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

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!

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.