Saturday, February 25, 2017

My Books for Kids

I don't often mention my own books, but decided to do it once in a while. They're all available online at places like Barnes & Noble and Amazon, and local bookstores can get them through their distributors.

The Peril of the Sinister Scientist is about a kid in Middle School who thinks he was cloned from the blood on the Shroud of Turin. He needs to know What Would Jesus Do. The publisher rushed it into publication so I could have it ready for a group book signing so the kid on the cover doesn't look at all like the main character.

Secret Service Saint is about Nicholas, who discovers the fun of doing secret good deeds. It's a surprise at the end that he becomes known as Santa Claus, so this might be a good time for kids to hear the story and learn the truth about Santa Claus.

Signs of Trouble is about kids who get separated from their Special Ed class on a field trip and use what they've learned about recognizing signs and following safety rules to get reunited. It has educational information in the back that would be helpful for classes and home schooled kids.

Slime & All is about a giant, talking worm who wants a friend and a boy who helps him. It's written at second grade reading level and I hope it encourages kids to accept people who are different.

A Shadow of Fear is about a boy who must face his fears to help a friend with a special need when her "helper dog" is lost. (It's not an official Service Dog.)

It's just a coincidence that all my books for kids have the letter, S, in the titles.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017


I decided to read the book, Wonder, by R. J. Pelacio because I'd heard that it was good.

It not only is a good book, it's one of the best I've ever read, and I've read thousands.

The book is about a boy named Auggie who was born with a severe facial deformity and has been home-schooled all his life. When people see him, they often react with horror or embarrassment.

But Auggie's parents have decided to enroll him in a mainstream school for fifth grade.
He's terrified about how other kids will react to him.

And they do react to his appearance.

The story is realistic - the author obviously understands kids - and the plot is fascinating.

The point of view characters change every so often, but readers are given clear warning when that's happening, so it isn't confusing.

I've always cared about kids with Special Needs, and my tagline is, Opening Eyes, Opening Hearts.
Wonder will certainly open the eyes and hearts of kids who read it, but it's also a just, plain, good story.

I hope Palacio will write more books in the future, but it will be difficult to produce any as good as this one.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Baby Carriages

When I was a little kid on the East Coast my mother would push my baby brother around in a baby carriage. People kept stopping her and asking if the baby was a boy or a girl.

I thought it would be much simpler if baby carriages were either pink or blue instead of the dark colors used back then. It would save so much time if my mother didn't have to keep stopping and telling people my baby brother was a boy.

A few years later we moved to California and babies didn't ride in carriages. Instead they were pushed around in baby buggies.

That was only one of the strange differences in how people talked.

And that's probably one reason I became interested in languages.

I took Latin and German in High School and French in College. Although I majored in English, I also took quite a few college electives in Linguistics just for fun.

Later I learned American Sign Language from an interpreter who I later married, worked at California School for the Deaf for many years, and raised three Deaf foster kids.

Of course the baby carriages were only one minor influence, but they helped set me on a path that made a difference in my life.

We never know when some little thing can start us in a new direction.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017


I'm never sure of my own name anymore. Some groups I belong to have another member named Janet, so they call me Jan. Other groups have someone named Jan, so I'm Janet to them.

When I was a kid in the 1940s I asked my parents to call me Jan, but everybody "knew" that was a boy's name in Holland, so it wasn't appropriate for a girl. I suggested that they call me Jenny, but that was the name of a mule in a comic strip so nobody would want to be called by that name.

I was stuck with being called Janet until the day I got married. But Janet Collins seemed a little bit difficult to pronounce because of the "t" and "C" sounds being next to each other, so some people started calling me Jan. By then people didn't think of it as a boy's name.

Centuries ago a nick name was originally an eke name.

Eke meant just a tiny bit more, like eking out something. If someone was affectionate they'd add something tiny to show that at the end of a person's name. For example John would be called Johnny, or George would have the nickname of Georgie. Those are diminutives and show affection.

Of course many nicknames are shorter than the original names. Will is shorter than William and Sue is shorter than Sue, but Billy and Susie are still used.

And lots of nicknames aren't based on the original names at all. People may be called affectionate things like Sugar, Sweetie, or Honey or called by their relationship to others or some noticeable characteristic. I've known people called Sis, Sonny, Red, and Doc, among others.

Do you have a nickname?

If you do, do you like having it?

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Loving Kids by Reading

When I was a little kid one of my parents always read to me from a picture book before having me say a prayer, kissing me good night, and tucking me in.

When my brother was old enough each of us would get to choose a book for our bedtime stories.

He ALWAYS picked the same one, The Animals of Farmer Jones.

I would have preferred to hear another different story every night besides the one I chose, but that was his preference.

Having our parents read to us made both of us feel loved.

I've mentioned before that scientific studies have shown reading to young children helps their academic abilities when they're older.

But that's not as important as making them feel loved, and reading stories as part of the bedtime ritual certainly helps do that.

Did your parents read to you when you were too young to read?

If they did, what were your favorite bedtime stories?

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Bleak Midwinter

I remember the Christmas carol that begins, "In the bleak midwinter." The lyrics were a poem written by Christina Rossetti.

But Christmas was only the beginning of Winter.

The bleak midwinter is actually now. The third of February was the exact middle of the Winter season.

This time of the year can be pretty bleak. In Northern California the strong winds and huge amounts of precipitation have caused a lot of damage.

And I'm glad not to live in places like Louisiana where the weather has been even more dangerous.

Of course other parts of the world have different weather. In Australia it's now midsummer!

But, no matter what kind of weather is happening, people will complain about it.

Since I haven't had my home destroyed or any other serious damage caused by the weather I intend to enjoy it as much as possible.

If the power goes out I can sit in front of the fireplace and read a book by lantern light. 

And I'm grateful that the water will restore life where years of drought have killed plants and trees.

How do you cope with the bleak midwinter?

Saturday, February 4, 2017

My Favorite Kids

I've been a parent, grandparent, teacher, and I'm author of books for kids. 

Of course I love my own kids and grandkids best, but if I had to choose my favorite age group to work with it wouldn't be easy because I enjoy kids of all ages.

Babies and toddlers are very cute, but caring for them is sometimes difficult.

I was a substitute teacher for many years and my least favorite age to work with was Middle School. I thought the boys behaved a lot like two-year-olds while the girls acted like they were twenty, and it wasn't easy to keep both sexes interested in anything.

High school kids are more like adults. Historically, and in some cultures today, they would be married and holding jobs instead of attending school.

Elementary school kids were a pleasure to teach, because most of them are interested in learning, but my favorite age to work with is preschoolers.

I taught preschool for about twelve or thirteen years and loved doing that. Those kids are both cute and eager to learn.

If you are or have been a parent or worked with kids what's your favorite age group?