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!!!

Faire Books and Dogsong

The Bookfaire at the Ruth B. Shannon Center for the Performing Arts at Whittier College (3/23/13) was terrific, except for the part about not being able to be in three breakout sessions at the same time. Sometimes, physical laws are so limiting.

Laura and I at Bookfaire. She’s the tall, non-disheveled one.

I was able to hear Tom and Laura McNeal separately. (See the post of 2/21/13, Predators, Hormones, and Slippery Slopes, for their young adult books.) Hearing the back stories of inspiration for these books and the McNeals’ process of co-writing added richness and even more depth to stories I already found highly satisfying. So I bought two that I hadn’t yet reread, THE DECODING OF LANA MORRIS, by both Laura and Tom, Alfred A. Knopf, 2007, DARK WATER, a National Book Award finalist by Laura, Alfred A. Knopf, 2010, and an adult novel, TO BE SUNG UNDERWATER, by Tom, from Back Bay Books, 2011.

Laura spoke about what makes a young adult book. Besides needing to have a protagonist of similar age, books for this age range need to be honest. They can provide a way for a young person to explore some paths in life that he or she doesn’t actually have to take with their resultant actual consequences. Tom and Laura’s books for young adults fulfill Gary Schmidt’s criteria for what children’s literature needs to do, namely provide tools for kids to become more human.

Besides being terrific writers, both separately and together, they are wonderful people. I felt so blessed to spend so much of Friday evening and Saturday with Laura. It was a great time. Thank you, Laura and Tom.

Although the other authors at the Bookfaire write for adult audiences, some of the books may appeal to YA readers. I just finished reading FINDING EMILIE, written by Laurel Corona and published by Gallery Books in 2011. In the eighteenth century, a French woman, Gabrielle-Emilie le Tonnelier de Breteuil, wrote a translation and commentary on Newton’s Principia Mathematica. The marquise died six days after the birth of her second daughter. The daughter died before turning two. Corona’s historical novel tells of the life she imagines the Marquise would have wanted for her daughter, Lili. We have few historical details of the lives of women, and Corona feels that historical novels are the best way for us to reclaim the lives of the women who have gone before us. I think young women who like Jane Austen may find this book a fascinating look at an aristocratic life that makes me grateful for the rights women have now.

From left: Kelly Lange, former anchorwoman, mystery writer, and keynote speaker; Ann Farmer, former English teacher at Whittier College and Bookfaire chair: and moi.

Now we have to wait almost a whole year for the next Bookfaire.

I did promise DOGSONG the next time I posted. After reading THE QUILT, I decided it was time to read Gary Paulson again. THE QUILT told of Paulson’s  emotional connections—a layer of meaning I’d hadn’t always found in his writing. Now when I picked up my copy of DOGSONG, published by Scholastic Inc. in 1985, I found a solitary boy facing nature story, but with strong human connections.

And I love his description of the human-to-animal/nature connection as the boy, Russell, bonds with his dog sled team. “He let them run and they seemed to want to head the same way he wanted to go . . . did the dogs know where they were going? . . . he let the dogs decide because that was the same as him deciding.” It’s one of the best pictures of creatures knowing and trusting each other that I think I’ve read. Anyway, I’m back to picking up Paulson’s books.

And let me know what you’ve been reading.

I’m hoping for some trades if you live where it’s still cold. When you have spring, things will be getting hot and dry, and many of our plants will go dormant. Then I’m hoping you’ll send pictures

Three Days of Peace, Love, and Rollicking Books

Before it’s too far away in time, I want to tell you about the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators Los Angeles Conference, which took place about two weeks ago,. The participants came from around the world. I met one woman who traveled from Australia and another who is not a writer, illustrator, agent, or publisher but comes regularly just because she loves children’s books.

If you are a writer or illustrator for children’s books and are not familiar with SCBWI, you especially need to read on to see why you will want to know more about this organization.

If you are a parent, teacher, kid, or someone who just loves children’s books, this post’s purpose is to give you a feel for people who write and illustrate children’s books. The overwhelming message I heard at the conference is to write one’s Truth—it will be what some child somewhere needs to read. Our job, as writers, is to go as deeply into our Truths as possible.

Children are not “one size fits all,” and they need a diverse village. It is eye-opening to see the incredible array of artists that engage in the making of children’s books.

Several author/speakers were reluctant readers when they were kids. They write what they would have liked to read when they were younger. A panel was asked who they write for. They tend to write for themselves first–to that inner four-year-old, ten-year-old, or teen. Then they evaluate and revise for those who are currently four or ten or teen-aged.

SCBWI (remember, Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators) was founded over forty years ago for mutual help and support among authors. The prevailing tone is one of cooperation and respect—Woodstock for writers and illustrators (agents and publishers, too). The conference was an inspiring and (dare I say it?) spiritual experience for me. Gary Schmidt, the closing speaker, told us to write what will give our readers “more to be a human being with.”

I am so touched to be part of this organization. More next time about SCBWI, and I will be blogging about some of the wonderful books those speakers wrote.

Quick, what does SCBWI stand for? If you want to know more about them, go to their website  Go now if you are a writer or illustrator.

Welcome to the Hundred Book Pile-up

Let me introduce myself. My name is Cindy Schuricht, a life-long bookworm, writer, gardener, beginning quilter, and retired teacher. Since I read and write children’s books, my blog will primarily review the children’s literature that I love.

Children’s books have been my passion since . . . well, since childhood. I don’t remember being read to (my mom had her hands full with four of us age five and under). So I anticipated learning to read in kindergarten and was greatly, greatly disappointed. In those days they didn’t teach reading that early. (To add insult to injury, they made you take a nap, but that’s a different blog.)

“First grade,” my parents assured me. “In first grade, you will learn to read.”

Again I was greatly disappointed to find out first grade did not mean a person could
magically read on the first day, as I so embarrassingly found out the first afternoon when I brought a book home from school, set my parents down at the kitchen table, and expectantly opened the book, only to find the marks on the page still did not sing to me.

A few days later, I met Dick, Jane, Sally, Spot, and Puff as the whole first grade struggled through the page that read, “Look, look, look, look, look.” The dawn of understanding—a word with the same design is the exact same word each time! (But who talks like that?) And so began the quest to read every book in my school (not as hard as it may sound; but, again, another story) and as many from the public library as possible. I found that books can be a map for the heart, and I desperately wanted those maps.

During adolescence and early adulthood, I read in different areas—sociology, semantics,
alternative education, political commentary, and adult fiction. Then my job in a bookstore
reintroduced me to children’s books. I decided that children’s literature is one of the genres that has both the best and the worst of the printed word. And I love the heart of the best—the kernel of truth that comes via a character to either open one’s eyes or confirm what is already known but, for some reason, unacknowledged.

A map won’t protect you from all of life’s pitfalls. Even with great maps, my Spacial Awareness Deficit has gotten me lost. But these heart maps have helped me recognize emotional landmarks, re-find my direction, given me the hope of a route to a beautiful destination.

I’m writing to add to the cartography, and I hope you’ll journey with me.

Please comment and let me know which books you would like to see reviewed.