Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Wizard's Hall

In the late 1990s I read the first Harry Potter book before it became a best seller and enjoyed it. However it didn't seem better than lots of other books for kids. I assumed one of the main reasons it sold so well was because, unlike most fantasies, it took place in a school instead of a setting like the Middle Ages. That allowed kids to identify with it.

But this week I read Wizard's Hall by Jane Yolen. This book was originally published in 1991, years before Rowling's book and it's also a fantasy that takes place in a school setting. It's well written, the plot was original, the characters are believable, and it has all the features that make a book good.

So why didn't this book become a best seller? It has gone into a second edition, but never became as famous as the Harry Potter ones. Yolen is an excellent writer who has had lots of other books published so obviously hers must sell well, but she hasn't become an icon like J. K. Rowling.

I wonder what made the difference. Any ideas?

Saturday, May 25, 2013


Earthquakes. Tornadoes. Bombings. Floods. Shootings. Bridges collapsing. Tsunamis. Wars.

Is it just me, or do disasters seem to be happening more often lately?

About a year ago I blogged about natural disasters here: 
but lots of the bad things that have happened lately are caused by humans.

Of course we hear about things that happen far away much more quickly than we used to because of the internet, so we probably weren't as aware of distant disasters a few decades ago.

When I felt the earthquake last night I went online to Facebook from comments there I immediately learned where and how strong it was.

Thanks to the internet, we can have fast, frequent, personal contact with lots of people who live far from us.

It's a good thing that people are more united than they used to be so we can be friends with those who are different from ourselves. Prejudices haven't gone away, but they're less prevalent than they were in the past.

The quick communication allows us to help each other, too. People all over the world make financial contributions to relief agencies and send supporting messages to others dealing with the problems. Those who travel to help people who need assistance can arrive quickly because they know about the need immediately.

Yes, we have lots of bad things happening, but it's a good thing that people all over the world are learning to care about each other. 

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Leaf Writing

When I was a kid some friends and I discovered a way to leave secret messages for each other. We would scratch words onto the underside of a green leaf with a stick. When the leaf dried the message would disappear so only someone who saw it while it was fresh could read it.

We felt clever to have figured out how to do that and it fit in well with the sort of things we played.

Back then kids were free to "go out and play" with others in the neighborhood without adult supervision so, unlike modern kids, we used our imaginations and pretended things for many years. We might be cowboys, space explorers, animals, kings and princesses, pirates, or any number of other things.

I was lucky to live on a hill in a small town where we could climb trees, swing from ropes, throw pebbles in the creek, or run up and down our curving, one-way street without fear of traffic.

It's sad that today many older children only feel free to use their imaginations by playing video games because adults are always supervising them.

Of course there are still some kids who have discovered the fun of getting carried away into stories by reading books. And I hope the writing on the leaves of books won't ever disappear.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Book Signing

When this post appears on the internet I'll be at the library in Auburn, CA signing books along with many other authors.

I've heard many times that most authors don't sell many books at signings, but even if I don't sell a lot today it's worth participating in this event.


Because I'll get to spend time with other people who love books.

Participating authors, people who come to the library specifically for the event, library staff, and people who come to the library without knowing about the book signing in advance will be there. We all love to read and that gives us something important in common.

We're bookaholics with no intention of ever getting into recovery.

Bookaholics Unite!

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Am I a Bigot?

An assumption about a group is a prejudice, and that's not always a bad thing.

If, back when humans were hunters and gatherers, someone had died after eating a poisonous mushroom it would have been wise for everyone around to avoid eating all mushrooms, even though they missed out on enjoying the safe ones as a result.

A negative prejudice against a group of human beings is bigotry, and that's not always bad, either.

For example, we teach our children not to talk to strangers. Even though there are far more good  people than bad ones in the world, it would only take one bad stranger to kidnap our child.

Of course bigotry against people because of their race, religion, or national origin has done, and can do, a lot of harm, and I hope that sort of bigotry will eventually disappear as people get to know each other better.

Another bigotry that I hope will eventually go away is the kind against people with special needs. Since the Americans with Disabilities Act was passed it has been possible for many who would have been confined to their homes to be seen in public and that has helped a lot.

When I was young, back in the 1960s and 70s, I didn't have the kinds of racial and religious bigotry that were common back then and, like many young people during the Civil Rights movement, I felt a bit proud of that. But I was very prejudiced against two groups of people: those who lived in tract houses and old women who wore sensible shoes like oxfords.  Now I've become a member of both of those groups! I guess it serves me right.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

The Other Cord

When babies are born the umbilical cord that connected them to their mothers is cut and tied. But another cord is created. It's the invisible one that connects them to their mothers' hearts and that one will last as long as the mother lives. I call it the heart cord.

When the mother and her child are near each other the cord hangs loose because the mother can easily see what's happening to her child, but when they are separated, the cord is pulled tight and tugs on the mother's heart. Sometimes, especially if the separation is emotional, that tugging can be painful.

Even if a child was given up for adoption or the mother was dysfunctional, that cord is still there, though it may be thin and weak. And adoptive mothers develop a heart cord that's as strong as the birth kind.

As a young adult I sometimes found my mother's tendency to want to be involved in my life and take care of me a bit annoying. But now that I'm the mother of a grown daughter myself I understand why she acted that way. The heart cord can never relax unless the mother is certain everything is going well for her child.

My mother is no longer with us, but the cord that connected us still touches my heart.

Of course that's not the only heart cord. We are tied, heart to heart, with everyone we love and nothing makes us happier than having all the cords woven together into a fabric that covers and protects all of us. We can be grateful for all the other love and friendships in our lives.

But the heart cord that ties mother to child is amazingly strong and on Mothers' Day I hope everyone who reads this is aware of the heart cord between themselves and their mothers..

Saturday, May 4, 2013

It's All Relative

I have a very extended family.

Soon after we got married my husband gave up trying to figure out all the relationships and coined the term, "step-neighbors-in-law" to describe them.

Besides my mother, step-father, brother, uncles, aunts, and cousins, my family included many others, and still does. My cousins' aunt, uncle, and grandmother were always part of the family gatherings and now I consider my cousins' cousin's son and granddaughter part of my family.

One of my second cousins' cousins lives nearby so he's certainly a relative and going to their family gatherings has made them step-neighbors-in-law, too.

We raised three foster kids in addition to our birth daughter and one of them is a father, so I now have foster grandkids as well as the traditional kind.

Although all my ancestors were of European descent and I'm a WASP, my very extended family includes people who are Jewish, African American, Gay, and Latino. Political beliefs vary from extremely liberal to extremely conservative and everything in between.

But none of those differences matter to me when we see each other because they're all part of my family and I love them all.

What kind of family do you have?

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Why I Read Them

Sometimes people ask, or wonder but are too polite to ask, why I read books for kids. In our local library I'm probably the only adult who checks some of those out every week without intending them to be read by children.

Okay, here are the reasons:

1. I write books for kids.

2. I can usually finish a middle grade and sometimes a YA novel in an hour or two and don't have to put it down in the middle of a story.

3. YA books are usually not offensive or depressing.

4. Okay, here's the real reason: I'm still really a kid on the inside and hope I never grow up.

Of course I sometimes read books for grown-ups, too, but those are mostly non-fiction and I read them for practical reasons.