Saturday, July 31, 2010


Do you iron clothes?
Back before perma-press, wrinkle-free, and other synthetic fabrics were available nearly all clothing that wasn't sent to the dry cleaners had to be ironed. Housewives often set aside one day every week to iron all the clothes their family needed. Before steam irons, clothing would be sprinkled with water and rolled up for a few hours or overnight so the moisture spread through all the fabric before it was ironed. It was a lot of work and we were glad when the newer fabrics came along.
Now we still wear some clothes made from those traditional fabrics, and even the newer ones often need touching up, but ironing isn't nearly as difficult a chore as it was years ago.
Recently I had bought an outfit made from crinkle-cotton that came with instructions saying it shouldn't be ironed at all, but it was badly wrinkled even when washed according to the directions. I also had another crinkle-cotton outfit made by a different company that said it was okay to use a low iron and no steam. Since I couldn't wear the first outfit as it was, I decided to be brave and iron it the way the instructions on the second outfit said to do. It worked!
Years ago I never thought I'd be grateful that something could be ironed.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010


On Saturday I'll be at the Northern California Storybook and Literature Festival signing copies of my book, The Peril of the Sinister Scientist, and reading from it. I'll be one of over fifty authors and illustrators present and there will also be interesting talks and fun activities for kids.
Here's more information about it:
The festival will be in Roseville, California.
If you happen to be there, please look for me. I'd love to see you.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Books for Kids

I love to read books for kids, especially middle grade (also called Tweener) ones. I do that partly because they're usually short enough to be read in an hour or two so I don't have to put them down in the middle of an exciting scene. Another reason is that I know they probably won't be sordid or have depressing endings. Of course an important reason to read them is that I write books for kids myself. Reading others helps me do that better because I can see what does and doesn't work well.
Lately I've re-read some of the old classics I enjoyed when I was a child myself. Most of those wouldn't have a chance of getting published today. They don't start in the middle of the action and include far too much description. In some of them the main characters don't even have a strong goal.
Modern kids are so accustomed to the fast pace of TV and electronic entertainment that many of them wouldn't have the patience to read some of the old faithful books, but those still have the ability to carry the readers into a different world.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Classic Picture Books

In all the years I worked with preschoolers every single child (except for one little girl who was afraid of the wild things) loved Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak. I'd often read that book to my classes several times in a single day because the kids would beg to hear it again and again.
While they weren't quite as popular as that book, Here are some others the children always enjoyed:
The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle,
Noisy Nora, and Morris's Disappearing Bag by Rosemary Wells,
The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats,
and Caps For Sale by Esphyr Slobodkina.
Books about the Berenstain Bears or written by Dr. Seuss were also always popular.
What do you think these books had in common that made them become classics, loved by generations of children?

Saturday, July 17, 2010


Last night I watched a children's theater performance. A kid I knew was in it, but it was so well done I'd have enjoyed it even if I hadn't known any cast members.
That reminded me of my own experiences acting in plays when I was a child. Our community had a Junior Theater and dozens of kids spent several days a week every Summer preparing for two nights of performances. We also did some plays at school and church and the neighborhood kids sometimes put on shows we made up ourselves for our parents.
Performing was fun, did a lot to increase my self esteem, and has given me many happy memories.
Later my own kids did some performing and as a teacher I wrote and directed some plays for students. (One of those eventually became a picture book, Secret Service Saint, which was published last year.) I've also seen many performances by kids I know.
And over the years I've seen many children overcome their fear, increase their self esteem, develop their talents, and grow in many other ways as a result of performing in public. When kids participate in dramatic productions it can have a positive effect that will last for the rest of their lives.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Ingredient Lists

I read ingredient lists all the time because of allergies and sensitivities in my family and sometimes they drive me crazy. (I mean the lists, not my family.)
For example, there might be a few people allergic to sugar cane who can eat beet sugar, but listing "concentrated cane juice" on foods that are supposed to be healthy instead of calling it sugar seems deceptive to me. The same foods may also contain dextrose, which is corn sugar, and if they combined them the amount of sugar would have to be listed at the top of the ingredient list.
The problems on cosmetics and cleaning products are even worse. Often things labeled as "fragrance free" are loaded with smells from various plants and flowers and can cause allergic reactions in some people. Hello? My dictionary defines a fragrance as "a sweet smell or pleasant odor" but, for some reason, "botanical" fragrances don't seem to count. And "fragrance free" products may also have strong chemical odors that certainly aren't pleasant, but may bother sensitive people and those smells don't need to be mentioned on labels.
On the other hand, some of the legal requirements on food labels are a bit extreme. It seems stupid to me to see the warning on a package of wheat flour that it "may contain wheat," or on cheese that it contains "dairy." How stupid do they think customers are?
I wish ingredient lists were required to be accurate and sensible.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Memory of Love

How do parents show love to their children?
Some people seem to think spending money on them is the best way to do that, but if earning the money interferes with spending quality time together it may do more harm than good. Having fun together, hugs, words of praise, and listening are all wonderful ways to show affection.
My mother showed her love to us in all those ways, but when I remember things that showed her affection the ones that stand out are sacrifices she made; one in particular.
Mom was never especially fond of animals, but I had a soft heart for all living creatures. One day my best friend and I found a nest with two baby birds in it and we each took one home. My friend's mother made her return the bird to the nest and an hour later we found it had been pecked to death.
When my mother got home from work she wanted me to return my bird to the nest, but relented when, crying, I told her what had happened to the other one.
The baby bird was obviously hungry. I knew birds ate worms, but couldn't bring myself to harm an earthworm, so I gathered some from the yard. My mother, who was extremely squeamish and couldn't bear to touch anything slimy, cut them into pieces and helped me put them into the bird's mouth.
The bird only lived for a few days, but the memory of my mother doing something that difficult for her because she loved me still lives on in my mind.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Storybook and Literature Festival

I usually only blog on Wednesdays and Saturdays, but here's something I couldn't wait to share. I'll be reading and signing copies from one of my books at the Northern California Storybook and Literature Festival in Roseville on July 31st. This is a huge event and both adults and kids who enjoy books should find it well worth attending. Here's more information about it:

Northern California Storybook & Literature Festival

Saturday, July 31, 2010

10 a.m. – 5 p.m.

Free admission & parking

Maidu Library & Community Center

1530 Maidu Drive, Roseville 95661

Enjoy author panels, writing workshops, how to get published information, children’s entertainment and arts & crafts. Books & food available for purchase. Visit the festival website for a complete list of authors and the event schedule.

This project is supported in whole or in part by the U.S. Institute of Museum and Library Services under the provisions of the Library Services and Technology Act, administered in California by the State Librarian.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Babies Don't Eat Pizza

My last post was about sibling rivalry and the next day I was surprised to get a book in the mail on that very topic. I'd forgotten that author Dianne Danzig had said she'd send me a copy for review.
Babies Don't Eat Pizza is a cute and informative book for kids who have or will soon have new babies in their families. Danzig has years of experience working with newborns and babies and teaching little kids how to be good big brothers and sisters so she knew what was needed in a book like this.
The book does a great job of letting children know what to expect in ways they can identify with, and the tips at the back will be helpful for parents, too.
The illustrations by Debbie Tilley are also cute. I like the way she included families of various ethnicities even though the main family is white. I do wish the pictures of newborns had been a bit more red and wrinkled, but that's a minor thing.
This book would be a great gift for a child who has a pregnant mother or newborn sibling. It will help lots of children understand why babies act the way they do.