Saturday, March 29, 2014

Escape From Mr. Lemoncello's Library

I love books with creative, new concepts and Chris Grabenstein's  recent book certainly has that. The author obviously has a creative imagination.

Escape From Mr. Lemoncello's Library is about some kids who win a prize, participation in the opening night celebration of the town's new library.

The town has been without a public library for twelve years and the billionaire who built the new one is the world's most famous maker of video games. Kyle, the main character, really wants to go to that event, but so do most of the town's twelve year olds, the only kids who can participate in the competition.

I hope it's not a spoiler to say Kyle does get into the library.

But he and the other kids who got inside are locked in and must win a live game with themselves as the characters in order to get out again.

The book includes puzzles for the reader, too.

But that's not all that makes this book a good one. What happens to the kids inside the library is scary and challenging. The characters and conflicts between them are realistic and, especially for Kyle, the stakes are high.

And, without being the least bit teachy-preachy, this book sneaks in information about libraries and is likely to inspire young readers to spend time in the real libraries where they live.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Lawrence Yep

Years ago I considered doing reviews of children's books for publication and chose a book from the  new section in our library to practice reviewing. It was written by Lawrence Yep and I enjoyed it a lot.

The next day I went to see my new physical therapist, who turned out to be Lawrence Yep's nephew!

I never published that practice review, but have read many books by that author and enjoyed them a lot. He has written a lot of middle grade ones set in historical China, some about Chinese people in the California during the Gold Rush, and others set in San Francisco's Chinatown.

But recently I've discovered some completely different books by Yep.

They're American Girl books about a young ballerina. The only thing they have to do with China  is that the books are printed there. ;-)

And these books are as well written as his others.

In the About the Author section at the end of the American Girl books Yep says he became interested in ballet because of seeing The Nutcracker as a boy, and because his wife bought him season tickets to the San Francisco Ballet.

That reminded me of the many times we took kids from the California School for the Deaf in Berkeley to see The Nutcracker every year. While they couldn't hear the music, the kids always enjoyed the performance.

And if you go to my website  you'll see a mention of the time I performed with the San Francisco Ballet even though I don't know how to dance.

But, to get back on topic, I want to recommend all of Lawrence Yep's books. He's an excellent writer.

Saturday, March 22, 2014


If you're anything like me, you probably worry about not having enough time - at least sometimes.

Years, seasons, months, days, morning, noon, and night are all natural parts of creation. But humans invented weeks, hours, minutes, and seconds and those are the things that tend to worry us the most.

Centuries ago people didn't have five day work weeks or hourly schedules to keep. They got up in the morning, did what needed to be done, and went to sleep at night.

In the Middle Ages church bells would let everyone in a community know when it was time for certain things like prayers.

Later wealthy people might have owned a clock, which would have been displayed in a prominent place and wound daily. And a pocket watch was a status symbol as well as being helpful.

School bells let kids know when they had to be in class.

As technology increased it was important for trains to run on time, so clocks and watches became more common.

Now they're everywhere. This morning I counted the clocks in my house and, including those on the stove, microwave, and computer I have more than a dozen, mostly digital.

Kids don't need to learn how to tell time from traditional clocks anymore.

In some ways all the changes to time are helpful since we can synchronize and connect with people all over the world.

But sometimes we need to ignore the seconds, hours, and minutes that control our lives, take a deep breath, and just enjoy the days, months and seasons.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Siblings Day

I love and appreciate my brother a lot.

The other day I thought it would be a good idea to have a holiday like Mothers Day and Fathers Day to show appreciation for our brothers and sisters.

I googled Siblings Day and, lo and behold, discovered there is such a thing. It's not officially recognized by the US government, but many states recognize it.  The date is April 10,  so it's coming soon.

I think it would be a good idea if Siblings Day became something we all celebrated - at least everyone who has a brother or sister or more than one child.

Children tend to quarrel and compete with their brothers and sisters  even if they love them. It might be helpful to have one day a year when they were expected to list the good things about their siblings and maybe even make cards or gifts for each other.

For adults, that would be a good time to connect with the brothers and sisters they don't contact often and share some memories. For those of us who are still in contact with our brothers and sisters Siblings Day is a great time to express our love and appreciation for them.

It's too bad there aren't appropriate greeting cards for sale, but maybe just sending "Thank You" cards would work.

Maybe if we spread the word and enough people celebrate that day, cards will become available. And Siblings Day will become recognized by our government in the USA and perhaps even in other countries.

Even if only a few of us get involved we can make people in our own families feel appreciated.

So why don't we all mark our calendars for April 10th and plan to celebrate Siblings Day this year?

Saturday, March 15, 2014

First TV

When I was a kid my neighbor and best friend got a new thing called a television set. Every evening I'd go to her house and we'd watch the Howdy-Doody show. Some of the other kids in the neighborhood would peer in the window to watch it until her mother rearranged the furniture so they couldn't see the TV to keep them from trampling her flower bed.

It wasn't long before lots of people had TVs, but my mother considered it a luxury we couldn't afford. But then when kids were allowed to stay home from school to watch Eisenhower's presidential innauguration and I was one of the few who had to go to somone else's house to watch it, my mother relented.

Soon we, too, had a TV.

In the San Francisco Bay Area we could get three channels, 4, 5, and 7. (I wondered where Channels 1, 2, and 6 were. My mother said probably somewhere on the East Coast.) But when Channel 4 went "superpower" a wide, dark stripe appeared down the middle of the screen so we couldn't see anything. I guess a tree was blocking the signal since my neighbors could still see it. But it wasn't long before we got one more channel, Channel 13.

In the summer time, like many kids in our small town, I participated in Junior Theater. Two years in a row those of us who had important roles in the play went to San Francisco to publicize our performances on KCBS Channel Five. I actually got to be on TV!!!

Of course most of you are too young to remember the early days of television, but what shows did you watch when you were growing up?

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Old Time Radio Shows

When I was a kid before there was television (yes, I'm old) there was radio. And, as kids, we loved to listen to the shows.

As a preschooler I was allowed to stay up an hour later than usual on Saturdays to listen to The Lone Ranger because my mother loved that program.

Later all the kids in our neighborhood listened to Big John and Sparky on Saturday mornings. That was followed by Space Patrol. After listening to that show we'd all go out, meet the other kids, and pretend to be flying to distant planets and having adventures in outer space.

And in the evenings we'd listen to the same programs our parents liked.

But just listening only requires a certain amount of attention.

Often while the radio was on we'd play on the floor, making things with my brother's Tinkertoys or Erector Set or building towns with blocks. Then I'd fill the houses with doll house furniture and my brother would drive his toy cars and trucks on the streets between them.

Somehow listening to radio programs seemed to stimulate our imaginations and creativity.

I worry about today's kids who are so addicted to video games and other technology. Are they becoming less creative as a result? Or will those devices stimulate their imaginations?

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Bathroom Manners

As I mentioned in a previous post
many of our customs such as shaking hands began because of cultural things in the past.

One thing I didn't mention is keeping toilet lids down. That obviously originated because of the need to reduce odors in chamber pots and outhouses.

Now that California is having a severe drought and people are trying to reduce water usage by flushing less often we're rediscovering the practicality of that custom.

But ever since indoor plumbing was invented it has always been considered polite for men to lower toilet seats after relieving themselves and that is not just to be polite.

When I was a little girl I got up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom and my brother hadn't put the seat down. I sat down in the dark and fell into the toilet. Landing in cold water in the middle of the night is not a pleasant experience. I couldn't help screaming and woke my mother, who made sure my brother remembered always to lower the seat from then on.

Lots of things we consider a matter of manners really do have practical purposes.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

The Misadventures of Edgar & Allen Poe

Gordon McAlpine has written a very British book for kids, though a lot of it takes place in the United States.. It's also very creative.

The Poe twins, Edgar and Allen, are descended from the famous author of similar name. They have the ability to read each others' minds and use their intelligence to outwit the extremely evil villain - with a little assistance from their ancestor in the Great Beyond.

The book is part adventure, part mystery, and part fantasy and takes readers into a world that's just scary enough to be fun.

It's called The Tell-Tale Start and is the first one in a series called The Misadventures of Edgar & Allen Poe but, unlike many series books for kids, this one has a satisfying ending while still tempting readers to want the next one.

I predict this series will be a big hit.

Saturday, March 1, 2014


Yes, it's March, not November. But, I have a lot to be thankful for. Although I don't often post personal stuff on my blog or elsewhere on the internet I can't resist expressing my appreciation for all the people who have helped me lately.

My diagnosis of a rare cancer in my eye (about six people in a million get it) was followed by a month of medical appointments and an outpouring of help and encouragement. Friends and family drove me to tests and treatments and spent nights with me. (Special thanks to Lynn, Connie,  Lianne, Robert, and Bill.) Others sent cards and gifts, and hundreds of people prayed for me and many of them sent good wishes over the internet.

Now the treatments are over. I'll need to have periodic tests and check ups for years to come to make sure the cancer is really gone, and I might have a partial loss of vision in that eye over time, but the worst is done.

However my gratitude to everyone who gave me help and support will probably last as long as I live.

Thanks to all of you.