Wednesday, May 30, 2012


I guess some ancient people discovered glass when fire, or perhaps lightning, melted sand into that shiny substance, but it took a long time before they learned to make it into flat sheets for mirrors, windows, and other practical purposes. Stained glass windows are an art form and lots of other beautiful things are made of colored glass.

As a writer I can't resist asking this question: What might happen if all the glass in the world were to suddenly disappear?

What would we do without it?

Windows would become wind holes, and monitors and TVs would have no screens.

Just look around at all the things in our homes, offices, and streets that are made of glass and imagine what the world would be like without them.

Does that give you any ideas for stories? If so, please leave a comment and share them.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Chase Against Time

I found the title of this book appealing because I enjoy plays on words. The main character is named Chase and time is of the essence in solving the mystery.

Chase loves music and wants to play in the Sixth Grade Honors orchestra next year, but the school's music  program is in danger because of financial problems. Someone donated a cello once played by Yo-Yo Ma to be auctioned off as a fundraiser, but the cello disappears and, because of the short time available, the principal asks Chase to find out who stole it without letting anyone find out that it's missing.

The short time available and Chase's motivation to save the music program create great tension and this book is a page turner as we root for the likable character and his friends.  The only thing I didn't like was that when the police got involved they didn't take possession of the evidence, but that's a minor technical point and doesn't detract from the excitement of Chase's race against time to solve the mystery. Steve Reidman has written a book lots of kids, including boys who are reluctant readers, will love.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Snail Mail?

In centuries past if people travelled far from their homes, like European and Asian people going to America, it could take months for correspondence to arrive. And illiterate people often had to pay someone else to write or read the letters for them. Often the letters were carried by someone who happened to be going to the town where a person lived and they might not ever arrive.

When people moved across the North American continent during the California Gold Rush the Pony Express and Transcontinental Railroad made it possible for mail to arrive in a matter of weeks. And modern methods of transportation allowed it to arrive even faster. Air Mail could get letters across the continent and delivered to homes in less than a week!

Now people depend on the internet for communication and messages can travel across the planet in a matter of seconds. Some people think the US Postal Service, which was privatized years ago, will go out of business. Of course gifts and packages can be delivered by other companies. My mailbox is mostly filled with ads, catalogs, and an occasional bill, but it would be sad not to get physical birthday and other greeting cards that can be displayed and kept, and some people can't afford internet access. I hope we can continue to get snail mail in the future.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

"Who Was That Masked Man, Anyway?"

 This isn't a new book. In fact it was published in 1992, but I reread it this week and couldn't resist sharing about it. The author, Avi, has written dozens of books, but this one connected with me because it takes place when I was a kid with an imagination like the main character's. Of course I wasn't as obsessed with radio shows as Frankie, but I did listen to a lot of them. The book's title is a quotation from my favorite, The Lone Ranger.

Much as I enjoyed it, this book wasn't written for old fogies like me. Today's kids who have fun reading it will not only learn a bit about history, they'll be able to identify with the main character who wishes he could be a superhero.

The most appealing thing about this book is the humor and, even though I had read it before, it had me laughing out loud by the end.

It might be possible to find used copies of "Who Was That Masked Man, Anyway?" online, but if you can't I suggest you take any boys who enjoy humor and adventure to your local library and check out a copy.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Photos Now and Then

I can't even count the number of photos I've uploaded to my computer, but there are probably thousands of them. Since we don't need to pay for film and to have it developed, or figure out complicated camera settings and flash bulbs we take lots more pictures than people did a few decades ago.

My great grandfather was a picture framer and had a shop next to a photographer's studio in the 1800s so I've got quite a few family photos from that era. Of course I have wedding portraits of my parents and all my grandparents, baby pictures of me and my brother, annual grade school photos, and lots of pictures of my own kids and grandkids.

Some of the older photos are framed and on the wall with UV protected glass to keep them from fading. After all, they're over a hundred years old.

But that makes me wonder if the pictures I take and upload to my computer or save on memory sticks now will be available for future generations to see. Chances are the technology will have changed so much my grandkids' pictures may not even be viewable by the time they grow up and have kids of their own.

Even if I print photos out, the ink may fade by then. For that reason I've been taking a few of the ones I'm sure I'll want to be available in the future to the local drugstore and having them printed out there. It doesn't cost much and I hope future generations will be glad I did it.

How about you? What are you doing to be sure pictures will be viewable in the future?

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Katrina and Winter

Okay, I admit it; I'm jealous. Nancy Stewart has done it again. As with One Pelican at a Time, which I previously reviewed, she's written another book that will make a positive difference in the world.

Katrina and Winter, Partners in Courage is about a girl with a prosthetic leg who meets a dolphin with a prosthetic tail and is encouraged to overcome her feelings of inadequacy and become a normal kid. This is a true story illustrated with photos of Katrina (the girl) and Winter (the dolphin.)

The story is well written and the part where Katrina is reunited with Winter actually brought tears to my eyes. The book will not only encourage kids with special needs and help other readers to understand them, it will make anyone with difficulties and obstacles in their lives want to keep trying and do their best.

And when those young readers have grown up their lives may be different because of having read this book, and maybe some of them will go on to make a difference in the lives of others.

Yay, Nancy Stewart!

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

My Tagline

Several years ago I was trying to figure out a tagline for my webpage and asked members of my critique group for help.  Acting on their suggestions I chose to use "Opening Eyes, Opening Hearts."


Because, as my friends reminded me, most things I write involve people with special needs or who are different in some way. I try to help kids - and adults - understand and accept others like that.

And that topic applies to most of my books. The Peril of the Sinister Scientist includes a girl who uses a wheelchair as a main character and Signs of Trouble is about kids who get separated from their Special Ed class on a field trip. Even the giant, talking worm in Slime & All is sort of an allegorical character who is feared because he is different.

I guess my own experience as a kid who was teased and bullied and my many years of working with kids who have special needs have made it impossible for me not to care about others in similar situations. I hope the things I write about really do help to open people's eyes and, as a result, help them to open their hearts.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

The Clue of the Linoleum Lederhosen

I couldn't resist sharing about this book for middle grade kids by M. T. Anderson. It's a take-off on the traditional mystery series for kids written long ago and had me giggling. While some young readers might not get those references, the story is still a lot of fun and the mystery is hard to figure out.

The kids in the book are all heroes and heroines of (fictitious) series of their own, and stay true to character. The situations they get into would be terrifying, if they weren't so funny. The plot is tangled and the book is definitely a page turner.

The Clue of the Linoleum Lederhosen was published in 2006 but reading it might encourage kids to check their local libraries for mysteries published decades ago. This book is a fun read for all ages.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Different People

In the distant past most humans only saw people different from themselves if they were being invaded by enemies. I guess that's why so many people  today are still uncomfortable and even afraid when they encounter anyone who is different.

Racial prejudice is only one thing that shows this discomfort. I've been amazed to see lots of instances when people seem to be afraid of somebody with special needs.

A few years ago when I was trying to choose a tag line for my website my friends helped me figure out that most of my writing involves helping people understand and accept others who are different. For that reason the tag line I chose is "Opening Eyes, Opening Hearts."

If only we would all learn to look below the surface we'd realize that most people are really not that different from ourselves. No matter their culture, background, political views, economic situation or physical problems, we are more alike than different on the inside. And if we would only all realize that, the world would be a much better place.