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.

Twitter Woes and Hey, I Thought They Were Funny

On joining the 21st century: My husband has strongly suggested I (1) give up my car with the manual

Rainbow flag on the Museum of Man after the Supreme Court decision

Rainbow flag on the Museum of Man after the Supreme Court decision

transmission, and (2) get a dishwasher. One of my partners-in-writer’s-cramp urged me to learn to tweet as a marketing tool.

So I now follow others: some people who I know; some I’ve “met” on Twitter and would like to know in real life; and some who teach me stuff.

T number of the people that follow me doesn’t have a K behind it. Hey, don’t those K’s mean there’s no way Twitter can truly be “social” with two-way communication involved?

Woe One: My numbers imply actual interaction . . . but not terrific marketing ability. I have an idea! Follow me on Twitter @CindySchuricht

Woe Two: The Twitter world goes by so quickly. If you aren’t checking multiple times a day, tweets are gone—except for ads that endlessly repeat.

On the non-woe hand, some people post retweet-worthy links to some excellent blog posts–little treasures I wouldn’t have found otherwise. And I’ve had satisfying and playful interactions with other writers—one in New Zealand. I’ve seen wonderful photos and artworks, read funny little comments on life and words that inspire or inform.

Woe Three: Some links go places I don’t understand at all. I can’t even tell if those links are trying to sell me something. A bad use of limited time.

Woe Four: Although Twitter allows people to get out important news and to comment on crucial issues, when I went to add support for an issue that’s important to me, I was turned off by hateful comments and distressing photos that gave me trouble sleeping for about a week.

As someone has said, Twitter isn’t the place for nuanced conversations.

Even with near-useless back legs, Sofie is the picture of joy as she scampers through the park.

Even with near-useless back legs, Sofie is the picture of joy as she scampers through the park.

It’s great for cute dogs and cats though.

Woe Five: The following are tweets that I thought were funny–maybe not RITA (just in case that’s not a real abbreviation, Rolling In The Aisle), but amusing. Maybe I’m tweeting at the wrong time of day or they’re only funny to those with a certain odd sense of humor.

tear down



    Tweet: Danger! Demolition debris dangling like participles!





Really, big chunks of concrete were hanging on rebar. I don’t think a hard hat would help.

orchick in road 1

Tweet: The question isn’t why did the chicken cross the road. It’s how in the world did it get there?

Going through my poultry-free neighborhood, this chicken was wandering aimlessly each time I passed. She wasn’t even able to decide which side of the street she wanted to cross to, much less justify her decision.


rhino mouth 1

Tweet: Picture open-mouthed shark, lion, and T-Rex. Now imagine a rhino charge . . . sans fangs!

You no longer need to wonder why you haven’t seen a movie with hordes of screaming people fleeing vicious rhinos.

Some days I have fun on Twitter. Other days I feel more centered when I haven’t looked. So I’m working on finding balance and presentation.

Meanwhile, regarding the 21st century, I regret succumbing to an automatic transmission.  No fun to drive, no exercise at all, and any car jacker can drive one. With my manual transmission, I was able to exude a “go ahead, make my day” attitude. No longer.

However, the dishwasher idea wasn’t so bad. My husband’s great and gets to them before I even perceive critical mass.

And, if Twitter goes by too fast for me to catch everything that might be interesting . . . well, there are lots worse things in life to miss.

Sta. 11P.S. Station Eleven, by Emily St. John Mandel and published by Vintage Books in 2015, is an adult book that will appeal to some young adults who don’t require the adrenaline level of a Hunger Games. The bulk of the story takes place twenty years after a pandemic that wipes out most of the world’s population and therefore all of our modern systems and conveniences.

People are starting from square one—almost. I had to look up “dystopia” to see if Station Eleven qualifies. It does. It also qualifies as a book to get you thinking.

Are You Old Enough for This Book?

If you follow this blog, you know that I review children’s books I find worthwhile (that is to say, worth my time and, hopefully, yours). The books range from board books used by babies for teething to middle grade to young adult books and to adult adult books, if I think they hold appeal for young adults.

Harold Fry I just (as in ten minutes ago with minor intervening family crisis of humorous  proportions) finished The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, written by Rachel  Joyce and published by Random House in 2013. There are many books fit to be published  and some that demand to be published. I think this quiet book politely insisted people  needed it.

Harold Fry receives a letter from a former co-worker who is dying. He had never thanked  her for her friendship (it takes awhile to find out the specific reason) so he writes a    response and walks it to the post . . . but doesn’t drop it in the box. He keeps walking the  length of England and into Scotland.

This is one of those books with a deceptively simple plot line that highlights its emotional  complexity. I don’t want to say too much about it. Joyce is a master of subtle revelation. I hope it’s enough to say I experienced recognition, hope, deep melancholy, love, yearning, and gifts of wisdoms while reading it.

Monarch caterpillar on milkweed.

Monarch caterpillar on milkweed.

My husband and I agreed this is a book that will move to the rest home with us some day.

We also discussed how old a reader should be as in “You must be ____ years old to ride . . .er, read this book”.

There are no steamy sex scenes, no acts of violence. There are chases, but they involve walking and a friendly dog who likes rocks.

This blog is usually written for adults to find books for young people (and the child within), but this book is one to consider for yourself. My best guess is that most readers who get hooked will be at least in their 40’s. I don’t expect many young adults would be interested in it.

But there are always outliers.

When you read The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, please let us know your ballpark age (the size of the park is entirely up to you), your reaction, and your age recommendation.

Anne Lamont did not see this at the Grand Canyon. But I wanted to show you the two-week old.

Anne Lamont did not see this at the Grand Canyon. But I wanted to show you the two-week old.

Anne Lamont recently tweeted that it was never too late to go to the Grand Canyon. It’s also never too late to make a pilgrimage, if you’re open to new perceptions. And she appears to be having a great time.


Tuesday we said goodbye to relatives after a wonderful four day weekend. A short time after the airport drops, I made my last pilgrimage to The Yellow Book Road.

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

I wanted to cry both times.

The goodbyes to the relatives will last until we can all gather again. The goodbye to The Yellow Book Road is forever. There are so many memories around that very special book store.

The store started small atop a doctor’s office. I held my toddler’s hand as we climbed the outside steps and first discovered this book lovers’ dream.

Years later, when a parent couldn’t remember how to spell my last name (few can) on a gift certificate for classroom books, a staff member assured her, “That’s okay, we know how to spell it.” Earned me serious parent points.

Ann and David have been very supportive of readers of all ages including parents learning how to read to active toddlers, teachers and schools, and local authors.

Cochon by vfdbsn, courtesy of Wikimedia

Cochon by vfdbsn, courtesy of Wikimedia

When I returned to writing, Ann answered questions. I learned that pigs can sell, but poultry not so much. In my search for the best way to communicate “polar bear” without using the word “bear” or resorting to “the large arctic mammal who hunts seals on ice floes”, Ann suggested “polar cousin.” (The Grizzly’s Christmas explains why I couldn’t use the word “bear”.)

Miranda Marks' first illustration for The Grizzly's Christmas.

Miranda Marks’ first illustration for The Grizzly’s Christmas.

Tuesday was my last chance to see them and look through the books. As you might imagine, they were using a fraction of their shelves. As you might not imagine, there were still plenty of wonderful books to discover. I believe that reflects their ability to choose the worthwhile from an overwhelming range of available titles.

Wednesday the doors closed. Now San Diego has no children’s bookstore.

Tuesday’s goodbyes leave an ache too deep for chocolate. Where to turn for consolation?

The books I bought at the Yellow Book Road.

The books I bought at the Yellow Book Road.



I’m looking for my copy of The Relatives Came so I can reread the lines about all the breathing together in the house and missing family until next year.

While I might be too old for a teddy bear, I’m not too old to find comfort in bear books. So right here, right now you can read about two of my last purchases at the Best Little Bookstore in California.

Old Bear & His CubOld Bear and His Cub was written and illustrated by Oliver Dunrea (wish I could do both) and published by Philomel Books in 2010. I’d read this book once before but didn’t buy it because I was sort of being a purist about bears, and male bears are actually a danger to cubs.

Then I saw The Bear, a film from the late 80’s that stars Bart. (Netflix lists the three human actors, but I couldn’t find them in the credits at the end of the film–just Bart and the cub.)

When a cub’s mother is killed in a rock slide, the cub searches for protection. The old male doesn’t volunteer, but the cub persists and the bear finally allows the cub to tag along. The movie showed some natural bear behaviors that I had read about but hadn’t seen–including how a cub elicits help.

I tried Old Bear and His Cub again. Once I’d lost my previous bias, I found an endearing story about the reciprocity of caring. It’s a book you might want to check out for Father’s Day. I know who my copy is going to once I can loosen my grip.

Sister Bear: A Norse Tale was adapted by Jane Yolen, illustrated by Linda Graves, and Sister Bearpublished by Marshall Cavendish in 2011. One of the old beliefs about bears, found in many parts of the Northern Hemisphere, was bears are very close to humans and perhaps humans really are inside those fur coats.

Halva finds a cub and raises her as Sister Bear. After Sister Bear grows, Halva and her bear set off to show Sister’s talents to the King of Norway. Along the way, they encounter trolls with breath strong enough to fell an ox.

And life goes on. Relatives from the other side of the family will be arriving starting this week. I have the rest of my stack of books to read and stories to write.

A visit to my favorite trees in Balboa Park

A visit to my favorite trees in Balboa Park

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.