What is JacketFlap

  • JacketFlap connects you to the work of more than 200,000 authors, illustrators, publishers and other creators of books for Children and Young Adults. The site is updated daily with information about every book, author, illustrator, and publisher in the children's / young adult book industry. Members include published authors and illustrators, librarians, agents, editors, publicists, booksellers, publishers and fans.
    Join now (it's free).

Sort Blog Posts

Sort Posts by:

  • in

Suggest a Blog

Enter a Blog's Feed URL below and click Submit:

Most Commented Posts

In the past 7 days

Recent Comments

MyJacketFlap Blogs

  • Login or Register for free to create your own customized page of blog posts from your favorite blogs. You can also add blogs by clicking the "Add to MyJacketFlap" links next to the blog name in each post.

Blog Posts by Tag

In the past 30 days

Blog Posts by Date

Click days in this calendar to see posts by day or month
new posts in all blogs
Viewing Blog: SACRED DIRT, Most Recent at Top
Results 1 - 25 of 125
Visit This Blog | Login to Add to MyJacketFlap
Blog Banner
A writer and illustrator tries to find joy in the daily grit, connect with other writers, read books, manage four children and find out where she's put the phone today.
Statistics for SACRED DIRT

Number of Readers that added this blog to their MyJacketFlap: 14
1. Making Mock Caldecotts

Our Mock Caldecott project is in full swing.
 Oh, the yummy books!

So far, we've discussed the Caldecott award,
the workings of a Caldecott committee,
and what to look for in our very own sessions.
Children's librarian Martha Ashenfelter and I created ballots with four voting categories.
I thought it might be fun to share how we're teaching our committee to vote.

1. Excellence

We examine each book - its design, how the pages feel,
the endpapers, the copyright page.

We try to figure out the art medium used,
whether fancy research was done,
if the art is consistent, stunning, unique.
"In a Village By the Sea" by Muon Van, illustrated by April Chu
We noticed the book "A Fine Dessert" by Emily Jenkins and Sophie Blackall, a book about blackberry dessert, is partly painted with blackberry juice. That's a pretty tasty detail.

Nikki McClure's book "In" is made from paper cuts.

Vincent X. Kirsch's illustrations in "Gingerbread for Liberty" are made to look like gingerbread. More deliciousness.
In - by Nikki McClure

2. Appropriateness

We consider how well the art and the text work together to fill up the story.
Is there a tone or mood to the words,
and do the pictures complement it?

We look at layers -
we ask ourselves what that story is really about,
and then, what else is it about?
The Bear Ate Your Sandwich - by Julia Sarcone-Roach

3. Importance

By "reading" the book first without words,
we figure out if the illustrations give us clues, if they tell some of the story.

Then we read it a second time with words, scrutinize how the text is represented,
if the pictures and words are perfectly matched,
or if they give too much away.

We look for details, hints, clues within the story and pictures
that might add to the wow of the book.
If You Plant a Seed - Kadir Nelson

4. Appeal

And then we ask if we'd want to pick the book up,
if we think it would appeal to kids. 
How much do we love that particular book?
Voters score books from 1-5 in each category,
and slip their ballot in its book envelope.
I have my favorites, but I have to keep mum.  
Here is the library's Caldecottmobile. 

Each of our nominees will be displayed in the library and available for voting 
until January, when our top finalists will be announced.

At that time, our committee will debate for favorites, 
vote on the final few, and, drumroll....

Awards Party!
Letters to Authors and Illustrators! 

Some of our nominees:

Finding Winnie: the true story of the world's most famous bear
    - by Lindsay Mattick, illustrated by Sophie Blackall
Sidewalk Flowers by JonArno Lawson, illustrated by Sydney Smith
It's Only Stanley by Jon Agee
Water is Water by Miranda Paul, illustrated by Jason ChinIn by Nikki McClure
If You Plant a Seed by Kadir Nelson
Gingerbread for Liberty by Maria Rockcliff, illustrated by Vincent X. Kirsch
The Night World by Mordecai Gerstein
The Bear Ate Your Sandwich by Julia Sarcone-Roach

0 Comments on Making Mock Caldecotts as of 11/16/2015 10:14:00 AM
Add a Comment
2. Who

Hallo, who's there?
Hallo, who?
Hallowhoot, and have a happy hoot!



Little Owl Lost - Chris Haughton
A Book of Sleep - Il Sung Na
Little Owl's Night - Divya Srinivasan
Peek-a-Who  by Nina Laden
Owl Moon - Jane Yolen, John Schoenherr
Owl Babies - Martin Waddell, Patrick Benson
Owl at Home - Arnold Lobel

0 Comments on Who as of 10/31/2015 8:01:00 PM
Add a Comment
3. Caldecott Soup

In November's gusty gale I will flop my flippy tail
and spout hot soup.
I'll be a whale!
Spouting once, spouting twice,
spouting chicken soup with rice.
- Chicken Soup With Rice, A Book of Months, by Maurice Sendak
It may not be spouting hot soup, but good news is easy to slurp about:
I get to help run Kids' Mock Caldecotts at the library!

And what a library! They've ordered heaps of new books,
which the spectacular librarian Martha Ashenfelter and I
deliberated and drooled over for hours
before whittling our selection to a mere 32 book beauties.

On the first three Thursdays in November,
our library kids will form a Caldecott Committee,
evaluate, debate, and vote for their favorite books of 2015.
In January, we'll hold a final vote,
followed by an awards party.

Doesn't it sound fantastic?

If you are a local friend who knows of some book-loving kids,
bring them in on November Thursdays!

I'll try to post about our delicious book picks and the Caldecott sessions
along the way.

 Doesn't it make you want to pick up a stack of picture books and start reading?

0 Comments on Caldecott Soup as of 10/28/2015 11:17:00 AM
Add a Comment
4. Flight of the Birdy

And now we come to our smallest wildebeest.

I remember those tiny, newborn fists curling out of a green blanket.
I made it five summers ago out of fabric so soft it felt like clouds, 
with the hope it could keep out the world's roughness as long as possible.

Ergo, in the nature of a true youngest child,
Birdy scrambles up trees and leaps from the highest branches,
tumbles headfirst into high winds,
and rakes up her knees better than all the others.
She is so ready for this.

Always looking to make art,
I decided to make flashcards - heaps of them. 

I think I'll do a weekly series of the collection on my art blog.
They're for learning sight words, one of the ways to catch on to reading.

I guess this is my gift to her, like the green cloud blanket.
A way to say:
"When you want me, if you want help, I'm here. I love you."
Maybe it's proof. 
And maybe every parent offering,
every bowl of oatmeal we cook up,
every lunch we pack, every book read aloud,
every tuck-in at night
is us, saying:
  "You precious small people, you are loved."

   "Even though we got grouchy about the muddy footprints,
     or the scrabbly big mess in your rooms,
     you are loved." 

And maybe, it is proof for us as well.
Maybe these offerings to our small ones are gifts we keep close
as our birds wing the nest,
as our hair grays and our skin weathers,
knowing that in all our human roughness,
we have loved.

Friends, may you find love all around you,
and gifts in the giving.



I Will Never Get a Star on Mrs. Benson's Blackboard - Jennifer Mann
Orange Pear Apple Bear - Emily Gravett
Owl Babies - Martin Waddell, Patrick Benson

18490544A Year Down Yonder (A Long Way from Chicago, #2)

Bo at Iditarod Creek - Kirkpatrick Hill
The Mighty Miss Malone - Christopher Paul Curtis
The War That Saved My Life - Kimberly Brubaker Bradley
A Year Down Yonder - Richard Peck

0 Comments on Flight of the Birdy as of 9/11/2015 5:25:00 PM
Add a Comment
5. Mermaid sightings

The twins are fast approaching ten!
"Tween twins!" Winnie reminds me.
"Double digits, doubled!"

And just like that, a decade ebbs with moon and tide.

Having soaked up the Emily Windsnap books lately, 
they want to be mermaids. 
So, I've been making art.
Mermaidy tattoos!
Painted shells. 
Waves of seaweed.
Glowy lights.  
Cupcakes + art = yummy.   

Mermaids, this way. Your party awaits.


The Tail of Emily Windsnap (Emily Windsnap, #1)

132391 18048914
The Mermaid and the Shoe by K. G. Campbell
The Tail of Emily Windsnap by Liz Kessler
The Little Mermaid - Hans Christian Anderson, ill. by Lisbeth Zwerger 
Breathe - Scott Magoon

Down, Down, Down: A Journey to the Bottom of the Sea - Steve Jenkins
Shh! We Have a Plan - Chris Haughton
The Storm Whale - Benji DaviesPlastic Ahoy! Investigating the great Pacific Garbage Patch - Patricia Newman
Shackleton's Journey - William Grill

0 Comments on Mermaid sightings as of 7/28/2015 3:16:00 PM
Add a Comment
6. Art and Starlings

I'm bubbling about the SCBWI conference today.
This is the weekend children's book illustrators and writers in my region gather like starlings.
I go for the coffee and the courage. 
For inspiration and advice.
A break!
To find out about thrilling new books. 
To hug and high-five friends and peers.
To gain wisdom about crafting words and art.
My heart flies high. 

I'm bringing new art. More here. 

Art grown out of Joy Chu's UCSD Thinking in Pictures class. 
What a class!
Here's a peek at one of my projects:

Adventure awaits!
If you are one of my writer or artist buddies, I hope to see you there! 

0 Comments on Art and Starlings as of 4/17/2015 12:21:00 PM
Add a Comment
7. Hearts and Hoots

I know. 
It's been entire lifetimes in elephant years since my last post.
Entire oceans of whales have migrated North and South. 
The ducks are returning to our backyard pond. 
And I have been studying hard 
for an illustration class at UCSD, with art director/genius/professor Joy Chu.
Learning how to find the essence of a story,
learning how to write through art.

After the feathers fly and the dust settles,
I will look for more words to share. 

For now, 
enjoy each new page 
and soar, my friends!

0 Comments on Hearts and Hoots as of 2/12/2015 12:13:00 PM
Add a Comment
8. Of Rafts and Feasts

In remembrance, 
       I find thanksgiving.
In remembrance, I find a feast.

It's in big things, like remembering
rough stones that have lined my journey,
and seeing them smooth some of my sharp edges.
Like the poets, I count the ways.

I count that it's been over one year since I had a stroke
and heart surgery,
and here I am,
heart-strong and feet-steady.
Playing soccer.
When I remember, there are skeins of thanksgiving
woven into this heart.

Six months since Winnie’s leg, the worrisome spot,
the relieving news, the surgery. 
There are not enough words for this kind of thanksgiving.

This is life. There will be stormy days for all of us.
But remembrance is my feast.
thankfulness is my life raft.

I find thankfulness indeed when I count the big things.
And I find joy in the small.
Like when the wind pulls umbrellas
and makes us think, just for a moment, that we might fly.

Or in gathering leaves.
Reading books.
Lighting candles.
Twirling till we’re dizzy.

Holding hands.
Happy Thanksgiving, my friends.
I am thankful for you.
Thankful that we share this earth,
with all of our colorful, quirky differences.
What a feast!


Brother Sun, Sister Moon by Katherine Paterson, ill. by Pamela Dalton
Pilgrim Cat by Carol Antoinette Peacock, ill. by Doris Ettlinger
The Farmer and the Clown by Marla Frazee
The Breadwinner by Deborah Ellis
Psalm 23 illustrated by Richard Jesse Watson

0 Comments on Of Rafts and Feasts as of 11/26/2014 9:20:00 PM
Add a Comment
9. Do You Mask Merry?

We like to masquerade in these parts.
Especially when learning our Pacific Northwest animals.
Especially when all fuzzed up about pumpkins and costumes.
I started with a few sketches, 
the kids made their own beautiful batches, 
and Voila!
Wildebeests, unite!

Need a quick costume this week?

I'm offering a few freebies for your personal or classroom use.


  {Please note that these images are my original art.
    They're not to be sold or passed off as anyone else's work.

To use, just drag the image to your desktop,
print on card stock,
color at will!
Crayon, colored pencils or watercolor work just fine.
We also tried gouache and acrylic gel medium, for hoots.

Birdie asked if she could change her name to Owly-Whoo.

When you finish all that lovely color,
cut out and fix for wearing! 

Our salmon puppet has a popsicle stick taped to his back.
Did you know sockeye salmon turn red when they spawn? I did not. 
The wildebeests told me. 
I guess this means they are learning something in the midst 
of my art diversions.
Yarn or ribbon is an easy tie for the masks.
Hey, anything for a party, right?
Anything for a printable, coloring, educational, masquerade party!
That's right. We mask merry around these parts.  

Happy hoots!


S is for Salmon - Hannah Viore
123 Moose! by Art Wolfe, ill. by Andrea Helman
Have You Heard the Nesting Bird? by Rita Gray, ill. by Kenard Pak
North - The Amazing Story of Arctic Migration, by Nick Dowson, ill. by Patrick Benson
A House in the Woods by Inga Moore
Leaves  by David Ezra Stein
Bear Snores On by Karma Wilson, ill. by Jane Chapman
Once Upon a Memory by Nina Laden, ill. by Renata Liwska
Kiss Goodnight by Amy Hest, ill. by Anita Jeram

A Snicker of Magic by Natalie Lloyd


0 Comments on Do You Mask Merry? as of 10/22/2014 10:05:00 AM
Add a Comment
10. In Season?

They say each season has a rightful place:

A time to scribble,
A time to paint.

A time to read good books,
A time to dream up new ones.

A time to craft words,
A time to delete.

A time to face the music,
A time to dance in the face of it.

It's the natural breath of our days -
The ups and downs of waves. 

Summer rushed to Fall a smidge too soon in my neck of the woods.
Birthdays, school starts,

First wiggly teeth,
Rounded hula hoops of doings.

Responsibilities loomed.

Do you ever drag your feet ?

I soured up a few days
kicking my heels against time and tides,
and then I remembered...

What of all the sacred moments today ?

What am I missing with my eyes shut tight against change?  

Here is the good news: 
Gratitude mends easily.
It always starts with today.

And thankfulness is magic. 
It turns straw into gold,
turns dirty dishes into a sacred space.

Farewell summer!    Hello Fall!

It's simple, right?
To find joy, we breathe.
In and out. 
And if breathing means working hard at a task today,
then may we find beauty under the stones at our feet.

Or if it means taking a ramble in the woods,
then let the leaves turn,
let the fruit fall
and find us with open hands.

"Nobody else but the rosebush knows
how nice mud feels between the toes."  
 - Polly Chase Boyden


 Book treasures that make me smile in all seasons:

The Reluctant Dragon by Kenneth Grahame, illustrated by Inga Moore
Firefly July - compiled by Paul B. Janeczko, illustrated by Melissa Sweet
    Lindbergh - The Tale of a Flying Mouse, by Torben Kuhlmann
    The New Arrival by Vanya Nastanlieva

Three Times Lucky by Sheila Turnage
A Snicker of Magic by Natalie Lloyd
Henry and the Paper Route by Beverly Cleary
The Magician's Elephant by Kate DiCamillo
Odd, Weird, and Little by Patrick Jennings

0 Comments on In Season? as of 10/8/2014 10:25:00 AM
Add a Comment
11. The Writing Process: How we work...

Well, here is a fun thing.
Author/Illustrator tag!
Thank you Richard Jesse Watson for picking me to join this blog tour.

Fun facts about Richard Jesse Watson:
Besides being an award-winning children's book illustrator,
Richard roasts his own coffee.
He once dismantled a hotel window so he could
roast coffee for an illustrator pal without setting off the fire alarm.

Here's a stunning painting Richard created to go with one of my manuscripts.

Snow Queen
artwork (c) Richard Jesse Watson
Richard is also a folk dancer.
He loves  books, handball, anchovies, and waffles.
He can make or fix just about anything with epoxy. 
He has taught me much of what I know about art.
And he's my dad.
I'm inspired by him as an artist and a person.
Find him online at richardjessewatson.com.

Now, to the Q & A:

What am I currently working on?

Last week I shared with you the  driftwood of my life work.
Today I'll tell you about my other work - writing and art.
Lately I'm playing with picture book,
chapter book, and middle grade manuscripts,
as well as trying to work in some of that gorgeous momentum
I gathered from my UCSD "Illustrating Picture Books" course with Joy Chu.

I'm also working on creative discipline - how I manage my time.
Time is my huge thing. 
How to squeeze any more drops from days plumb full?

I drew a pie chart to see where all my spare time flows out
and to hunt for extra gaps I can curb into a writing / art habit.
I think it's helping. 

Why do I write what I write?

I write
to remember
the striking thing
about a day,
a shadow,
a loss.
to turn knobby memories
into strength and courage.
to spread adventure and creativity
like seeds
that will spark and sprout
in readers
and in me.

That's my why: remembrance. beauty. courage. hope. thanks.

 How does my writing / illustrating process work?

First, inspiration:

I keep notebooks, sketchbooks,
camera, pencils, pen
in car, in purse, in library bag,
in every place story lightning might strike.

Books!  I read like a sieve.
Not really sure how a sieve reads,
but I do
a lot. lot. lot.
(c) 2014 Faith Pray

Next, drafting.
I type manuscripts into a writing program called Scrivener,
and then write and rewrite until the manuscript feels just so.

I scribble sketches and move them around.
Sticky notes are brilliant for this.

Taping together mini books helps me feel how each story breathes.

And then I play with finishes.
Splashy ink and pen. Velvety oil pencils. Pooly paints.
I'm always playing.

When a story feels just so, I send it to my agent.
If he likes it, we work on changes,
and then he sends it out to publishers "on submission."

That's my writing process.
Next in this blog tour, my friend Carrie O'Neill
gets to tell you about how she works.
art (c) Carrie O'Neill

Carrie and I were friends in high school.
What a delight to discover her now at the SCBWI conference in Seattle!
Carrie is just as witty, talented and lovely as ever, and her art is vibrant and engaging.
I am excited to see what Carrie creates next, and I can't wait for you to meet her.

You can find Carrie at www.carrieoneill.com.
She'll be playing tag on her blog soon!


0 Comments on The Writing Process: How we work... as of 7/31/2014 9:52:00 AM
Add a Comment
12. Driftwood music?

This summer is all about 
gathering what we find
and making music
out of it.
Sometimes it doesn't quite fly,
like our xylophone
constructed of driftwood
and rubber bands.

Scavenged from a sunny beach walk,
and a hoot to make,
it only makes one sound:

And yet... sometimes we need to plunk
to figure out what the rhythm is.

Our new rhythm :
Winnie's had her surgery,
and after a long wait,
she can run!
the pain is almost gone!

Oh, the delight!

And here we are
in the crazy whirl.

Winnie's surgery.  Swim lessons. Backyard soccer.
Cousins. Library storytime. 

Scissor mishaps.

{That's right. Preschool cutting practice.
Both of them. Missing chunks of hair.
Where was their mama, you ask?
Ten yards away, scribbling in my notebook. }


This has been such a year and more 
of wind and weathering.
and here is what I remember -

beautiful things come after turbulence.

sticks become pale as silver when they have tumbled through waves.
spiny stones become round and ripe across the sand,
fruit of sea and storm,
borne through time
and tides.

Is that art? music?
The transformation of rough things

into smooth beauties?

These tides might not be fruitful
in all the artsy, writerly ways I've been wanting.

but they might just be fruitful in the ways that I need.

humbling. compassion. grace. gratefulness.

To my friends going through rough waters right now,
my wish and prayer

is that Love will weather its way
through each of us
that Love will transform the rough places into smooth,
will fill the hollow places with sweet, clear water,
will turn our broken sticks into music,

and somehow
find us 
more of Love itself.

Thank you for your words and prayers,
books and courage
that have helped us march through this summer!
We are all so grateful.

Some of our brave reads:

Brother Hugo and the Bear - Katy Beebe, S.D. Schindler
Have You Seen My Dragon? - Steve Light
Soccer Fence - Phil Bildner, Jesse Joshua Watson
A Tangle of Knots - Lisa Graff
Word After Word After Word - Patricia MacLachlan
The Mysterious Benedict Society - Trenton Lee Stewart
A Wrinkle in Time - Madeleine L'Engle
Add a Comment
13. Bottled Courage

This girl.
this one.

(a.k.a. Kaylen)
has a bone scan and CT tomorrow.

out of sunny skies, we are all stormed over.

They've seen a spot around her femur that is "worrisome."

That's a generous way of describing what this mama feels.
All my courageous muster has flown out the window.

And Winnie is my most heart-filled wildebeest.
Dreamer, writer, artist, she feels
every nuance in the room.
Like rough swallows
and puffy eyes.

We have no certain news yet, but
some of you have asked how you can help us as we wait
and I have been thinking...

Definitely prayers
and best thoughts
and any bottled courage
you can send our way.

Do they make that?
Bottled courage?

So here's what I'm thinking -  what about sharing your
book recommendations - for an eight year-old adventurer and for me.

words to help us remember 
that there is courage
in love,
in faith,
in hope.

I will post news when we know what there is to know.
Thank you, friends.

0 Comments on Bottled Courage as of 5/22/2014 2:18:00 AM
Add a Comment
14. The Funny Thing about Mice

It's a little bit scary to tell you things I'm happy about. 
Things that feel like little green tips at the edges of my wintered-over branches.
Not that it's wrong to feel pleased with good things,
but when I remember the gravity of last year
I wonder -
is this okay?
this joy? these painted things?
Will I jinx it somehow?

Over the last year, I convinced myself I have permanent writer's block.
But then this week, a few words eeked out, and I wondered.

Maybe it's not writer's block.
Maybe it's just fear.

Fear is something we all have, isn't it?

Fear of failure. of something bad happening.
of shadows. heights. the dark.
Scratchy things. fish. being alone.

What are your crazy fears?

You know what's funny?
All that health craziness last year - that was like facing off against a lion.
I borrowed as much courage as possible.

Now I'm standing on a chair shrieking about a bug -
worried about putting stories on paper!
worried someone won't like them!

Oh, for a good gulp of perspective!

I just read "The Tale of Despereaux" by Kate DiCamillo.
It's about a mouse who battles darkness with courageous love.
It's beautiful.

Despereaux strapped on a belt of red thread,
a sewing needle sword,
and plunged into the dungeons to save a princess.

While I don't have dungeons, or a sword,
I want to have courageous love like that mouse,
not concerned about what people will think.
every day.
not just on heart surgery days. 
in the daily dirt.
in being a writer and artist, too.

So here's what I'm doing.
All fueled up from my Illustrating Picture Books class,
I'm going to the SCBWI conference this weekend.
And I'm entering my art in a portfolio show.

To go with it, I did a little spring cleaning on the blog,
redesigned The Portfolio.
I hope you like the new look around here.
I hope it's good dirt.
And if you're coming to the conference, let's hang out!
I'll be the small mouse in the corner.


The Tale of Despereaux
The Tale of Despereaux, by Kate DiCamillo

0 Comments on The Funny Thing about Mice as of 4/10/2014 11:31:00 AM
Add a Comment
15. How Does Your Garden Grow?

Words still glomm together in my mouth
like lumps of peanut butter.
I speak to people and wonder if they notice, too.
Can one be socially lame, but robustly well?
Because I am so alive, so well 
since the surgery.

Maybe these word troubles are writer's block,
part of my recovery from troubles;
an awakening to the idea that life is short.
that more than publishing stories,
I want to love.
to make it count wherever I am.

I still want to write, but my words are hiding.
I'm taking an art class.
And oh, what a class!
It's UCSD extension course llustrating Books For Children
with renowned book designer Joy Chu.
And it's amazing.

Maybe I'll find a back door to writing this way,
through visual storytelling.
Or not.

Maybe I'll just enjoy it -
watering a different part of my brain.
creating art.
(happy sigh)

And how does the rest of this garden grow?
How is that sacred dirt of every day?
We have a lot of dirt lately.
Lots of squiggly worms that I don't take pictures of -
like scowly faces, and kids throwing fits,
messy hair,

piled-up laundry,
crumbs under the table.

But how can I not be thankful?
Even for the wormy parts.
There is less to show from this garden now.
but more to feel.
more to soak in and wiggle around.

more family days.
paint and shaving cream.

 a new outlook for Pip!

Sugar Snack turning five!

Not much of a gardener in reality,
still I will tend this sacred dirt,
I will water my back doors to writing, 
and see what wriggles.
what grows.

What are the back doors in your creative life?

What are your cover crops?

When you get stuck, discouraged or allover uninspired,
what do you plant?

How do you water your creative self?

Cooking class? Archery lessons? Trapeze?
Balloon animals? Book club?

My friends,
I thank you for your friendship and patience. 
for the many ways you make this world beautiful.
through your actions and special talents.
for your unique words and work.
for the nurture of your families and friends.
for the many creative ways you give of yourself to the world.

May your garden grow and grow
and grow,
with lots of good dirt
and wiggles. 

Another bonus from my new class? Library finds!

Here are some of my latest faves:

Mr. Wuffles!
Sea of Dreams
Journey, by Aaron Becker (Won a well-deserved Caldecott Honor this year!)
Mr. Wuffles, by David Weisner (Another Caldecott Honor winner)
Sea of Dreams, by Dennis Nolan
Flora's Very Windy Day
Harry & Hopper
Missing Mommy: A Book About Bereavement
Flora's Very Windy Day, by Jeanne Birdsall, illustrated by Matt Phelan
Harry & Hopper, by Margaret Wild, illustrated by Freya Blackwood
Missing Mommy, by Rebecca Cobb 
On a Beam of Light: A Story of Albert Einstein
Nelson Mandela

Martin de Porres: The Rose in the Desert On a Beam of Light, A Story of Albert Einstein by Jennifer Berne, illustrated by Vladimir Radunsky
Nelson Mandela, by Kadir Nelson
Bon Appetit!, the delicious life of Julia Child, by Jessie Hartland
Martin de Porres, the Rose in the Desert, by Gary Schmidt, illustrated by David Diaz

0 Comments on How Does Your Garden Grow? as of 2/27/2014 9:54:00 PM
Add a Comment
16. Light and Wishes

This year, this crazy Everest of a year!
Out of all of it - 
the stroke, 
the sickness,
the faintings,
the heart surgery -
out of all this year, 
I have packed this jewel into my life suitcase:

Even in dark times, there is light.
    Maybe not a beacon, blazing with answers.
    Maybe not something you can grab onto or tangibly feel.
    Maybe not a voice that speaks that everything will be alright
      - because sometimes, it's not alright.
    Sometimes the rotten stuff still happens - 
      like war, and poverty, and cancer, and loss.   

But I have this for you, my friends...
Even in the dark times, there is light.

    Light of hope in something better. 
    Light of remembering shining moments already lived.
    Light of kindness and compassion in friends and strangers. 
    Light of faith.
For me, it is faith in Divine Arms 
that stooped down to walk in human skin
and faced trouble with love. 

in Divine Arms that are just there, like in these old words - 
                      "the eternal One is your hiding place, 
                       and underneath are the everlasting arms."
Even my darkest times this year, 
there was light.
Not blazing. But enough.
Even in my most scared, most vulnerable times,  
there was this awareness of not being alone.
Not anything tangible. But enough.
Everlasting Arms.
Here is my wish for you, friends.
I wish for you 
in each of the sacred rites of the day - 
dishes, drop-offs,
broken pencils,
squabbles and stomps,
"stop wiping your face with pancake!" 
"don't squirt tomatoes on the ceiling!"
and writer's block,
and in all the great gulps,  too -
a happy home,
a healthy heart, 

like everlasting arms, 
Love that surrounds and lifts 
when you can't lift yourself.
that goes down to your very roots and comes up laughing.

and Light. 

I wish you the deeps, my friends. 

Blissful Christmas!
Bright New Year!
Beautiful Life!


0 Comments on Light and Wishes as of 1/1/1900
Add a Comment
17. Roots

In true page-turner style, the night before heart surgery,
I was rain-checked.

For a good month, I gnawed at this news like an old bone,
waited to hear if the docs would favor heart surgery after all,
or have me remain in this temporary place of not-quite-well.

What can we do when things aren't all better?
How can we meet the sacred in illness,
in poverty, in sadness,
in our imperfect selves?
Drink tea. Read good fiction. Take bubble baths.
Go outside and watch clouds.
And then, take a serious look around. 

Ill or not,  I am rich!

clean water. warm home. books.
food. literacy. art.

waves on the beach. limitless sky. stars. 

music. beauty. family.

I could recount these riches all day.

Even ill, I am abundantly well.
I haven't been able to write.
That's the outlet that's suffered most since the stroke.
I'm tired, dizzy, and struggle with an aching head.
My dear friend Margaret Bloom of We Bloom Here
sent a breeze of wisdom my way,
likening this time to winter.
Sometimes leaves dry up and branches are stark,
but roots still go deep. 
Every time we struggle, may the roots go deep.
to grow us in compassion.
to grow us in perspective.
to grow us in steadiness,
and light.

What do we do with our troubles?
Find the gifts in front of us.

Even in our troubles,
there is sacred to be found:
laughter, forgiveness, grace, love.

Here's to deep roots and good dirt, my friends.

I finally made peace with this middle ground,
and the next day: news!
Heart surgery is back on.

Friday, November 8, here we come!

Feel-good books:

15768811 15815400
Violet Mackerel's Remarkable Recovery,
by Anna Branford, ill. by Elanna Allen
(Thank you for the get-well-read, Margaret Bloom !)
The Mighty Lalouche, by Matthew Olshan and Sophie Blackall
Tea Rex, by Molly Idle
!, by Amy Krouse Rosenthal and Tom Lichtenheld
A Sick Day for Amos McGee,
by Philip C. Stead, ill. by Erin E. Stead

0 Comments on Roots as of 1/1/1900
Add a Comment
18. The Big Week

Words are few.
Heart surgery on Friday.
Summer is fleeting
and I survey my world,

reaching out to touch,
to linger,
to bless
like worn prayer beads,
all these things for which I am thankful.

I find myself brushing fingertips along our bumpy, imperfect walls,
savoring the unfinished-ness of them,

remembering that we are all unfinished stories,
sacred in our imperfections.

To feel the stained rim of a teacup,
a grooved picnic bench,
lichen on a tree

To soak up with my eyes
tissue-thin curlings of bark,
windowsill traffic,

popsicle drips,
It's a liturgy of thankfulness
in today.
in the dirt.
in the dark. 

Last week, we stayed up late in a lightning storm.

Such power! Such beauty! 
And yet they shivered under quilts.

It's hard to be small in the dark
while thunder shakes the house with monster growls.

Being brave is having faith, isn't it?
Faith that tomorrow will dawn
calm and bright.
Faith that Light will come out of the dark.

As it turns out, some hearts
have holes that need patching.
Some hole-y hearts cause strokes.
The patch surgery may help.
We can hope!

Friday morning is my thunderstorm.
Be brave. Be brave. Be brave. Be brave.

Thankful for heart patches.
for imperfections. for thunderstorms. for light. and hope.

A brave book I hope you love as much as I do:

"The Girl With A Brave Heart" by Rita Jahanforuz, illustrated by Vali Mintzi.

0 Comments on The Big Week as of 1/1/1900
Add a Comment
19. Salty Valentines, and Tonsils, Take Two

Here we go again! 
Tomorrow is the big day. 
Tonsils out!
I'm reading about the hero's journey lately - 
the road a character takes
to become changed in a story
- a.k.a the story arc. 
Writing and life are so linked, don't you think?

We're all on a journey.
We face monsters, magic, trials, portals every day - they just look a little different in real life.
Tests, school, work, laundry...
Pip's monster this week is tonsils. 
We're trying to equip her with happy times,
to sustain her on the road of liquid food and couch time.

So we took her ice skating.

And experimented with pennies.
and made some copper valentines.
Did you know salt and vinegar can make some pretty impressive green crystals?
Then it was time for invisible ink, made of baking soda and water. 
and purple cabbage juice to reveal our secret messages.
Very spy-like. 
To go with the spy theme, I'm making her a book treasure hunt.
Like the book geo-caching we did last year when Winnie said goodbye to her tonsils.
Sticky note clues hidden in favorite books: "The Nutcracker" ill. by Maurice Sendak, "The 5,000 Year-Old Puzzle,"  ill. by Melissa Sweet  

And speaking of books,
Margaret Bloom's "Making Peg Dolls" book giveaway is coming to my blog soon!
Stay tuned!

Happy, healthy hearts to you!

Sick days, valentines, and writers' journeys:


10 Comments on Salty Valentines, and Tonsils, Take Two, last added: 2/20/2013
Display Comments Add a Comment
20. Making Peg Dolls: Giveaway!

It begins just like the other days.

Hanging up the washing.
Nubby and bare,
naked as day.

All pegs have wishes, but Jane wishes most, and longest.
For color, aliveness, adventure
beyond the laundry line.
Little does she know that today is the day.

Today the wind is listening.
It twists into a great spiral,
knocking the orderly yard to pieces.
A folding chair barrels across the green.
The chickens gawp, the dog haroops.
Wind whips like a sandblast
and all in one great whoosh, down comes the line!

Helter-skelter, shilly-shally, willy-nilly, down! 

And Jane, the wooden wisher, is free. 

Free to don paint and petals,
from Making Peg Dolls, by Margaret Bloom
her owling self,
from Making Peg Dolls, by Margaret Bloom
her fairy face.

It doesn't take much time.
Jane and the family find their secret selves:
Greek gods!  
See, there's Jane in her purple hair.
She's waiting for wings.
She's changed her name to Athena.
Her coming-out party is next week.  
Adventure awaits!

Making Peg Dolls, by Margaret Bloom is here!

Margaret is the creative genius mother of Wish Baby
and the magic behind the blog We Bloom Here.

Making Peg Dolls

 There are umpteen reasons we love this book:
Margaret's illustrations tucked in and around the text. 
Tiny peg bears.
from Making Peg Dolls by Margaret Bloom
Can you say darling? Oh my nubs!
from Making Peg Dolls by Margaret Bloom
Fairy tale dollies.
Owl peggies. 
Amazon has already sold out. Yes, this book is THAT hot. 
I packed a Peg Doll Get-Well-Kit for Pip's recovery.
Why don't we do this every day?
I had no idea how joyful and addicting it would be.
The thing that amazes me about Making Peg Dolls
is how Margaret has made this process accessible 
to adults and kids of all sizes.
We are smitten. Absolutely smitten with this book. 
I am convinced you will be, too!

And I have a copy of Making Peg Dolls to give away! 

It's simple: Just leave a comment.
You'll be entered in the drawing. 
I'll announce the winner next Wednesday. 

Entries end at midnight on Tuesday, February 26. 

Thank you, Margaret!

26 Comments on Making Peg Dolls: Giveaway!, last added: 2/25/2013
Display Comments Add a Comment
21. Wings and Winners

I am Icharus. 

Except instead of wax and feathers,
I'm patched together with glitter glue,
writing morsels and
cups of hot tea.
Struck by a blaze of new story lightning,
I'm going down.

That's a good thing, right?

Muttering at walls, scribbling
"Words are my wings!" on sticky notes,
covered in ink smudges,
I'm delightedly doomed.

But not too doomed
to help with peg dolls.
And Ancient Greek peggies at that.
Athena, patron of wisdom, and arts and crafts!

She's an owl lady.
Aphrodite, patron of love.

Posiedon. Sea guy. And that's his trident.
Hera, wife of Zeus, patron of marriage.
Peacock lady.
Also compared to a cow in some circles.
Now you know.


Ruler. Cardboard. Scissors. Tape. White glue. 

And now for the drum-roll, please...
we'd like to announce a winner!
A hearty thanks to all of you who entered
Margaret Bloom's Making Peg Dolls giveaway,
and thank you to Margaret for the fantastic blog tour.

Our winner is... Barb Davis-Pyles. Congratulations, Barb!

I hope you will all go out and find this beautiful book.
You are going to LOVE it.

And did you know SACRED DIRT has a facebook page?
"Like it" to get posts on the beautiful mess of artsy writing,
daily dirt, and parenting sent directly to your facebook feed.

Ancient Greece on the page:

Greek MythsA Gift from ZeusThe Adventures of Odysseus
Greek Myths For Young Children, by Heather Amery, ill. Linda Edwards
Explore Ancient Greece!
Greek Myths - Ann Turnbull, ill. by Sarah Young
A Gift From Zeus - Jeanne Steig, ill. by William Steig
The Adventures of Odysseus, by Hugh Lupton, Daniel Morden, ill. by Christina Balit
Aesop's Fables - Lisbeth Zwerger

4 Comments on Wings and Winners, last added: 2/28/2013
Display Comments Add a Comment
22. Incorrigible Creatives

Some children are raised by wolves.
Others, by creatives. 

And really, is there a difference?

Sometimes, the lines between "creative" and "fur-brained" blur.
And that's the beauty of it.

To be a creative,
you get to strap on your courage boots every day
and write,
sew, stitch, cook - whatever your bent - 
and be prepared
for surprises.

Surprises like tears and paper wadding.
Snapping pencils.
Earnest screwdrivering until the cabinet doors fall off.

(Thank you for that, my wildebeests.)
Howling at the moon.
Eating paint.

raised-by-wolves days,
and sometimes, gleams of brilliance.

Have I mentioned this book?

the Incorrigible children of ashton place
"The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place, the Mysterious Howling" by Maryrose Wood and illustrated by Jon Klassen
(the Caldecott 2013 doublescoop!)
I love this book! I am in a happy swoon.
Jane Austen meets Agatha Christie meets Alexander McCall Smith, only with heaps of originality and humor. Well done, Maryrose Wood. Wow. wow. wow.

More wolf-ishness we love:

The Wolves of Willoughby Chase (The Wolves Chronicles, #1)
[For the record, and in case any great-grandmothers are concerned:
dry ice is considered dangerous in some contexts.
As such, it should probably not be given to toddlers...however, the children in these pictures were skillfully trained stunt-models, posing as children, and obediently avoided actually touching the ice.]


6 Comments on Incorrigible Creatives, last added: 3/7/2013
Display Comments Add a Comment
23. The Snail Mail Author Project

Do you remember when you thought you might be able to fly,
if you just jumped high enough?
Do you remember when anything was possible?

On Monday, I helped at a young writer's conference.
I was surrounded with small writers
belly-full pleased with their writing,

oblivious to that dreaded taskmaster Revision,
unconcerned about snagging a publishing deal,
purely finding joy in their words.

All that youthful buoyancy
made me want to climb out of my writing slump
and grow some wings!

How do we as writers return
to that weightless pleasure in our words

without losing
the wisdom earned
from critiques and rejection slips,
writing groups and how-to books...

How do we find both our feet AND our wings?

As soon as we returned from our very long day,
the girls embarked on a writing project:
to send letters
to 100 authors and illustrators
of some of their favorite books.

Think we can do it?

If you're an author or illustrator friend and a crooked little envelope comes to you,

would you be kind and write back?


We have two hopeful writers, who think anything is possible. 

In Need of Some Snail Mail?

Leave us a comment, and we'll put you on our snail letter list - whether you're published or not.


Happy writing!


A Letter to Amy - Ezra Jack Keats
The Gardener, by Sarah Stewart, ill. by David Small
Toot and Puddle - Holly Hobbie
Click, Clack, Moo! Cows That Type - by Doreen Cronin, ill. by Betsy Lewin
Mailing May, by Michael O. Tunnell, ill. by Ted Rand

5 Comments on The Snail Mail Author Project, last added: 4/10/2013
Display Comments Add a Comment
24. Sacred Muddle

I planned to tie up the last few months in a tidy bow,
to give you a round
beginning, middle, and end
to the stroke saga.
What we writers like to call a story arc.
Some stories take longer to figure out.

My story for now is just a middle... or a muddle:
brain blips,
ambulance rides,
hospital stays,
looming surgery.

None of our swell summer projects.
No happy new manuscripts.
No tidy bows. 

With each shift in the family balance,
part of me shrinks.
I hope it's the right part. The part that needs to go.
I hope it's the part that, before this muddle,
tried to hold everything together alone,
that didn't ask for help,
that got too busy to rest
in the numerous small things around me.

With each slip,
these small things come into focus.

Not my grand plans.
Not measurable success.

But joy.


good books.



rocks and sky.
breath and bread.

Life is short,
but humble things
make it deep.

Thank you
for your generosity to us through so many gifts -
art and cards, books and pens,
food and a clean house,
help with bills and the wildebeests,
prayers and wishes.
Thank you.

I am amazed at the love around us.
Amazed at how love makes every story beautiful,
no matter how long or short it is.

Here's to the sacred muddle, my friends.
To going deep!
to mysteries.
buried treasure.
great books.
and small things.

Mystery and Adventure Books We Have Loved This Summer:

Where The Mountain Meets the Moon, by Grace Lin
The Willoughbys, by Lois Lowry
Nathaniel Fludd, Beastologist, by R.L. LaFevers
Half Magic, by Edward Eager
The Brixton Brothers, by Mac Barnett
The One and Only Ivan, by Katherine Applegate

The Book of Beasts, by E. Nesbit, ill. by Inga Moore
The Red Book, by Barbara Lehman
Flotsam, by David Weisner


(my best reads of the summer)

Hattie Ever After, by Kirby Larson
Howl's Moving Castle, by Diane Wynne Jones
The Thirteenth Child, by Patricia Wrede
A Grave Mercy, by Robin LaFevers

Beautiful Battlefields, by Bo Stern

4 Comments on Sacred Muddle, last added: 9/6/2013
Display Comments Add a Comment
25. Love Your Brain?

"You're alive...That means you have infinite potential."
- Neil Gaiman
Two weeks ago,  I had a stroke. 
I was alone on a walk, phone-less, in the middle of nowhere.
I got wobbly. My vision went out. I thought I would faint.
I crouched on the ground, trying to recover,
couldn't lift my arm, and my head hurt all on one side.

They say a stroke can happen to anyone, at any age.

I diet and exercise like a heart-healthy zealot, rarely drink, don't smoke, and yet...

After more doctors and hospitals than I ever thought I'd need, I'm home.
Fuzzy and shaken. Tripping over my own feet.

And so beyond thankful
that I still have words and sight, and everything!

I tried to explain this to my hubs, tried to tell him
how important my words, my wit, my thoughts, all of it,
how essential it is to me,
and he patted my hand,
"We all love our brains, honey."

We do. We love our brains!
But do we realize?

It's my revelation of the year.
Would you rather have brains or beauty?

39 years,
many of them obsessed with cals and carbs,
grapefruit juice and healthy exercise...
and guess what?

When it all flashes in front of you,
who cares if you are a size 2 or a size 20?

Love that mirror.
Enjoy it. Every inch of yourself, no matter your size,
no matter your foibles.
Enjoy your bumps and lumps, your warts, your wrinkles.
You are a living masterpiece.

Enjoy your messes, your arguments, your in-laws, your guffaws.
Family? Snuggle with them!
Friends? Keep warm by them!

Not published yet? Not a beauty queen?
Our measure of success can be so misleading.

It took a stroke to remind me again of my SACRED DIRT -
this life, every blessed day of it,
dishes, mismatched socks, paper piles,
my beautiful, beautiful life.

I have coherent sentences,
the ability to wipe tears
and kiss each sticky face,

even if sometimes things change,
even if it takes a while to paddle back out and find my rhythm,

what a beautiful, sacred dirt I stand in
every day.



If you get anything from this post, please get this:

Anyone can have a stroke. 

If you or someone you know has an episode 

with ANY of these symptoms, 

call a doctor, or 911 immediately. 

They have ways to reverse a stroke
if they catch it right away.
Learn the signs.
You might save a life...
even your own!

Thank you to my dear ones who have reached out 

during this time.

Bless you, bless you.

Your love brings strength.


0 Comments on Love Your Brain? as of 1/1/1900
Add a Comment

View Next 25 Posts