Saturday, December 31, 2016

Happy New Year

I'll make this short, but I want to wish everyone a Happy New Year.

I hope 2017 is wonderful for all of you.


Today is the end of the year, 2016. While we'll all be celebrating the new year tonight, I think this is a good time to look back.

Of course we could consider the news, much of which was upsetting, but let's focus on our own lives instead.

What was the best thing that happened to you in 2016?

Personally, I can't choose between all the good experiences I had.

Many times I got to be with people I love, see beautiful things, read good books, attend events, and have fun. I had quite a few articles published and learned that one of them made a big difference in the life of someone who read it.

I can't even remember what my New Years resolutions were for 2016, but I also tried making some seasonal resolutions. Unfortunately I didn't accomplish everything on those lists. And there are a few things I certainly should have done, especially getting all the papers in my office sorted and cleaned out.

And I wish I had done more to help other people ,and gotten more things written and published.

But if I had the opportunity to do 2016 over again, I wouldn't take it. It was a good year in my life and it's time to move on to 2017.

If you could do 2016 over again what would you choose to have done differently?

Wednesday, December 28, 2016


As 2017 approaches I'm praying for peace on Earth and that everyone with physical, emotional, and economic problems will have them resolved.

This is a short post, but that pretty much says it all.

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Winter Holidays

It's Christmas Eve and the first day of Hanukah.

It's wonderful to have such celebrations in the bleak midwinter - although it's actually only the beginning of that season, not the middle. Winter started on December 21st.

But it's still a cold time of year and we enjoy having fireplaces warm and candles and lights glowing as families gather together and share feasts, if they can. And we think of those who can't be with us.

But what about people in the Southern hemisphere? Down under Summer has just begun. Do people in Brazil and Australia celebrate Christmas with picnics and outdoor parties? I have no idea.

But, you know what?

It really doesn't matter.

What we are celebrating is God's love for us and our love for each other. And those things are here at all seasons of the year.

I hope everyone who reads this feels surrounded by love and joy.

God bless us, every one.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Christmas Cards

I've had lots of people wish me a Merry Christmas over the internet, and have sent similar wishes to others. I plan to send a few Christmas e-cards, too.

But I still love getting the old-fashioned, hard copy cards. I'm glad to have received some of those, though not as many as I used to get. And I didn't send as many as I used to, either.

Hundreds of years ago it could take months for letters people sent to arrive. Sometimes they never did get to their destinations since they had to be carried by people who happened to be travelling to the destinations. If someone moved across th ocean to America from China or Europe, the people where they came from might never hear from them again.

In the early California people got mail by pony express, and then by train, but it was expensive to send. Getting a letter from someone back east was a big deal.

When the US Postal Service was developed, letters were much easier to send and receive, and Christmas cards became popular.

But it took several days or even a week for them to arrive.

Today we communicate over the internet and people might read our messages in a matter of seconds.

Maybe in the future we'll all have brain implants and communicate by thought waves. But then the govrnment could read our minds and... (Okay, my writerly imagination is at it again.)

I still love getting the old fashioned Christmas cards, but if you read this and I haven't sent one to you, please accept this as my way to wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Merry Christmas

At this time of year we hear and see "Merry Christmas" a lot.

Merry means, happy, and I've been thinking of other words that mean the same thing.

One of my high school teachers used to often say, "Happy, cheerful, merry, gay.". (Of course now gay has taken on a different meaning.)

Other words with meanings similar to merry are joyful, cheerful, pleased, delighted, ecstatic, joyful, lighthearted, and glad.

I'm sure there are many other similar words, but I won't bother to look them up and list them all here.

Having so many ways to talk about happiness shows that we have a culture of positive people in spite of all the gloom and doom in the news.

I hope your holiday season is full of happiness, joy, etc., etc., etc.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Christmas Books

When I was a kid on Christmas Eve my parents always read two books to us. The first was The Night Before Christmas by Clement C. Moore, which had originally been published as A Visit From Saint Nicholas. It's about Saint Claus and his eight tiny reindeer and kids still hear that story today.

The second was Christmas Carols, illustrated by Fern Bisel Peat. Yes, it's a book of songs, but in the first part of the book each carol has an opposite illustrated page with part of the Christmas story from the King James Bible. Our parents would read that part of the story to us, then we'd all sing the carol on the opposite page. We usually didn't sing all the traditional carols in the rest of the book because it would be past our bedtime and we had to get ready for Santa Claus to come.

Today there are dozens - maybe even hundreds of Christmas books for kids. One of those is the one I wrote, Secret Service Saint.

But those two books from my childhood Christmas Eves will always have a special place in my heart.

Do you remember any special books about Christmas from your childhood?

Saturday, December 10, 2016


At this time of year, people are getting involved in traditions.

We've already had Thanksgiving in America. Now Christmas, Hannukah, and New Years Day are approaching.

No matter when or where humans have lived, it seems like every culture has had traditional celebrations at certain times of the year.

We all also have traditional ways of welcoming babies, celebrating marriages, and dealing with deaths.

Traditions help us remember who we are, because they remind us of our past and help us look forward to the future.

While Christmas is the day Christians celebrate the birth of Jesus (even though the date might not be historically accurate) it's also the time when we remember our own families and heritage.

For over a century my mother's family always gathered for dinner on Christmas day, but when including all the third cousins and their kids became to large for anyone to host, we stopped doing that. Now we gather in smaller family groups, but still try to keep in touch with the rest of the extended family at this time of year.

And millions - maybe even billions - of people will have lights and decorations on trees and open gifts on that day.

What traditions do you have as you celebrate?

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Garbage Man's Underwear

Years ago, when we were first married, we lived in a Victorian flat in San Francisco. Our landlords lived in the flat below us and they became good friends.

He was a retired garbage collector and his back had been injured by falling off a garbage truck.

Several years after we had moved to a house across the Bay, we got a phone call from our previous landlady.

She said her husband had died and she wanted to give my husband all the sweaters she had knit for him. She didn't want to donate them to a local charity or thrift store because she wouldn't be able to bear seeing "some bum" wearing one of them on the streets.

We drove over to the city and got the sweaters, but my husband wasn't able to wear any of them. They were too small for him, and they all had one sleeve shorter than the other. Our landlady had made them that way because after her husband's accident one of his arms had become shorter ,so he couldn't buy clothes with long sleeves.

Respecting her wish, we kept the sweaters for several years before donating them to a charity far away from San Francisco. We wanted to be sure she wouldn't see someone wearing them.

But we kept one sleeveless sweater she had made for her husband to wear as an undershirt to keep him warm on cold days.

It fit me, and I still wear it as a sweater-vest.

So, if you ever see me with a tan, sleeveless sweater over a long-sleeved shirt, you'll know I'm wearing a garbage man's underwear. It reminds me of the sweet landlords we had long ago.

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Too Big

Too Big is a middle grade book about Shelby, a ten year old girl who is big for her age. She is doing so well academically she could be moved up to Middle School.

The choice is up to her.

But if she does that she'll have to leave her best friend behind. And if she stays in her current school she must continue to deal with the teasing and meanness going on there.

What should she do?

I read middle grade fiction all the time, and found this book to be a really good one. It's a page turner and I had to keep reading as it brought me through the exciting drama Shelby endured.

The author, Judy Dearborn Nill, certainly understands what it's like to be a kid and she has written an excellent book.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016


Even before Thanksgiving we were seeing lots of ads wanting us to buy things for the Holidays. Now
That people are shopping for Christmas gifts we're absolutely bombarded with advertising.

Everybody wants our money.

Of course people who make and sell things need income as everyone does. We expect to pay people for purchases and service all year long.

But sometimes I wonder why money even exists. Of course it's more practical than a barter system, but it only has value because we agree that it does.

And that's one thing everyone in the world seems to agree on.

Money is just a piece of paper or metal. And in our technological times, it's often just a promise of paper or metal.

Even the kind of money we can actually see and touch can't be used for food, clothing, or to build a home or furniture. And, if money represents gold or silver, those pretty things can't be used for anything practical except to exchange for objects or labor with people who agree on its value.

Of course, like everybody else, I'd like to have more money. And I've already done most of my Christmas shopping, so I've given it to other people.

But (and my writer's imagination is active here) I wonder if some alien creatures from another world that doesn't use money were to study us what they would think of money.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Colby Mouse's Christmas Gift

Colby Mouse's Christmas Gift by Barbara Bockman is an unusual Christmas story.

Like many other books, it tells about a family decorating their tree, and getting ready for Christmas on Christmas Eve.

But it also tells about a mouse and the trap set to catch him. His name is Colby, like the cheese.

Thank goodness it's a catch and release trap, not one that will hurt the poor mouse, and the human father plans to set the mouse free in the woods.

Colby listens as the father reads the Nativity story and wants to share the joy of giving and receiving gifts.

On Christmas morning as the humans open their gifts they discover one from the mouse. He has left the cheese from the trap on a plate and traded it for a candy cane, which he considers his gift from them.

The book doesn't explain how the mouse got the cheese out of the trap without getting caught, but kids who hear this book read to them will be glad he did.

KC Snider's bright and cheerful illustrations add a lot to the pleasure kids will get from this book.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Thanking People

About a month ago I had to call tech support and the man who took the call was very patient with my lack of technological skills. When the call was finished I said I'd mention in the survey that I appreciated his work, but he said they didn't have anything like a survey. At my request he gave me his supervisors phone number.

I called it and expressed my appreciation. The boss was flabbergasted! He told me all the calls he ever gets are complaints and nobody had ever called to say thanks before.

I blogged about a similar experience a few years ago. (Here's the link: )

It seems like people are a lot more likely to complain than to thank people.

At Thanksgiving we remember to be thankful for things like food, homes, friends and family, etc. and that's important. But I hope we can remember to be thankful all year long, and not just for the necessities and pleasures of our lives.

We need to remember to thank the people who help us every day, often just doing their jobs.

Sure the people who collect our garbage, wait on us in stores, direct traffic, deliver the mail, etc., etc. get paid for what they do.

But many of them get complaints when they do something that's not perfect, or their jobs inconvenience someone. And, judging by the reactions I've seen, when somebody expresses appreciation, it can make them very happy.

So please remember to thank people and even mention to their supervisors that we appreciate those who help us, even if it's just part of their jobs.

And, by the way, I want to thank you for reading this and for all the nice comments I've gotten about my posts on Facebook in the past.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

My Books for Kids

    I don’t usually talk about my own books here but, since Christmas is approaching, I thought some people might like to consider them as gifts for kids. They’re all available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble and can be ordered at local bookstores.

    Signs of Trouble is about kids with learning disabilities who get separated from their class on a field trip and use what they’ve learned about safety to get reunited. Educational material for early readers is included at the end.

    Slime & All is about a giant, talking worm who wants a friend and a boy who helps him. It’s an early chapter book at Second Grade reading level.


The other books all have Christian content.

    Secret Service Saint is especially appropriate for this time of year. It’s about Nicholas, who

discovers the joy of doing secret good deeds and eventually becomes known as Santa Claus.

  The last two books are for readers from 8 to 13 years old.

    The Peril of the Sinister Scientist is about a boy who thinks he was cloned from the blood on the Shroud of Turin because a scientist who worked on that experiment is stalking him. The concept is, what would Jesus do in middle school? (The kid on the cover does not look like the main character.)

    A Shadow of Fear is about a boy who needs to face his fears to prove he’s mature enough to go to camp and also to help a friend with Special Needs.


Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Metaphors and Similes

I majored in English in college and took electives in Linguistics because I've always been fascinated by language. I also studied Latin, German and French in school and later became fluent in American Sign Language. I'm the author of five books and my work has been published in lots of anthologies and periodicals so the information I learned about our language has been useful to me for the most part.

But here's one thing I don't understand: why does anyone care about the difference between a metaphor and a simile?

Yes, I had to learn the definitions in school to pass tests, but in all my years as a writer and reader I've never needed to know that information.

Sometimes I use and read comparisons using the words, like, or as, and sometimes I use and read comparisons that don't use those words.

So what?

The meaning is clear either way.

Lots of things - maybe even most things - I learned about grammar in school are useful to know,  but the difference between a metaphor and a simile is one thing I consider a waste of time to teach.

Who cares?

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Praying for Peace

After praying about the hostility in our country regarding the presidential election I went to sleep. Then I woke up during the night with these words in my mind:

“I am only one,
But I am one.
I can not do everything
But I can do something.
What I can do, I ought to do
And what I ought to do,
I shall do.”

(This morning I googled them and found out they’re a paraphrase of words by Edward Everett Hale.)

Okay, that was clearly an answer to my prayer, so I went back to sleep.

When it was nearly time to get up I awoke again and wondered, “What is the something I can do?” Then I went back to sleep again.

When the alarm rang and I got up I realized what I can, and ought to do, is write things that will help bring us together again, so I’m trying to do that here and now.

We can disagree without anger and hatred. Each side believes the other is morally wrong, but  being wrong is not the same as being evil.

I’ve mentioned before the definition of love I learned in a college class:” when the happiness and well-being of another is essential to one’s own happiness and well-being a state of love exists.”

Whatever the outcome of political decisions to come, some people will not be happy with them, but we can still want what is best for each other. And even if we don’t all love one another, we can find ways to live together peacefully.

Please, please, please let’s try to do that.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

The Power of Words

I've mentioned in previous blog posts that one of my college Linguistics professors told us when studying a society, if you come to a word they can't define you know it's one of the most basic concepts in their culture.

I believe a lot of the conflict and, possibly, the outcome of the presidential election in the United States of America depended on two definitions: What is a human being? What is a marriage?

Yes, there were lots of other issues, but many people cast their votes because of one or both of those two concepts.

Is a fetus a human being? If people believed it is, they probably voted for Trump.

Is a marriage a committed sexual relationship between two people, or only between a man and a woman? How they defined that term determined a lot of people's choice between the candidates.

And those aren't the only things that divide us. Do we continue to welcome the poor, the huddled masses yearning to be free? Or do we focus on helping big businesses grow so they'll help our economy? Etc., etc., etc.

To me, this is scary.  If we can't agree on basic things like these does it mean our culture is falling apart?

They say no democracy has ever lasted more than 250 years, and we're getting close to that number of years since our country was founded.

But I believe we can rise above all these conflicts by treating one another with respect and love.

Another of my professors told us "When the happiness and well-being of another is essential to one's own happiness and well-being, a state of love exists.

As a popular song from the days of my youth says, "Come on people...Let's get together and love one another."

We need to do that right now!

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Three Wise Animals

Okay, I know it's only the beginning of November, but I couldn't resist reviewing this cute Christmas picture book.

If you read my blog posts often you probably know I like books that take an unusual approach to a familiar topic, and this book certainly does that.

Everyone has heard of three wise men who go to see baby Jesus, but three wise animals? Now that's a new idea. Author Robert G. Seal is creative to have thought of it.

In Three Wise Animals a lamb, a bull and a ferret must get past the dangerous, evil wolves to bring their gifts to the baby in the manger, and they're helped along the way by an angelic bunny.

Jeff West's illustrations are amusing - sort of like comic book pictures - and kids will love those as much as they enjoy the story.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

To-Do Lists

Do you have a to-do list?

I do. In fact I have two.

One list is on a big whiteboard on my office wall. It's divided into seven sections, one for each day of the week. I use a different colored marker for each week so when I erase the list for one day and put in the things for that day in the following week, I don't get confused.

I copy things like meetings and appointments from my calendar into the sections for each day. Then I add the other things I need to do. Those might include writing or rewriting something I'm working on, shopping, blogging, cooking for the week, calling someone in particular, etc.

Often I don't accomplish everything I'd hoped to do, so I write whatever didn't get done into the space for the next day. When I had a full time job I got more done in my free time than I do now because I'm scattered all over the place.

The other To-Do list is for big jobs, like cleaning my office. Some of the things on that list get put off for months because the white board list is so full it doesn't allow time for them.

I hope I'm not the only one who doesn't get everything done according to plan.

Do you have a to-do list?

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Once, Twice, Thrice

I've always been interested in language, even as a child. Once, Twice, Thrice by Kim Chatel should encourage today's kids to find language interesting, especially our own English language.

The silly book is about the illogical way some English words form a certain pattern when becoming plurals while others don't.

Kids who read this book or hear it read will probably be giggling before they reach the end.

And it may help them get better grades in school, too. It will hold the interest of classes when teachers read it to them.

This book will also be a great bedtime story for parents to read aloud. It shows a loving relationship between a father and his daughter that's emphasized by Kathleen Bullock's illustrations.

While the book is designated for four to six year olds, it might also appeal to children who are a little bit older.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Max Elliot Anderson

Anyone who knows me or reads my blog posts knows I read a lot of books for kids.

I've read several books by Max Elliot Anderson in the past. Recently I read three more and enjoyed them a lot.

Those books are: Lost Island Smugglers, which is a Sam Cooper Adventure, and both The Cat Burglars and Funny Money. The last two are part of another series, The Accidental Adventures of Kurt Benson and His Friends, Riley and Jordan. (That series name is a VERY long subtitle!)

Anderson writes just the sort of stories boys, even reluctant readers, will love!  His books aren't long, each one is full of exciting adventures, and the characters are realistic.  Of course lots of girls will enjoy reading them, too.

In some ways these books are similar to classic series like The Hardy Boys mysteries, but they take place in modern times. And, unlike some of the classic adventure series for kids, it's believable that the kids in his series get into the scary situations and are able to handle them.

Anderson has written about two dozen books for kids and I expect to read more of them in the future.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Bullies 2 Buddies

Most kids either have been bullied, know someone who gets bullied, or are bullies themselves. Sometimes all three apply to the same kid in different situations.

I'm a great fan of Izzy Kalman's suggestions on how to handle bullying because I've seen his methods work in my own life.

Kalman is Jewish, but he bases his method on the teachings of Jesus. Kalman believes, and has evidence to show, that turning the other cheek really does work.

Tattling or seeking revenge just make the bullies try harder to dominate whoever does those things. Of course in a severely dangerous or possibly life threatening situation it's sensible to get help, but most of the time simply acting like what the bully does doesn't matter is the best way to handle him or her. (And, yes, some bullies are girls.)

It means they've lost the game.

Bullies are people who need to make others feel bad in order to feel good about themselves. If they don't get the reaction they want from a victim they'll try harder for a while, but then they'll give up on bothering that person.

And bullying isn't just physical or only something that happens between kids. Adults can be mean to others in many ways.

If you know anyone dealing with bullies I recommend checking Kalman's website for helpful information. Here's the link:

Wednesday, October 19, 2016


"Oh, Janet, you have SUCH an imagination!" my mother used to say.

She didn't mean it as a compliment, but I'm happy to have an active imagination.

My neighborhood friends and I used to pretend to be all sorts of things while we played outside. At times I was a princess, a horse, a space alien, etc., etc., etc.

Unfortunately, today lots of kids stop pretending when they're young because they always have adults supervising them. Sometimes the only way they use their imaginations is with video games.

But I still have an active imagination, which is one reason why I write books for kids. And when children - or grown-ups - get involved in good books they're carried away to adventures and different worlds and experiences.

Some of my books include ordinary kids taking risks to reach important goals. One is about an imaginary creature - a giant talking worm. Another book takes readers to the past, and one helps them understand people who are different from themselves.

I believe providing fiction for kids to read is an important task.

What else can we do to help kids use and develop their imaginations?

(P.S if you want to know more about my books go to my website,

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Mrs. Betsy Fieldmouse Borrows an Egg

The first time I saw the cover of this book I was charmed by the cute illustration. And the title sounded interesting.

I'm glad I took the few minutes needed to read the book, because I enjoyed it a lot and I'm sure lots of little kids will, too. (Okay, I admit I'm still a kid on the inside.)

The plot about a mouse borrowing an egg to bake a cake is unique, but Barbara Bockman followed a pattern used in many classic picture books in writing it. She's a great writer and Elexis King is a great illustrator.

 Anyone who has or knows little kids should consider getting this book when they do their Christmas shopping.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Statue of Liberty

Recently I saw a copy of the poem engraved at the feet of the Statue Of Liberty.

It made me think of my own ancestors, who came to America before Ellis Island. Some came here as indentured servants in the 1500s, one came from Ireland to avoid starvation by getting paid to fight for the South in the Civil War. Others came over from England, Scotland and Germany during the gold rush, most of them to escape from poverty.

Here's a copy of that famous poem by Emma Lazarus:

The New Colossus

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
"Keep ancient lands, your storied pomp!" cries she
With silent lips. "Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"

Where did your ancestors come from?

Saturday, October 8, 2016

Mom, Is There A Santa Claus

When I was a kid and asked my mother if Santa Claus was real, she replied, "Santa Claus is the spirit of Christmas."

This book, by Susan J. Berger, is about a boy named Luke who asks the same question. His mother tells him Santa is the spirit and joy of giving to others at Christmas.

Later Luke experiences that joy by helping a younger boy keep his belief in Santa Claus.

If you've read my own book, Secret Service Saint, you know the real man, Saint Nicholas, did secret good deeds and later became known as Santa Claus.

Both my book and Mom, Is There A Santa Claus help kids understand that Christmas is about giving and helping others, not about being greedy and getting things.

And the baby whose birth is celebrated at Christmas shared the same message with His life.

This book would be great for any kids who are wondering about the reality of Santa Claus.

K.C. Snider's illustrations are perfect for the story. Some of them could be on Christmas cards.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Lee Roddy

A writer I've met, Lee Roddy, is the author of books for kids that might be considered classics.

I think he started getting his books published in the 1970s, though that could have happened even earlier, and today's kids are still reading them.

Dozens of his books are still in print and some of those have been written more recently.

I have lots of them on my own shelves

Kids love Roddy's books because they're full of action and adventure. Some have girl protagonists, but a lot of the main characters are boys.

Since the stories take place in various locations and time periods, their young readers are learning information at the same time they're enjoying the exciting plots.

I found his website, and in case anyone reading this blog post is interested in learning more about his books, here's the link:

Saturday, October 1, 2016


Recently I've posted about things I remember from my childhood. I often post about books for kids, because I enjoy reading - and writing - those.

In many ways I'm still a kid on the inside. I love playing with my dog, taking walks in the woods, and using my imagination.

But would I want to go back to being a child?

It would be nice to have my mother do the cooking and shopping, but would I want her always telling me what to do again?

It would be fun to play imaginative games with my friends, but I can still share things we imagine with people in my critique groups.

And would I want to give up my own memories of becoming a wife, raising my kids and all the other things I've experienced and learned? NO!!

As the old song about childhood says, "Once you've crossed its borders you can never return again."

But it might be fun to go back once in a while and experience life through a kid's eyes for a short time. Come to think of it, that's what I do when I read and write books for kids.

What about you? Would you like to become a kid again?

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Marin Junior Theater

I was always a good kid, but in the summers when I performed with Marin Junior Theater I usually played the part of a villain, and loved doing that.

The first year I played the part of Lady Precious Harp from a play called The Land of the Dragon. The play took place in China. I forget the plot and wish I could read the script again but I've searched unsuccessfully for the title online.  The play would probably be considered racist now.

The next year I was the Wicked Witch of the West in The Wizard of Oz. All summer when I saw kids from the theater group downtown they'd call to me, "Hi, Witch!" That always made me feel proud.

The third year I decided to be a good character and became Cinderella's fairy godmother, but that wasn't nearly as much fun as pretending to be bad.

Besides performing in the plays, two of those summers I got to go to San Francisco with the other main characters and appear on the local TV Channel 5 to publicize the plays. I was famous! Well, sort of.

A few years ago I realized nearly all the other kids who got important roles in the plays had mothers who were active as volunteers for Marin Junior Theater. Maybe I was a good actress to always get big parts even though my mother wasn't involved. She had a day job because she was widowed, so maybe the other women who ran the group just felt sorry for me.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

TV History

I was in the second grade when my best friend's family got the first television in her neighborhood. Every weekday evening I was allowed to go across the road to her house and watch The Howdy Doody show.

Since the other kids in the neighborhood weren't invited to join us, they'd line up outside and watch through her living room window. They trampled the flower beds so her mom rearranged the living room furniture so the TV couldn't be seen from the window.

Before long most of the neighbors had purchased TVs - except us. My widowed mother couldn't afford that luxury.

But when I had to go to a classmate's house to watch the inauguration of President Eisenhower (all kids were supposed to watch it before coming to school later that morning) she decided it was worth the investment to get a TV.

There were three television channels, Four, Five and Seven. But when Channel Four upgraded to "super power" a wide, black stripe appeared down the middle of the screen so we couldn't watch that channel at our house. But it wasn't long before Channel 13 began so we could choose between three of them again.

A few years later I actually got to appear on Channel Five but I'll blog about that next time.

What TV shows did you watch when you were a kid?

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Radio Shows

Back in ancient history I was born on the East Coast and my mother, who was from California, missed her former home. So every Saturday morning we listened to the radio program, San Francisco is Your Home.  Even after moving to California we always listened to that program. On the west Coast it was simply called, This is Your Home.

On Saturday evenings we were allowed to stay up an hour later than usual and listen to The Lone Ranger. Even though it wasn't about California, it was about The West.

When I was in elementary school and lived in California all the kids in our neighborhood would listen to Big John and Sparky, Space Patrol, and The Lone Ranger on the radio.

We'd go outside and pretend to be cowboys and Indians (or horses - my best friend was ALWAYS a golden palomino) or that we were flying to outer space and encountering aliens from other planets.

Sometimes, when we hadn't just listened to one of those programs, the girls would pretend to be princesses or magical fairies and dress up in old Halloween costumes or our mothers' cast off clothes. But the boys were not interested in pretending to be princes or anything like that.

Sadly, today's kids don't get to use their imaginations as much as we did. They always have adults hovering over them, or are busy with electronic games and devices.

When you were a kid did you play pretending games?

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Magical Max and Magical Mickey's Big Surprise

I've reviewed several books in Penelope Anne Cole's series about kids in a family who have magical abilities when they're little, but lose them when they get older.

In this book, twins Max and Mickey plan to use their magic to create a surprise.

Their older brother and sister, Matt and Mea, and Lily, their friend who uses a wheelchair, will all be graduating on the same day.  (Those characters were featured in Cole's earlier books.)

Everyone in the family is preparing graduation gifts and trying to keep their gifts secret.

On graduation day all the gifts are revealed, but none are as amazing as the one Max and Mickey have created.

I won't reveal any of the secrets here, because I don't want to spoil the reading experience, but I will say I loved the climax.

But Max and Mickey are about to loose their magic, so this book is probably the last one in the series and I'm sorry to see it end.

I'll miss the colorful illustrations by Kevin Scott Collier, too.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Purple Pigs

Why Are the Pigs Purple?

This picture book by Sharon P. Stanley is very silly. Since young kids love silliness, they are likely to enjoy it.

The story is told in long sentences, sometimes continuing from one page to another. But it isn't meant for beginning readers and children will enjoy hearing their parents read it out loud.

It begins with two pigs who go to a spa to have their tails curled, and follows them from one activity to another.

I won't spoil the story by revealing what the pigs do, but the events lead to the ending when the pigs actually are purple, and we know why.

Eugene Ruble did the illustrations and they go well with the amusing feeling of the book.

Saturday, September 10, 2016

At the Fair!

Today I'm helping at the Gold Country Writers booth at the Gold Country Fair in Auburn, CA.

I'm sharing a booth with other members. We'll be selling our own books and those of other members who aren't there at the same time.

Of course I hope to sell lots of my own books, but even if I don't it's always fun to be with other writers, and to meet people who appreciate books and like to read.

As my bumper sticker says, "Bookaholics Unite."

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Seasonal Resolutions

At the beginning of Summer I wrote a blog post about making seasonal resolutions instead of annual ones. Lots of people fail to keep New Years Resolutions, including me.

Well, I kept part of my seasonal resolution and I'm almost done with the other part. I hope to have it completed by September 22 when the season actually changes.

How about you? Did you make a resolution at the beginning of Summer? If you did, have you kept it?

Now it's time for an Autumn resolution. Mine is to find ways to do more public speaking, which I enjoy.

How about you? Would you like to make an Autumn resolution and plan to complete it by the beginning of Winter?

If you do, feel free to share it here so we can hold each other accountable.

Saturday, September 3, 2016

Signs of Trouble

Now that school has started again I thought people might be interested in my book, Signs of Trouble.

It's about kids with learning disabilities who get separated from their class on a field trip and use what they've learned about safety rules and signs to get reunited with them.

Educational material at the back of the book can be used by teachers or homeschooling parents to teach children about safety, help them recognize signs, and to understand and accept others who have special needs.

Children usually enjoy the story and find the ending amusing.

The book is for kids from three to eight years old. It can be read to the young kids and the older ones can read it themselves.

Here's what the cover looks like:
The book is available online or through local bookstores.

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Pieces of Why

Pieces of Why by K.L. Going is an enjoyable read, but it's also a deep one.

Tia, the main character, loves to sing, but must deal with a lot of gossip and hostility because of her father, who has been in jail for a long time.

When a little kid is killed in a car accident the community brings back gossip about her father and a lot of hostility. Tia is so upset she can't even sing anymore.

She decides to find out the truth about what her father did, and takes risks to do so.

The book is very well written and we care a lot about Tia and hope she can find the truth she seeks.

I like that this emotionally deep story is a story of redemption, and I think it may help some kids who read it deal with some of their own emotional baggage.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Good Critique Groups

In my last blog post I talked about some bad writers' critique groups I've been in. However I've been in a lot more that were good.

Today I'm meeting with some people from a group I belonged to years ago, and I'm delighted to reunite with them. Besides helping each other's writing improve, we became good friends.

I'm in three - yes, THREE - critique groups where I currently live, and I love all of them.
One group only critiques material for children, another is for Christian writing, and the third is a little of everything as long as it's not offensive.

In two of the groups we send each other manuscripts by e-mail and members share their suggestions at the meetings. At another group we print out and bring hard copies of our work to give out at the meetings and members make suggestions there.

Writers are communicators, but writing is a solitary job, so I greatly enjoy spending time with other writers. We share something important to all of us.

Hopefully I'm helping them improve their work and they're helping me to become a better writer, too.

I guess there are other professions where people gather to share and help each other. Are you involved in any like that?

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Bad Critique Groups

As a professional writer I've been involved in various critique groups over the years.

For my non-writer friends, critique groups are groups of writers who share what they're working on and make suggestions to help each other to improve their work.

Unfortunately, not all critique groups are helpful

Early in my writing career I joined a group that was a waste of time. I was writing fiction for kids and other members were writing novels, often including soft porn, for adults. When I shared my work they'd just say something like, "Very nice dear," and go on to critiquing what they considered 'real' writing.

Obviously I didn't stay in that group very long.

I was also in a couple of online critique groups that were not helpful.

One had a member who argued with every suggestion anyone made to improve his work. Since he thought it was already perfect (which it wasn't) I don't know why he even joined the group.

The other online group was started by a writer who constantly sent her newest work for critiques but never offered suggestions for anyone else. She had apparently started the group just for her own benefit.

But I have also been in some excellent critique groups and I'll share about them in my next post.

I guess there can be problem people in any group. Have you been in any groups of whatever kind  with similar problems?

Saturday, August 20, 2016

J Names

I've blogged before about the frequency of names similar to mine and their meaning, but someone recently asked me to say more about that.

It can be a problem to have a common name.

Once I sent Facebook Friend requests to all the people named Janet Collins I saw listed there and got blocked for spam.

And people have confused me with others in the same community who have the same name as mine. Once I even went to pick up new glasses and discovered they'd given me the prescription for another Janet Ann Collins.

According to one baby name book I read, Colin means "dark one,"  but that doesn't mean dark in the sense of evil.  Long ago the Celtic people who lived in Ireland usually had fair skin, red hair, and freckles. When England destroyed the Spanish Armada some surviving Spanish sailors made it to the Irish shore. They intermarried and the resulting offspring tended to have dark hair and tan skin like their fathers because of dominant genes. But brunettes were uncommon so it was logical to call the baby boys a name that meant, dark one.

But other baby name books say that name, Colin, means "strong," or "young." Whichever books are correct, the "s" at the end of Collins means "son."

And Janet means "Gracious gift of God"  or "God is gracious."It's easy to see why so many cultures used versions of that name for their babies and modified it according to their own language.

Here's a list of variations of my first name:

For girls:
Jan, Jane, J'Ane, Jana, Janeen, Jayne, Janie, Jean, Jeanie, Jeanne, JoAnne, Johanna, Joan, Joanna, Joanne, Joni, Jonie, Juanita, Vanya, Giovanna, Hanne, Ivanna, Janetta, Janette,  Janine, Janis, Janna, Janica, Jenetta, Jovanna, Juana, Nita, Vania, and Zaneta.

For boys:
John, Johnny, Johnnie, Jonny, Jack, Jonathan, Jon, Jay, Jock, Jan, Jean, Ian, Ivan, Evan, Ewan, Gian, Giovanni, Hans, Jackie, Jens, Jevon, Johan, Johann, Juan, Sean, Shaun, Shawn, Shane, and Zane.

I think that's all, but I could have missed some.

Do you know what your name means?

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

First Day of School

For thousands of kids the first day of school starts soon.

I remember wearing new clothes and wondering what my new teacher - or, when I got older, teachers - would be like and hoping to have friends in my class.

I entered Kindergarten classes twice and first grade once after the school year had already begun because of moving, and that was scary.

One kid I knew who was starting preschool had been prepared by having lots of books about the first day of school read to him. He did fine the first day, but fell apart on the second day because nobody had told him there would be a second day of school.

I guess having a first day of school every year, and possibly starting new schools during the year because of things like moving helps prepare kids for the rest of their lives.

As adults we've all had to deal with first days. For instance there are first days at new jobs, first days living in new places, first days of marriage and parenthood, first days as empty-nesters, and first days dealing with health problems, to name a few.

I hope we can continue to learn from all our first days.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Subliminal Phonics

Here's another post about helping kids learn to read.

Years ago when I was teaching preschool I only spent a few minutes each day on academic things. We'd have a letter and number of the day, and check the calendar for the date and day of the week. The rest of circle time was spent sharing, and reading stories.

In the afternoon as the children were settling down for their naps I'd play a record or tape (you can tell this was a long time ago) with a story, then I'd play one of several phonics records or tapes that went through the alphabet, pronouncing each letter and the basic sound it makes.

Some of those weren't even accurate. For example, I remember one claiming "M says muh."

After that I'd play some soothing music. Altogether all those records and tapes took about fifteen minutes, and most of the children would fall asleep well before they were finished.

Although I didn't do anything else to try to teach the children academic things, quite a few of the four-year-olds just spontaneously began to read. I think hearing the letter sounds as they fell asleep let them seep into their brains.

I call that method of helping kids learn to read Subliminal Phonics.

And it didn't put any pressure on the kids or push them to try things they weren't ready for.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Learning to Read

In many parts of the USA school starts about now, so I thought this would be a good time to blog about learning to read.

I understand kids' brains must reach a certain level of development before they're ready to learn that skill. For most kids it happens between the ages of four and six, though I've heard some rare geniuses learned to read when they were two years old and I've seen kids in Special Ed classes finally develop that ability when they were teenagers.

Unfortunately some parents and preschools try to force children to learn reading skills when some of the kids may not be ready, and that often convinces the kids that reading is impossible, so they give up and don't try to learn it when they are ready to do so.

I've mentioned before that years ago I read about a study of the highest functioning students at the best universities in the country. The researchers intended to find out what method of teaching reading had been used when the subjects were little kids since it would probably prove to be the best method. To their surprise, the results of the study showed the only thing the students all had in common was that when they were little kids their parents had read to them often, usually at least every day.

If you have kids or know kids one of the best things you can do for them is read to them a lot. And snuggling together while looking at a picture book and sharing the story is a pleasure to both the kids and grown-ups.

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Why I Write

I've had five books for kids published, and well over a hundred of my articles have appeared in newspapers, magazines, and anthologies, but I never expect to become a best-selling author and make a fortune with my writing.

So why don't I just give up and stop writing?

Because I can't not write.

I've loved books since I was a toddler and my parents read to me at bedtime. Since I learned to read in First Grade I've devoured books. If I could count all the books I've read in my life the number would probably be between 17 and 18,000.

For most of my life I've averaged five or six books a week, mostly those written for middle grade kids and, since that genre became available, some for young adults. Once in a while I even read books intended for grown-ups. That's not even considering all the picture books I read as a kid and to my own children and students.

And, of course, I've read newspapers nearly every day, magazines every week or two, and countless articles and posts on the internet.

Reading has given me so much I'm compelled to give back some of what I've gained by writing things for others to read.

But that's only one of the reasons why I write.

When I was a kid my mother thought I had too much imagination, and my imagination is still active today. How can I not share some of the ideas that come from asking, "What if...?" and exploring possibilities in my mind?

Even non-fiction articles often originate from wondering about something and searching to find out the answers.

If I ever stop writing I'll have to turn into somebody else. I hope that never happens.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

What's My Name?

 Me, age 8.

 My parents named me Janet because my mother was proud of her Scottish heritage. At that time it wasn't a common name for girls in the USA.

A few years later when Janet Leigh became a famous movie star lots of girls were named Janet.

When I was a kid I wanted a nickname, but after WWII everyone "knew" Jan was a name for boys in Holland (They didn't realize it was pronounced differently,) and Janny sounded too much like Jenny. That was known as a name for donkeys and mules.

I was stuck with just, plain Janet.

But the day I got married, people started calling me Jan Collins because the final T in my first name and the hard C in my new last name were difficult to pronounce together.

Of course my family and old friends continued calling me Janet. For decades I knew certain people would call me Janet while others used Jan, and that was no problem.

But now it is a problem.

I'm in several writers' groups and some of them have other members named Jan, so in those groups I'm called Janet. But other groups have members besides me named Janet, so in those groups I'm Jan.

One person is in several of those groups with me, so I never know what I should call myself when communicating with him. 

When I send e-mail messages to other writers I have to stop and think which of my names to use.

Nobody has ever called me Janet Ann except my mother when she was mad at me, but I use that name for professional things because there's another writer named Janet Collins.

Maybe I should just call myself Janet Ann.  At least I can use that in all my e-mail signatures. I hope nobody is mad at me, but doing that should avoid some confusion.

Friday, July 29, 2016


Underwear? What a strange title for a post by me!

I was thinking about the difference between our cultural attitudes toward underwear when I was young, and today.

Back then if a girl heard, "I see London, I see France, I see somebody's underpants" she would have been very embarrassed. Even young girls knew never to let other people see her underpants.

Today a girl would probably never have heard those words and would wonder why anybody cared.

And in the maybe-not-so-good-old-days if a girl or woman had bit of her white slip appear below the hem of her skirt or dress, a friend would notify her.

But, to be tactful, instead of saying, "Your slip is showing" the friend would probably say, "It's snowing down south."

Then the person with that embarrassing condition would rush to the lady's room to fix the problem.

Today not only do girls feel comfortable letting underwear show, even polite adult women often wear blouses and shirts that reveal their cleavage when they bend over.

But if that seems like a big difference, just imagine what a woman from the 1800s would think of the way women dress today!

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

The Girl in the Well is Me

This is another unusual book for kids.

In The Girl in the Well is Me the main character, Kammie, was tricked by girls at her new school to participate in a fake initiation into their clique and, as a result, falls deeply into an abandoned well.

Nearly the entire book consists of her thoughts and physical sensations during the experience of being trapped in that terrible situation, not knowing if she'll ever be rescued or not.

Karen Rivers has done an amazing job of keeping the readers attention while describing the girl's suffering.

Kammie's thoughts and memories inform us of her drama-filled life up to the present time and realistically portray what it must be like, both physically and emotionally, to be trapped like that.

I was a bit disappointed that we don't find out if the girls who got her trapped in the first place have any consequences, but the story isn't about them and the main character's results are very satisfying.

But there's potential for a future story about the same characters, and I hope Karen Rivers writes it.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Bring It Along

Here's something else that has changed a lot since I was young: what we have to carry with us.

Back then my purse would contain a make-up bag with a comb, a tube of lipstick, an eyebrow pencil and a compact, which was a round, flat case with a mirror, face powder and a powder puff inside.

The wallet in my purse had some cash, a driver's license, my library card, maybe one bank card, and some photos in it. And I might have a few tissues available, just in case they were needed.

Of course men wouldn't carry make-up, but they'd have a wallet with similar contents, and maybe a comb and handkerchief in their pockets.

And, of course everyone would have a key chain or ring with keys to their home and car.

Today we have to carry so many cards they wouldn't fit in our old wallets. Besides the kinds we used to carry, there are credit and debit cards, and cards for every store where we are likely to shop. I don't have room for any photos in my wallet anymore.

If you had told me in the 1960s that I'd be carrying a phone in my purse someday I'd have thought you were crazy, but today we all have to carry our cell phones with us everywhere.

Of course some of the additional items, like the meds I have to carry with me, are just there because I'm getting older. And bringing a few printed out family photos is a matter of choice.

What do you carry with you?

Wednesday, July 20, 2016


I just read the middle grade book, Saving Ellie, by Marilee Crow and I'm in awe. IMHO this book should become a classic.

I grew up in the 1940s and '50s so I knew about the way Jewish people had been treated in Nazi Germany, but most kids today have no idea what things were like then. This book manages to let young readers understand a lot about that situation in only about 40 pages and without going into the extremely gruesome details.

We care about the main character, Ellie. She's believable and takes some action that makes a difference so she's not just a victim. And the ending of the story is positive.

The black and white illustrations by KC Snider look a lot like the black and white photographs of that era and help to set the scenes.

With all the bad things in the news lately, it will be a big help for children who read this book to understand how wrong it is to be prejudiced against other people. I think every kid in America should read it.

Saturday, July 16, 2016


I'm one of those people who start Christmas shopping in the Summer. (There are usually lots of sales in August.) So you shouldn't be surprised that I'm reviewing a Christmas book here now.

The Best Kind of String by Janene Dubbeld is a picture book about the joy of giving.

Getting a package all tied up with string (Remember that song about favorite things?) is a pleasure, but making other people happy is an even greater one. And this book lets kids know about that kind of joy.

The book follows children who try to decide what to give to people they love. Each one discovers that showing their love is the greatest gift.

The love that ties people together is the best kind of string.

KC Snider's lively illustrations show kids of various ethnicities giving gifts from their hearts to people they love. And a chain of yarn across the bottom of each picture ties in with the title and theme of the story.

This book will help lots of kids understand that possessions aren't nearly as important as love, and that making other people happy by giving is better than getting. I hope lots of people will give copies of it to kids well in advance of the holidays.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Numbers We Need

For a while when I was a kid we lived in a very small town. The phone numbers there only had four numerals and when you picked up the receiver you'd hear someone say, "Operator," then you would state the number you wanted to call. That was in the late 1940s. Back then most places already had two letters and a number before the four digits in each phone number.

And I remember reading somewhere that phone prefixes used letters because they believed most people couldn't remember more than five numbers in a row.  Now we use all numbers, also have a three digit area code, and need to dial "1" before that to call out of our own areas. We must have become smarter, right?

Also when I was a kid, zip codes didn't exist. Sometimes we'd get letters addressed to the same street and house number in a city with the same name as our town in another state. Apparently the people who sorted the mail would sometimes confuse Cal with Fla. (We used three letters for states back then. ) Having zip codes has prevented a lot of confusion.

Just a few decades ago I would never have imagined being able to remember web addresses that started with http://www. and went on to include several words. My own blog address, would have seemed impossibly long.

Maybe we really have become smarter than we used to be.

I'm glad we no longer have to type in all of that for every web address or our brains would become so full of gibberish that in a few more decades there wouldn't be room for anything else.

Saturday, July 9, 2016

The Scandalous Sisterhood of Prickwillow Place

I've read other books for kids that take a dark but humorous spin on times past, but this one is different. For one thing, it's much better written than the others. And the plot is exciting.

The Scandalous Sisterhood of Prickwillow Place is about girls in a Victorian residential school for young ladies who discover the dead bodies of their headmistress and a man.

The girls don't want to be separated and sent home, so they decide to hide the bodies and pretend the headmistress is still alive.

But how can they solve the mystery of who committed the murders while making everything seem normal?

The girls all have descriptive names that make it easy to keep track of which one we're reading about, and the characters are both believable and amusing.

The plot gets complicated, but not too complicated for readers to follow easily, and the book is a page turner.

Now I'm eager to read more books by the author, Julie Berry.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

What Goes Around...

Remember the old saying, "What goes around comes around?"

Back in the 1940s and '50s my mother used to say, "If you keep anything long enough it comes back in style."

She was sort of right.

In the 1800s and early 1900s women wore long dresses with full skirts and tried to make their waists look as small as possible.  Only "women of ill repute" would let much of their bodies show.

Then in the 1920s women wore much shorter dresses with no waistlines at all. When those clothes came into fashion they probably horrified older ladies.

And girls couldn't wear pants except as underwear. Later those became acceptable, but only in casual circumstances. In the 1940s we'd change into our jeans or pedal pushers for play, but always wore skirts or dresses to school and women wore those to work.

In the 1950s when I was a teenager it again became fashionable to wear longer, full skirts and wide, "cinch belts" to make waistlines look as small as possible. And girdles, though less restrictive than corsets, were the norm.

Then in the '60s mini skirts became the fashion, and women began wearing slacks and pant suits for dressy occasions.

Today girls and women aren't required to follow the latest fashions and we can wear pretty much anything we want. Our grandmothers and great grandmothers would be horrified to see how lots of young women dress now, but I have seen some girls wearing full skirts and wide belts.

I wonder if styles will cycle again and we'll be expected to wear long dresses soon.  I hope women don't go back to wearing corsets!

Saturday, July 2, 2016

Bubble Gum, Bubble Gum In A Dish

Preschoolers will love this book. It helps them learn to count and identify colors in a fun way.

I wish I'd had it back when I was teaching preschool.

The book begins with a big dish full of bubble gum balls. As the pages are turned, each number and color of bubble gum balls is taken out and held by a different child, who then blows a bubble.

The cute kids in the illustrations are diverse so most youngsters will be able to identify with someone in the book.

At the end kids are challenged to recognize the numbers and colors and then ...

The last page is a fun surprise.

Tracey M. Cox is both the author and illustrator and does an excellent job at both.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Devotional for Kids

Kisses From Heaven is another book with an original concept. If you've read many of my blog posts you know that always appeals to me.

This book is a daily devotional for young children. I've never seen one of those for this age group before.

Each of the 66 pages has a Bible verse and just a few words that can be read to a child. And little ones won't care that the meter or rhyme aren't always perfect because the concepts will appeal to them.

This book would be good to read to kids before bed ,or during family worship times.

It could also be used at Sunday School classes or Christian pre-schools.

And children will enjoy the cute,  black and white illustrations drawn by the author, Nancy Rogers Schlact. (It must be nice to be multi-talented.)

Here's what the cover looks like:

Devotional for Kids

Kisses From Heaven is another book with an original concept. If you've read many of my blog posts you know that always appeals to me.

This book is a daily devotional for young children. I've never seen one of those for this age group before.

Each of the 66 pages has a Bible verse and just a few words that can be read to a child. And little ones won't care that the meter or rhyme aren't always perfect because the concepts will appeal to them.

This book would be good to read to kids before bed ,or during family worship times.

It could also be used at Sunday School classes or Christian pre-schools.

And children will enjoy the cute,  black and white illustrations drawn by the author, Nancy Rogers Schlact. (It must be nice to be multi-talented.)

Here's what the cover looks like:

Saturday, June 25, 2016

My First Book

Do you remember seeing signs, T Shirts and jewelry with the letters, WWJD a few decades ago?
Those letters stood for the phrase, What Would Jesus Do?

At the time I was a substitute teacher and sometimes worked with kids in Middle School. I wondered how Jesus might have acted if he'd been a kid in an environment like that.

Later that question inspired me to write my first published book, The Peril of the Sinister Scientist.
It's about a boy in Middle School who wants to act like Jesus.

I needed a strong motivation for him, and thought of one: the boy thinks he might be a clone of Jesus Christ because a scientist who worked on an experiment to clone Jesus is stalking him.

The book is with a small publishing house, and the publisher hurried it into publication ahead of schedule so I would be able to participate in a group book signing. Unfortunately, because of the rush, the kid on the cover doesn't look like the main character in the book.

The book was published in 2009 but it's still available on Amazon
(Here's the link: ) and bookstores can order it through their distributors.

Here's what the cover looks like:

Wednesday, June 22, 2016


Summer is here!

The year 2016 is half over.

Way back in January lots of people made New Year's resolutions. Did you?

I didn't because I knew I probably wouldn't keep them. By this time I would probably have forgotten all about them anyway. New Year's resolutions are pretty much futile for me.

But what about making seasonal resolutions?

If I resolve to accomplish something in the next three months I'll probably remember it and might actually get it done. Then I can make one or more new resolutions for Fall and Winter and might actually get those done, too.

Okay, I can do that.

For this season I resolve to make a new address book, since my old one is overflowing. And I resolve to pick and preserve lots of fruit from my yard.

What do you plan to accomplish this Summer?

And what do you think of making seasonal resolutions instead of annual New Year's ones?

Saturday, June 18, 2016

One More Story

I've written quite a few posts about my grandfather so I think this will be the last one, at least for a while.

He often told us about experiencing the San Francisco 1906 earthquake and fire.

Since their homes were destroyed, people camped out in parks.

My grandfather and his daughter stayed in the Jewish Cemetery (now Dolores Park) and had only a carpet hung on the fence as shelter.  My very pregnant grandmother was graciously invited to stay with a woman in a nearby house that hadn't burned.

Then my grandfather discovered that his parents' home a few blocks away at Market and Dolores streets had been spared, so the family went to stay with them.

My great-grandfather was a butcher at the slaughter house on Potrero Hill. He walked up to his place of work and pushed a wheelbarrow loaded with a side of beef all the way down to the cemetery, where he cut it up and gave meat to the hungry people still camping there.

The water mains were broken, so the only way people in the area could get water was to walk to the hill above Market Street where the US Treasury was, and fill whatever containers they had from the spring. The line was usually a mile long.

A few days after the quake (I guess the fire was no longer a danger) my grandfather decided to walk down to the Wells Fargo building and see what had happened to the place where he worked. In every block someone in the militia stopped him at gunpoint and forced him to spend an hour picking up bricks and other debris. It took him eighteen hours to walk down and back and he was never that tired at any other time in his life.

I was born in New Jersey, and came to California when I was four years old. When I got married and we moved to a victorian flat in the mission district my aunt told me, "You're just like a salmon coming home to spawn."

A few years ago I discovered I had moved to the SAME BLOCK where my grandparents had lived at the time of the earthquake! The fire that destroyed my grandparents' home had stopped on the other side of the street. (I didn't actually "spawn" while we lived there, but we did get our first two foster kids.)

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Baby Poopsie Loves Ears

Baby Poopsie Loves Ears by Deb Gardner Allard is a book that's just right for little kids with a baby sister or brother.

I can imagine those children laughing at the story and comparing it to the actions of the babies in their own families.

And they'll giggle at the funny, colorful illustrations by Jack Foster, too.

It would be a great gift for children at a baby shower for the new babies in their families.

Saturday, June 11, 2016

More About My Grandfather

Back in the 1800s most people finished their educations when they graduated from the Eighth Grade. If they were wealthy they might go on to college, but most boys entered the workforce and my grandfather was no exception.

He went to work as a shotgun guard on the wagons that carried gold bullion from the trains to the mint in San Francisco for Wells Fargo Railway Express.

Legally you had to be 16 years old to have a job that involved carrying a gun. Because he was tall my grandfather was able to pass for 16. He always said he had told the only lie of his lifetime to get that job.

That, in itself was a lie. For instance he thought it was shameful that my mother told me babies grew inside their mothers' tummies. He thought she should have said they were found in cabbage patches or brought by storks. Lying "for the protection of the innocent' was okay in his opinion.

As an employee of Wells Fargo Railway Express grandfather ate in the lunch room and often heard the detective who caught the bandit, Black Bart, tell visitors how he had done that by tracing a shirt cuff found at the scene of a hold-up by the laundry mark printed on it to the place the bad guy had his clothes washed.

Another advantage of working for that company was being able to ride the trains for free.

My grandfather's younger brother was sent to a tuberculosis sanitarium in the Sierras and nobody else in the family ever saw him again, But my grandfather took the train up to visit every few weeks until his brother died.

While on the long train rides he taught himself to play the five-stringed banjo.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Sloth the Lazy Dragon

Sloth is a gigantic dragon who spends his time sitting on a pile of treasures.

But he's very fat, although that word isn't used in the book. In fact he's so overweight he can't even fly.

Then a dwarf named Radish offers to help him so the dragon won't frighten him and the other dwarves and Sloth accepts the offer.

This book by Regan W. H. Macaulay will be an encouragement for kids to eat a healthy diet and stay active so, eventually, they can stretch their wings and fly like the dragon in the story.

And I won't give away what happens to the treasure.

Alex Zgud created illustrations that show the story well.

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Old Sci-Fi

Lots of us who love to read enjoy science fiction.

Back in the 1800s when my grandfather was young that genre was becoming popular. My Grandfather enjoyed reading books like those written by Jules Vern.

That's probably what prompted him to try what we might call a prank.

He lived in the Mission District of San Francisco. One night, with help from one of his younger brothers, he lit a lantern, tied it to the tail of a kite, and flew it into the air.

People all over the area came out and stared at the mysterious light moving in the sky! They'd never seen anything like it before. Could it be something from outer space?

Years later, when I was a kid, he still bragged about the commotion he'd caused.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

A Rainbow of Friendship

Anyone who reads my blog posts often knows I want to help people accept others who are different from themselves.

A Rainbow of Friendship by Joni Klein-Higger is a book that does exactly that.

Its about a girl who lives where everything - and everyone - is the same. Then she discovers a rainbow world with kids of all different colors. 

At first she's afraid, but she has fun with the other children and learns that, while it's important that everyone is unique, together we make something beautiful.

Of course the illustrations by Eileen Goldenberg are bright and colorful.

The text rhymes nicely and I imagined it becoming the lyrics to a song. Then I discovered the author has written and recorded music called Friendship to go with it that's available on i-tunes.

Kids could sing along in their classrooms or at home!

But, even without music, I'm sure teachers will want to use this book to teach their students to accept each other. And parents will want to read it to their own kids, too.

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Multiplying Names.

I've blogged about names before, but here's something about them I haven't mentioned in previous posts.

In times past when a woman got married she left her "maiden name" behind and took her husband's last name as her own. That's how it was alwsys done. Period.

Today lots of people think that's sexist, and since it originated because women became the property of their husbands when they got married it certainly was in times past.  Today it's just traditional.

But in our time when people marry they often share each others' surnames.

For example if Mary Jones and Bob Black get married they may become Mary Jones-Black and Bob Jones-Black. And their children may (or may not) use the combined names as their own.

But what would happen if they do, and then Susie Jones-Black marries Jim Brown-Smith? Should they and their children have the last name of Brown-Smith-Jones-Black?

And what if those children were to grow up and carry on that tradition with their own kids. In a few generations people would have surnames so long they could hardly remember them!

Of course this isn't likely to happen, but it's amusing (to me, anyway) to think about.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

More About My Grandfather

If you saw my last blog post on Facebook you probably saw this photo in one of the replies. I try not to mention my family members on the internet, but the photo was obviously posted by a family member. (Thanks, Betsy.)

Besides juggling cannonballs, as I explained in my last post, my grandfather was also a champion rower.

He told us about one time when he rowed across San Francisco Bay, a distance of about twelve miles. His brother met him at the eastern shore and the two of them carried the boat about eight miles uphill to Lake Merritt, where a race was being held.

Grandpa won the race. Then with his brother he carried the boat down to the bay, and rowed it back across to San Francisco.

Not counting the race itself, that was a trip of over 40 miles. He was certainly a strong young man.

Since he lived with us when I was a child I was fortunate to hear lots of stories from him, including his experience of the 1906 Earthquake and knowing the detective who caught the famous robber, Black Bart.

If anyone is interested I could share more of his stories in the future, but not for a while as I have other things to blog about.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

I Have a Voice

Anyone who knows me is aware that I've cared about Special Needs, especially in kids, for most of my life. But the book, I Have a Voice by Joni Klein Higger and Flora Zaken-Greenberg, Ph.D, is about a child with a condition I'd never heard of before.

It's called Selective Mutism.

Jamie, the main character, is a young girl who can't talk in social situations, and she'll be starting Kindergarten soon.

Her mother takes her to a therapist who helps her overcome her fear of speaking.

This book will be especially helpful to kids with similar conditions, and I'm sure lots of doctors, therapists and Special Education teachers will want to have copies.

The information at the end of the book by Dr. Zaken-Greenberg about selective mutism will be especially interesting to adults who work with children.

Joni Klein-Higger has written the book in a friendly style so ordinary kids will also enjoy the story as it helps them become more understanding of others.

The illustrations by Eileen Goldberg are cheerful and help make the book fun to read.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Unusual Sport

Back in the late 1800s, when he was a young man, my grandfather participated in a sport most people today have never heard of. 

It was called cannonball juggling.

Players would take a 16 pound cannonball, balance it on their upper arms, and bounce it back and forth between that and the other arm simply by tightening his muscles.

The idea was to see how many times the ball could be sent back and forth without getting dropped.

I hate to think how it must have felt if anyone participating dropped a cannonball on his toes!

And I wonder if many of today's athletes could juggle cannonballs.

My grandfather was a champion at that sport. He must have had mighty strong biceps!

Here's a photograph of him posing with the ball on his arm: