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1. Carter Finally Gets It Audiobook Review

Title: Carter Finally Gets It Author: Brent Crawford Narrated by: Nick Podehl Publisher: Brilliance Audio Publication Date: April 7, 2009 I listened to this as part of Sync's audio summer promotion (yeah, it took me awhile to get to it). But it was pretty damn funny. Carter is a freshman with ADD and a stutter, especially around girls. He, like just about any other 14 year old, thinks about

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2. An Embarrassing Incident

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If you've stopped by A Nice Place In The Sun lately, and saw a ghost town, I would like to say I'm back to remove the cobwebs, and I thank you for returning; and please beg your pardon, while I write some new posts. This is an old one, who is dedicated to the "old friend" I mention in the first sentence who passed away a few years after reminding me of this incident, and encouraging me to write about it. If it weren't for her this post wouldn't exist, her name was Kathy Babin, and I miss her dearly. I thought of her this morning, so I would like to affectionately dedicate this post to her.    

  An Embarrassing Incident     

Recently, an old friend reminded me of an embarrassing incident that happened to me in high school.

When I was a teenager, my friends and I rode around in the car listening to the radio until the sun glistened upon the mighty Mississippi river. The Mississippi river ran through our hometown, which was in keeping with its teenager’s strong undercurrents and muddy water attitudes. The river road crept along the rivers route, but since the river was obstructed by a levee, we had to drive on top of the levee's narrow road to view the water.

In those days when you drove on the top of the levee, you could see farms with pastures as we sped down the rivers long winding curves, then, if we were lucky, we saw splashes from the tiny fish in the river, or the occasional opportunistic bird.

My friends and I spent time on the ferry that crossed the river night and day. I used to stand on the front of the boat and pretend I was Barbra Streisand singing, On A Clear Day,imitating the character in the movie Funny Girl.

Before the days of videocassettes, CD players, etc, the car radio was the popular form of entertainment, with the exception of going to the movies. Therefore, in addition to the river road, we had other driving locations, one of which was the road that encircled the grounds in front of our State's Capital building.

We lived in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, the State of Louisiana's capital city, therefore the State Capital building, or what we called the “Capital Area," is lined with state government offices. The building has twenty-six stories and the grounds are smothered in oak trees dripping with moss, blooming azalea bushes, and bushes thick with foliage, so at night you cannot see where you're going, it's pitch black in every direction.-Or it was at that time-

Anyway, on one of our State Capital ground nighttime drives, we were listening to my high school sweetheart's eight-track tapes. He was the kid (they have one in every crowd) with the luxuries in our group; you know the one with the car, etc...; and he took advantage of it by bossing the rest of us around who weren't in line to the throne. The king on his throne was also my boyfriend, with who, I laughed, sang, loved, and disagreed with constantly.

On this particular night we were arguing about a song he wouldn't let me hear on one of his eight tracks, when of course, I realized I had to find a bathroom. His eight-tracks were a big thing and listening to them was something I hated to interrupt, but I didn't think I could wait much longer, so I asked him to stop in front of the State Capital lawn. The State Capital grounds would afford me the privacy I needed, since I could hide under the safety of an Oak tree.

When I told my boyfriend and friends I simply had to use a bathroom, their response was;

"Ann, how are we going to find a bathroom downtown in the middle of the night?"

I answered, "I can go under the oak trees in the courtyard, no one will see me, and I’ll be right back." I was so aggravated about the tape that I didn't give much thought about the safest place to hide.

So I squat under the closest tree I could find by the car, and began to pee, then I heard birds chirping in the tree, and thought, what kind of bird chirps at night? Then the chirping sounded louder as if it were getting closer and I thought these birds sure are friendly.

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Then, I heard a piercing chirp above my head, at which time I decided I'd better step up the beat, or rather, my feet, and run as far away from that tree as humanly possible. 

Then, I felt a bird on my head. - Horrified, I tried to knock it off, but the small dinosaur began to rapidly flap its wings, and latch onto me as if I was trespassing upon its nesting place. I tried to run faster, but my pants were down, so I kept falling.

From the car, I could see my boyfriend and friends laughing, but I couldn't understand why... It never occurred to me how I must have appeared running with my pants to my knees, and bats attached to my head. 

I couldn't coordinate my legs so I resembled a penguin running from a predator, I'd make it a few feet, then fall, repeating the same action two or three times, until I finally reached the safety of the car.

Although, I didn't expect my friends or my boyfriend to drive forward a few feet when I reached the car, each laughing in hysterics, while I slapped myself on the top of my head, jumping like a happy monkey with my pants to my knees.

After things calmed down, I told John (my boyfriend) not to feel bad about driving forward the way he did, because I understood he was thinking about their safety. After all, I knew they didn't want the bats to get inside the car, surely I could understand that.

John smiled and said, "Ann, the bats were long gone by the time you reached the car. We just thought it was funny watching you try to catch the car with your pants down, and we were laughing so hard we couldn't tell you at the time, but by the time you reached the car the bats were gone."

"The bats flew away after you ran from under the tree. We could see you waving your hands still trying to knock them off of your head, and I'm sorry honey, we just couldn't stop laughing; because it was the funniest thing any of us had ever witnessed. "

It was the craziest moment I've ever experienced, but I'm glad my friends got a kick out of it. We still laugh about it to this day, and I'm happy to know I have something to do with that. However, I know that hard-headed bat held onto my head all the way to the car, and no one will convince me it didn't, hateful creature.

Thank you for reading. Come back for more posts, I will be working on sweeping the cobwebs off of my blog soon... 

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3. Disney’s ‘Strange Magic’ Has Record-Breaking Bad Debut

The new Disney film "Strange Magic" had one of the worst wide-debuts in Hollywood history.

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4. Kid Quips

Tagging posts is a good thing. I ran across the tag "kid quips" while I was working on another post and I was amused by what I found there.

I have kept up my goal to "catch a fish" every day of the school year in my new little purple journal. I now have 88 short snippets of the year that I can look back on and remember why I do this crazy job and why I love this crazy job.

My entry for last Thursday is a good "kid quip." We are working hard on the science standard about the predictable patterns of movement between the sun and the Earth. Tilt of the axis, direct and indirect rays of sunlight, seasons that are opposite in the Northern and Southern Hemispheres.

A. looked up with those big brown eyes and sighed and said, "It was so much easier when I was younger and there were just the four seasons, back before I even knew the axis existed, let along the tilt and the direct and indirect rays of the sun."

"Yeah," I said. "That's the joy and the sorrow of growing up and learning the science behind what makes the world work -- there's joy in knowing, and there's sorrow in losing that simple view of the world."

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5. Happy 2015!

A bit late, but I hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas and New Year!

I was a very busy bee at the end of 2014 working on a couple of exciting commissions, which I can hopefully share soon. In the meantime, here is a christmas illustration I did for my cousin's baby boy who lives over in New York!

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6. it had to happen: the fork poem

Tine After Tine

tuning fork for matching pitch
long-handled fork to scratch an itch
fork in the road to force a decision
(fork not as good as knife for incision)

garden fork for hard-packed soil
forklift spares your back the toil
bicycle fork suspends your wheels
favorite fork: the one at meals

HM 2015
all rights reserved

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7. Fan Mail Wednesday #201 — Plus a Bonus Drawing!


Before I answer Kallen’s letter, I wanted to share a cool drawing that was sent to me by a boy named Ethan, who lives in Ontario, Canada. Ethan is a fan my “Scary Tales” series, and I believe this is his version of Bloody Mary from the book, HOME SWEET HORROR.

Drawing by Ethan.

Drawing by Ethan.


Isn’t that great. I love the body; very creepy somehow.

Now here’s a letter from Wisconsin:

Scan 8

I replied:

Dear Kallen, 

Thank you so much for your super kind letter. I realize that it took you a lot of time and effort to write to me, and I want you to know that I appreciate it.

I’ve been busy working on new books –- I just finished one that took me nearly four years! — but I am happy to take a few minutes out of my (freezing!) Sunday to respond to your request.

Please find my lousy signature below. I say “lousy” because I have terrible handwriting; I blame it on the fact that I’m a lefty.

A great writer? Did you really say that?

I go back to your letter, reread it, then reread it again. Yes, Kallen really said it: “You are a great writer.”

I think I’ll just float around on white, fluffy clouds for the rest of the day!

Your friend,

James Preller

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8. Book Club Nerd Pack Makes Me Proud!

My Nerd Pack book clubbers' results have come through and I am not surprised, but very proud all the same. Selena, who helped me read CBCA shortlist books and interviewed author Charlie Higson for this site got into Science at Melbourne University. Thando, who interviewed Juliet Marillier for me and was never without a huge pile of reading matter, is now a student at Latrobe University, where she hopefully will not have to leave home at 6.30 am. Both these girls have Western Chances scholarships, by the way. And deservedly.

Ryan got into an Engineering course at RMIT, Dylan will be studying Science at Deakin.

 My dragon lover, Kristen, who made me a beautiful book trailer for Wolfborn, got what I know she has long dreamed of doing, an advanced baking course at William Angliss, Melbourne's top tertiary institution for hospitality studies. I know Kristen has always wanted to become a baker and she told me on the night of the Year 12 formal that William Angliss was her first choice. Now, THIS is a girl who will have to get up early for her chosen career! I'm sure she is fine with that, even if it means having to get a car and not being able to read on the way to work.

Please, guys, keep reading for pleasure! I am so proud of you all.  

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9. Father Fox's Pennyrhymes

Father Fox's Pennyrhymes
Clyde Watson ~ Wendy Watson ~ Scholastic, 1971

The beloved nursery rhyme classic written and illustrated by two sisters from Vermont about the stories a father fox tells his brood of 15 kits. We've always loved this book in our house because of how each rhyme is accompanied by an illustration that fully and precisely tells the tale, often starring one or many of the fox children. A small and busy feast for the eyes.

Mister Lister sassed his sister
Married his wife 'cause he couldn't resist her,
Three plus four times two he kissed her:
How many times is that, dear sister.

Belly & Tubs went out in a boat,
Tubs wore knickers & Belly a coat,
They got in a quarrel & started to shout
And the boat tipped over & they tumbled out.

Ride your red horse down Vinegar Lane,
Gallop, oh Gallop, oh gallop again!
Thistles & foxholes & fences beware:
I've seventeen children and none can I spare.

Thomas Thomas Tinkertoes
Upside down & away he goes!
He's off to call upon the Queen
In blue & crimson velveteen.


Read along on FacebooktumblrTwitterEtsy and Graphic Novels My Kid Loves.

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10. Stockpiling Books... Yes, I'm Guilty! by Savita Kalhan

Wycombe Library 1970

Ever since I was very young, I’ve loved books with a passion, though back then I couldn’t afford to buy them. Luckily there was a brilliant library that fed my needs (I’ve blogged about my wonderful library, Wycombe Library, here My Library and Me ).

The Cottage Bookshop in Penn

Later, when I was doing my A levels, I discovered the most amazing second hand bookshop in Penn, The Cottage Bookshop, (which I’ve blogged about here The Cottage Bookshop ) and bought my first books. I found a very old hardback copy of Our Mutual Friend in there once. I suspect the fact that it was the first proper book I owned had something to do with why I loved studying it for A Level English.

I returned many times to that bookshop and to the library, until the day finally arrived when I could actually afford to buy full priced books. Then I went to live in the Middle East and had to take a ton of books with me as there was only one bookshop in the city where I lived, and it sold a ridiculously limited number of books.

So began the stockpiling.

My work room - in the summer!
It’s continued over the years. I had to buy new bookcases every year until they lined most of the walls downstairs, and then the walls upstairs. A friend once joked that she was sure the bookcases were propping up the house. That’s an indication of how bad the stockpiling had become.

My book alley
In 2013 we had major work done on the house. In the planning of the loft conversion, I cut the proposed bathroom in half and created a book alley. I designed the book shelves so that the available space would take as many books as possible, and, fortunately, they can take a lot! There are still lots of bookcases with lots of books dotted around the house, and my new work room at the bottom of the garden houses all the children’s books, teen/YA books, and research books.

So the stockpiling never stopped.

Kindle and ebooks helped a little bit, but not that much. Like many people I still like to have real books in my house. I got out of the habit of using the library when I was living abroad, but I do use it a lot now, so that helps as at least those books don’t need permanent shelf space in my house.

The problem is that I love buying books – even though I know I don’t have the time to read as many as I buy (which probably makes me a hoarder!). When I was on Twitter the other day, a book blogger tweeted about her plan to read 20 books and 20 ebooks before allowing herself to buy any more books. So that’s what I’m going to do. Yes, I do have that many that I haven’t read yet...

My #TBR20
Here’s the hashtag if you’re interested, and if you like, you can post a picture of your 20 books #TBR20. I won’t be putting a time limit on when I should read my twenty books by, although one of the bloggers doing the #TBR20 is planning to have them all read by Easter! The fact that I’ve banned myself from any book purchases until these are read will be enough of an incentive, if I need one.

There is one place you are allowed to go where you can read other books without having to buy them, where stockpiling books is their business, and if they don’t happen to have a copy of the book you want they even order it in for you. My library is my saviour and I have to admit that I’m there once a week, returning books and borrowing more books. So my #TBR20 may take a while to get through at this rate, but at least it’s curbing my stockpiling, if only temporarily.

I can’t be the only stockpiler out there, can I??


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11. Motherhood Comes in All Shapes and Sizes

I love, love, LOVE this video. I’ve always had a problem with sanctimonious mothers who think THEIR way is the BEST way to raise a child.

I couldn’t disagree more.

I bottle fed my children and I’m not ashamed to admit that. I used to be ashamed to admit it because whenever I would mention it on this blog, or anywhere else, quite frankly, I would get the disapproving stink eye or a snarky comment. And then I would inevitably feel inadequate and guilty.

Not anymore, dude. I’m not even going to justify my decision – I did what I thought was best for my children and my sanity.

It always annoys me whenever people feel the need to justify their decisions. I’m sure you did what you thought best. End of discussion.

And that’s where I stand on motherhood issues.

Whether you bottle fed, breast fed, stayed at home, worked out of the home, used cloth diapers or disposable diapers – in the end, it’s really none of my business. As long as you’re doing what’s best for the child and your family, it really doesn’t matter. The ultimate goal is to raise our children to be responsible, educated, compassionate human beings; how you reach that goal is up to you. There is no “one size fits all” answer, no matter what you hear politicians, the media, or even other mothers try to convince us otherwise.

You do what’s best for you and your family and don’t you dare feel guilty about your decisions or feel like you have to justify your decisions.

Ultimately – it’s none of our business how you live your life.

Filed under: Life

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12. 4 Tujuan Wisata Pantai di Bali yang Terkenal

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Setiap kita mendengar kata “Pulau Bali”, maka yang tersirat tentu saja keindahan pantai, budaya, dan tariannya. Tahukah anda bahwa di Bali terdapat banyak sekali pantai, yang bahkan mencapai ratusan pantai?

Walau demikian tidak semua pantai-pantai tersebut terkenal, walaupun sebenarnya pantai-pantai yang tidak terkenal tersebut memiliki keindahan dan keunikan tersendiri, bahkan bisa dikatakan jauh lebih indah dari yang sudah dikenal oleh masyarakat luas.
Nah, bagi anda yang belum pernah berkunjung ke Pulau Bali terutama belum pernah berwisata ke pantai-pantai pulau Bali, berikut adalah beberapa pantai yang cukup terkenal dan bisa anda masukkan ke dalam list tujuan wisata anda berikutnya :
1.       Pantai Kuta
Tidak sulit untuk menempatkan Pantai Kuta di list pertama “Tujuan Wisata Pantai di Bali yang Terkenal”, karena Pantai Kuta adalah ikon wisata pulau Bali.
Keindahan pantai ini sudah tidak diragukan lagi. Selain itu, letaknya yang tidak terlalu jauh dari pusat kota Denpasar, merupakan nilai plus yang dimiliki oleh Pantai Kuta. Di sepanjang jalan menuju pantai kuta terdapat berbagai pusat perbelanjaan serta hotel yang tertata rapi dan akan memanjakan anda dengan menyediakan segala sesuatu yang anda butuhkan.
Hard rock café, dan beberapa hotel, bar, pusat hiburan ada ditempat ini. Pantai kuta memiliki ombak yang tidak terlalu besar dan pantai yang cukup landai. Tidak hanya itu, pantainya sangat bersih dan terawat sehingga banyak digunakan oleh turis maupun pelancong dari dalam negeri untuk bersantai dan menikmati suasana mulai dari pagi hingga malam hari ini.
2.       Pantai Sanur
Tempat yang kedua adalah Pantai Sanur, yang merupakan salah satu pantai terkenal di Bali. Pantai ini terletak di sebelah timur kota Denpasar Bali. Jika anda ingin ke pantai ini, anda hanya membutuhkan waktu sekitar 10 hingga 15 menit dari pusat kota. Pantai ini terkenal sebagai salah satu pantai yang menawarkan keindahan sunriseatau matahari terbit, karena terletak di sebelah timur.
Di pantai ini bisa anda temukan banyak pepohonan rindang yang bisa dimanfaatkan untuk berteduh. Terdapat juga beberapa bale-bale atau rumah singgah yang bisa anda manfaatkan untuk berselonjor sambil menikmati suasana pantai.
3.       Pantai Dreamland
Pantai ini terletak di daerah pecatu dan merupakan salah satu pantai yang memiliki warna dan keunikan tersendiri. Pantai ini dikelilingi oleh tebing-tebing yang menjulang tinggi. Untuk turun ke pantai ini anda harus melewati tangga batu karang yang sangat unik. Anda akan menemukan rumah-rumah dan penginapan yang berdiri di atas batu karang sepanjang perjalanan menuju ke pantai. Dreamland memiliki pantai yang tidak terlalu luas akan tetapi sangat indah sehingga terkesan seperti pantai privat.
Debur ombak yang menghantam batu karang serta suara burung camar yang bersahut-sahutan merupakan pemandangan yang jamak anda temukan di Pantai dreamland.
4.       Pantai Lovina
Pantai yang berasal dari bahasa asing ini memiliki keindahan dan keunikan tersendiri, dimana pantainya memiliki pasir berwarna hitam dan alami. Di pantai ini biasanya pengunjung sering menjumpai lumba-lumba. Ada banyak lumba-lumba yang sering muncul dan bisa disaksikan oleh para wisatawan setiap hari di tempat ini. Waktu yang tepat untuk mengunjungi tempat ini adalah pada 06.00 hingga 08:00 pagi.
Di kawasan ini sudah banyak terdapat akomodasi seperti hotel dan warung makan atau restoran sehingga anda tidak perlu khawatir dengan berbagai hal. Selain itu, nilai plus yang bisa anda dapatkan dari berkunjung ke pantai lovina adalah Hutan Lindung Bedugul yang letaknya tidak terlalu jauh dari tempat ini. Di sana anda bisa menyaksikan pemandangan alam yang luar biasa indah dengan suasana dingin khas pegunungan.

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13. Three Questions for Children's Book Author, Samantha Berger: SNOOZEFEST, advice for young writers and mystery fruit

I love children's book author Samantha Berger's enthusiasm and creativity. Have you seen her #ePUNymousPortraitSeries? In addition to writing wonderful picture books like CRANKENSTEIN (illustrated by Dan Santat) and A CRANKENSTEIN VALENTINE (sequel). Samantha has written cartoons and promos for Nickelodeon, comic books and commercials, movie trailers, theme songs, poetry, magazine articles. Not only that, but she's also a voiceover artist!

Samantha's newest picture book is SNOOZEFEST, a hilarious and endearing bedtime story written by Samantha and illustrated by Kristyna Litten, just out from Dial Books For Young Readers. It's perfect for anyone who loves sloths, music festivals and/or the joy of SLEEPING. If you're on FB, check out her hilarious #Snoozefest Countdown pics.

You can find Samantha at her website, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Q: Could you please take a photo of a random object in her office and tell us about it?

 Yes indeed I can. I took a picture of this lovely grapefruit, that grew right in the back yard! I am working in a California office for a few weeks, and the owner of the house where I'm staying gave it to me. The idea of fruit growing on trees has always been MAAAAGICAL to me, and I may have missed my calling as a migrant worker. And I really want to eat this one, but I have one reservation.

The yard where it grew contains five dogs, using that tree as a bathroom. This grapefruit reminds me to ask the important question: Am I such a germ phobe I won't eat this grapefruit? Or is that grapefruit some kind of dog poo/citrus hybrid. A "pisstrus" fruit, if you will. Stay tuned.

Q: What advice do you have for young writers?

*I would say, if you wanna write, WRITE. WRITE ALL THE TIME, EVERY DAY. WRITE like a passionate discipline, like something you HAVE to do. No excuses. Write.

*Blather, blurt, and blab. Just keep writing. Do not write and edit at the same time. Write, write, write, then go back and read/edit, at a completely different time.

*Make your decisions, all of them, for a REASON. Make no choices arbitrarily. From dedication to author photo, every choice must be made with intent. That is what separates great writing from mediocre. Be prepared to defend every single word.

*Find your best way (pantomime wall building, pretending to erase, meditation) to block out any negators and nay-sayers. There will always be critics, opinions you don't agree with, and close minded haters. Don't engage, always ignore, keep being you, move on.

*Always find time to PLAY and HAVE FUN when you write. Pretend you're not writing for an audience, a paycheck, a critic, a career, a review, an award, an assignment, or whatever, just WRITING FOR THE SAKE OF WRITING, and go create. For the joy of it!

*Own your truth, speak your truth, and become brave enough to write about the things that terrify you the most to talk about.

*Don't dumb down words or ideas. Respect language. It's incredible.

*All writers, whether it's your first manuscript ever, or you're Judy "Prolifika" Blume, go through a perpetual pendulum swing, between excitedly exclaiming I CAN'T BELIEVE THIS CAME OUT OF MY BRAIN and a depressed disappointed "i can't believe this came out of my brain." There are days where we all feel like untalented hacks. All of us. And it's really important to remember this. If you didn't, you probably wouldn't be a writer. So cut yourself a break, go do something that makes you happy, such as a hot tub, a hot sake, or hot stones.

Photo credit: Leo MoretonQ: What are you excited about these days?

I'm excited for these spectacular Pacific Ocean sunsets every single night! I'm excited to read Kay Yeh's book THE TRUTH ABOUT TWINKIE PIE! I'm excited to be writing on two new preschool animated originals. I'm excited for karaoke, wigs and sunglasses, glitter-toes, oysters, using the word "smidge" more, and sea-frolicking with my dog Polly Pocket.

I'm excited my book Snoozefest came out this week, and that it has an anthem performed by Chubb Rock, and for the Pajama Party Snoozefest Boozefest I intend on throwing to celebrate. I'm excited about a new 2 book co-author deal with the amazing Martha Brockenbrough and the legendary Arthur Levine. I'm excited to see/conference with/laugh with/write with/ and dance with all my beloved book people and SCBWI-ers again, and for all the incredible books everyone has coming out right now (including YOU, Debbie! Cannot wait for WHERE ARE MY BOOKS!).

Thanks so much for asking me these questions 3 on inkygirl.

Book birthday doodle I did in celebration of the Snoozefest launch


For more interviews, see my Inkygirl Interview Archive.

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14. This Doesn't Sound Good

Last Friday I was concerned that I wouldn't get much done this next week because of various appointments. As recently as this morning I was planning what I would concentrate on with the work time I did find myself with.

Ah, those were the good old hours.

I live in that part of the country that's expecting the snow devil to descend upon us sometime tomorrow. I've got an elderly family member moving in with us tomorrow and expect her to stay until at least Wednesday, depending on what happens with power. She'll be bringing a cat. At the very least, I'll be shoveling snow. At the worst, I'll be dealing with preparing food without power, keeping the woodstove fed, working out where we'll sleep, bringing in firewood, and shoveling snow.

If this blows out of the state by Thursday? I have appointments on Thursday and Friday.

My storm prep tomorrow morning should include some work-in-the-storm prep. We'll see how I do with that.

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15. Picture Book Structure

Having an idea for your picture book is just the beginning.


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16. The Equality Standard (newsletter link)

50/50 Leadership: Promoting Women's Equal Leadership.  Here's their newsletter: The Equality Standard: http://5050leadership.com/PDFnewsletters/January%202015.pdf

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17. the characters of fall

From bound manuscripts to the National Book Award dinner, from home to far away, from family to friends to strangers to new friends, from schools to conferences, from high to low, from hard work to a few lazy days...

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18. 2015 Mock Newbery discussions at Emerson, part 4: Magic in the Mix + Nest + The Night Gardener

getting ready for book club -- each week, I took notes
What draws us into great stories? Is it the chance to see a glimpse of ourselves in other people? Is it getting lost in another world, so far from our own? Or maybe it's getting swept away by an exciting plot, full of suspense and danger. As we met each week, I loved listening to my students recommending books to one another each week during our book club lunches, hearing what they loved and what captured their interest.
Magic in the Mix
by Annie Barrows
Bloomsbury, 2014
Your local library
ages 8-12
Many kids are drawn to stories with characters that inspire them because of their courage and bravery. Molly and Miri return from The Magic Half, but they are the only ones in their family who know that they haven't always been twin sisters. Molly and Miri's brothers always annoy them, but when the brothers stumble through the time portal that Molly and Miri have opened, the twin sisters know that it's up to them to rescue their brothers.

Our 4th and 5th graders all commented about how much they could imagine these characters, how the story pulled them through, and how they liked the mix of time-travel fantasy and historical fiction.
"I liked learning a little bit about the Civil War, but not too much."
"I could really see Molly and Miri and how brave they were helping their brothers."
"When they were scared, walking through the forest, I could feel like I was right there."
In the end, Magic in the Mix was read and enjoyed by many students (our two copies have circulated 25 times already!), but it didn't rise to the top of many final voting lists.
by Esther Ehrlich
Wendy Lamb / Random House, 2014
Your local library
ages 10-14
Eleven-year-old Naomi "Chirp" Orenstein is devoted to her mother, but life starts to fall apart when Chirp's mother is hospitalized for depression. When I first read Nest, I wasn't sure if it was right for an elementary school library, but several of my early readers were adamant that it was an amazing book that should be in our library. Angel and Corina wrote in their nomination,
"It's not a happily ever book, but it shows how much a girl and her family care and love each other after various tragedies.They may not end up with a perfect life but I found it was even better that way."
Nest is suited for students who like heartfelt stories that linger with you. Some students who like realistic fiction could tell that it was too sad, and stopped reading. Speaking with middle school librarians, it's finding a wider audience there. This is definitely a story that makes readers think long after they've turned the last page. What I loved about my students' reactions is how much they related to Chirp's inner strength as she copes with her mother's illness.
The Night Gardener
by Jonathan Auxier
Amulet / Abrams, 2014
my full review
Your local library
ages 10-14
Students who read The Night Gardener held it up as an example for masterful plot, setting and character development. "I could see how the tree was built right into the house," said Amelie. "I really imagine the house, seeing how it was old now, but also how it used to be." The setting was integral to creating the frightening tone for the story, especially the suspense that kept students reading. Kaiyah specifically mentioned that she felt right in the forest when Molly and Kip were in their wagon heading toward the Windsor's estate.
friends discussing books for Emerson's Mock Newbery
It's interesting -- I think both The Night Gardener and Nest might be seen as "more appropriate" for middle school students, but are ones that my students advocated strongly for including in our library. They are both emotionally intense stories, but I've found that students will stop reading them if they aren't ready for them. Both have depths in their treatment of different themes that I would love to talk more about with small groups, and both would stand up well to rereading. I was very happy to see both of these excellent books part of our discussion.

The review copies came from my home collection and our library collection. Early review copies were also kindly sent by the publishers, Abrams and Bloomsbury. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books. Thank you for your support.

©2015 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

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19. Some New-ish Picture Books I Love Including A New Dr. Seuss: Horton and the Kwuggerbug and More Lost Stories; The Worst Princess; Drop It, Rocket!; and Mr. Wuffles!

Horton and the Kwuggerbug and more Lost Stories
Written and Illustrated by Dr. Seuss aka Ted Geisel
Published by: Random House Books For Young Readers
Published: Sept 9, 2014
ISBN-13: 978-0385382984
Ages: 4-8 (and up)
Source: Book obtained from publisher in exchange for an honest review.
My rating: 5/5

It’s incredible to me that we can read new Dr. Seuss stories after Ted Geisel died, but these Dr. Seus stories were “lost.” They’re treasure I’m glad was rediscovered: A new Horton the Elephant story, a fanciful story about Marco (from And To Think I Saw It On Mulberry Street) who arrives to school late and tells the tale about why; a police officer who saves the town; and a short grinch story featuring a different grinch than the one who stole Christmas. These stories have the same wonderful rollicking, almost perfect rhythm that Dr. Seuss is known for; twists and plot surprises that keep the reader interest; conflict that keeps us riveted; characters we care about, empathize with, and root for; and humor. I loved the satisfying ending, especially, in Horton and the Kwuggerbug where a mean-spirited character gets his just desserts; this was my favorite story in the book. I also love that the stories include fanciful made-up words and great imagination that fit his stories perfectly.

Dr. Seuss’ beautiful, strange, evocative, and trademark illustrations fit the stories perfectly, with crazy cliffs and strange-looking trees, emotionally expressive characters, and bright colors. They’re Dr. Seuss’ strong illustrative style that generations of readers have loved and been entranced with, and generations will continue to love.

The stories all have a strong emotional appeal, with conflict and psychological tension. These are pure Dr. Seuss, and they’re a delight. When I finished reading, I had Dr. Seuss’ rhythms and some of the rhymes running through my head–which shows how catchy they are; I think is a sign of greatness. I loved these “new” stories, and I think children and Dr Seuss fans will love them, too.

My only criticism is that Horton and the Kwuggerbug probably should have been published on its own; the other stories aren’t as polished or as captivating. For instance, How Officer Pat Saved the Whole Town is all about what might happen, not what is happening, so it’s not as dramatic or intense or fun, though it’s still enjoyable.

Also included is a long, detailed introduction by Charles D Cohen–an expert on Dr Seuss stories. It provides some fascinating detail for readers who love Dr. Seuss.

Highly recommended.

The Worst Princess
Written by Anna Kemp
Illustrated by Sara Ogilvie
Published by Random House Children’s Books
Ages: 3-7 (and up)
Source: Obtained from the publisher for an honest review.
My rating: 5/5

This is a refreshing tale about a princess who thinks she needs to be saved from her tower–until she realizes that getting “saved” just locks her up in a different tower. The princess makes friends with a dragon, and together they travel the world. In the end, the princess saves herself.

I love books that show girls being strong, not ruled by sexism, who are able to save themselves–especially when the books are written well, without being preachy or didactic. This book is a delight on all levels–the content, the way the story is written, and the illustrations.

Kemp’s rhyming text flows smoothly; there is rarely a rhyme that feels even slightly forced. The story is lively and entertaining, and the dialogue helps it move quickly. Humor permeates the story, from the names the princess and prince call each other (twit, turtledove), to the insults given (the prince telling her to twirl her pretty curls), to the dragon setting the prince’s shorts on fire. I love the princess making tea for the dragon, and the way they become friends who defend each other and travel the world together. Princess Sue is a strong role model that breaks out of the sexism she was trapped in.

Ogilvie’s illustrations are vivid and alive, quirky and expressive, and a delight to pore through, with a lot of detail to enjoy. The characters and the objects they interacting with have strong outlines which bring them into the forefront and focus, while backgrounds are more muted and blurry. I love the bold, bright colors. Princess Sue’s bright orange hair is echoed in the dragon’s bright orange-red scales, which visually and emotionally tie the two together even more. And the prince does look like the pompous twit he acts like, with his thin curly mustache, foppish hair, long narrow nose, and stuck up expression.

This is an important–and fun!–book for both girls and boys. None of us need be constrained by the gender rules for behavior that society sets for us. Girls can think for themselves, protect themselves and others, travel the world, and be outspoken. Boys can stay at home, cook, take care of children, or follow their dreams, whatever they might be. Though the book doesn’t show boys escaping their forced gender roles, it will make children (and adults) think, and it challenges sexism in a humorous way. We need more books like this.

If you love strong-girl characters, you have *got* to get yourself–or the kids in your life–a copy of this book! I think it’ll become a classic, like Princess Smartypants
and The Paper Bag Princess. This, for me, became an instant favorite.

Highly recommended! If I could give it a higher rating, I would. This is a keeper, and one to give away as gifts, too.

Drop It, Rocket! (Step Into Reading, Step 1)
Written and illustrated by: Tad Hills
Published By: Random House Books for Young Readers
Published: July 8, 2014
ISBN-13: 978-0385372541
Ages: 6-9
Source: Obtained from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. (As you may be able to tell, I only review books I love.)
My rating: 5/5

Rocket loves to find new words. He brings the little yellow bird many objects so they can make words from them. But when he finds a red boot he refuses to put it back down or trade it for anything–except for a book which the friends then pore over.

Hill’s sentences and words are short and easy for young readers to read, so that should bring a feeling of success, and yet they keep reader interest by telling a great story. The story moves quickly with a lot of dialogue, and there’s some great humor (with a set up of Rocket dropping every object he’s asked to, until he gets to the boot) and conflict. I love the focus on words and reading. It’s very feel-good and fills me with delight.

Hill’s illustrations are sweet, light hearted, and expressive, with great emotion, facial expressions, and body language. The illustrations perfectly compliment and enhance the text. I love how they work together so that the illustrations show things that the text doesn’t, such as how all the objects Rocket brought back are printed out as words. The great amount of white space around each illustration helps to add to the light, airy feeling of the illustrations.

If you love books about books or words, you’ll want to pick this one up! Highly recommended.

Mr. Wuffles!
Written and illustrated by: David Wiesner
Published by: Clarion Books
Published: October 1, 2013
ISBN-13: 978-0618756612
Ages: 4-8
Source: I purchased the book myself.
My rating: 5/5

I love David Wiesner’s books; he’s created some of my very favorites, especially Tuesday and Flotsam–so I look forward to each new release, and Mr. Wuffles! didn’t disappoint. Mr. Wuffles! is a Caldecott Medal Honor Winning title, and it deserves to be.

Mr. Wuffles doesn’t play with any of the toys his human buys for him. But when a tiny alien spaceship–the size and almost the look of a golf ball with protrusions–lands in Mr. Wuffles’ house, Mr. Wuffles goes crazy playing with it. The tiny aliens inside get headaches and feel sick from being tossed around, so when they think Mr. Wuffles is asleep they sneak out. Mr. Wuffles is about to attack them when a ladybug distracts him, and the aliens flee to safety–into the walls of the house, where they are greeted by ants and ladybugs who’ve all been chased by the cat (as evidenced by the paintings on the wall). The aliens and the bugs–who look similar in shape–become allies and friends, sharing food and ideas, and coming up with a plan for escape, while Mr. Wuffles watches them under the radiator. The aliens and bugs distract the cat until they get their spaceship working and fly away, out the window, while the triumphant bugs don some of the alien attire and add to their paintings on the inner walls of the house.

There are only a few short lines of text in the story; most of the story is told through the illustrations. But the sparse text works to emphasize certain details in the book, and bring the story full circle. In the first two panels, Mr. Wuffles’ human says “Look, Mr. Wuffles, a new toy!” and when the cat walks away, says “Oh, Mr. Wuffles,” which makes the reader notice all the toys Mr. Wuffles never plays with. Three quarters of the way through the book, we see Mr. Wuffles’ human asking him what is so interesting–while he stares determinedly under the radiator, where the aliens and bugs are–to Mr. Wuffles, they seem like living or animated toys. And then in some of the last panels, Mr. Wuffles’ human brings hima new toy–a rocket–while saying “Hey, Mr. Wuffles–blast off!” and then when Mr. Wuffles walks away, saying “Oh, Mr. Wuffles.” So we see again Mr. Wuffles snubbing toys for living creatures–bugs and aliens. And there’s also some humor with the rocket symbolizing outer space and exploration of the universe and other intelligent life–while real aliens have already visited Mr. Wuffles’ home. The text works well, emphasizing key story points.

The illustrations are what make the book. SO much is told through the beautiful, colorful illustrations–through body language, through action. The story is well paced and also holds a lot of humor, with a funny explanation for why some pets may prefer chasing after bugs and living creatures than playing with their toys, and humor that animals, insects, and aliens may be more intelligent than us or notice things that we don’t.

The illustrations are painted in various sizes of panels, almost like a comic book, some taking up a full spread, some half a page, some a quarter or a fifth or less, the action moving beautifully from one panel to the next. The viewpoint also changes, moving us from seeing Mr. Wuffles and what he’s doing, to seeing the aliens and bugs and what they’re doing. The bright, rich colors, realism, and strong storytelling bring the story alive. There is so much to see on every page–details readers will love to find–and fantastic expression and body language.

Anyone who’s owned a cat will also recognize the body language and behaviors of a cat–chasing after a fly, leaping up in surprise, swatting at moving objects, getting overwhelmed at too much stimuli, a swishing tail when wanting to pounce or annoyed at something–and refusing to play with some expensive toys while loving chasing after anything from nature.

This is a funny, light-hearted fantasy romp, especially for children with imagination and cat lovers. There’s also a bit of a fun surprise for readers who buy the hardcover; take off the paper jacket, and instead of the cover you see outer space. :) Highly recommended.

If you can, I hope you buy pick these books up at your local bookstore or library. They are well worth it, and will bring many enjoyable reads. I know I’ll be buying copies for gifts–they’re that good.

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20. Audio Teaching: The Christian’s Hope: Part One

I hope you’ll take time to listen to these audio teachings, if not here, then perhaps you’ll consider downloading them and taking them with you?


What the Bible really says about Death, Judgment, Rewards, Heaven, and the Future Life on a Restored Earth. God originally planned for mankind to live on earth, and His plan, though postponed by sin, will not be thwarted – it will come to pass in the future when a new earth is created. The Christian’s Hope shows from Scripture that each Christian will be rewarded in the coming world in direct proportion to the quality of how he lives for God in this world.

Click the arrow to listen to the Acknowledgements/Prayer/Introduction.

Click the arrow to listen to Our Valuable Anchor.

Read along here.

A Biblical Look at “Hope”

In order to properly understand the Christian’s hope, it is important to examine the exact meaning of the word “hope.” “Hope” means “a desire for, or an expectation of, good, especially when there is some confidence of fulfillment.” It is used that way both in common English and in the Bible. However, the Bible often uses the word “hope” in another way—to refer to the special expectation of good that God has in store for each Christian in the future. This includes the “Rapture,” receiving a new, glorified body, and living forever in Paradise. Today, the ordinary use of “hope” allows for the possibility that what is hoped for will not come to pass. However, when the Bible uses the word “hope” to refer to things that God has promised, the meaning of “hope” shifts from that which has a reasonable chance of coming to pass to that which will absolutely come to pass. To be a useful anchor, hope must hold fast.


Filed under: Abundant Life

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21. Sub It Club Interview with Roberta Baird

sic-badge-square1Sub It Club is a blog/community that supports writers and illustrators to get their work “out there”. Whether you create illustrations or are a writer of kidlit, adult novels, non-fiction, screenplays, or poetry, Sub It Club provides the knowledge and inspiration to keep going strong.

In my interview, I get to talk a little about the process of creating a promotional postcard. If you’re interested, here’s the link!  https://subitclub.wordpress.com/2015/01/19/the-postcard-post-roberta-baird/

post card

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22. IF: Passion

As kids my friend and I had a passion for catching turtles…
Combined with a lasting fixation (passion) for sumo style ink painting - and adding to that SAV5 vector paints…
We would see the turtle head peeking up. You could tell how big the turtle was from the head and shadow of its body - sometimes.

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23. Printmaking & a New College Blog

We've been learning printmaking at college ... and have, so far, worked on planographic, relief and intaglio prints. As part of my professional practise course, I've also started a blog to record my creative journey - it's brand spankin' new, so if you'd like to take a peek, click here.

Meanwhile, here's one of the prints from my first class:




Yes yes yes, I'm loving it. How could I not be, I'm learning so many new, colourful creative things. Just ask me (again?) if I regret my decision to return to college. Go on, ask me ...

Have a fabulous week everyone. Cheers.


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24. Not so Bookish

This has not been the bookish weekend I had hoped it would be. Well, there was some bookishness yesterday but it wasn’t the fun relaxing kind. I had to finish up reading a nonfiction book of comparative literature for a Library Journal review that is due by tomorrow. The book is called An Ecology of World Literature From Antiquity to the Present Day by Alexander Beecroft. It’s an interesting way to compare literatures but is entirely aimed at an academic audience so wasn’t exactly easy-going fun. Finishing it took far longer than I expected and left little time for more pleasurable reading. Then of course today I had to take the time to write the review. I only get 200 words, which is not so very easy to stick to when assessing an academic book. But I managed with about five words to spare. We’ll see what my editor thinks.

After yesterday was a wash on my own personal reading I thought I could indulge today but that didn’t happen either. The morning was given over to chores of various kinds and the afternoon got eaten up with switching to a new phone and mobile carrier. Bookman and I discovered recently that our mobile carrier was charging us for phone and unlimited texting as much as AT&T would charge us for iPhones with a small data plan. So we switched. I finally have a “smart” phone. Since I have an iPad and a Macbook they all sync up which is kind of convenient. Of course the switching has not gone as smoothly as it was supposed to. Getting our phone numbers switched over to the new phones from the old carrier is still a work in progress and we’ve been promised it will be completed within the hour. Fingers crossed. And of course I’ve had to transfer phone numbers from my old phone to the new and choose ringtones and set up my morning alarm clock and all the other stuff that an iPhone requires one to set up. But it will all be good, right? I won’t regret finally giving in and getting rid of my not-smart phone? That question mark tells you I am not entirely certain on the matter.

My ban on placing hold requests at the library is going pretty well. I have been really good at resisting, though it has not been without pangs from time to time. I did borrow a few cookbooks, however. Since these are not books one sits down to read for hours over the course of a few weeks, I decided it was allowed. They are all vegan cookbooks I have never heard of before. Of course I started with the dessert, Lickin’ the Beaters: low fat vegan desserts and Lickin’ the Beaters 2: vegan chocolate and candy. Recipes for chocolate donut holes and gingerbread chocolate cookies just seemed so much nicer to swoon over this weekend than recipes from North Africa and India. I’ll drool over those next weekend.

I’ve had so many book finishes lately I now find myself in the middle of a good many books and nowhere near the end of any of them. I am enjoying each one and don’t have that “I’m not getting anywhere” feeling I often get when I find myself in this kind of situation. The only thing this time around I’m having trouble with is coming up with post topics since I have nothing to review. I’ve managed so far but I don’t yet know what the week ahead holds. We’ll see. If posting is spotty you’ll know why!

On a side note, all those seeds I ordered last weekend got delivered on Friday. I didn’t even open the packages because well, snow-covered garden. It would just be too depressing to have to look at those colorful seed packets.

Enough pointless rambling for one day. Our phone numbers still haven’t transferred, there’s another what the heck is the problem phone call to be made.

Filed under: Books, Cookbooks, Personal

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25. I Have Been Writing for a Living for Nine Years: This Means I am Old and Lucky

In my quest to blog, and my inability to think of anything to blog about, I've been randomly looking at old blog entries. And I realized that it was at the end of January in 2006, halfway through my MFA program at Vermont College of Fine Arts, that I sold my first book, Tips on Having a Gay (ex) Boyfriend, which the awesome editor Andrew Karre took off the slush pile and made a million times better.

Anyway, this is weird.

It's weird because it:

1. Seems like two years ago and not ALMOST A DECADE!
2. Has made me realize that if I've been doing this for ALMOST A DECADE, I should not feel so bizarre when I write down AUTHOR as my profession when applying for a credit card or mortgage or something.
3. Made me realize that by now I should be better at copyediting my own blog posts and status updates and tweets and not have so many typos.

Also, it is weird because I was kind of calm about it when it happened. Here is the evidence in the form of the original blog post.

So, despite the fact tha)t I can't spell, the nice editor man called me back yesterday and talked to me for 40 minutes and told me all the good stuff about my book and what he thinks could get better. It was like talking to a Vermont College mentor. It was really cool. He was brilliant and really, really nice. And he's starting the book through the acquisitions process at his imprint, which is really cool...

But, I'm not getting my hopes up about it, until papers are signed.

Still, he had the best insight on the piece and I am so excited about working on it. So, that's what I'm going to do. I'm going to go work on it. He only wants another 10,000 words. Geesh. Piece of cake.

I currently have six more books under contract. Now. In 2015. I am super excited about them. Three are middle grade with Bloomsbury. Three are young adult with Tor. And the thing is? It doesn't feel like nearly enough. When I was at Vermont, my advisors would laugh at me because I was:

1. Goofy and they liked goofy
2. Way too productive
3. Liked revision soooo much
4. Capable of telling a joke

But the thing is, I am so lucky. I might feel like six books under contract aren't nearly enough (my poor agent), but I will never forget how lucky and happy I am that I get to write AUTHOR on all those business forms. If you're a pre-published author, I can't wait for the day when you get to do that, too. Remember to post about it so you can look back nine years later and be all, "Whoa.... Did that happen? Wow."

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