Being the Red Carpet

Stack Conf 8_16I returned home from the 2016 SCBWI Conference loaded with memories, notes and a come-hither stack of books—lots with stickers on the covers. So far I’ve read seven of them and wanted to tell you about them pronto . . .

So much for pronto. Another week has flown by and I’ve read another book instead of writing. Too much longer and I’ll have to start reading them over again. So here goes.


Picture Books

Little Poems 4tinyLittle Poems for Tiny Ears, by Lin Oliver and illustrated by Tomie dePaola, was published by Penguin Books in 2014. I bought two copies—one for a baby due to enter the world right about . . . now

. . . and the other for my favorite one-year old. The poems read as if written with her in mind.

Titles include: “My High Chair,” “The Kitchen Drawer,” “My Daddy’s Beard,” which rhymes with weird.

I can’t wait to see which poems are her favorites.

As a plus, the book “Wraps itself” (helpful as I raced to mail one), and it has a page of stickers in the back.

crayons quitThe Day the Crayons Quit, by Drew Daywalt, illustrated by Oliver Jeffers, and published by Penguin Young Readers’ Books in 2013, manages to be silly and universal. Most children, present and past, have had an intimate relationship with those inanimate objects, We can empathize with their point of view.

We knew the pain of watching our favorite colors grow too short to hold while the ones we didn’t like still had pointy tips. And we stripped and colored with the side of the colors we really, really needed for large areas so we didn’t have to miss recess to get the ocean or sky finished.

Once the paper sleeves were gone, lights colors like yellow left black or purple marks in the sun. Who ever heard of a purple sun?

my crayonsBoxes of more colors signaled more choice in life and often an increase in status. With the move from eight to sixteen colors, the crayons got thinner, more grown-up. We eyed the kids who had boxes of thirty-two wondering if we could talk our moms into an upgrade.

Some kids had boxes of sixty-four. Then we knew envy and felt the kids who had one hundred twenty-eight must be spoiled beyond belief.

The book is great fun although a little long. But each color’s letter of resignation can be read individually, and you’ll find your favorites.

Middle Grade

Monsters ringBruce Coville’s The Monster’s Ring, was originally published in 1982 and republished twenty years later by Random House Children’s Books. The book earned its staying power. Katherine Coville, his wife, is the illustrator.

Russell wants to turn the tables on a bully. Magic finds him one Halloween, and he makes the most of it—although he does forget his mom’s advice about always reading the directions first.

The book entertains and engages as it reveals a hidden layer. Russell learns something about himself and revenge.

Three Books with (Grown-up) Stickers

Teddy MarsMolly B. Burnham won this year’s Sid Fleishman Humor Award for Teddy Mars: Almost a World Record Breaker. The book was illustrated by Trevor Spencer and published by Harper Collins in 2015.

Like many kids, Teddy Mars obsesses about The Guinness Book of World Records. But who wants to merely be an observer of other people’s records? How hard could it be to set a record of your own?

The book opens on the third day of the school year. Sign or not? You decide.


A single shareI’ve never read a Linda Sue Park book I didn’t want to read again. A Single Shard, published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt in 2001, won the Newbery Medal in 2002. There is great emotional depth in this story about Tree-ear, an orphan in twelfth-century Korea. His dreams are bigger than finding enough to eat and a warm spot to survive the winter. Are they even possible for a boy with no family in a culture where occupations pass from father to son?

And don’t skip her acceptance speech for the Newbery at the front of the book.



Enchanted AirEnchanted Air: Two Cultures, Two Wings, by Margarita Engle and published by Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing Division in 2015, has three stickers on its cover: the Pura Belpre Award, The Golden Kite Award, and a finalist for Excellence in Young Adult Nonfiction.

Is it a fascinating story, a book of poetry, History, an addition to diverse literature, or a memoir?

It manages to be all of the above.

Although considered Young Adult, I think older middle grade students would also be enchanted. And, for children who have lived the experience of being pulled by loyalty and love to two cultures, this could be one of those books that functions as an emotional lifesaver.

Young Adult

LegendLegend, written by Marie Lu and published by the Penguin Group in 2011, compels the reader to flip the page—repeatedly in this dystopian novel.

The two main characters, June and Day, are opposites in education, class, and loyalties in a polarized society.

But they are alike and evenly matched in so many other ways including their desires to serve something greater than themselves, protect the people they love, and to seek justice. But what those values mean to each of them puts them on opposing sides . . . and makes for a good read with more good news . . .  there’s a sequel!

97 candles

Ninety-seven pipe cleaner candles to celebrate the day!

In a recent span of fifteen days, my family celebrated three birthdays that spanned four generations and ranged from a first birthday to a ninety-seventh. I’m reminded that rarely does life offer us only one stage at a time.

Oh, and “being the red carpet’? The theme at the SCBWI conference this year was On the Red Carpet. The ball on Saturday always features a costume contest based on the theme. Here’s our San Diego group.

red carpets

We won the costume contest!!!

Sacre Bleu: It Was Wonderful

Fruits and vegetables market on the Paris street around the cormer. It seemed there were two on every block around us.

Fruits and vegetables market on the Paris street around the corner. It seemed there were two on every block around us.

France was never on my bucket list . . . until we went. We’ve returned from a trip for a family wedding—one of the most memorable trips of my life. We saw so many places, touristy and otherwise. The visit to the Paris Natural History Museum took my breath away. I felt as though we’d stepped into the 1800’s. Seeing the library at the National Assembly was another sight I’ll never forget.

This dinosaur is one of the hundreds of skeletons crammed into the Natural History Museum. Fascinating.

This dinosaur is one of the hundreds of skeletons crammed into the Natural History Museum. Fascinating.


I loved Sacre Coeur, the international garden competition at a castle in the bucolic country (those cows looked so content), the faces on Rodin’s sculptures (including some old, saggy, evocative ladies), Mont San Michel . . . I could go on, but the very best part was experiencing the love and connections we renewed, made and discovered in the French people.

The Basilica of Sacre-Coeur on Monmartre is built on the highest point of Paris

The Basilica of Sacre-Coeur on Monmartre is built on the highest point of Paris

Mont St. Michel--stairs, steps and more steps--one of the things I actually miss most about Paris.

Mont St. Michel–stairs, steps and more steps–one of the things I actually miss most about Paris.





This book by Rick Steves was a great help to us non-French speakers. It even fits is a back pocket.

This book by Rick Steves was a great help to us non-French speakers. It even fits is a back pocket.

One of the gardens at Domaine de Chaumont.

One of the gardens at Domaine de Chaumont.

France is now on my bucket return-to list.

What? Doesn’t everyone have one of those?




Books That Came Home from France With Us

L'ArcheL’ Arche de Noe, illustrated by Tracy Morney published first in 1999 and in 2010 by Society biblique francaise, is a board book purchased at Sacre Couer. Can you translate the title? Maybe Noah’s Ark, maybe the rainbow arch? It is beautifully and brightly illustrated. You can tell the story even if, like me, you don’t read French.



Trotro in Paris, by Benedicta Guetrier and published by Gallimard-jeunesse in 2013,is also a board book for the very young. It’s written in simply-constructed English sentences. Trotro visits five Paris sites. We made sure we took photos of each of those places so our grandchild can compare the illustrations with the actual place.

Paris F&EMon Livre Anime Paris, by Geraldine Krasinski and Emmanuel Ristord and published in 2011 by Editions Milan, is for older children. It includes places and different aspects of life in Paris. It’s written in French on one page and English on the facing page. This book will wait a couple of years before being given to our grandchild.




Books for middle graders That Waited at Home on My Shelf

Book of 1000How would you react if you were to share the punishment of your disobedient mistress and be imprisoned in a windowless tower for seven years?

Dashti, the protagonist of Book of a Thousand Days, written by Shannon Hale and published by Bloomsbury U.S.A., Children’s Books in 2007, is not your typical ladies maid.

She’s exuberant. Seven years worth of food is bricked in with the two girls. “ . . . for seven years at least I won’t starve. That’s paradise for a mucker like me.”

Dashti is blessed with the gifts of empathy, optimism, and the knowledge of healing songs as she struggles to save their food from rats and her mistress from fear and despair.

The story is set in an imaginary land partially based on medieval Mongolia. It’s a fresh tale full of heart and surprises. While I generally avoid books with “princess” in the title, Book of a Thousand Days convinced me I need to get hold of Shannon Hale’s Princess Academy asap.

Crossover, written by Kwame Alexander and published in 2014 by Houghton Mifflin CrossoverHarcourt, flies high and runs deep. Written in hip-hop, free verse, and heart, the story is told by Josh, twin to Jordan. The brothers are middle-school basketball stars. Although their family is loving, growing up involves pain and coming to terms with it.

The rhythm and structure of the book make  Crossover a fast read. The rhythm and the depth make it a great read.

My goal with this blog is to tell people about books that touch the heart—books that in my humble opinion must be read. I wasn’t going to include the next book, but somehow it wouldn’t let me put it aside.

The Great GreeneGreat Green Heist, written by Varian Johnson and published by Scholastic in 2014, could be just the ticket for a kid to pick up to spend a few hours with a good-hearted picaresque middle-school hero. It struck me as an engaging summer read.

Jackson Greene has to sort out a romantic misstep. He and his team have to out-smart a bully and the school principal to save his school “one con at a time.”

When I checked to see if The Great Greene Heist is part of a series, I found the book received a Publisher’s Weekly award for the Best Summer Book of 2014. And, yes, if you like Jackson Greene, there

are a few more to read.

The wedding quilt that traveled to Paris.

The wedding quilt that traveled to Paris.

Finally, in the last post I said I’d show the front of the quilt. I needed to wait for the newlyweds to see it first. Here it is.

Au revoir.

The grand finale of the trip was the wedding with the reception held at a chateau--a chateau with a moat and a red row boat!!!

The grand finale of the trip was the wedding with the reception held at a chateau–a chateau with a moat and a red row boat!!!

Cars, Books, and Long Walks Not Along the Beach


My last post in February started with a whine about how busy life was in the first two months of the year. I didn’t realize when February started with a bang, that busy wasn’t so bad.

It was as painful as it looks.

It was as painful as it looks.

February ended in a crash complete with blood, broken bones and wrecked cars.

At least the Ides of March brought no new disaster, and St. Patrick’s Day was blissfully boring.

Cars are still on my mind. Well, actually, it’s the drivers of the cars who are on my mind. Both my husband and I were hit.

The bang at the beginning of the month left a lasting imprint of the other driver’s car in the side of mine, but my body and the car still run fine. When the driver explained his visual impairment, I understood why he hit me but not why he was driving.

My husband wasn’t so fortunate. His arm is in a cast, and he has some facial fractures. Apparently, the driver who made an illegal turn into the side of his car was simply paying attention to something besides other moving vehicles.

Spring "snow" San Diego style.

Spring “snow” San Diego style to get the last photo out of mind.

We could probably all share stories of unsafe driving, accidents and near misses we’ve witnessed in just the last few days.

Somehow, I have the feeling the people reading this blog don’t need to be reminded to avoid driving if you are impaired or distracted and to realize that, yes, signs and signals do apply to you and are not like the Pirate Code.

So I guess it’s time to revisit our definitions of defensive driving and beef up the vigilance. Please be safe and watch out for the drivers out there who don’t seem to realize their cars do not yet self-drive.


Here HandsThere are certain perennial topics in picture books. For example, you will always be able to find a new book for young children about family members or the parts of the body.

But some older books are worth looking for. I really like Here Are My Hands by that famous duo Bill Martin, Jr. and John Archambault, illustrated by Ted Rand, and published by Henry Holt and Company in 1985. It, like many others, teaches parts of the body.

But wait! There’s more! It doesn’t just name parts, it labels functions. And that’s not all! The text rhymes and the illustrations delight.

Once BullfrogOnce There Was a Bull . . . (Frog), written by Rick Walton, illustrated by Greg Hally, and published by Gibbs Smith in 1995, plays with compound words. Kids will have fun guessing the second half of each compound word—even if they’ve heard the book before. The art work suits the humor.
And for writers and illustrators, it’s a clear lesson in the planning of the page turns—crucial here for the book to work.


Think back to your adolescence. Anything cringe-worthy that you’re glad just faded away into the murky past? Think of the world today’s kids inhabit. Our digital world means a young misstep may never transform into only a distant memory.

SextedSexted was written by Karen Mueller Coombs and published by Prairie Wind Press in 2013. If you know a young person you think needs a cautionary tale rather than a lecture, here it is.

Finn, a tenth-grade geek, receives an anonymous racy text with photo. Call him curious, flattered, and aroused. Part of what makes this YA novel stand out is it’s message is written from the point of view of two guys. Where will this first sext lead? And how will the characters change in the course of their search for the sender?

A 2650 Mile Stroll

And he's off . . .

And he’s off . . .

PCT signs

Meanwhile, my son decided to walk the 2650 miles to Canada. The more I think about driving, the more reasonable he seems.






Click on the photo to enlarge and make the stitching visible

Click on the photo to enlarge and make the stitching visible

Coming attractions:  Robin, of Robin’s Quilting Nest in La Mesa, CA, did a beautiful job quilting the top of the quilt I made with the other layers. I am so impressed with her skills. In May, look for the front of the quilt.

Ready . . .or Not

I was ready for a busy December. Wrote my post early in the month and told myself I’d do another as soon as the holidays were over.

What I wasn’t prepared for was how busy January became . . .Feb

or how packed with activity the first three weeks of February are.

As I write, roofers remove old shingles and mutter things about “worse than we thought.”

Worse than we thought too. We thought we’d fixed our weak spot before the El Nino storms. My husband patched this summer. For two days of rain we were snug and dry. But the roof was no match for the downpour on the third day.

Don’t you just hate finding your sewing nook transformed into a swamp?

Living stone succulent that just bloomed.

Living stone succulent that just bloomed.

A plumber also works today in our circa early 1900’s bathroom—a companion piece to the roof.

Water news from Southern California is never easy come, nor easy go. But we struggle on and are especially grateful for the roofers working today. It’s expected to get up to the high 80’s or 90’s (seriously? February?).

Hopefully, the next El Nino storm will be tracked inside only after it’s fallen to the ground.

And now to books. Yes, I’ve had time to do a little reading—not a lot, but some.

Year of the Tiger, by Alison Lloyd and published by Holiday House in 2010, is a middle grade novel set in the Han Kingdom of China with a bit of a Prince and the Pauper feel.

Year of TigerHu, a peasant boy, and Ren, the youngest son of a Commander of the Imperial Troops, were both born in the Year of the Tiger. Now, twelve years later, it’s again the year of the Tiger when they meet and slowly form a friendship.

In the first part of the book, I felt I was learning about life in ancient China from both noble and peasant perspectives. As the story progressed, the tension rose. While the troops and their conscripts, Hu’s father included, race to repair the Great Wall before barbarian troops can attack, the growing trust between Hu and Ren is destroyed. Will there ever be the opportunity for it to be rebuilt? At what cost?

About a month ago, I had the opportunity to hear Stephanie Diaz speak at a SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators) meeting. She talked about world building for your novel. She’s an informative speaker and just an all-round appealing person.Extraction

She wrote her debut YA novel Extraction while a young adult herself. Talk about having your finger on the pulse of your intended audience! She had her first acceptance for publication when she was nineteen years old.

Clearly a writer to watch . . . and read.

So I bought a copy of Extraction, published in 2014 by St. Martin’s Griffin, and got started on the first book of the trilogy. Clementine lives on an earth that has been poisoned—an earth where safety lies deep in the crust rather than on the surface, an earth where children and young people do the labor that needs to be done above.

Clementine’s almost sixteen, the age when she will take a test to see if she’s smart/valuable enough to “extract” from the surface and take to the safety, privileges, and values of underground society. What does Clementine want?

This dystopian novel is a page-turner.

It brings to mind The Hunger Games for comparison. I kept trying to figure out why the writing made it impossible for me to put it down without quite pulling me all the way in. At the beginning, I thought maybe this world was, if possible, a little meaner than the Capitol and the Districts in The Hunger Games.

What I finally decided is, while Clementine has people she loves, there aren’t relationships with quite the same Katniss-Peeta bittersweetness or the Katniss-Prim and Katniss-Rue tenderness . . . yet.

But Diaz’s writing is solid and I can’t wait to read Rebellion and Evolution to see what Clementine does next and the way Stephanie Diaz grows as a writer.

Still more layers to go . . .

Still more layers to go . . .

P.S. The word about the roof is indeed worse than expected. So I’m soothing myself with Margot Zemach’s It Could Always Be Worse, published in 1976 by Harper Collins.Could Be Worse

So what do you see? A rose half-way at its peak or half-way gone? (It did this on its own and lasted several days like this. I didn't pull off petals.)

So what do you see? A rose half-way at its peak or half-way gone? (It did this on its own and lasted several days like this. I didn’t pull off petals.)

When a poor man can no longer stand his crowded, noisy home, he goes to the rabbi. The rabbi gives advice that only makes the situation worse. But by the end of the story the man’s crowded, noisy home seems like a peaceful retreat.

I’m working on a similar attitude adjustment—one that doesn’t require multiple farm animals.

December 2015

The Dilemma:  To start or end with the ad? of the Flame: The Power to Protect, written by moi, tells a story of building family bridges between a pig, her litter, and the dragon she adopts.

The pig has to teach the dragon things she doesn’t know and goes on a quest to find the secret of dragon fire. What she learns is not enough for her child to flame.

The time comes when the dragon must decide whether to live sheltered or leave home to forge his own way. He must decide how “dragon-like” he will be.

On a December day at Ocean Beach, a seagull was more  worried about the man eating all his lunch than me getting close for a photo.

On a December day at Ocean Beach, a seagull was more worried about the man eating all his lunch than me getting close for a photo.

Eventually, the pig and the dragon find family bonds are transformed but not broken.

Educator Grace Nail wrote an educator’s guide to using the book to address Common Core goals with 4th, 5th, and 6th graders. It’s available to download for free. Click here to go to the Secrets of the Flame: The Power to Protect Page to find the link to the guide. At the end of the book itself, you will find questions designed to stimulate parent-child conversation.

May I also suggest The Grizzly’s Christmas, written by Malcolm F. Farmer, my college anthropology teacher, and me and beautifully illustrated by Miranda Marks? Click here to go to the page and learn more about the e-book.The Grizzly's Christmas - Postcard (Rev. 1)





More Books For the Season

Even though Hanukkah began on Monday and isn’t yet over, when I went to my local bookstore, the Hanukkah books had already been moved from their display.

Town Fought HateThe Christmas Menorahs: How a Town Fought Hate, written by Janice Cohn, D.S.W., illustrated by Bill Farnsworth, and published by Albert Whitman & Company in 1995, is a book I wrote about a few years ago. It seems particularly relevant in our tumultuous times.

The book is based on a true story. When Billings, Montana experienced a rash of religious hate crimes, the town made a stand and peacefully ended the violence.

It’s an inspiring book for school-age children through adult.

Past the seagull, we approach the OB pier.

Past the seagull, we approach the OB pier.

The Christmas books in the bookstore’s children’s section fill a four-sided multi-level display and spill over to other tables. These are mostly picture books with characters old and new. And, even though Christmas Day is the first of the Twelve Days of Christmas, they will probably be gone on Dec. 26, when Valentine’s Day starts moving in. (Pay no mind to my complaints.)

No David, Christmas

If your child likes the No, David! books, look for It’s Christmas, David, written and illustrated by David Shannon, and published by Scholastic in 2010. It’s simply written for very young children, but taps into the interface of adult and childhood perspectives. Kids who are past picture book age still love David, as will adults who remember what it was like to be a child at Christmas.




Click, Clack, Ho, HoClick, Clack, Ho! Ho! Ho! by Doreen Cronin and Betsy Lewin, and published by Atheneum Books for Young Readers in 2015 brings back Farmer Brown and his independent, rebellious farm animals. There’s a very sweet feel to this book as the animals show their Christmas spirit.

An island visible from the end of the pier. Made me think of seeing Avalon through the mists.

An island visible from the end of the pier. Made me think of seeing Avalon through the mists.





The Christmas Wish, was written by Lori Evert, photographed by Per Breiehagen, and published by Random House.Christmas Wish

Anja lives so far North mothers never pack away the woolens. Anja wants to be an elf and help Santa so she sets out for the North Pole. On the way she is accompanied by various animals who help her travel through the snow and ice.

The story and photos are magical.



Spirit of Christmas

The Spirit of Christmas was written and illustrated by Nancy Tillman and published by Feivel and Friends Books in 2009. How did I not know about it until now? The Spirit of Christmas brings Christmas frolics, but something is missing. So the Spirit brings quieter Christmas joys.

And something’s still missing. Find out what in this touching, rhyming book.


Every year new versions of The Night Before Christmas appear. This year you can find

Olaf’s Night Before Christmas. There are Christmas books for ballerinas and ninjas and zombies. I even saw two books about Santa coming to California. Does every state have their own Santa?

Christmas books for older children seem to fall into the category of “classics,” for example The Best Christmas Pageant Ever, or a Christmas book in a favorite series, like Nate the Great, Amelia Bedelia,,The Magic Treehouse, or Horrible Harry.

There are lots of choices.

Watching the waves crash against the pilings as we head back. The next day the pier was closed because the surf was so high.

Watching the waves crash against the pilings as we head back. The next day the pier was closed because the surf was so high.

NaNoWriMo Results Are In

In the last post I told you about NaNoWriMo. I didn’t reach 50,000 words—only 42,001.
But I did finished the rough draft of the sequel to Secrets of the Flame: The Power to Protect.
I’m guessing you’d probably like to read the first book first. (There’s time.)

Secrets, pub coverClick here if you forgot to look at that page before and here if The Grizzly's Christmas - Postcard (Rev. 1)you’d like to view The Grizzly’s Christmas page. Both books are available on Amazon.

I wish you all Happy Holidays and Peace That Passes Understanding—no matter how you celebrate.

NaNoWriMo and Picture Books

Some people have such great ideas! Prune palm tree. Spray parts red (I think). Arrange plant parts at Descanso Gardens.

Some people have such great ideas! Prune palm tree. Spray parts red (I think). Arrange plant parts at Descanso Gardens.

Do you know what NaNoWriMo is? If so raise your hand. (If you raised your hand, good for you and skip ahead to the section on picture books.)

November is designated as National Novel Writing Month. (Please note: I have a perfectly good reason for writing that preceding passive sentence—I have absolutely no idea who did the designating.)

The goal is to write a rough draft of your novel in thirty days. Most novels are around 50,000 words so that’s what it takes to count yourself as a winner of NaNoWriMo. You can even purchase a t-shirt that tells everyone within reading distance that you are a winner!

Last year, I signed up and learned to pronounce NaNoWriMo.

This year, I signed up, figured out how to register my daily word counts, and am actually writing the novel I’ve been putting off. Every time I put in a new total word count, the site tells me how many words I wrote that day, computes my average number of words per day and when I will finish my based on my current average. Finally, it shows the number of words I’ll need to write each day to finish by the end of the month.

First apple crop. Will harvest it all tomorrow. Anyone have a bushel basket to spare?

First apple crop. Will harvest it all tomorrow. Anyone have a bushel basket to spare?

Turns out to be highly motivating.

We had company the first couple days of the month so I got a slow start and was on track to finish on December 28th.

Yesterday I finally caught up. If I write 1508 words every remaining day in November, I will complete my 50,000 words on November 30th. I will then be entitled to upload my novel to verify the word count (they won’t store it) and receive a certificate (and t-shirt if I want to buy one).

Turns out to be highly satisfying even though I don’t think my novel will be 50,000 words.

My novel is a middle grade fantasy that will probably be closer to 40,000 words. I think it’s turning into a usable rough draft that travels a good arc. I’m happy. I also know it’s rough. The plan is to put it away for a month and begin revisions in the new year.

Next year I might figure out how to take advantage of the many forms of support NaNoWriMo offers. This year I don’t have time.

How is NaNoWriMo connected to picture books?

Simple. Who has time to read a novel when you’re trying to write one in thirty days? Picture books, on the other hand, provide an appropriate-length break.

Here are a few from my stack. Some of them might fit what you’re looking for in a gift.

Belly Button1Some baby board books waiting to be transferred to a grandchild’s hands:

Where is Baby’s Belly Button? is a lift-the-flap book by Karen Katz and first published in 2000 by Little Simon, an imprint of Simon and Schuster. The illustrations are appealing and the hidden elements will delight the little one who just can’t wait for the page turn.Belly Button 3Belly Button 2





Head, ShouldersHead, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes . . . is, of course, the song illustrated here by Annie Kuber and published in 2002 by Child’s Play (International) Ltd. These illustrations also appeal and help a child learn body parts in the context of song. If you are unfamiliar with the tune, the score is on the back.



A picture book for a little older child:

Leap BackLeap Back Home to Me, written by Lauren Thompson, illustrated by Matthew Cordell, and published by Margaret K. McElderry Books (also a Simon and Schuster imprint) in 2011.

I had a lot of trouble with the classic Runaway Bunny. When I read it to my son, my reaction was, “That little bunny never gets to do anything.”

The little frog in this book gets to explore and then . . . you guessed it—leap back home to mom’s loving arms. Ahhhh!

Concerned about the gulf dividing books for boys and books for girls? Want a picture book the whole family can enjoy? Want to laugh at the stereotypes of what girls and boys like?

May I suggest Once Upon a Cool Motorcycle Dude, written by Kevin O’Malley, illustrated by Kevin O’Malley, Carol Heyer, and Scott Goto😄, and published by Walker Books for Young Readers in 2005. A boy and a girl have to do a joint report on a fairy tale. Since they can’t agree on which story to pick, they make one up. The rest you’ll need to read for yourself.Cool Motorcycle Dude

More books to come after I finish NaNoWriMo . . . or it finishes me.

And Happy Thanksgiving!

There’s a proverb about two wolves locked in battle. One wolf represents goodness and light. The other represents evil and darkness. Which wolf wins?

The one you feed.

Remember to feed the good . . . gratitude’s one of the best ways and sharing’s another.

Picture Book Blues

Even in a drought and after a hot summer and fall, you can find something in bloom in the garden. You might have to look high . . .

Even in a drought and after a hot summer and fall, you can find something in bloom in the garden. You might have to look high . . .

What to do with conflicting advice from fellow writers (all whose opinions’ I value) about whether to use the AAB pattern of a blues song or not in one of my manuscripts? Some love the rhythm and the capture of a blues flavor. Others think the repetition of lines will just sound weird to kids.

Normally, I would mentally pace between two or more versions while trying to come to a decision.

A novel idea surfaces. Actual research. How have other picture books handled this?

Presenting some library picture books I found wonderful and useful:

Everybody Gets the Blues, by Leslie Staub, illustrated by R.G. Roth, and published by Harcourt Children’s Books in 2012, has a good message. When he’s sad, a child is visited by the Blues Guy. They find other sad people and sing to help the others feel better. The child thus chases away his own blues.

Everybody BluesThe book doesn’t use the AAB blues pattern. Parts of the text rhyme and parts don’t; but after several readings I still didn’t find a pattern for the switch from rhymed to unrhymed. The shifts in rhythm threw me off as I read it aloud. Overall, I like the book and its message. The illustrations are terrific. If you read it to a child, I suggest practicing to get the pacing that feels right to you.

or low,

or low,


My Hands Sing the Blues: Romare Bearden’s Childhood Journey, written by Jeanne Walker Harvey, illustrated by Elizabeth Zunon, and published by Marshall Cavendish in 2011, is a biography told, for the most part, in the blues AAB pattern. Bearden was born in the early 1900’s in North Carolina, where his family faced discrimination. They moved to Harlem when Romare was three.

Hands Blues


The National Medal of Arts is one of the awards Bearden won in his lifetime. He was mainly known for his collages, one of which is incorporated into this book. This is a picture book for older children that connects to visual and performing arts, diversity, history, and good old inspiration.



Boycott BluesBoycott Blues: How Rosa Parks Inspired a Nation, written by Andrea Davis Pinkney, illustrated by her husband Brian Pinkney, and published by Greenwillow Books in 2008, is excellent—let me repeat, excellent.

When Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat, she is threatened with Jim Crow’s “peck, peck, peck.” Look for the ways Jim Crow is described and illustrated in the book.



under fleshy succulent leaves

or under fleshy succulent leaves .

The text mixes an inspiring you-are-there quality with the history of the Montgomery bus boycott. “And fight we did. We fought a quiet fight. No slingshots. No weapons. Not even spitballs. We fought with our feet. We said if you don’t, we won’t . . . ride at all.” We, the readers, experience a taste of how long that year-plus felt to the people who walked, walked, walked.

The book doesn’t use the Blues pattern, but the rhythm carries the reader. I can’t think of one spot where I had to back up to adjust the flow. It’s worth your while to find this book.

Baby BluesBaby’s Got the Blues, written by Carol Diggory Shields, illustrated by Lauren Tobia, and published by Candlewick Press in 2014, is a total hoot.

Most books for children feature a protagonist the same age or a little older than the intended reader. A child the same age as the child in the book won’t understand the text but will enjoy the rhyme, rhythm and delight of the adult reader.

If you forget to look at night . . .

If you forget to look at night . . .

Older brothers or sisters might learn laughter is a great way to cope with the annoyances of a younger sibling and might remember some of his or her own baby frustrations.

While it doesn’t have an AAB pattern, I’m going to sing it a couple times more before returning it to the library.

Ol' Bloo


If you’re looking for a retelling of The Bremen Town Musicians with down-home flair, Ol’ Bloo’s Boogie-Woogie Band and Blues Ensemble, written by Jan Huling, illustrated, by Henri Sorensen, and published by Peachtree in 2010, will tickle your fancy with lines like:

you'd miss the one-night only ten o'clock show.

you’d miss the one-night only ten o’clock show.

“So Gnarly Dog—whose voice sounded like a guitar bein’ scraped with a washboard—and Ol’ Bloo Donkey—whose voice sounded like an accordion fallin’ down the stairs—continued on down the road, screeching to a boogie-woogie beat.”

What did I learn? The intermittent use of the AAB pattern in my manuscript is one of the ways to write about the blues. My pattern feels right and I’m happy with the story’s rhythm. Now just a tiny more tinkering . . .

Writing this almost 800+ word blog over the course of two days contrasted with the writing and revising of my 350 word manuscript over the course of fourteen months just hit me . . . maybe I’ll know what to say once the book it’s truly finished.

Do you know of any other good picture books featuring the blues?

And there can still be quite a show by your front door.

And there can still be quite a show by your front door.

A Diverse Walk in the Park

The flowers are all in Balboa Park. This is the "Crown Plant" from India—Calotropis gigantea.

The flowers are all in Balboa Park. This is the “Crown Plant” from India—Calotropis gigantea.

Finally, I’m getting to more of the books purchased at the 2014 SCBWI conference. Since I first read them so long ago, I’m currently rereading for the second and, in some cases, third time. Confession: I tend to gobble when I read. So I’m getting the subtler flavors on the second readings. These dishes are like the recipes I try out and decide to save to cook another time.

They also help me learn how to concoct original meals—how to present the appetizer, pair ingredients, gauge cooking time—how to achieve peak flavor.

I need to stop thinking about food now.

Skin I'm InWhen I finished the second reading of The Skin I’m In, my first thoughts (after “great book”), were “Maleeka had to learn to be brave enough to be who she is” and “Isn’t that what we all have to do in life?”

The ingredients: a protagonist who feels too tall, too skinny, too poorly-dressed and too dark-skinned; a classmate who bullies through “friendship”; a sweet early romance; a character we question, friend or foe. Sharon G. Flake’s story becomes a case of the whole being more than the sum of its parts.

But don’t just take my word for it. The Skin I’m In, published by Jump at the Sun and reissued in 2007, won the John Steptoe Award for New Talent.

I never really liked hibiscus—such showoffs and I didn't like that pink much, but the zoo has hibiscus that deserve to flaunt it.

I never really liked hibiscus—such showoffs and I didn’t like that pink much, but check out the stamen on this one.

Fake IDFake I.D. Stop before you read past the title. What do you think the book will be about? Wasn’t what I expected.

Even though I already knew what the fake i.d. refers to on this second reading, I liked the book as much as I did on the first read. I’m more aware of the strength of the voice. When Nick cranks up his iPod to drown out his parents’ argument, he says he “fell asleep with a rapper shouting at me. At least his yelling had a good beat.”

And thinking about his specific voice helps me understand more of how to approach it as a writer since we so often hear editors and agents say they

Another one to challenge my previous limited ideas about hibiscus

Another one to challenge my previous limited ideas about hibiscus

are looking for a “unique voice.” Nick’s voice is true to his character which isn’t over-the-top flamboyant or regional or any of the things we might think of as a “distinctive” voice. He is real within his point of view.

Fake I.D., written by Lamar Giles and published by Amsted in 2014, is a young adult coming-of-age, murders (plural)-mystery thriller. If you don’t want any violence in your YA reading, be forewarned, but it’s not a horror book.

When you read it, check out the dedication. Sweetest murder mystery dedication I ever read.Kira-Kira

Kira-Kira, the middle grade novel written by Cynthia Kadohata and published by Atheneum Books for Young Readers in 2004, won the Newbury Award. That should be enough to write.

But I won’t let that stop me.

Katie is a Sansei child born in Iowa in 1951. She adores her older sister, Lynn, who “always said she would teach me everything in the world I needed to know.” When the family has to move to Georgia, together they navigate the prejudice and struggles their family encounters.

A true case of "if you've got it, flaunt it!"

A true case of “if you’ve got it, flaunt it!”

But some things the heart needs to know cannot be taught. They have to be experienced directly. This heartbreaking and heart-mending story is the kind of book I would have treasured as a child and do as an adult.

A Long Walk to Water, by Linda Sue Park, published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt in 2010, intertwines two stories, both set in Southern Sudan. In 2008, eleven-year old Nya spends her day obtaining the family water. I don’t know if this character is an actual individual or a composite based on the reality of daily life for many.A Long Walk to Water

The second story is based on the life of Salva Dut, one of the Lost Boys. In 1985, Salva was eleven years old when his teacher told his students to escape gunfire by running into the bush and to not return to his village, which would be a target for soldiers. Silva’s story is gripping and inspiring.

Final thought: The more we celebrate our diversity, the more we find the depth of our common humanity.

While I’m trying to shed more of my possessions, these books are staying to be read again.

One last hibiscus from the zoo. This one is delicate and fading, but still beautiful.

One last hibiscus from the zoo. This one is delicate and fading, but still beautiful.

A Dickens of a Time: Life Punches and Three Books

The best of times and the worst of times—joy and sorrow—a time of souls joining, souls going, and souls coming—life goes on.

Chuppah for Brad and Jessica's wedding. I assembled the messages written on the leaves by family and friends. It will now be made into a quilt.

Chuppah for Brad and Jessica’s wedding. I assembled the messages written on the leaves by family and friends. It will now be made into a quilt.

I miss you, Mary.

I miss you, Mary.

Books have always helped me navigate life—to find solace, direction, joy, strength, empathy. Can books really do all that?


Fletcher's Foot



When my son’s birthdays involved one digit numbers, he always wanted pirate parties—always. I still buy him pirate socks and pick up pirate books.

This year my son asked for a "cake" for his tortoise. I think my son wants to see if I'll take the bait.

This year my son asked for a “cake” for his tortoise.  I think my son wants to see if I’ll take the bait.

Mem Fox’s Tough Boris, illustrated by Kathryn Brown and published by Houghton Mifflin in 1994, is a textbook (without the boring) example of the picture book ballet. Deceivingly simple text and illustrations that tell half the story dance a pas de deux. (Writers and illustrators, take note.)

This is the kind of book that can convince people they can sit down and write a picture book in a couple of hours—tops. Those people probably also believe a dancer can learn to move gracefully en pointe in the same amount of time. It looks effortless, right?

Tough BorisTough Boris will delight you and your child and touch your hearts. I’ve already used more words to tell you about the book than you’ll find in the story. And I didn’t even mention what a lesson in rhythm the book is for me. (Writers, take note. Just listening to Mem Fox read Hattie and the Fox helped me go back to two of my picture book manuscripts and give them needed punch.)

Dad SaysWhen a Dad Says “I Love You” was written by Douglas Wood, illustrated by Jennifer A. Bell, and published by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers in 2013.

Do you read Pickles on the comics page? If so, you are probably giving Earl an A for effort as he tries to say the “I love you” words to his adult daughter.

The dads in this picture book have lots of ways to say “I love you”.

Yaqui DelgadoYaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass, by Meg Medina and published in 2013, is a young adult book that should make Candlewick Press proud they chose to publish it.

If I said it’s a story about bullying, that would be true. But this diverse book is so much more. For much of the book, Piddy doesn’t even know who Yaqui Delgado is or why she wants to kick Piddy’s ass. We, the readers, don’t know either.

I’m trying to decide how much to say—not even sure if I should tell you what the book is not. This much is probably okay: The book is not the typical story of taming or beating the bully. Piddy has to look at the way she changes as she tries to deal with the problem of Yaqui Delgado.

Meg Medina’s distinctive voice transcends her specific character to give us a universal every girl. We all have to find how we can stay the person we choose to be while confronting situations or people who beat that person down.

Rabindra Sarkar builds these and takes them down at the end of each day. Different stacks every day. We saw his work at Seaport Village when we were there for a birthday celebration.

Rabindra Sarkar builds these and takes them down at the end of each day. Different stacks every day. We saw his work at Seaport Village when we were there for a birthday celebration.

Which picture books do you know that add up to more than words and pictures of just those words?

First Rocky has to eat her greens.

First Rocky has to eat her greens.

And which books help you deal with life’s challenges? As life goes on . . .

Then she gets dessert.

Then she gets dessert.

A Day (metaphorically speaking) Late and a Bookstack Short*

Books I purchased at the 2014 SCBWI conference.

Books I purchased at the 2014 SCBWI conference.

Well, here it is on the eve of the 2015 SCBWI conference and I didn’t yet write about the books I bought last year at the 2014 SCBWI conference.

I read the books. I liked the books. But I didn’t get around to writing about them.

Instead I wrote a poem about all the feelings cycling through me during the conference.

To make it up to you, I’ll write about them soon and put a photo of naked ladies at the bottom of this short post.

I reread some of last year’s books. I liked them the second time through. But . . .

Oops, ran out of time.

Theme for the Conference was Sparkle and Shine. San Diego chapter went as a cloud of fireflies ala Eric Carle.

Theme for the Conference was Sparkle and Shine. San Diego chapter went as a cloud of fireflies ala Eric Carle.

Books I purchased this year at the SCBWI Conference

Books I purchased this year at the SCBWI Conference


In the aftermath of the 2015 SCBWI conference, I have this year’s stack of books  in addition to last year’s books!

Fletcher's FootAnd most wondrous, better even than a stack of new books and the cause of great joy . . .


In the tradition of last year’s conference, I wrote a poem about the most important event of the decade—a grandchild.

Here’s the poem, which you are welcome to copy and use. Please credit me. You also have permission to adapt it; but, again, please credit it as an adaptation.

To Our Grandchild
by Cindy Schuricht

I gaze at your face
As you sleep against my heart.
Expressions float across your features
Like clouds drifting
Across the sky.

Eyes squeeze
And threaten rain,
A twitch, a smile,
The weather shifts.
The storm passes without a tear.

With the flare of your nostrils,
A soft breeze flutters.
I am your hill,
And you . . .
You are an ever-changing panorama.

Seven Days Later (now eleven)

An unexpected envelope appeared in our mail box last week.

An unexpected envelope appeared in our mail box last week.

Back to the books—I’ll read some of them a third time (they’re worth it), and I’ll get to this year’s books in a more timely manner . . . honest. To make it up to you, I’ll put a photo of a surprise at the bottom of this post.

Now for a couple of books that relate to the littlest people in our lives.


10 Fingers

Ten Little Fingers and Ten Little Toes, written by Mem Fox, illustrated by Helen Oxenbury, and published by HMH Books for Young People in 2010, is a treasure. At this year’s conference, Lin Oliver mentioned a toddler she always reads it to. And after I heard Mem Fox speak, I dashed over to the bookstore and bought it. It’s a deceptively simple rhyming book that tightens my throat whenever I try to read it aloud. I’m told it is a certain two-week old’s favorite book.

Sleepytime Me


Sleepytime Me, written by Edith Hope Fine, illustrated by Christopher Denise, and published by Random House in 2014, is a book with calming rhymes that help a young child settle down to sleep. I’m certain it will also become a favorite.

These two books are illustrated in very different styles and I love both of them.

As promised . . . naked ladies. They visit every August long after the leaves have died back.

As promised . . . naked ladies. They visit every August long after the leaves have died back.





What was in the envelope!!!

The surprise in the envelope!!!


*Anybody remember the old Bob Newhart show where Bob and his wife run an inn? The neighbors are three brothers. Every time they visit, the oldest brother says, “Hi, I’m Larry. This is my brother Daryl and this is my other brother Daryl.”

I’ve always wondered if it was one of the longest joke set-ups ever. In one episode, one of the Daryls is** seduced by disco and runs away to the big city. Larry and the second Daryl look for the first Daryl saying, “We’re a day late and a Daryl short.”

**I considered writing “one of the Daryls’s seduced,” but changed my mind.