Saturday, May 30, 2015

Germs, Germs, Germs

Our society is much more careful about not spreading and catching germs than many other places in the world are.

For example, many of our public restrooms have toilets, faucets, and towels or dryers that don't have to be touched in order to work.

But when leaving those restrooms we must touch the doors, and if others who didn't wash their hands had touched them... well, you know.

And any public door that doesn't open automatically has probably been touched by someone with germs on their hands.

Playgrounds are often used by kids with colds, or coming down with other illnesses. That means any other child who touches the hand rails on a slide or the cords holding a swing is likely to be getting germs.

And how do we know library books weren't read by someone who was sick in bed?

The buttons on ATM machines or the ones in stores where we slide our cards were probably touched by someone with germs on their hands.

And..., and..., and...

If we try to avoid every possibility of being exposed to germs we'll have to wear space suits like the astronauts.

As long as there isn't a dangerous epidemic where we live, we wash our own hands before eating, and take the usual precautions, we probably don't need to worry about germs.

But (and here's the controversial part) immunizations do help keep us all safe, and it's only a myth that vaccines cause autism.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Half Upon a Time

As you may know if you've read any of my previous book reviews, I enjoy books that take an unusual spin on something familiar. Half Upon A Time by James Riley certainly does that.

The book involves lots of familiar fairy tale characters in an original plot.

And it includes a girl from our time who was transported to that world, but she's not the main point of view character as she would be in most books. Instead, the main character is Jack, who's father was involved with a certain beanstalk.

But May, the girl from our world, is certainly an important one in this book.

May is trying to find her grandmother, who was a resident of the fairy tale world. She and Jack get involved in adventures with characters from many different fairy tales, but the whole plot works well.

And the story has a satisfying conclusion even though it ends with hints about the sequel that make the reader want to find out what will happen in the next book.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Beyond the Laughing Sky

This is an amazing book.

I could say it's literary because the language is so beautiful, but it's a middle grade novel and those aren't often literary.

I could say it's poetry, but it's just a narrative story.

And the story itself is unusually creative.

Beyond the Laughing Sky is about a boy who is half human and half bird. He hatched from an egg, has a beak and feathers instead of hair on his head, but he has no wings and longs to fly.

His name is Nashville, but many of the other characters have bird-like names such as Dr. Larkin the vet, Miss Starling the teacher, and Mrs. Craw, the pet shop owner.

Nashville is teased by other kids because he's different but he has a wonderful relationship with his adopted family, especially his younger sister.

But how can he fit in with the other human kids who tease him at school? And how can he accomplish his longing to fly like a bird?

The plot is exciting as the boy struggles to reach both of those goals.

Michelle Cuevas has done an amazing job of writing a book with an exciting and unique plot, believable characters, and  doing so in a lovely way.

Kids who read it will want to develop their own wings.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

& & &

If you read my posts often you know I'm interested in words and language and often blog about those things.

Here's another post on that topic.

The symbol, &, is called an ampersand. We see that little, squiggly mark often and most people know it means "and."

But did you know it's actually the Latin word, et?  The two letters, e and t, are sort of squished together on top of each other.

In the Latin language the word, "et," means "and" just as the symbol does.

And the word, ampersand, is also squished together. It was originally a phrase, "and per se and." Per se is a Latin phrase meaning "by itself." In English we might say "and, by itself, means and."


I have no idea why that complex phrase was used to define something simple. Why couldn't they have just called it "and?"

The Latin language has influenced ours a lot because the Romans conquered and ruled Britain. Later the French did the same thing and French is a Latin-based language because the Romans had also conquered that country. Since the rulers were the upper class people, those languages are the original forms of a lot of English words having to do with political power,  the arts (only rich people had anything to do with those,) etc.

And, back then, only a few people knew how to read and write.

But today the ampersand is something ordinary people use all the time.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Arctic Danger

In case you can't tell by reading my previous blog posts, I read books for kids all the time.

When I read Arctic Danger by Barbara Bockman I was reminded of books from my childhood that told about kids being sent off by their parents into possibly dangerous situations without adult supervision. But I guess in Alaska near the Arctic Circle there weren't any child predators and gangsters around, and the kids in the story, Gary and Kiana, certainly knew how to paddle a kayak down a river to the store.

I guess for them doing so was no more unusual than for kids in cities to walk to school.

But this time it was a lot more dangerous than usual. The kids encounter an oil leak in the Alaska Pipeline!

The oil is falling from an overhead pipe above the river and animals are panicking.

Gary manages to protect his sister from a crazed moose and the kids see other dead and harmed animals as they rush to the store. They tell the store owner, who calls the oil company and gets the flow turned off.

It would take some time for the crew to repair the leak and a lot of damage had already been done, but the kids managed to save many more animals from being harmed and killed.

They were heroes!

This book is fiction, but there are several pages of facts about the Alaska Pipeline at the end.

The illustrator, Eugene Ruble, did a good job of portraying the story.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015


Why do people tend to be superstitious about numbers?

Thirteen is supposed to be evil either because there were thirteen people at the Last Supper or that many members in a witches coven.

And remember all the news about people who thought the year 2000 would be the second coming of Christ and the end of the world?

The dates 12/12/12 and 11/12/13 were supposed to be lucky days for a child to be born.

Personally, I'm not superstitious, but I do think number patterns are interesting. 

For instance, just this week we had 5/11/15 and 51115 is nicely symmetrical.

And last week on 5/4/15 spacey fans greeted each other by saying, "May the fourth be with you." I love that kind of humor!

What other number patterns can you think of?

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Books, Books, Books

My house has lots of bookcases and books. Once I tried to count the number of books I own and gave up because the count would have taken hours to finish.

I have one big bookcase full of books written by authors I've met, usually at writers conferences.

I only keep books I intend to read again, but sometimes years go by before I reread one.

Where do all those books come from?

Some were gifts, including the ones I got for Christmases and birthdays as a kid. Others I bought at local bookstores, online, or directly from the people who wrote them. At times I've traded books with author friends and our area has a monthly free book swap where we donate books we don't want to keep, and take home as many as we want that other people have donated.

Of course I go to the local library every week and bring home five or six books to read. I usually check out Middle Grade books because I can finish one of those in an hour or so.

And, yes, I spend at least an hour a day reading, if not more.

In case you can't tell by now, I'm a bookaholic and have no intention of getting into recovery. I even had a bumper sticker made for my car that says, "Bookaholics Unite."

Books give me pleasure and teach me all sorts of things. One reason I became a writer is to give back some of the wonderful things books written by other people have given me.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Controversial Post

I normally blog about words (language,) books, and kids so this post is off topic. Sorry about that.

I recently talked to someone whose family member was recently released from the military and is looking for work. The logical sort of job for him would be as a police officer or fire-fighter because of his experience.

Probably lots of people in similar positions have also sought, and often gotten, jobs in law enforcement.

And it's not unlikely that many them have PTSD.

Lately we've been seeing a lot of news about police violence toward minority people.  Racial bigotry is still prevalent and that's terrible.

But I wonder if the officers who did such things might have PTSD and be reverting to their training in the military in a subconscious way.

Thousands - and even hundreds - of years ago prejudice was a survival instinct because when someone saw people who looked different it was likely those people were coming to take over their territory.

Today bigotry is no longer helpful and it's extremely harmful, but I wonder if people who have been in situations like wars where the "different" people are the enemy have somehow had that survival instinct revived.

Are people with PTSD more likely to be bigots?

If so, should the government provide some sort of training for people leaving the service to help them get over it?

Those are just questions, statements. It can be a very controversial topic and I'm interested in what you think about it.

Saturday, May 2, 2015

No Burglars Wanted

I usually don't post anything that lets people know I am or won't be at home at a specific date or time because some of the evil people who read it might decide to break into my house while I'm gone. But this is an exception to let you know as you read this I'm at an SCBWI writers' conference.

SCBWI stands for Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators.

Writers' conferences are great!

I didn't submit anything to agents or editors and don't expect to sell anything as a direct result of attending this one, although I expect to learn information that will help me become a better writer and sell things in the future.

But the main reason to go to events like this is to interact with other writers. I'll be carpooling with some members of my critique group and expect to see some online friends and people I've met at other conferences.

Writers are communicators, but writing is a solitary business, so when a group of us get together we connect in ways "normal" people wouldn't understand.

And, in case any "normal" people reading this happen to be burglars, my dog is taking care of things at home.