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

More Christmas Books for Children and a Blatant Ad

Our tree last week

Middle grade Christmas books: not so many. I did see some in early chapter book series—a Magic Treehouse episode, etc. But when asked about middle grade Christmas books, the bookstore clerk sent me to the table of adult Christmas fiction and suggested I might find something there. The Christmas Pony (by Melody Carlson and published in 2012 by Revell) has a title that would be appealing to a child. It has an eight-year-old protagonist/narrator. So far, so good. I bought it and enjoyed it. It has a sweet G-rated romance (the narrator is eight), but the book wouldn’t make the top of a kid’s must read list.

Back to the tried and true. If you have not read The Best Christmas Pageant Ever (by Barbara Robinson and published by Camelot Printing in 1973), go get it. I just reread it and it more than holds up. The Herdmans are “absolutely the worst kids in the history of the world.” They had a cat so mean, the mailman wouldn’t deliver. Sunday school is about the only place where the other kids have peace—until a child claims he gets all the dessert he wants at Sunday School. One thing leads to another, the Herdmans bully their way to all the good parts in the Christmas pageant. And the story that’s the same year after year takes on new meaning for the narrator. The reader’s funny bone is tickled until a twist at the end touches the heart.

Do not forget other tried and true stories that periodically are released with new art—A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens and The Gift of the Magi by O. Henry have endured through the years since they were first penned.

I started this blog hoping to get some people interested in my book The Pig and the Dragon and then I got so involved in the books I’m reading, I kind of forgot. And now it’s less than a week before Christmas, but here come the blatant ad of the title.

The Pig and the Dragon is a middle grade fantasy that is told with two points of view. A pig who adopts a dragon has to figure out how to teach what she doesn’t know. She goes on a dangerous quest to find out dragon secrets. The dragon, who struggles to fit in as a farm animal, must choose between life as he’s been taught and the unknown. I wrote it in the hope that children and parents would read it together (but it works individually too). One reader described it as being between Charlotte’s Web and Eragon. Go to The Pig and the Dragon page of this blog for a link to order. End of blatant ad. Thanks.

A Christmas Tree for Pyn, written and illustrated by Oliver Dunrea and published by Philomel in 2011. Although it’s a picture book, it’s geared for a bit more mature child. Pyn’s papa is “a bearlike mountain man who did not soften for anyone. Not even Pyn .” One of the things that always intrigues me is the significance of names, especially those names that are supposed to be a secret. The names in this story aren’t secret, but the change and the heart of the story are revealed in their use.

Red Sled, written and illustrated by Lita Judge and published by Atheneum in 2011, is not strictly a Christmas book, but what a neat find under the tree. The only words are sounds like the “Scrinch  schrunch” of footsteps on the snow. It’s a great book for a young child to “read” the illustrations. You’ll enjoy listening to the story. If I can part with my copy, it’s going to my new great-nephew. And, this is important, pay attention to the bear! In weeks to come, I’ll be pointing out ways bears show up in literature. See what you notice. This is a quiz! Leave a comment for your grade.


Have a blessed holiday.

Our tree this week