Saturday, August 31, 2013

Blogging About Blogging

When I started blogging in the spring of 2008 it seemed doubtful that I'd be able to keep it up for very long. However I've posted something every Wednesday and Saturday ever since, which amounts to over 500 posts. Mostly of them are about books or kids, with an occasional one about language.

Most of the comments people make are on Facebook, where the posts also appear. It's supposed to be better to get the comments on the actual blog but, unfortunately, that doesn't happen as often.

I started blogging because that was supposed to help my books sell better and can't tell if any sales have actually resulted from doing it, but I continue because it's a fun and easy way to share and interact with other people.

At one time I started another blog about special needs and disabilities since that's something I care a lot about, but almost nobody ever read those posts, so I stopped writing them.

What about you? Do you blog? If so, why? And what do you enjoy about doing it?

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Unusual Sport

Back in the late 1800s my grandfather used to participate in a sport I'll bet most people have never heard of: Canon ball juggling!

No, they didn't toss the canon balls in the air and catch them like most kinds of juggling.

Instead young men would place a heavy, lead canon ball on the upper part of one arm, then tense their biceps to make it jump over to the opposite arm. They'd keep the ball going back and forth simply by tensing the muscles on whichever arm the ball had landed on.

Whoever could keep the ball going back and forth for the longest time without dropping it or using their hands would win the match.

I have a photo of my grandfather balancing a canon ball on one arm and, judging by the picture, I'd estimate that it was at least six inches in diameter, if not more. Canon balls were made of lead so one that size would have weighed about 30 pounds, at least.

Maybe it hurt at first to have a canon ball land on an arm, but if a man was strong enough to juggle the ball it probably didn't leave a bruise. I hope nobody ever dropped one on his toes!

I wonder how many guys today would be strong enough to participate in that sport.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

The Bifrost Bridge

I was eleven years old when I fell in love with mythology and I would have loved The Bifrost Bridge by James Bradley Clarke. It's a story about two Nordic princesses, Silje and Hanne, who are cousins. The whole story could have been one of the Norse myths.

It's exciting and includes all sorts of characters from mythology as well as others who could have been part of the ancient legends because they all fit together seamlessly in the exciting plot. And the Northern European culture in the Middle Ages is portrayed realistically.

This book is quite original and not just another standard fantasy/fairy tale. I won't give away secrets by telling more about the story, but I'm sure lots of kids will enjoy reading it.

While the main characters are girls, there's enough action and adventure in the book so lots of boys will enjoy the book, too.

The Bifrost Bridge isn't too long, either.

The illustrations by Marcus Gran are dramatic and capture the feeling of the story.

In my humble opinion this book is a good one and I hope Clarke goes on to write more.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Lucky's Lick

Anyone who reads my posts probably knows I care a lot about kids with special needs, so it's no surprise that I want to tell you about this book by Mary Esparza-Vela.  

Lucky's Lick is about Juanito, a boy who had been injured in an accident and became paraplegic. That means he was paralyzed from the waist down.

His friends still like him even though he can't participate in the things he used to do with them.
Juanito has an active imagination and loves superheroes.  But it's hard for him to keep a positive attitude when he must sit in a wheelchair instead of playing and have physical therapy every day.

Will he ever be able to walk again?

When Juanito gets a puppy for his birthday he names him Lucky. Like many dogs, Lucky is loving and cheers the boy up.

I don't want to spoil the book by telling you the rest of the plot so I'll stop here.

I hope lots of kids will read Lucky's Lick because it will help them sympathize with others who can't do everything they can do. Since the main character is Latino and his friends are of various ethnicities it may help kids accept people who are different from themselves in that way, too.

But the main reason kids should read it is just because it's a good book.

Saturday, August 17, 2013


I recently read Rules by Cynthia Lord and absolutely loved it! The book is about a girl who must deal with an autistic brother but it's also about friendship, relationships between kids, and belonging.

Rules won the Schneider Family Book Award in 2006. That award is for books that help readers understand and accept people with disabilities and it certainly deserves the award. (One of my books, Signs of Trouble was nominated for that award in 2010, but didn't win.)

I love Cynthia Lord's book and hope lots of middle grade kids will read Rules.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

That Bully Problem

 Bullies are people who try to make themselves feel good by making other people feel bad. That's pathetic.

There are many kinds of bullying, and it's not always physical or involving kids. Even adults may bully others, often by the things they say.

As kids go back to school many of them are faced with the problem of being bullied by others. Many schools encourage kids to tattle on bullies, but I think that just makes the problem worse.

About a year ago I reviewed a book for kids that teaches them a better way to handle bullies by following the Golden Rule and treating others the way they would like to be treated. You can see that review here:

A website I recommend highly for information for both kids and adults on how to handle bullies is

Both of those resources are based on advice by someone many people consider wise. In the Bible in book of Matthew, Chapter 5, verses 39 to 40, and in the book of Luke, Chapter 6, verses 28 to 30 it's Jesus Christ who tells his followers the technique for handling bullies and it's the same as what is suggested in the book and website I mentioned. He tells them the Golden Rule in Matthew Chapter 7, verse 12.

In other words, when a bully bothers you, don't get upset or he wins the game. Just continue to treat him or her kindly and the bully will probably realize you're winning and stop playing the game with you.

I've seen that method work in my own experience. There may be times when someone who is mentally deranged or believes he or she is helping a cause by hurting or killing others when this method might not work, but even in situations like that it's usually more likely to stop the violence than fighting back.

I hope older kids and adults will download the free e-books on the Bullies2Buddies website. And for young kids going back to school reading Benjamin Jay was a Bully by Emma Glover should help keep them from becoming targets of bullies.

Saturday, August 10, 2013


Okay, I sometimes blog about words and language and here are two phrases a lot of people don't know. If you do understand what they mean you're undoubtably either an old fogey like me or a history buff.

Instead of explaining what they mean I'll see if anyone else is brave enough to post explanations on my blog. If nobody else defines the phrases I'll post an explanation in the comments section this evening.

Okay, here we go: who can explain the meaning of "drugstore wrap" and/or "hospital corners?"

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

It's Not Fair!

Normally I blog about words, books, and kids, but today I'm making an exception. This is a gripe!

In Northern California where I live the weather isn't too hot. In fact it's unusually cool for this time of year. But early in July we had extremely high temperatures and those could return since August is usually the hottest month of the year here.

Normally I wear clothes made of cotton or rayon and polyester during warm weather, but when it gets extremely hot I switch to pure cotton, linen, or rayon since those fabrics are much cooler than synthetics.

But all of those kinds of cloth need to be ironed. And ironing clothes or even using a steamer requires heat and raises the temperature where the work is being done, and that's not how it should be. The cool fabrics shouldn't be the ones that need heat to care for them.

Of course I can iron clothes in the evening when the temperature has cooled off, or early in the morning before it warms up. And I do have air conditioning so that extra heat is not really much of a problem.

Come to think of it, I have a roof over my head, clothes to wear, electricity, clean water, adequate food, and lots of other things many people in the world don't have.

It's so easy to gripe and complain about little things that don't really matter when I should be grateful about the things that do matter.

From now on when I must iron clothes, even on a hot day, I'll try to use that time to think about all the good things I have and to say, "Thanks."

Saturday, August 3, 2013

The Running Dream

I've read a few books by Wendelin Van Draanen before, and thought they were okay, but not anything very special. They were in the Sammy Keyes detective series for young readers. But I think her newer book, The Running Dream, is a great one.

This YA (Young Adult) novel is about Jessica who loves to run and excels at that sport until she's injured and must have her leg amputated below the knee.

The book portrays what it must actually be like for someone to loose the ability they care about the most.

Then Jessica must learn to walk again and manage to hobble around on an artificial leg and all that is also portrayed accurately and pulls the reader in to the emotions involved.

But the reason I like the book so much is that it doesn't stop there.

Jessica becomes friends with another girl who must spend her life in a wheelchair and... well, I don't want to spoil the plot for readers by giving away the challenges and excitement in the rest of the story.

Besides the exciting - make that VERY exciting - plot, accurate portrayal of a sport and medical treatments, and believable characters I loved this book because it accomplishes something I wish I could do. My tagline is "Opening Eyes, Opening Hearts" and I hope to do that by helping everyone understand that people with special needs or different in other ways are people first.

In this page-turner book Van Draanen reaches my goal.