Closing Comments: Reviewing My Stack of Books from The Yellow Book Road

Closing comments. No, not from me . . .

The books I bought at the Yellow Book Road.

The books I bought at the Yellow Book Road.

The last post ended with a stack of books purchased from The Yellow Book Road, the wonderful bookstore closing the end of May.

 

Early Picture Books:

Bear on Own                                                                         The first to catch my eye was Bear On His Own, from the “Let’s Go to the Zoo” Smithsonian Institution series and the Trudy Corporation in 2000. Jessie Cohen took the photos of the spectacled bear cub’s day ending with a sweet mama and cub snuggle.

Hey, we need some board books—you know the ones babies chew.

Itsy Bitsy Spider and Baa Baa, Black Sheep! are board books by Annie Kubler, published by Child’s Play International in 2004. Both have illustrations that include simple sign language for some of the words in the songs. Wonderful introduction for teaching babies signing (. . . and singing).BB songs and signs

Also perfect to slip into the pillow quilt for the baby shower.Fletch Q:pillow

So far so good. Next I found The Book of ZZZs, written and photographed by Arlene Alda (stands to reason Alan Alda’s wife is a wonderfully talented woman) and published by Tundra Books in 2005.

Book of ZZZsThis book with it’s photos of sleeping animals including the young human variety will make you think “Awww!” even if you manage not to say it. The text and photos compliment each other and should enchant young children at nap or bedtime.

 

 

A Picture Book for Older Kids:

Then I looked up and saw Bird, a picture book with three award stickers—New Voices Award Honor, Ezra Jack Keats Award, and a Coretta Scott King Award. I had to look. Bird
This picture book, written by Zetta Elliot, illustrated by Shadra Strickland, and published by Lee & Low Books in 2008, is for more mature children.

The heart-breaking and heart-healing story is told by a young boy who mourns the loss of his older brother to drugs and the death of his granddad. Supported by the love of his family and his granddad’s friend, he’s learning to live with what he’s powerless to change and how to claim the power of his own “somethin’.”

The three awards are well-deserved.

You can see that it wasn’t my fault I already had five books I hadn’t intended to buy.

Middle Grade Books by Linda Sue Park:

At that point, I wisely decided to make a bee line for Linda Sue Park’s Keeping Score, published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt in 2008. We’d recently had a short Twitter conversation about baseball. I’d also learned helpful things from her presentation at a SCBWI conference. So I wanted that book.

Maggie, the protagonist, is a huge Brooklyn Dodgers fan who learns the notations for box scores and can’t help but root for Willie Mays (Giants, if you’re not a baseball person). Her brother plays baseball, but Maggie doesn’t have that opportunity.

Hey, I was a huge LA Dodgers fan who loved Willie Mays. My ambition in life was to be a short stop. And I learned to keep score for my brother’s Little League team since girls couldn’t play.

Immediate buy-in.Keeping Score and

The book continually deepens and connects to broader issues. The fireman who taught Maggie to score is drafted and sent to fight in the Korean War. Maggie tries to sort out the relationships between faith, prayers, friendships, and baseball.

My husband, who always greets the opening of baseball season with, “Our long national nightmare is over,” is reading it now.

Okay, so five books I hadn’t intended to get and one that I had. Did I mention that right next to Keeping Score stood a slim book with the intriguing title SeeSaw Girl, also by Linda Sue Park and published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt in 1999?

Jade, a seventeenth-century Korean girl, lives the wealthy, proper, and cloistered life of a nobleman’s daughter. But she wants to see the mountains for herself. How? She also longs to see her cousin. How? And how can she live a happy life without bringing dishonor on her family?

Okay, so six books I hadn’t intended to get and one that I had. I looked for another title that would help balance the score a little bit.

One Last Picture Book:

Incredible Painting ofThe Incredible Painting of Felix Closseau, written and illustrated by Jon Agee and published by Harper Collins, Toronto in 1988, is a hoot. Love the art, the story, the jokes, and the twist at the end. If you like the Hogswart paintings, find this book.

Final score, six unplanned purchases to two planned one. Eight winners total.

Without an actual bookstore, an actual children’s bookstore to peruse, I wouldn’t have found six of these must-haves.

So I’m going back to The Yellow Book Road in Liberty Station, San Diego, before it closes at the end of the month. In the next post, I’ll let you know what I found . . . if you don’t beat me to them.

Also next post, a cautionary tale for indie writers.

The other side which has the pocket to hold the folded quilt and make a pillow. The satiny fabric, which I added for the sense of touch, convinced me to stick to cotton the next time.

The other side which has the pocket to hold the folded quilt and make a pillow. The satiny fabric, which I added for the sense of touch, convinced me to stick to cotton the next time.

The quilt I finished on Tuesday. This side has high contrast designs for infant perception.

The quilt I finished on Tuesday. This side has high contrast designs for infant perception.

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To Read and To Visit

Two Books to Read

StuckStuck, written by Oliver Jeffers and published by Penguin Young Readers Group in 2011, is a great example of ridiculousness that works.

When you were a kid and got something stuck in a tree, what was the first thing you did? You threw something at it, right?

Floyd just does what any kid (and most adults?) would do. When his kite gets stuck in a tree, he throws something else. Did that always work for you? Doesn’t for Floyd either. But does he give up?

Lucky for readers, no, he doesn’t. And we get to laugh. Jeffers also wrote The Day the Crayons Quit, another hilarious story.

Sarah Tomp spoke at a recent SCBWI meeting. Great presentation on a day I wasn’t Best Everyplanning on spending any money. Then she read the first page in her new YA novel, My Best Everything, published by Little, Brown, and Company in 2015.

I rushed out of the lecture hall after her talk and bought Tomp’s book in hardcover!

Lulu’s plan to escape her small town is torpedoed when her father reveals they don’t have the money she needs for college.

Like Floyd, Lulu doesn’t give up, but she finds danger, love, and consequences in the pursuit of her dream.

The book is written first person in Lulu’s voice and is addressed to the boy she falls in love with—the boy who, because of his love for Lulu, is pulled back into the life where he had been stuck. Moonshine is involved.

The book left me with a haunting bittersweet ache. One line that really struck me reads:

A tree grows in Liberty Station. Do you know what kind it is?

A tree grows in Liberty Station. Do you know what kind it is?

“Easy makes a good sell for meant-to-be.” Good words to remember in times of temptation.

Two Places to Visit in San Diego (one involving future reading)

San Diego, which has been dubbed by some as “America’s finest city,” is just about to be a little less fine. We are losing our last children’s bookstore as another independent folds. The Yellow Book Road has been in my family’s life since my son was a toddler.

When I went to Liberty Station this week, the “Store closing” signs broke my heart. Even though I got some really wonderful books at great prices, I’d rather pay more and have them stay. The owners, Ann and David, and their staff members have become friends over the years. I will truly miss them and their treasure chest of a store.

A sad, sad sight. But there's still gold inside.

A sad, sad sight. But there’s still gold inside.

When I went two days ago, I thought everything might be too picked-over. Even though the inventory is obviously shrinking, they still have many wonderful titles. I will definitely get in a couple more visits before the end of the month. If you live in the San Diego area, go before The Yellow Book Road is only a memory.

Overcast, moisture in the air (even if very little made it to the ground). This is what last Friday and Saturday were like--my favorite kinds of days.

Overcast, moisture in the air (even if very little made it to the ground). This is what last Friday and Saturday were like–my favorite kinds of days.

A week ago, it was overcast with the prediction of spotty rain. It was a beautiful day to take a walk in the Japanese Friendship Garden in Balboa Park. (Did I ever tell you Seattle is my dream city?) A winding trail crosses bridges and leads down into recently opened parts of the garden.

The walk in the Japanese Friendship Garden.

The walk in the Japanese Friendship Garden.

 

 

My husband and I were able to enter the new Inamori Pavilion. I felt a peaceful calm as soon as we walked inside to view the exhibit of Ichiyo Yamamoto’s ceramics. They are amazingly detailed. For those of us who were taught to simply dip our pots into buckets of glaze, the exhibit is jaw-dropping. Yamamoto uses platinum in his intricate and delicate designs. The exhibit will be there until July 5th.

A small bowl by Ichiyo Yamamoto.

A small bowl by Ichiyo Yamamoto.

How the weather turned on Sunday. It is beautiful ,but I want my May Gray back!

How the weather turned on Sunday. It is beautiful ,but I want my May Gray back!

The books I bought at the Yellow Book Road. Will tell you about them next time!

The books I bought at the Yellow Book Road. Will tell you about them next time!

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Diversity Continued

But first a word from our sponsors:

Encinitas Street Fair on 4/26/15—I’ll be with the Read Local group from 1:30 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. I’d love to see you and talk books. I’ll have copies of Secrets of the Flame: The Power to Protect for purchase at a discount.

The amaryllis are spectacular this year. It's been so dry, there are no ravenous snails to eat them before they fully bloom.

The amaryllis are spectacular this year. It’s been so dry, there are no ravenous snails to eat them before they fully bloom.

Earth Day is coming! And doesn’t Earth sponsor us all? In that spirit, you are encouraged to view a fascinating Ted Talk by Allan Savory titled: How to green the world’s deserts and reverse climate change. It’s about 25 minutes long and has been on my mind ever since I saw it. I’m also wondering if a few goats or llamas in our suburban yard will help.

On Sunday, 4/19/15, I’ll be with the St. Paul’s booth at Balboa Park’s Earth Day celebration (sans books).

Links to the Encinitas Street Fair and the Ted Talk are at the bottom of the post.

A moment before brother and sister were bathing each other. Then something outside caught their attention.

A moment before brother and sister were bathing each other. Then something outside caught their attention.

And now for our regularly scheduled program:

In my last post, I wrote about a few of the children’s books that support diversity. I also promised to write about two books for adults that I purchased at Bookfaire.

Nina Revoyr and Eduardo Santiago, authors and compelling speakers, are bridges. Many people are open to finding and crossing bridges to bring people together. Other people are bridges themselves. They straddle what divides groups of people and stand with one foot in one culture and one foot in another.

I don’t think that’s an easy place to live. When I was a kid, I had a frequent image of myself trying to balance with one foot on one ball and the other foot on a different ball.

And the two balls rolled away from each other.

To this day, I don’t know what those two balls represented to me.

Riff-Raff and Frankie follow the trail of a feline invader

Riff-Raff and Frankie follow the trail of a feline invader.

I only know how unsafe it felt.

Nina Revoyr was born in Japan to a Japanese mother and a white American father. She lived in Japan for five years, until her family moved to the United States—back to her father’s small Wisconsin town. She knows what it’s like to be the outsider in two places when she should belong in both.

Her story isn’t mine to tell. But Wingshooters (published by Akashic Books in 2011) is her novel with elements of her own story. I bought two of her books but didn’t read Wingshooters yet. I’m looking forward to it.

The novel I did read is Southland (Akashic Books in 2003). Jackie is a young Japanese-American woman whose grandfather owned a grocery story in the LA district of Crenshaw. The book moves between 1945, when her grandfather served in WWII;1965, when four young black men were killed during the Watts Riots; and 1994, when Jackie is drawn into the mystery of their deaths.Southland

Revoyr has won a number of awards, and Southland was on the Los Angeles Times “Best Books of 2003” list.

Midnight RumbaEduardo Santiago’s family left Cuba for the United States when he was ten years old. He is a child of both countries and longs for his estranged “parents” to mend their fight. He’s a writer who pens such lovely lines, you sometimes have to stop, reread and savor.

In Midnight Rumba, published by Cuban Heel Press in 2013, Estalita travels around Cuba with her father and his troupe as they go from village to village performing. We follow Estalita and other not-so-ordinary ordinary people as their paths diverge and criss-cross before and during the Cuban Revolution.

Santiago is also an award-winning author.my wine glass

Since I usually write about books for kids, I think I should repeat that these are adult books with some sex scenes and an occasional hangover within the context of a larger story.

It occurs to me that both Nina Revoyr and Eduardo Santiago not only add to our shared diversity, they are individually diverse. I’m grateful to the people willing to share their sometimes painful journey. Probably all of us have some version of those two balls to stand on. And, if we examine ourselves, we can empathize with the struggle to find and keep one’s balance. And maybe learn more about doing it ourselves.

Hummingbird rescue. It later flew off. A hummingbird in the hand is worth . . . well, it's priceless.

Hummingbird rescue. It later flew off. A hummingbird in the hand is worth . . . well, it’s priceless.

And now a reminder from the sponsors:

Info about the Encinitas Street Fair: http://www.encinitas101.com/events/annual-aprilstreetfair-2/

Ted Talk for Planet Earth: https://youtu.be/vpTHi7O66pI

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Diversity

Sandstone lookout at Torrey Pines State Reserve. According to the San Diego Wildfire Education Project, San Diego is the most biodiverse county in North America, and California is in the top ten biodiverse regions in the world.

Sandstone lookout at Torrey Pines State Reserve. According to the San Diego Wildfire Education Project, San Diego is the most biodiverse county in North America, and California is in the top ten biodiverse regions in the world.

A recent tweet from Laurie Halse Anderson (author of Chains and others) quoted Jackie Woodson, “I saw lots & lots of windows and not a whole lot of mirrors. So I said ‘let me write some mirrors.”

The right metaphor is more than a pretty way to say something. It increases understanding.

We hiked at Torrey Pines last week and saw lots of wild blooms from these tiny treasures on the trail to . . .

We hiked at Torrey Pines last week and saw lots of wild blooms from these tiny treasures on the trail to . . .

We need books that mirror ourselves in enough ways to help us see our strengths, weaknesses, and potential. If our gender, race, ethnicity, religion, or some other facet of our personhood is never presented in any but a stereotyped way, our images of ourselves or others may be stunted.

Books that are mirrors for some are windows for others. Some of us live in a world of too many windows and very few mirrors. Others of us, in the same world, have so many mirrors no additional light can enter.

large cactus flowers along the road and the trails.

large cactus flowers along the road and the trails.

We all need both mirrors and windows. We all need diverse books. For too long, the majority has lived in literary houses with mirrors in the places there should be windows. Those of us who have had too many mirrors need to replace some of them with windows.

If we’re going to have those choices for literary diversity, we need to support the authors who give us different world views. I encourage everyone to buy and read books written by people of many backgrounds.

The Torrey Pine is the rarest pine in our country. It only grows here and on Santa Rosa Island.

The Torrey Pine is the rarest pine in our country. It only grows here and on Santa Rosa Island.

My shortest stack of most recently purchased books consists of ten picture books. A couple of days ago, I realized that four of them fit in this discussion.

Lincoln & DouglasLincoln and Douglas: An American Friendship, written by Nikki Giovanni, illustrated by Bryan Collier, and published by Square Fish in 2008, is a picture book for second through sixth graders. It’s the history of the friendship of Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglas.

The book opens with Lincoln waiting for the arrival of Douglas at a White House reception. Then the book compares and contrasts their early lives and the paths that brought them together. These two great men forged a relationship on shared values and mutual respect. This book taught me things I’m glad I now know.

As a side note, Douglas is one of the “contestants” for the Golden Halo this year in Lent Madness. He’s won two rounds in what is described as the “saintly smack-down.”

These HandsThese Hands, written by Margaret H. Mason, illustrated by Floyd Cooper, and published by Houghton Mifflin Books for Children in 2010, is also a picture book gem. It’s a poetic telling of historical events as told to the author by an old friend. Children younger than second grade will also learn from this story.

A grandfather tells his young grandson all the things the grandfather’s hands can and have done, but how those hands were not allowed to help bake the bread at the Wonder Bread factory until after the Civil Rights Act in the mid-1960’s.

Workers banded together to end the discrimination. “Now any hands can mix the bread dough, no matter the color.”

The story ends on what the grandson’s hands can do. Don’t miss the author’s note.

Beatrice's DreamBeatrice’s Dream: A Story of Kibera Slum, written by Karen Lynn Williams, photographed by Wendy Stone, and published by Francis Lincoln Children’s Books in 2011, is the story of Beatrice, who lives in Kibera (Kenya), one of the largest slums in Africa.

The book uses Beatrice’s words at age thirteen. She’s an orphan who lives with her older brother. She has worries and a dream shared by many.

While this story is less lyrical than the first two books, it’s inspiring as a portrait of a life in another place under more difficult circumstances than most of us know. With this book also, check out the author’s note at the end. You’ll smile.

Last Stop on MSAnd now for my favorite: my husband’s Valentine’s Day gift to me—Last Stop on Market Street, written by Matt De La Peña, pictures by Christian Robinson, and published by G.P. Putnam’s Sons in 2015.

CJ’s nana helps him learn to find “beautiful where he never even thought to look.” The language creates beautiful images and conveys an important message. And make sure you see the author and illustrator photos on the back flap.

The plan for the next post is to review two adult novels from authors who spoke at Bookfaire last Saturday and add to the diversity discussion . . . just as soon as I read them.

The books I purchased at Bookfaire including the ones for the next post.

The books I purchased at Bookfaire including the ones for the next post.

I can’t believe it! Two kids’ books in Spanish just showed up in our Little Free Library!

Since one of them is the Spanish version of Walter the Farting Dog, I’m not sure it counts as a diverse book. But the other is An Illustrated Treasury of Latino Read-Aloud Stories, both in English and Spanish. The book was edited by Maite Suarez-Rivas, translated by Alma Mora, has multiple authors and illustrators, and was published by Black Dog & Leventhal Publishers in 2004.

View of the ocean from Razor Point Trail.

View of the ocean from Razor Point Trail.

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Look Out, History is Gaining On Us

A toy farm stove of the build-your-own-fire-on-the -inside type.

A toy farm stove of the build-your-own-fire-on-the -inside type. (Just to be clear, much older than I.)

The assignment in the writing class was to read a historical novel. I picked one from the list given to us. It was set in the decade that I came of age.

WHAT??? Historical? I am not a historical artifact!

I just reread two middle-grade books about sustaining a friendship when one of the girls moves away. P.S. Longer Letter Later and Snail Mail No More by Paula Danziger and Ann M. Martin, published by Scholastic in 1998 and 2000, weren’t written as historical pieces but as contemporary fiction.

PS Longer LaterThe stories are told first in the form of letters between Elizabeth and Tara*Star and then in e-mails as the two authors took the roles of the two characters and wrote back and forth.

The themes in the books are timeless and a testament to people who persevere in their friendships across distance. Elizabeth and Tara*Star change as they grow in different directions and experience drastic changes in family circumstances. But their friendship endures as they continue to share laughs, tears, occasional angry words, and love.Snail Mail No

The books are worth looking for.

Aside from the quality of the stories, what struck me is that people, who came of age when those books were written, can still be in their 30’s. Our everyday technology has changed so much, I guess these count as historical. And history seems to be getting closer all the time.

WHAT??? Niece and nephew are not historical artifacts either!

Yes, some people still handwrite and treasure letters. People still e-mail. But not many kids the age of Elizabeth and Tara*Star still do.

So it seems that not only does history repeat itself because we have yet to learn our lessons, it’s nipping at our heels. And, if we think about it, we probably all have ways our personal history intersected with History and have to ask ourselves if we helped move our collective story forward?

Does anyone know of a book that uses texts or tweets and finds the same emotional depth of P.S. Longer Letter Later and Snail Mail No More?

P.S. Longer post later!

The first freesia to open.

The first freesia to open.

The first California poppy to bloom this year.

The first California poppy to bloom this year.

Nasturtiums growing from the side of a stump. The freesias, poppies, and nasturtiums all volunteer to reseed (or rebulb in the the case of the freesias) every year in the site of their choosing.

Nasturtiums growing from the side of a stump. The freesias, poppies, and nasturtiums all volunteer to reseed (or rebulb in the the case of the freesias) every year in the site of their choosing.

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“Oh, the Places You’ll Go . . . “

Who did you think of when you read that? Need another hint? We just celebrated his birthday this week with Read Across America.

My Many Colored Days by Dr. Seuss, illustrations by Steve Johnson and Lou Fancher

My Many Colored Days by Dr. Seuss, illustrations by Steve Johnson and Lou Fancher

It’s Dr. Seuss, of course!

You might need to read this if

. . . you live in or will visit San Diego this year.

The San Diego History Center in Balboa Park has an exhibit of Seuss’ work during the celebration of the 100th anniversary of the Panama-California Exposition of 1915. The exhibit will be up until the endof the year.

This is the sticker you get for the History Center. It's a bit of history itself.

This is the sticker you get for the History Center. It’s a bit of history itself.

It’s got lots of appeal for kids and adults. There’s a wall of Seussian taxidermy, statues of famous characters, several semi-circle nooks with kid activities, and a room of some of Dr. Seuss’ paintings for adults.

 

 

Heads of some of Dr. Seuss' creatures.

Heads of some of Dr. Seuss’ creatures.

Theodore Geisel’s goal was to write books that would help children learn to read.

It's Yertles all the way down!

It’s Yertles all the way down!

Where Dick and Jane plodded, Yertle the Turtle hollered, “Come on, let’s go!” His rhymes carry a young reader from one line to the next and into the rest of the world of books.

And, even as adults, who can forget lines like, “A person’s a person no matter how small,” or “I do not like them, Sam-I-Am, I do not like green eggs and ham”?

It was very moving to read the story about his refusal to let his work be used in advertising, even when he was offered an amount to get him the world record as the highest paid writer per word. You can read his agent’s take on that.

We even had a great time in the gift shop. I got a book of his stories that had been in magazines years ago, but never made into books. They don’t have the same early reading pull as books such as The Cat in the Hat, but if you want more Horton or Mulberry Street or the Grinch, look for Horton and the Kwuggerbug and More Lost Stories.

New Seuss

Grandparent Alert: We found these cool bibs and dishes.

Grandparent Alert: We found these cool bibs and dishes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The only thing about this exhibit that left me dissatisfied was the photo of Dr. Seuss in his studio. I’m dissatisfied because it’s not mine.

Gate in the Japanese Friendship Garden not his studio.

Gate in the Japanese Friendship Garden not his studio.

Remember: Bookfaire next Saturday at Shannon Center for the Performing Arts at Whittier College, Whittier,

San Diego History CenterSecrets, pub cover

and, while we’re at it, Secrets of the Flame.

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Secrets of the Flame: Jane Yolen and Finding Yourself in the Story

Sleeping BeautyJane Yolen, one of my favorite authors, once spoke about finding which of her characters represented herself and how that sometimes changes over time.

At a point, I realized Gwendolyn’s the mother I wished to be—openhearted; nurturing; pushing herself into bravery; and trying to be the best mother she can.

But I also had to face her flaws. She’s naive, oblivious even; wants to do it all herself; wants her children to stay her children; and sometimes gets stuff, even important stuff, wrong.Gwen to L

I’m sure you’ve figured out that Strange One, the dragon, represents my son. In the first draft of the book, he was young enough that I could fool myself that the story could have my happy ever after ending.Clay baby dragon

Then: adolescence!my clay dragon

So maybe John Sanford had a point—a bucket of water over the head didn’t sound so shocking.

New perspectives demand change. I rewrote and rewrote . . . and rewrote.

Hubris alert!http://www.amazon.com/Secrets-Flame-Protect-Cindy-Schuricht/dp/0989658023/ref=sr_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1421705373&sr=1-2

Every author has to answer the question of who is the audience?

My original hope for the story’s audience focused on parents and children who had read together for years.

Secrets of the Flame: The Power to Protect would be the grand-finale joint bedtime story—a story that helps a parent let go and a child claim his or her independence with grace rather than teenage rage at parental “stupidity.”

See what I mean about hubris?

Hubris confronted.

With all the bookmarks I put in for things I want to remember

With all the bookmarks I put in for things I want to remember

After rethinking Joseph Campbell’s jewel story, my hope is that Secrets of the Flame is an entertaining and exciting practice step for the journey to independence that parents and children take—a journey that starts with the first wobbly cruise around the coffee table.

Joseph Campbell also gave me a way to think about the family story arc. Parents and children bond. To become adults, children must claim their independence, sometimes painful for both kids and parents.

Eventually, something new has to go beyond or transcend the opposites of bonding and breaking apart. This something new has to include both—sacrificing neither the bond nor the independence to the other. Expect a certain degree of backsliding in one or the other, however.

I don’t feel comfortable until I acknowledge that I can’t promise you’ll fall in love with The Secrets of the Flame: The Power to Protect.

Some people do love it—they’ve told me they read it in one sitting, couldn’t put it down, or it made them laugh and cry. After reading it, some people have purchased more copies for gifts.

Cairns along Shelter Island and San Diego Harbor

Cairns along Shelter Island and San Diego Harbor

Other people have said it’s well-written, but not their cup of tea.

Which will it be for you? Beats me.

So my hope is that the book will find its way to the right people. I hope some of you will try the book and then leave an Amazon review that will help others make a decision about it.

Night blooming epiphyllum

Night blooming epiphyte

Thank you.

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But Enough About My Book (for now), Let’s Talk About Boys

Statue of fishing boy at the entrance to the Whittier Library. That reminds me Bookfaire coming in March to Whittier College!

Statue of fishing boy at the entrance to the Whittier Library. That reminds me Bookfaire coming in March to Whittier College!

When people talk about reluctant readers, they almost always refer to boys. The number of boys who choose reading as a voluntary activity is decreasing.

So here are a few books I think many boys could get into . . . since I’m not a fourth grade boy, I can’t be positive.Spirit animals

The Spirit Animal series, published by Scholastic beginning in 2013. I’ve only read the first one, Wild Born, by Brandon Mull. (Put a bear on the cover and I’ll pick it up.) Hint: I found the number of character names confusing so I had to return to the beginning and keep a list.

The book comes with a code “to unlock huge rewards” in the game at spiritanimals.com I can’t tell you about the game other than, as a parent, I’d tend to trust Scholastic. And maybe with the game and visuals, the names wouldn’t be so confusing.

If a kid is just going to read the book, pay attention to and remember the names of the four main characters who are introduced in the first four chapters—two boys and two girls, the names of their spirit animals, and the names of the Greencloaks. There are only a couple of other names out of sixty I wrote down that resurface in this story. (But perhaps they do in later books.)

I didn’t think the writing was great, but I could see a kid having fun with the adventure of the books and the game.

4th StallChris Rylander’s, The Fourth Stall, (the first in a series) published by Walden Pond Press in 2011. I heard Chris speak a couple of years ago and was very impressed. His goal is to write books he wishes he’d had available to him as a kid. Good reason!

Mac (who reminded me of a machine boss) starts a booming business at his school helping other kids with their problems. But that doesn’t mean he doesn’t have some difficult problems himself. The book is humorous, but my funny bone was only mildly tickled (see above re: title and not the target audience).

For young adults who like adventure, I recommend the adult nonfiction Blind Descent. This book by James M. Tabor, published in 2010 by Random House, is a fascinating account of two very different teams of cave explorers trying to find the deepest cave in the world.blind descent

I was stunned to learn how many kinds of danger super caves present. People crawl through spaces that are unbelievably tight, cliffs plunge hundreds of feet, multiple tunnels dead end. Imagine diving into dark water to look for a drain hole that could lead you further along a submerged tunnel.
This type of exploration has been compared to climbing Everest backwards, but with even less chance of rescue if you get into trouble. The cavers can be as isolated with as much chance of getting help as the Sandra Bullock character in Gravity. Who ya gonna call?

This book had me riveted—twice.

To read more: Porter Anderson wrote a Feb. post on boys and books. It’s a bit long, but interesting and he adds pieces from other people. You can find him at thoughtcatalog.com

With thanks to Elizabeth Spann Craig and her tweets about info for writers.

Two days ago, when a plastic bag flew off the pier, a boy of about eleven cast his line beyond the bag. On his second try, he caught it, reeled it in, admonished the person who lost it, and said, "I like to protect the ocean." He's a hero in my book.

Two days ago, when a plastic bag flew off the pier, a boy of about eleven cast his line beyond the bag. On his second try, he caught it, reeled it in, admonished the person who lost it, and said, “I like to protect the ocean.” He’s a hero in my book.

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Secrets of the Flame: Joseph Campbell and the Jewel

http://www.amazon.com/Secrets-Flame-Protect-Cindy-Schuricht/dp/0989658023/ref=sr_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1421705373&sr=1-2
Today I’m writing a bit about the process of parent and child separation, especially in the presence of strong bonds. Here are some random memories that served as road signs in the writing of Secrets of the Flame: The Power to Protect.

BTW, Secrets of the Flame is a parable of bonding with an other, in this case a dragon raised by a pig, with all that entails, and then the letting-go as a child grows into  independence.

Memory: Years ago I read a passage from Joseph Campbell’s The Power of Myth.

In India, a guru might ask a mother to give him something precious, maybe a jewel, as practice in releasing her child when the time came.

With all the bookmarks I put in for things I want to remember

With all the bookmarks I put in for things I want to remember

Did I make that up??? I looked.

Yep. That’s what I thought he said.

Stinks.

Bird walk: This is what I think I understand about memories. They’re not very reliable—especially over the passage of time and with hearing other people’s experience of the same event. A spider on your leg is much larger than that same spider in its web (unless you run into the web). This is to warn you that the snippets below are my memories only.

Visitor at lily pond, Balboa Park

Visitor at lily pond, Balboa Park

Memory: John Sanford referred to a culture where a boy, at age twelve, dumped a bucket of water on his mother’s head and moved to the men’s house. Sanford told us it’s better than the way we separate in our culture.

Surely not.

Memory: The witch, who kept Rapunzel in the tower in “Into the Woods,” asked why her love isn’t enough for Rapunzel. She sings, “The child you love only grows into the child you lose.”

What?

Think back to telling the story you want to hear. Confession: I wanted an “and they lived* happily ever after—together” ending to my story.

Detail from quilt made by the author

Detail from quilt made by the author

I couldn’t have the ending I wanted. Joseph Campbell said so. John Sanford, Steven Sondheim, and the dragon agreed. Watch the movie Boyhood if you don’t believe us.

I would have to let my character live his own life. “We’ll always be together” wasn’t realistic. Neither was any sort of “ever after.”

The story arc for Gwendolyn was going to be something of a map for myself.

Detail from quilt made by the author

Detail from quilt made by the author

And isn’t an ending just another new beginning?

Into the woods and a new, unknown beginning

Into the woods and a new, unknown beginning

*Did you catch the * up there?

When I proofed my phrase “ . . . ‘they lived* happily ever after,” I had actually typed “they lied happily ever after.”

Simple typo or the unconscious bubbling to the top? You decide.

P.S. The Power of Myth by Joseph Campbell (copyright 1988) is extraordinary. Since I didn’t find my story until page 257, I had the opportunity to reread the whole book. It’s a necklace of treasured jewels collected by the guru Campbell.

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Secrets of the Flame: Pigs and Dragons

The first step of writing the picture book I wanted to hear should have been simple. Pick the characters. Easy as jelly on a soda cracker, right?

Sand sculpture at Weston super mace of The Lion and the Mouse by Rachael Stubbs, courtesy of Wikimedia

Sand sculpture at Weston super mace of The Lion and the Mouse by Rachael Stubbs, courtesy of Wikimedia

What weak, small animal will save and care for its natural predator?

I must have tried a hundred combinations, and I’m embarrassed to tell you how long this step took—so I won’t.

A mouse and a lion? Been done.

A cat and a dog? Too everyday.

"Black Kitten" by Revital Salomon, also Public Domain courtesy of Wikimedia

“Black Kitten” by Revital Salomon, also Public Domain courtesy of Wikimedia

A hedgehog and a . . .? I don’t have a clue what animal preys on hedgehogs.

Perhaps it was the hedgehog that sent up the lightbulb with the word “pig.”

Cochon by vfdbsn, courtesy of Wikimedia

Cochon by vfdbsn, courtesy of Wikimedia

Hey, I like pigs! My grandad raised some on his farm. My aunt kept a motherless piglet in a box in the kitchen. She named it Fritz. He followed us around like a puppy. (That my grandad called the same pig Porkchop is another story.)

Detail from quilt made by the author

Detail from quilt made by the author

Once I had my pig, the dragon lightbulb switched on. As long as I can remember, I’ve wished dragons weren’t always the bad guys in old tales. I want them tamed, not slain.

I knew the beginning and the ending of the story I wanted to hear. Just needed to travel from Point A to Point B.

But the characters had their own ideas about the route. They definitely wanted to take the scenic drive and had no sympathy for my desire to reach a particular destination.

More about Secrets of the Flame: The Power to Protect

Detail from quilt made by the author

Detail from quilt made by the author

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