Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Night Notes

As a kid, I had terrible handwriting.

In grade school I only got Ds instead of Fs in handwriting because the teachers knew I tried hard, and maybe partly because I got good grades in all my other subjects.

And my handwriting hasn't improved with time. It's a good thing we now have keyboards or nobody would be able to read what I write.

But sometimes that doesn't matter.  There's one kind of handwriting nobody but me has or will ever need to read. I call it night notes.

I always keep a pencil and small notepad beside my bed and often write notes to myself in the dark.

Maybe I'll think of something I need to do the next day, or a person I should contact. Often I get ideas about something to possibly write about and don't want to forget.

When that happens I reach over in the dark, grab the pencil and pad, and scribble down a name or a few words without being able to see it at all.

Then I tear off the sheet from the notepad and drop it on my slippers, being careful it falls far enough out so it won't go under the bed where I might not see it in the morning.

The next morning the first thing I do is pick up the note or notes from the previous night and put them on my dresser where I'll be able to read them later.

Once in a while when I do read them I realize a note doesn't make sense, or is a reminder for something I already did, but usually they are helpful. 

Night notes have never disturbed other people, like my husband or a conference roommate. (Yes, I did write a night note while at the writers' conference a few days ago.)

And if anyone else were to look at my night notes they probably wouldn't be able to read my handwriting anyway.

Saturday, March 26, 2016


Anyone who knows me knows I care a lot about Special Needs. That’s one reason I loved the book, Rules, by Cynthia Lord.

The story is about Catherine, who is often stuck caring for her autistic brother while her mother works at home.

When she accompanies them to therapy appointments, she meets and becomes friends with another boy, who uses a wheelchair and can’t speak.

But she hardly gets any attention from her parents because her brother seems to get it all.

And Catherine wants to have some normal friendships, especially with the new neighbor since her best friend is away for the Summer. How can she do that when her life is so abnormal?

Kids who read this well-written book will be drawn into her life and become eager to find out how she handles her problems. And they’ll learn to understand and, hopefully, accept people who are different from themselves.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Pay TV

Back in the dim and distant past when I was a kid, commercials on radio and television took only a few minutes  out of every half hour.

And, do any of you remember when a brilliant, future invention of "Pay TV" was supposed to eliminate commercials altogether?

Well, that prediction certainly didn't come true!

Now most people must pay for the privilege of watching television, and it seems like about half the broadcast time is used for ads.

I hardly ever watch TV anymore except for the evening news, and I can get that on the radio, or on my computer if I prefer.

A few years ago I cancelled my subscription to the TV network. A friend gave me an adapter box and aerial so I can usually get a few channels, though I don't bother with most of them.

Once in awhile if the weather is bad I don't get any reception, but if that happens, I can listen to the news on the radio instead. Or (GASP!) even read it the next morning in the newspaper. And, yes, I still get a hard copy of that.

Saturday, March 19, 2016


I couldn't exist without public libraries.

I probably own about 2000 books, but even if I re-read each one every year that wouldn't be nearly enough to get me through. And e-books don't thrill me, though I do read them once in a while.

I got my first library card in First Grade and will always remember my father walking me home afterwards in the dark.

Later, I had severe asthma and went to the library every day after school to wait for my mother to pick me up when she got off work. I loved spending all weekday afternoons there.

Of course in college I only used the University Library except during vacations, and seldom had time to read for pleasure.

But ever since I became a "grown-up" I've been back at my childhood addiction to reading and I love my local library.

A few years ago there was some discussion about privatizing our county libraries and the entire community came together to prevent that from happening. I'm so glad we succeeded!

Do you still use your public library? I hope so.

As my bumper sticker says, "Bookaholics Unite!"

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

In and Out, All Round About - Opposite Friends

The title of this book, In and Out, All Round About - Opposite Friends, lets us know the topic.

 It's about two kids who are very different from each other. One's a girl and the other is a boy. They're of different races, and like different things, but they still have lots of fun together.

The illustrations by Agy Wilson reminded me of the part of San Francisco where I used to live, and almost made me homesick.

Young kids will enjoy the repetitive pattern of the text. But, more importantly, they'll be encouraged to become friends with others who are different from themselves.

Who knows? Maybe some of them will grow up and help make the world better because of what they learn from this book about accepting others.

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Daylight Savings Time

 I understand a lot of people are trying to put an end to Daylight Savings time, which begins tomorrow in California.

I must say I'm in agreement with them and I'd love to hear what you think about doing that..

Here's something I blogged about it a few years ago:

This whole daylight savings time thing seems strange to me.

It's supposed to save energy by making people go to bed an hour earlier. That might have made a big difference in the 1940s when most people worked from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. and stores and businesses weren't open in the evenings. But today so many people are working, shopping, etc. at all hours I wonder if changing the clocks really makes much difference in energy usage at all.

Many countries don't have Daylight Savings Time. In the US different states and, in some cases parts of states,  have different dates for the time changes. That means it can be difficult to know if it's too late to phone a friend or relative who lives far away.

And a few years ago where I live they changed the dates of Daylight Savings Time to start earlier and end later in the year. Maybe if it really does save energy one of these days we'll be required to be on Daylight Savings Time all year long.

If you live where the time change happens tonight, don't forget to change your clocks before you go to bed.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Technology and Plots

Technology has made a big difference in the plots of books for kids. Things that were science fiction twenty years ago are the norm now.

Of course the things we have give authors ideas about what might become available in the future, so that helps them come up with ideas for plots.

Before computers, a lot of children's books were about kids having adventures without adults around.

Today in many of those fictional situations children would only need to pull out their cell phones and call for help, so it's much more difficult for authors to come up with contemporary plots for kids.

But sometimes phones can get lost, stolen, or are not allowed, and there are some places where there's no cell phone reception, so it is possible for modern kids to have adventures.

And modern technology creates the possibility of identity theft or for villains to find people and know information about them, so it does create the possibility of contemporary plot ideas.

I can't wait to read more of the new books for kids and see how the technology we have now is used. But I'm also looking forward to more historical and science fiction books.

In case you haven't guessed, I read fiction books for kids a lot, partly because that's what I write, but mainly because I'm still a kid on the inside. ;-)

Saturday, March 5, 2016

Schools Back Then

When I was a kid, back in the 1940s and '50s,  the main building of my grammar school had been built in the 1920s.

In one classroom we even had the old fashioned desks with curly, iron sides and holes for inkwells on top. That was in third grade, and we actually used the holes for bottles of ink and learned to dip our pen nubs in carefully to hold just the correct amount of ink in the holes in the nubs. Fountain pens were expensive and ballpoint pens hadn't been invented yet.

Every classroom had a piano, and teachers couldn't get a credential without learning how to play them. We didn't have special music teachers. Instead every teacher taught music once a week. In the third grade we learned to play the song flute, which was a plastic recorder.

Our own teachers taught us Art and P.E., too.

The first thing every morning we would salute the American flag and sing America the Beautiful. (The Star Spangled Banner required too great a range for our voices.)

Downstairs was a big auditorium that also served as our lunch room. On rainy days we'd all eat in there. Once a week some volunteer mothers would prepare a hot lunch for students who could pay a small amount for them.  Otherwise we'd all bring our own lunches in metal lunch boxes or paper bags. 

What do you remember about school when you were a kid?

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Firefly Hollow

Anyone who reads my blog posts often knows I like unusual books for kids.

Firefly Hollow by Alison McGhee is certainly one of those.

I can't remember ever before reading a book for kids from 8 to 12 years old with insects as the main characters. Besides many other insects, there's also a vole in the story, and even a human boy named Peter.

But most of the book is from the points of view of a firefly and a cricket called Firefly and Cricket.

Readers soon identify with them, and the story of their adventures going out into the world and following their dreams are exciting, inspiring and, I must say it, beautiful.

The cover art and illustrations scattered throughout the book are beautiful as well. They are done by Christopher Denise.

And the book will be interesting for readers up to 12 years old.