about, but because I couldn't decide between all the ideas. I wondered if today's blog should be about the shootings or one of several related topics like school, guns, autism, or safety rules? Should it be about Christmas, traditions, Winter weather, families, or another seasonal subject? Or should I write about writing or books related to any of those topics?

Finally I decided to blog about all the things I could be blogging about instead of making a choice. So here you have it. I promise to be more specific on Saturday.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

The Revenge of Thelma Hill

I'm not much into ghost stories, but I enjoyed The Revenge of Thelma Hill a lot.

It starts off with a scary first chapter, but eventually we learn the ghost of Thelma Hill isn't evil. She just wants Frannie James to help her. Thelma was murdered years ago by her husband, who buried her in the basement of the house where Frannie and her family now live. The ghost wants her bones buried in a consecrated cemetery so she can go to Heaven and for her murderer to get the punishment he deserves. She's certain Frannie is the only one who can make that happen - but how?

The real scary character in the book isn't the ghost, but her murderer.

The subplots include Frannie trying to find out what happened to her own mother, who had left the family when she was two years old, and dealing with her obnoxious twin brother. Since the family moved to their new town during Summer vacation her brother Jeff is the only kid she knows, but they can't get along and quarrel constantly. And, of course, if Frannie tells anyone she has been seeing a ghost they'll think she has gone crazy.

The author, Margot Finke, has done a wonderful job of writing an exciting, tension-filled story and portraying realistic characters and relationships.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Christmas Book

I don't often mention my own books here, but the increasing commercialism as Christmas approaches reminds me of why I wrote Secret Service Saint. The book is about Nicolas who discovers the adventure of doing secret good deeds and eventually becomes known as Santa Claus. I wrote it to encourage kids to think about helping others, especially without getting any reward or praise in return. Secret giving really is an adventure and can be at least as exciting as getting presents for Christmas.

Of course kids must be careful to stay safe when doing things like that, but there are many ways they can secretly help others and I hope those who read my book will find out how much fun secretly helping people can be.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Lost in the River of Grass

Lost in the River of Grass is one of the most exciting books I've ever read.

It begins like the typical novel for girls with the main character having problems being accepted in a new school, but even that part is unusual since it opens on a field trip in the Everglades. And soon, when the main character, Sarah, and a boy she barely knows get marooned and lost it turns into an adventure novel that would appeal to boys as well as girls. Of course the development of the relationship between the main characters is probably more of a girl thing.

But very page of the book is exciting.

It includes an amazing amount of information about the Everglades and creatures that live there, but all the information is essential to the adventure and doesn't feel like it's intended to be educational. This is definitely a page-turner because the survival of the kids is threatened in so many ways by the creatures and situation they're in as they try to find their way out of the river of grass.

I reviewed another one of Ginny Rorby's books, Hurt Go Happy, here a while ago. I had read that one because it's about deafness and an animal who learned Sign Language and I have experience with both those topics. I decided to read Lost in the River of Grass since it was by the same author and I'm glad I did. Although there's a brief mention of some of the characters from the previous book, this one is entirely different. I recommend it highly.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012


'Tis the catch germs.

People in stores, schools, and businesses are sniffling and sneezing and when someone sneezes we say, "God Bless you."

That's because in the middle ages people thought our breath was our soul. The soul left the body when someone sneezed and an evil spirit might quickly slip in, but saying "God Bless You" kept them from doing that.

Of course we don't believe that anymore, but there are still things we can do to help with sneezing.

It's important to teach kids to sneeze or cough into their arms, not their hands, because germs on hands will be transferred to everything they touch.

Of course we all make sure kids wash their hands before eating and after using the toilet. But they may not know public restrooms often have germs on faucet handles (touched before people washed) and door handles (because some people don't wash their hands before leaving) so it's a good idea to cover those with a paper towel before using them.

And please keep sick kids home from school and other public places to keep them from spreading their sneezes to others. Even people who got flu shots may catch colds and other contagious illnesses.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Sand Art Secret

Last Summer at I reviewed a book for kids about Whispering Wally, the whale who only speaks in a tiny, soft voice. Now Kevin Collier, who is both the author and illustrator, has released a new book, The Sand Art Secret.

Like the first one in the series, this book is charming. I loved the colorful ocean and cute depictions of the creatures that live in it.

The simple story is appropriate for little kids and the lesson it teaches is something that may influence their lives. Since, like his character, Torrie the tiny sea turtle, Collier is an illustrator himself, perhaps he had to learn that same lesson at some time.

Besides being available in hard copy, this book is also available on Kindle for those who have newer models that can show colors at