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1. Illustrator Interview – Lita Judge

This interview arose from one of those serendipitous moments. I had been liking all Lita’s posts on FB about her new picture book FLIGHT SCHOOL for several weeks and had been thinking that I must see if she would like … Continue reading

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2. Creating Your Own Flourish List

Now that I’ve outed myself as the secret author of books by Elizabeth Ruston, I can freely talk about one of the concepts in the book Love Proof.

We writers always hear “Write what you know!” Well, I’ve known many of the things I wrote about in Love Proof, including the life of a striving law student, the beginning uncertain years of practicing law, the sometimes disgusting personalities of some of the lawyers you have to deal with, and yes, even the unexpected excitement of accidentally falling in love with your opposing counsel. Yeah, that happens.

But I’ve also known the kind of poverty Sarah Henley experiences in the book. And that was really interesting for me to write about, because I know I still have some vestiges of that poverty mentality deep inside my brain. And I have to actively make choices to move myself past that way of thinking.

One of the things Sarah does in the book to deal with her own poverty mentality is to create a Flourish List. It’s an idea that came to me a few years ago, and something I tried for myself before ever putting it into my fiction.

The name comes from both definitions of flourish: “an extraneous florid embellishment” (or as Sarah puts it, “something I want, but don’t actually need”), and “a period of thriving.”

I don’t know about you, but at times I am MUCH too stingy with myself. I call it frugality, but sometimes it’s just being harsh for no great reason. Perfect example from last night: I was down to maybe the last half-squeeze on my toothpaste tube, and I could have forced out that last little bit, but I decided to make a grand gesture of actually throwing it away–that’s right, without it being fully empty (call the frugality police, go ahead)–and treated myself to a brand new tube. I’ve had to give myself that same permission with bars of soap that have already broken into multiple parts that I have to gather together in a little pile in my palm just to work up a decent sud. Lately, out they go, fresh bar, and if I feel guilty, I know it will pass.

So where did this new radical attitude come from? A few summers ago while I was backpacking in a beautiful section of the South San Juan mountain range in Colorado, I had an afternoon to myself when I sat out in a meadow, my faithful backpacking dog at my side, while my husband took off to fish. And as Bear and I sat there looking at the small white butterflies flitting over the meadow flowers, the thought occurred to me that those butterflies were not strictly necessary. Not in their dainty, pretty form. They could have been ugly and still done the job. Or they could have left their work to the yellow and brown butterflies–why do we need the extra? But having pretty white butterflies is a form of nature’s flourish.

And that led to the companion idea that if flourish is allowed in nature, wouldn’t it be all right to have some of it in my own life?

So right then and there I pulled out pen and paper and started making my Flourish List. Spent an hour writing down all the things I’d wanted for years and years, but never allowed myself to have. I’m not talking about extravagances like a private jet or a personal chef, I’m talking about small pleasures like new, pretty sheets (even though the current ones were still in perfectly good shape); new long underwear that fit better; a new bra; high-quality lotion from one of the bath and body shops; fancy bubble bath. The most expensive item on my list was a pillow-top mattress to replace the plain old Costco mattress we’d been sleeping on for the past twenty years.

I gave myself the chance to write down everything, large or small, just to see it all on paper. And you know what? It wasn’t that much. I had maybe fifteen items. Then, still sitting out in that meadow, I did a tally of what I thought it would all cost. I knew the mattress would probably be very expensive, so I estimated high (no internet connection out there in the wilderness, otherwise I could have researched actual numbers). I think I ended up estimating about $3,000 for the whole list. And that sounded pretty expensive to me. So I just put the list away and promised myself I’d start buying some of the cheaper items when we got home.

And I did. New underwear. Vanilla lotions and bubble baths. New sheets. And finally, a few months later, a pillow-top mattress, on sale, less than $400. By the time I checked off the last item on my list last fall, I had spent less than $1,000. That might still sound like a lot, but in the greater scheme I felt like it was too small an amount to have denied myself all those little pleasures all those many years. Especially if I had bought myself one of those items every year–I know I never would have noticed the cost.

So that’s my suggestion for today: Create your own Flourish List, just like Sarah and I have, and give yourself the pleasure of writing down every small or large thing you want for yourself right now. All the little treats. Maybe they’re not so little–maybe this is the year you need a new car or some other big-ticket item. But that’s a “Need” list. This is your Flourish List–everything you want but don’t necessarily need.

And then? Treat yourself. Choose one item every week or every month, and give it to yourself. And if you feel strange about replacing something you don’t like with something you know you will, then remember to pass on that other item to someone else who might love it more than you did. I’ve done that with clothes, kitchenware, books: it feels so good to take everything you don’t want and give it to a thrift store where someone else can be happy to have found it, and found it so cheaply. Maybe there’s someone out there with a Flourish List that includes a pair of boots like the ones that have just been gathering dust in your closet. Stop hoarding them. Move them on to their new, appreciative owner.

And by doing that, you make room in your own life for things you’ll appreciate and enjoy. It’s hard to invite abundance when you’re chock full of clutter. Make some room. Make your list. And then start treating yourself the way you deserve by no longer withholding those little items that you know will make you smile.

I felt pretty great throwing out that nearly-empty tube of toothpaste last night. It doesn’t take much to make me happy. But I didn’t really realize that until I sat in a meadow and enjoyed the simple sight of some unnecessary butterflies.

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3. Getting Over the Need To Be Polite

You’ll just have to trust me that there’s a story behind this. Mine isn’t as interesting as the one that taught me this lesson:

One of my favorite women adventurers is Helen Thayer. She’s a New Zealander by birth, now living in Washington State, and I first heard of her when I read her book Polar Dream.  Here’s the description:

In 1988, at the age of 50, Helen Thayer became the first woman in the world to travel on foot to the magnetic North Pole, one of the world’s most remote and dangerous regions. Her only companion was Charlie, her loyal husky, who was integral to her survival. Polar Dream is the story of their heroic trek and extraordinary relationship as they faced polar bears, unimaginable cold, and a storm that destroyed most of their supplies and food.

So yeah, super burly. I’ve referenced that adventure in a few books of mine–Doggirl and Parallelogram 3: Seize the Parallel–because I remain so thoroughly inspired and impressed by what Ms. Thayer accomplished despite the incredible danger and hardships. And that wasn’t her only big adventure. She and her husband and the dog from Polar Dream lived among wolves for a year (see her book Three Among the Wolves) and later, when she was in her 60s and her husband was in his 70s, they both trekked across the Gobi Desert, just the two of them and a few camels (see Walking the Gobi: A 1600 Mile Trek Across a Desert of Hope and Despair). You can understand why she’s a hero of mine.

And one of her lessons that has always stuck with me is the one about being too polite.

Here’s the situation: On her last morning in civilization before Helen set off for the magnetic North Pole, the Inuit villagers who had graciously hosted her the night before took their hospitality one step further by helping Helen pack up her sled for the journey. Helen had a particular packing system in mind, but she didn’t have the heart to tell the villagers she didn’t want their help. They were so happy and enthusiastic about it, she didn’t want to hurt their feelings. So she just smiled and said thank you as she watched them stuff her gear and clothing every which way into various pockets and pouches. She figured she’d fix it all later once she was alone in camp that night.

Big mistake.

Because when she finally stopped skiing across the ice that first night and began setting up her camp, she could feel the cold beginning to affect her fingers. She understood the dangers of frostbite. She needed to put on her pair of heavy, insulated mittens, but where were they? As she frantically searched for them, she could feel the dry cold and the wind chill of minus 100 quickly taking their toll. By the time she finally found the mittens, her fingers already felt like hard wooden blocks. The damage was done.

When she woke up the next morning, her hands were swollen and covered with blisters. And they felt incredibly, horribly painful. They stayed that way for the whole first week, making everything so much harder: lighting her stove, dressing herself, setting up and breaking down her camp–anything that required manual dexterity and ended up leaving her fingers throbbing with agonizing pain.

All because she’d been afraid to say, “No. No, thank you. I need to do this myself.”

What’s amazing is you’d think someone as brave as Helen Thayer would have no trouble telling people no. But it just shows you hard it can be sometimes to retrain ourselves to do what might seem impolite.

Years ago I saw an Oprah episode where she interviewed Gavin de Becker, the guy who wrote The Gift of Fear. Does anybody else remember that episode? He talked about how predators sometimes test their prey by insisting on “helping.” “Oh, here, let me bring this to your car. You dropped this, I’ll just bring it upstairs for you.” And when you say, “No,” the predator still insists. Because he’s testing whether he can dominate you.

De Becker and Oprah discussed how it wasn’t just dangerous criminals doing that, it could also be friends or family members. De Becker said, “Anyone who won’t hear your ‘no’ is trying to control you.” When you think of it that way, you can probably see it all around you: in your bossy co-worker, your critical mother-in-law, even your well-meaning sister or friend. Here you are taking a stand and actually using your “no,” and the person refuses to accept it.

Annoying, and, as de Becker points out, also potentially dangerous. People practice on us. We need to practice, too.

This is all a way of saying the same thing someone once told me: “It’s only fair if it’s fair to you, too.” How’s that again? You get a vote. If it’s nice for someone else, is it also nice for you? Or are you going to end up exhausted/broke/angry/resentful/out of time to watch your favorite show if you do “just this one more” favor?

Don’t get me wrong–it feels good to be nice. No doubt about it. But it feels less good to always be the one giving and giving, while your own store of personal energy and good will feels like it’s slowly draining away. Then, if you’re like me, one day it’s finally enough, and the answer for everybody is “No, no, and NO,” even if a few of those would have been yesses if they’d caught you on a better day. And maybe that grumpy, surly no-ness lasts for a lot longer than you meant it to–*cough* three years–and you realize when you come out of it that you could have had a much easier life and been much happier if you’d only moderated your yesses one by one instead of letting them all pile up in such an unbalanced way.

See where I’m going with this?

As my best friend sometimes has to remind us both, “We don’t have to act nice, we are nice.” And if you look closely at your own behavior, you can see the times when you’re just performing–wanting to appear nice–as opposed to genuinely wanting to do something out of love or friendship or simple human kindness. There is a difference. One of them drains you, the other fills you up. It’s very noticeable once you really start looking at it.

Sometimes you need to work the problem backwards. How will you feel afterward if you say no here versus yes? Forget how hard it might feel in the moment to tell someone no–think about how you want to feel afterward. If you really, really want to go home tonight and slip into something slouchy and treat yourself to an evening of quiet and Call the Midwife, then why are you saying yes to anything else? Don’t you get a vote, too? Don’t you ever get the yes?

Or, like I’m doing today, you work out a balance: ten nice things for other people, ten nice things for yourself. That seems like the best recipe for me lately to be able to handle all of my obligations cheerfully. I know at the end of a long stream of yesses today I’ll get to sit down and binge watch season 2 of The Mindy Project.

Now that’s my kind of balance.

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4. Twinkie Puppy Caption

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Create a Caption for Twinkie!

What a playful pup! Doesn’t he have such a sweet, expectant little expression on his face? I think it looks like Twinkie is anxiously waiting for a game of fetch to begin.

Twinkie puppy

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5. Coloring Page and Hidden Picture Puzzle for Easter

A special treat! A hidden picture puzzle and coloring page for Easter by Liz Ball. To order books with her hidden picture puzzles or other books (like Topsy Turvy Land written by Mama Donna) from Hidden Pictures Publishing, click HERE. Enjoy! *Click on the picture, then print! It will print out full size ready to be colored. If that doesn't work with your printer, right click on the

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6. Snapshot: Dog in flight

Christine Marie Larsen illustration: Dog in Flight

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7. The Surprising Magic of “Cookie”

Once again, crisis and injury averted thanks to a clever dog training technique I learned from master trainer April Bush.

A little background: Last fall while we were backpacking in the San Juan range of the Rocky Mountains, I heard some commotion one morning coming from the area where husband and dogs had gone off to retrieve our food bags from where we hung them in the trees overnight to keep them away from the bears.

Our younger Lab, Baby Moose, aka Baby Danger, was only about 10 months old. He’d already earned his nickname when he was 5 months old and jumped from a moving car just because that seemed interesting. He rolled several times, just a ball of whirling black fluff, while I watched in horror before catapulting out of the car myself, but by the time I reached him he’d already stood up and shaken it off like it was no big deal. “What are you looking at, Mom?”

Baby Danger.

So now fast-forward several months and I’m hearing his unusually deep, serious bark coming from that area where bear bags are hung. Then I hear my husband shout, “Moose!” and then even more loudly, “Robin!” And that’s never good, because it usually means there’s some sort of emergency calling for my wilderness medical skills.

Great.

So I start fumbling into my boots, but before I can get them on I hear my husband tell Moose very calmly, “Go show your mom.”

And here comes trotting toward me, very proud, Baby Danger with a face full of porcupine quills. Twelve of them. While our older dog had the sense to keep his distance from the porcupine they both found, Moose went right for it. Why not? Looks interesting. He didn’t even seem bothered by all the needles stuck in his snout–at least not until I started prying them out one at a time with the plier setting of the multi-tool I was happy we brought along.

So now here we are, six months later, and you’d think the dog had a sense of history or self-preservation or just some sense in general. Nope.

Baby Danger

Baby Danger

Yesterday while he and I were cross-country skiing in some beautiful woodlands, he suddenly veered off toward a tree. I kept skiing, not thinking anything of it, until I once again heard that deep, manly bark of his that only seems to come out when he’s found something particularly dangerous and worth chasing.

I quickly reversed course.

Moose stood at the base of a tree, barking his lungs out at a huge beach ball-sized porcupine perched on a low branch only about a foot above him. Well within quilling distance. The porcupine kept puffing himself larger and doing this cool trick where the spikes rolled in a wave across his back as if someone were running a hand over a fresh buzz cut. It was impressive, but also kind of awful. Because any second those quills were going to start shooting into my dog’s face.

I shouted, “Moose, leave it!” and “Come!” but as you can imagine, boring commands like that were nothing compared to the thrill of a treed beast.

But I had one more command in my arsenal. The magic one I’d learned from April.

“COOKIEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!!”

Moose tore himself away from the porcupine and came racing toward me. Unbelievable. I opened up my treat bag and let the heavens rain treat. Because that’s what the special word “Cookie” has come to mean. It has to mean that every time.

Here’s what April taught me: Come up with some special word that you only use in the most dire circumstances when you really, really need your dog to come to you. Maybe it’s because he’s about to run out into traffic, or he’s chasing something he shouldn’t, or he’s a black dog who’s run off into the darkness at night and you have no hope of finding him otherwise.

“Cookie” is a good word to use because you can really draw out the sound. Anything ending in an “ee” sound is great.

To build the power of the special word, you start using it a few times a day at unexpected, random times. You’ll always want to have a good supply of your best treats on hand–the thing that makes this word so special is that the dog really hits the jackpot of treats once he responds.

The first time, stand close enough that your dog can see you. Then call out the word with as much enthusiasm and volume as you can. The dog won’t quite understand what you’re doing this first time, so open your hand and show the monster mound of treats. Yes, lad, you get every one of these if you come.

Do it again some time later that first day, standing just out of sight of your dog. See if he remembers what happened last time. He probably will. Again, huge jackpot of great treats, one after another for about 30 full seconds. You want this to be the most fabulously-rewarded command in your entire arsenal.

And a key part of the training is that it has to be a totally positive experience. You can’t use “Cookie” and then leash up the dog or put him in his crate or do anything he might not have come running for if he’d known. In a crisis situation you are going to hold on to him and probably leash him up, but he doesn’t need to know that right now.

Do it about 3 times a day for a week. Then just once a day for the following week. Then every other day, gradually tapering off until you do it once a week. The whole process should take only a few weeks, but it’s worth continuing to strengthen it weekly.

Because there will come a time, just like my experience yesterday, when you’re going to want your dog to remember how fantastic it is to drop everything and run for the Cookieeeeee!  I cannot tell you how happy and relieved I was that it worked.

Me sportin' the ever-trendy treat pouch.

Me sportin’ the ever-trendy treat pouch.

The down side, from a fashion standpoint, is that you’re going to end up wearing something like this hot-looking number whenever you go somewhere where you’ll have your dogs off-leash. I know, I know, you’re insanely jealous right now. I understand.

The alternative is to carry a bunch of great, smelly treats in your pocket, and maybe end up like Elaine in that Seinfeld episode where she’s running from a pack of dogs because she’s hidden mutton in the pockets of her coat. Don’t ask why. Just watch the episode.

So that’s my how-to for the day. If you have a dog like mine with a will of his own, you’re going to need some magic every now and then to keep him out of danger. I don’t know if this will work on Moose every time, but I’m grateful it worked yesterday.

Peace out!

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8. Puddle Pug, by Kim Norman | Book Giveaway

Enter to win an autographed copy of Puddle Pug, written by Kim Norman and illustrated by Keika Yamaguchi. Giveaway begins March 30, 2014, at 12:01 A.M. PST and ends April 29, 2014, at 11:59 P.M. PST.

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9. Back to the Scene of the Crime

On a beautiful Saturday recently, my daughter and I broke a rule or statute, I’m not sure which. I don’t think it was the law we broke, and I doubt there would have been a stiff penalty had we been caught. True confessions time – we took our dog, Winston to the dog park. Why is that a problem? Because Winston was banned from the local dog park a few years ago.

He’s a very friendly, yet stupid dog who has no spatial awareness and is completely unconcerned with the personal bubble of others – dog or human. The last time we took him there, a Weimaraner pup intrigued him. They chased each other around for a while until suddenly, the dog was gone. To the shock of the other owner, Winston had decided to use him as a chaise lounge. We ran toward him, screaming for him to get off. But he just cocked his head contentedly, unconcerned with us while seated on his comfy new chair.

The other owner just happened to be in charge of the dog park. Her dog was fine after we got our oaf off of him. But Winston’s picture went up on the dog equivalent of the post office wall as a canine non grata.

image

But on this day, with no other dog in the over 35 lb yard, we decided to let him in. He sniffed around, ran some, and paraded along the fence separating him from the little dogs. I guess he decided it wasn’t worth being where he wasn’t welcome because he peed on the bench then sat by the gate, ready to leave.

There are places I’ve let my feet wander in the past that I shouldn’t go back to. We are all tempted by something. Whether you are a believer or not, there are actions that are wrong and would cause injury to your health, family, or freedom if you undertook them. I know what tempts me. Fortunately, I have a little more self-control than I did as a young man.

I heard a pastor once say that our greatest weakness can be our curiosity. We know the line we won’t cross, and have a resolute desire to stay away. Yet too often, we draw the line and inch our toes as close as they can possibly be to it, lean in to see what is going on over there, and then act surprised when we fall into the same old sin and self-destructive behavior.

image

What tempts you? What lines have you drawn and where are your feet? These are not questions to answer in the comments section, just something for you and I to think about as we navigate life’s dog park.

Good for Winston, he just peed on it and walked away. I pray I can treat my temptations with the same indifference.

 


12 Comments on Back to the Scene of the Crime, last added: 3/27/2014
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10. March Winds of Time, Books, Kids and Dogs

            MiyazakiHowl4

The boundaries shift and change as children grow with the winds of time. 

Children's stories, fables and mythology open doors to both the real world and to the world of fantasy and imagination.

Fairy tales have been retold and endured through many cultures. Aesop's fables have been part of children's literature for over 2000 years. 

This blog is dedicated to the power of story and the worlds of wonder and imagination that are the world of children's literature. And to therapy dogs, that help reluctant children banish fear of reading  

The illustration from Miyazaki's Howl's Movin g Castle

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 LITWORLD

Litworld opens the doors of possibilities in life to disadvantaged youth through books, reading, mentors, and guidance.

LitWorld celebrated World Read Aloud Day on March 5.

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 Lit World is bringong litereracy, books, and empowerment to underprivileged children in Ghana,India, Haiti, Kenya, Kosovo, Nepal, Pakistan, Peru the Phillipines, Rwanda, Uganda, and the USA.

More than 793 million people are illiterate worldwide. Two thirds of these are women.

 

LitWorld places a special focus on young women and girls ages 10-14

"LitWorld’s strength-based model of social emotional learning fills a critical gap in education... LitClub and LitCamp curriculum cultivates core strengths that inherently exist within each child. The LitWorld 7 Strengths – Belonging, Curiosity, Kindness, Friendship, Confidence, Courage, and Hope – are ideas that are key to building resilience."

Barking Planet salutes  LITWORLD and their founder and leader Pam Allyn for their wonderful work.

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Gaberiel'sAngelsHeader

Gabriel's Angels...helping heal abused children in Arizona.

Pam Gaber and her therapy dog, Gabriel, began working together in 2000 Gabriel and Pamin the Crisis Nursery, a shelter for abused children in Phoenix, Arizona. Gabriel had an immediate positive impact on frightened, withdrawn children. This was the beginning of Gabriel's Angels. During his 10 years of service as a Delta Society registered therapy dog, Gabriel visited over 5,000 abused, neglected, and at-risk children.

The organization has continued to grow since that time. Gabriel's Angels GabrielsAngelsnow serves 13,00 children a year through over 115 agencies through over 150 volunteer Pet Therapy teams. Teams visit each participating agency on a consistent schedule to build trust, empathy and respect in the children.  

Here's a Link to a video that will take you into the world of abused children and the wonderful work accomplished by Gariel's Angels' therapy dog teams.

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This dog is a genius...

Mr-peabody-sherman-LINCOLNHis name is Mr. Peabody and he is winning at the box office.

Mr. Peabody, the most accomplished dog in the world, inventor extradinary, and his adopted son, Sherman, use their time machine for extraordinary adventures...

Dreanworks has a big hit, based on a dog as a parent to a miscievous boy and their travels on the winds of time...past, present and future.

 

Here's a link to trailer(s) Dreamworks IMDB

Meanwhile, Frozen has earned over 396 millon dollars; and The Hunger Games, Catching Fire, has earned over 424,000,000 dollars.

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Divergent

Divergent1

Reworking the Hunger Games with a book and a movie sequel...

Here are excerpts from reviewers of the movie and the book...

 Divergent was first published in 2011 and written by the then 22 year old Veronica Roth. The book made the best-seller lists the first week it was published in 2011 and has sold over 11 million copies. Like Hunger Games, it became a trilogy. Here is an excerpt from an insightful review by Susan Dominus, in the New YorkTimes 

 "...though Roth’s “Divergent” is rich in plot and imaginative details, it suffers by BookCovercomparison with Collins’s opus. The shortcoming would not be so noticeable were there less blatant overlap between the two. Both 'Divergent' and 'The Hunger Games' feature appealing, but not conventionally pretty, young women with toughness to spare. Both start out with public sorting rituals that determine the characters’ futures. And both put the narrators in contrived, bloody battles that are in fact competitions witnessed by an audience. Even the language sounds familiar..."

Here are excerpts from incisive movie reviews by Manhola Dargis in the NY Times and Ty Burr in the Boston Globe...

DivergentTrainJump"Veronica Roth, who wrote the book “Divergent” and its two hot-selling follow-ups, tends to avoid mentioning “The Hunger Games,” but the similarities between these young-adult juggernauts are conspicuous in the extreme. “The Hunger Games” is a dystopian tale set in a postwar North America divided into 13 districts; “Divergent” is a dystopian tale set in postwar Chicago divided into
five factions. Each series pivots on a gutsy teenage heroine who fights to the death like a classic male hero..."

Here is the Link to read all of Ms Dargis review.

And here is Ty Burr's impassioned review;

Divergent” is almost good enough to make you forget what a cynical exercise it is on every possible level. The original 2011 young adult novel by Veronica Roth — reasonably engrossing, thoroughly disposable — reads exactly like what it is: an ambitious young author’s attempt to re-write “The Hunger Games” without bringing the lawyers down on her head. The folks at production company Summit Entertainment are happy to turn the book into a movie because it allows them to crank up the franchise machinery that has worked so well for “Hunger Games,” “Twilight,” and the “Harry Potter” films, only without the bother of creating something fresh." Here is the Link to read all of Ty Burr's review:Globe

 Here is the link to the action filled trailer for Divergent 

Divergent sold $56 million in tickets for its first weekend...the YA market speaks!

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Movies inspire mock weapons for 8-12 year old girls

Here is an excerpt from a fascinating article inthe New York Times article by Hilary Stout and 

"Heroines for young girls are rapidly changing, and the toy industry — long adept at
GIRLSTOYS-DivergentKatnisscapitalizing on gender stereotypes — is scrambling to catch up.

Toy makers have begun marketing a more aggressive line of playthings and weaponry for girls — inspired by a succession of female warrior heroes like Katniss,  the Black Widow of “The Avengers,” Merida of “Brave” and now, Tris of the book and new movie “Divergent” — even as the industry still clings to every shade of pink...

The premier of the movie “Divergent” this weekend is only adding to the marketing frenzy
GirlsToysWeaponsaround weapon-wielding girls. A Tris Barbie doll, complete with her signature three-raven tattoo, is already for sale on Amazon...
 

All of this is enough to make parents’ — particularly mothers’ — heads spin, even as they reach for their wallets. While the segregation of girls’ and boys’ toys in aisles divided between pink and camouflage remains an irritant, some also now wonder whether their daughters should adopt the same war games that they tolerate rather uneasily among their sons...

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  FrogprinceWarwickGoble

 Five Hundred New Fairy Tales and a "harsher dose of reality"...

The headline and the article that appeared in the Guardian proclaimed that 500 new fairy tales had been discovered in Germany... a collection of fairytales gathered by historian Franz Xaver von Schönwerth that had been locked away in an archive in Regensburg for over 150 years. 

This was in March 2012. However, I was unaware of the discovery that these tales existed until I RackhamGirlTree01recently read the following in Maria Tatar's children's lierature blog, Breezes from Wonderland 

"Returning to blogging after I finish translating The EnchantedQuill, an anthology of nineteenth-century fairy tales collected by Franz Xaver Schonwerth.  Once you read these stories, you will abandon any ideas about the literary transmission of fairy tales–these are tales in the raw, not cooked to suit the tastes of the literate..."

Reading this led me to read Ms Tatar's New Yorker article entitled, Cinderfellas: The Long-Lost Fairy Tales, 

.Here are excerpts from this informative and compelling article::

 "Bavarian fairy tales going viral? Last week, theGuardian reported that five hundred unknown fairy tales, languishing for over a century in the municipal archive of Regensburg, Germany, CruikshankjackBeanstalkhave come to light. The news sent a flutter through the world of fairy-tale enthusiasts, their interest further piqued by the detail that the tales—which had been compiled in the mid-nineteenth century by an antiquarian named Franz Xaver von Schönwerth—had been kept under lock and key. How astonishing then to discover that many of those “five hundred new tales” are already in print and on the shelves at Widener Library at Harvard (where I teach literature, folklore and mythology) and at Yale, Stanford, and Berkeley.

Schönwerth—a man whom the Grimm brothers praised for his “fine ear” and accuracy as a collector—published three volumes of folk customs and legends in the mid-nineteenth century, but the books soon began gathering dust on library shelves...

Schönwerth’s tales have a compositional fierceness and energy rarely seen in stories gathered by the Brothers Grimm or Charles Perrault,..Schönwerth gives us a harsher dose of reality than most collections..."

Here is the link to read more of this fascinating and informative article: Tatar

The illustrations, from the top down, are by Warwick Goble, Arthur Rackham, and George Cruikshank.

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Non-violence

2 Doghead 1.457 by 1.573 inchesI don't want to mislead our blog readers about non-violence in a violent world. But perhaps in our Planet Of The Dogs series they will see something of the possibilities for non-violence in the the "real" world, as the dogs, with their unconditional courage, loyalty, and cleverness overcome invaders, swords, and warriors on horses...and bring peace to the land. 

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               Newgrange- where time stands still  

 

  Newgrange_aeriallarge

 Newgrange rests on a hill in Ireland.

It was in place 3000 years before Christ, a thousand years before Stonehenge, and 500 years before the pyramids.

In Ireland, it is known as a Thin Place...

Author Bonnie McKernan writes of Thin Places on her blog..."where time stands still, beauty enthralls, the bigger picture is glimpsed... 

Do you remember that stretch of road or river or mountainside you immediately felt a connection to? A place where the draw was so visceral it elicited a feeling of peace and excitement concurrently? It might have resulted from sensory delights like the sun on your face, fresh air in your lungs, a spectacular vie Cliffsof Clairew—or from a scene that stirred your imagination or recharged your faith. However this attraction defined itself, you were thoroughly transfixed, wanting to stay longer and feel more.

Early Celtic Christians once called such experiences thin places, where the veil between the natural world and spiritual realm seems especially transparent—where time stands still, beauty enthralls, the bigger picture is glimpsed… where one feels closer to an omnipresent God..."

In a future blog, I will write more of Thin Places and the myths, folklore and fairies of Ireland.

Here is a link to see a brief National Geographic video on Newgrange. 

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The importance of children's books in opening the mind to the door of life ConnorUSA-Oct-Nov-2013 072and the world of imagination is beyond measure. The importance of a dog in the life of a child is also beyond measure. It was from thoughts like these that the Planet Of The Dogs Series evolved - Read Sample Chapters at: Planet Of The Dogs 

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Fairy tale legends often have a timeless quality...

Boy, Snow, Bird...Snow White for Adults

Helen Oyeyemi has transformed Snow White into a critically acclaimed book for adults that deals with timeless questions, identity and mystery. Here is an excerpt from a top flight reviewer,  YVONNE ZIPP, fiction critic for the CS Monitor 


BoySnowBirdCover"Helen Oyeyemi upends the whole Snow White story, tossing out apple, dwarves, glass coffin – and replacing them with an unsettling book that casts a spell of its own...

As with her fairy tale counterpart, Boy Novak (a young woman) is fond of her own reflection.“Nobody ever warned me about mirrors, so for many years I was fond of them, and believed them to be trustworthy,” says Boy, who would gaze into them, kissing her reflection or setting two mirrors opposite one another to create an endless series of reflections.

Her daughter and stepdaughter have the opposite problem: Sometimes their reflection doesn’t show up at all.

All three women learn the ways that mirrors can lie during the course of the story, most of which is set in the 1950s in a fictional Massachusetts town called Flax Hill. The novel hinges on several plot revelations, which I am not going to spoil. This is one book where I would recommend you not read anything in advance, even the back cover: Just go buy it."

               SnowWhiteWalterCrane
                 Illustration for the Grimm's Snow White by Walter Crane. 

 
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"Someday you will be old enough to read fairy tales again."- C.S. Lewis

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  AdspringreadsPOD2012

Therapy reading dog owners, librarians and teachers with therapy reading dog programs...You can write us at planetofthedogs@gmail.com and we will send you free reader copies from the Planet of the Dogs Series.

Read sample chapters of all the books in the Planet Of The Dogs series by clicking here:Sample Chapters  

Our books are available through your favorite independent bookstore or via Barnes & Noble, Amazon, Powell's, the Book Depository and... 

Librarians, teachers, bookstores...Order Planet Of The Dogs, Castle In The Mist, and Snow Valley Heroes, A Christmas Tale, through Ingram with a full professional discount.

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"As a parent and a teacher, therefore, I argue for the continuance of books in an age Kids on booksmarked by visual technology. There remains nothing like the feel of a book in the hand, nothing like the security offered by a book in the bed ( an experience recorded in the West from at least the twelth century)...If there is a future to children's literature, it must lie in the artifacts of writing and the place of reading in the home. To understandthe history of children's literature is to understand the history of all forms of literary experience."-

Seth Lerer writing in "Children's Literature, A Reader's History from Aesop to Harry Potter".

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   PuppiesNatlPuppyDayMarch23

National Puppy Day was March 23..."a day to celebrate the magic and unconditional love that puppies bring to our lives. It’s also a day to help save orphaned puppies across the globe and educate the public about the horrors of puppy mills, as well as further the mission for a nation of puppy-free pet stores. While National Puppy Day supports responsible breeders, it does encourage prospective families to consider adoption as a first choice"...To read more, visit the site of Colleen Paige, who founded National Puppy Day nine years ago. 

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 Circling the Waggins 

CtWHave you ever wondered what sort of chaos ensues in a home full of rescue pets? Author C.A. Wulff  lets readers experience the surprises, the laughter, and the wonder of it all in her book “Circling the Waggins; How 5 Misfit Pets Saved Me from Bewilderness”, a personal account of just such a household.Wulff’s pack of dogs, cats and mice all have unique personalities, some of them intriguing, nearly all of them challenging – even for a veteran of rescue! Circling the Waggins examines the bonds we create with pets, no matter how big or small, and how our pets affect and enrich our lives.
Wulff’s honest story recounts the ups and downs of letting furry family members into our hearts. Circling the Waggins is available in print and for kindle.
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"Imagine having a mother who worries that you read too much. The question is, what is it that's supposed to happen to people who read too much? How can you tell when someone's crossed the line." ” 
Helen Oyemeni, Boy, Snow, Bird
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Podcasting at the Children's Literary Salon

NYPLlogoThe New York Public Library annouces their  next Children's Literary Salon to be held on Saturday, April 19th at 2:00 p.m.: The Topic is Podcasting Children’s Books: Ins and Outs, Ups and Downs

These fascinating discussions are lively, informative and free...This event will take place in the Stephen A. Schwarzman building (the main branch of New York Public Library) in the South Court Auditorium. 

For any questions and comments please contact Elizabeth Bird at elizabethbird@bookops.org.
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WCDogsLogo
 
Here's another excellent article for dog lovers at Way Cool Dogs...
 
 Six Reasons Why You Should Adopt A Dog From A Pound 

You should adopt from a dog pound — whether it is a nearby dog shelter or your local pound — CITM-Raku and the girl-blog sizeas it is one of the best ways to acquire a new and loyal companion. Unfortunately, many people opt to purchase their dog from breeders or pet stores, which often get their dogs from puppy mills and other unlicensed breeders.

Many dogs in a dog pound remain homeless and are often put down due to overcrowding. If you’re thinking about getting a dog, consider the following reasons for adopting a mixed breed from a dog shelter or dog pound:

Mixed breeds are healthier dogs

Mixed breeds are, in general, far healthier and longer lived than purebred dogs. Many purebred dogs are prone to diseases caused by genetic vulnerabilities which have been aggravated through centuries of  inbreeding. A mixed breed is far less...   Read about all six reasons at this link: WCD

The illustration is by Stella Mustanoja McCarty from Castle In The Mist

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Listen to the Wind in the Willows -- free 
 

WindInTheWillows1Thanks to the BBC, an audio version of Kenneth Grahame's  The Wind in the Willows  is available to all -- at no charge.  This link also offers several other free recordings of enduring children's stories.

The classic story of Mole, Ratty, Toad and Badger is told in 10 episodes and read by Bernard Cribbins. The reading is delightful, very British, and accompanied by music and sound efects. Lesson plans and discussion ideas for educators, home schoolers, and librarians accompany the audio readings.

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Bringing the World of Reading to Kids

 NorwesterReadersBanner

Two hard working women believers in the canine conection organized and continue to guide Nor'wester Readers. Wendi Huttner, a mom and a breeder/ trainer of Labradors, and Deborah Glessner, dog lover and retired librarian. A grass roots, hands on organization, Nor'wester is a vital part of their Pennasylvania community in bringing the world of reading to kids.

NorwesterCanineBookBuddies

Here are some of the Nor'wester Canine Book Buddies, volunteer therapy reading dog teams participating in the Northampton Township Library program. "Several Nor'wester Readers teams volunteered at the Expressions Day Camp, a camp for boys and girls (age 4-18) with high functioning autism, Asperger's Syndrome, non-verbal learning disabilities, and other types of social challenges. 

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BookDepositorylogoComThe Book Depository

Free Worldwide Shipping of the Planet Of The Dogs Series 

Free Worldwide Delivery
The Book Depository (Guernsey) is an international bookseller shipping our books free of charge, worldwide, to over 100 countries. By working with various world postal authorities and other carriers, we are always looking to add more countries to this list.

All books available to All: Currently, The Book Depository is able to ship over nine million unique titles, within 48 hours, from our fulfilment centre in Gloucester, United Kingdom. This figure is increasing every day. Apart from publishers, distributors and wholesalers, we even list and supply books from other retailers.

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 “There is no psychology in a fairy tale. The characters have little interior life; their motives are clear and obvious.” Phillip Pullman in his Introduction to Fairy Tales from the Brother's Grimmm  

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What should you do,  what can you do, if you see an injured dog or one Sunbearsquad-logoin distress?

For answers, examples, true stories and more, visit Sunbear Squad...Let the experience of compassionate dog lovers guide you...free Wallet Cards & Pocket  Posters,  Informative and practical guidance...Visit SunBear Squad

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"A man may smile and bid you hail

Yet wish you to the devil;

But when a good dog wags his tail,

You know he's on the level>"

Author unknown

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11. One billion dogs? What does that mean?

By Matthew E. Gompper


As part of my recent research on the ecology of dogs and their interactions with wildlife I took the necessary first step of attempting to answer a seemingly simple question: Just how many dogs are there on the planet? Yet just because a question is simple does not mean we can confidently answer it. Previous estimates of 500-700 million dogs were rough calculations. I tried to do a bit better by pulling together hundreds of local-scale estimates and extrapolating across much larger regions. The result? One billion dogs (986,913,500 to be exact).

What are we to make of such a shockingly large number? The estimate itself is undoubtedly inexact, and in the future population demographers will likely improve on it, much as demographers studying human populations have increased the accuracy of human population size estimates. Maybe it is ten percent less than a billion. Maybe it is twenty percent more. Either way, it’s a massive number. There is something about hitting the billion threshold that makes one pause and wonder how to interpret such findings.

One way to ponder such numbers is to ask about impact. What is the impact of having a billion dogs on the planet? We tend to view dogs as benign commensals, and indeed, with only rare exceptions (such as Australian dingoes) that is the case. These billion or so dogs are entirely dependent on humans to survive. We shelter and feed them directly or indirectly ¬– the latter when dogs survive by feeding on the foods that humans have discarded. For the most part, individual dogs can’t make a living hunting wild prey. (In this sense, dogs are quite different from cats, which can survive just fine outside the bounds of human societies.)

But that doesn’t mean that dogs won’t kill the occasional prey if it has the opportunity. My dog, an Australian Shepherd that as I type is happily snoozing on the living room couch, will gladly chase any squirrel in sight even if his chance of catching it is close to nil. But ‘close to nil’ is not the same as ‘nil’, and to quote Hamlet, “ay, there’s the rub”. Occasionally, some dogs can catch the proverbial squirrel, and many dogs are better than that, regularly ranging into areas where animals are likely to be found and chasing or killing whatever they can. This ranging may be alone or with other dogs from the neighborhood; the dogs may also be accompanying their human companions. One dog doing this occasionally is not a big deal. But multiply that by a billion and we suddenly recognize the potential for dogs to be important drivers of the behavior of wildlife and important mediators of wildlife population dynamics.

Free-ranging dog in Great Indian Bustard Wildlife Sanctuary, Maharashtra, India. Such dogs have the potential to greatly influence wildlife in the region. Photo by Matthew Gompper. Used with permission.

Free-ranging dog in Great Indian Bustard Wildlife Sanctuary, Maharashtra, India. Such dogs have the potential to greatly influence wildlife in the region. Photo by Matthew Gompper. Used with permission.

Indeed, numerous cases have been documented showing how dogs interact with and cause problems for the surrounding wildlife. Dogs disturb or kill wildlife, compete for the resources that wildlife also need, and act as reservoirs for pathogens that cause epidemics in wildlife. Dogs even act as prey for some big species of wild carnivores such as tigers, leopards, wolves and bears, and in such cases draw these species into areas where conflicts with humans are more likely. The more researchers look into the issue of dog-wildlife conflict, the more they come to recognize both the importance of the issue for protecting species and environments of conservation concern, as well as the importance of recognizing just how little we currently understand.

For instance, it would appear that a simple solution would be to restrict the ability of dogs to roam in areas where wildlife exists. Since most dogs in the developing world are fed kitchen scraps and roam in search of additional discarded food waste, combine restrictions on roaming with a better diet for dogs, and everyone wins, right? Not so fast. Commercially-produced dog foods are in many ways nutritionally similar to human foods. Producing dog food requires agricultural lands above and beyond that required for food production for people. Indeed, back of the envelope calculations based on the caloric needs of dogs suggest that the agricultural production requirements to support dogs equates to 30-40% of that required to support humans. Where would that land come from? Putting more land into agricultural development might do more damage to wildlife conservation efforts than the direct impacts dogs are currently causing.

But maintaining the status quo of allowing dogs to roam widely interacting with species of conservation concern is not satisfactory either. Nor do the norms of society allow us to cull massive numbers of dogs or confine every dog to a small space. After all, we as a global human population, like our dogs. So what are we to do? I believe a necessary first step to reducing the extent of dog-wildlife conflict may lie merely in first getting the word out regarding the importance of such issues. Once people come to realize there is an issue, locally tailored solutions, whether they involve curtailing how far dogs roam, increased oversight of dog welfare and breeding, or expanding the space set aside for wildlife, are more likely to be found acceptable than any one-size-fits-all approach to reducing dog numbers or impacts. The end result would hopefully benefit dogs, wildlife, and people.

Matthew Gompper is Professor of Mammalogy at the University of Missouri. His research examines wildlife disease ecology, the biology of mammalian carnivores (both wild and domestic), and the effects of resource subsidies on animal ecology. Gompper is the editor of Free-Ranging Dogs and Wildlife Conservation.

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12. Spring Reading 2014


Picture Books


Rip Van Winkle- Retold and illustrated by Will Moses, based on Washington Irving's book. Philomel Books a division of Penguin Putnam Books for young readers. New York 1999. This book is based on a  classical folk tale about a man who goes into the woods and falls asleep waking up many years later to a new world. This classic tale is retold with a combination of wonderful illustrations and words. It is probably better suited for the older child because of complex words and storyline. This new version brings a wonderful story back to our modern world. The storyline and sophisticated crafted words make it more suited for an older child.  

 
Patti Cake and Her New Doll- Written by Patricia Reilly Giff and illustrated by Laura J. Bryant. Published by Orchard books New York an imprint of Scholastic Inc. 2014. The book describes one day in a life of a little girl named Patti and her home companions mainly a dog named Tootsie and a new doll she got. With an imaginative approach, the author turns an regular day into an adventure and makes the ordinary into the extraordinary. A good book for you to get for you kids.



 
The Fisherman & His Wife- Based on a story by Grimm and Illustrated by John Howe 1984. Published by Creative Editions Mankato MN, 2001. The fisherman is happy living a simple life until one day everything turns around when he catches a magical fish. The fisherman's wife cannot be satisfied with what she gets. Her greed takes away everything the fish gave them. It is a great book for the older reader and the illustrations are stunning.







   
   Trouper- Written by Meg Kearney and Illustrated by E.B. Lewis. Published by Scholastic Inc. NY, 2013. The book is written from the point of view of a dog. The dog Trouper tells us his life story: how he lived on the streets t the time he was put in a pound and finally adopted. This book makes readers empathize with millions of abandoned dogs running on the streets or sitting in cages in the pounds waiting to find a loving home. I highly recommend this book to everyone.   




 
The Little Engine that Could
- Retold by Watty Piper and New Art by Loren Long. Published by Philomel Books a Division of Penguin Young Readers Group 2005. This is a great version of a classic. I loved how the writer and illustrator gave life to the characters. The story does not only teach children a lesson about never giving up, but it also introduces them to four kind of trains. I really loved this book and I strongly recommend you get it with your children. Each of us can accomplish anything we put our mind too.    


 Under the Same Sun- Written by Sharon Robinson and Illustrated by AG Ford. Published by Scholastic Press, New York 2014.  This is a great educational book about Tanzania a small country in Africa. One can vividly imagine the beautiful land of Africa with its lush scenery and many different animals. This book is very unique and the illustrations are amazing. The story is idle for a classroom setting.


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13. For The Love of Dogs by Ann Evans


Friends' dogs - Chip and Hetty
Did any of you go along to Crufts last week? As I’m writing this in advance I’m looking forward to going there on Sunday. Partly for work and partly because I just love seeing all the dogs. Although I admit there was one year when I'd looked at so many dogs during the afternoon, I commented on how one particular dog was sitting so still and obediently... It turned out to be a life-sized stuffed cuddly toy! 

I have always loved dogs. When I was little and all the pleading and pestering to mum and dad to let me have a dog came to nothing, I would play outside with a piece of rope which I pretended was a dog lead attached to my make-believe dog. 

Since then, happily I've been lucky enough to have had some wonderful dogs as pets. As anyone with a dog knows, our four-footed friends aren't just companions, they are protectors and comforters. They're always pleased to see you, and as confidants, you can tell your dog all your secrets and troubles and you know they won’t breathe a word to another soul.

Dogs are certainly man’s best friend – and many a writer’s best friend too. As a freelancer I've been writing for Dogs Monthly magazine since the 1990s. The first article was on my dog, Pippa who had a walk-on part in a play at my local theatre which resulted in her being interviewed on the radio!

Me and Pippa
Since then there have been articles on assistance dogs, search and rescue dogs, detection dogs - sniffing out anything and everything from ammunition and illegal drugs to detecting illnesses and impending epileptic fits. There have been articles on Army dogs, police dogs, cadaver dogs and stunt dogs; pedigree and cross breeds; dogs with super skills and dogs just desperate for love - to mention just a few. 

For many of us, walking the dog is just the ticket when we need to get away from it all and let our minds wander. That free time can be inspirational. And as we know dogs have been inspiring writers – and artists for centuries.

Here’s a few canine-themed poems which I hope you’ll enjoy reading as much as I have... and some nice doggy photos to share with you!



Tom's Little Dog
Grandson Jake and Chippy.
by Walter de la Mare


Tom told his dog called Tim to beg,
And up at once he sat,
His two clear amber eyes fixed fast,
His haunches on his mat.
Tom poised a lump of sugar on
His nose; then, "Trust!" says he;
Stiff as a guardsman sat his Tim;
Never a hair stirred he.

"Paid for!" says Tom; and in a trice
Up jerked that moist black nose;
A snap of teeth, a crunch, a munch,
And down the sugar goes! 






To a Lady with an Unruly and Ill-mannered Dog 
Who Bit several Persons of Importance
by Sir Walter Raleigh


Your dog is not a dog of grace;
He does not wag the tail or beg;
He bit Miss Dickson in the face;
He bit a Bailie in the leg.

What tragic choices such a dog
One of the perks of writing about dogs!
Presents to visitor or friend!
Outside there is the Glasgow fog;
Within, a hydrophobic end.

Yet some relief even terror brings,
For when our life is cold and gray
We waste our strength on little things,
And fret our puny souls away.

A snarl! A scruffle round the room!
A sense that Death is drawing near!
And human creatures reassume
The elemental robe of fear.

So when my colleague makes his moan
Of careless cooks, and warts, and debt,
-- Enlarge his views, restore his tone,

And introduce him to your Pet!


The Power of the Dog
by Rudyard Kipling
Daughter Debbie, boyfriend Steve and Lola
There is sorrow enough in the natural way
From men and women to fill our day;
And when we are certain of sorrow in store,
Why do we always arrange for more?
Brothers and Sisters, I bid you beware
Of giving your heart to a dog to tear.

Buy a pup and your money will buy
Love unflinching that cannot lie --
Perfect passion and worship fed
By a kick in the ribs or a pat on the head.
Nevertheless it is hardly fair
To risk your heart for a dog to tear.

When the fourteen years which Nature permits
Are closing in asthma, or tumour, or fits,
And the vet's unspoken prescription runs
To lethal chambers or loaded guns,
Then you will find -- it's your own affair --

But . . . you've given your heart to a dog to tear.

When the body that lived at your single will,
With its whimper of welcome, is stilled (how still!)
When the spirit hat answered your every mood
Is gone -- wherever it goes -- for good,
You will discover how much you care,
And will give your heart to a dog to tear.

We've sorrow enough in the natural way,
When it comes to burying Christian clay.
Our loves are not given, but only lent,
At compound interest of cent per cent.
Though it is not always the case, I believe,
That the longer we've kept'em, the more do we grieve;

For, when debts are payable, right or wrong,
A short-time loan is as bad as a long --
So why in -- Heaven (before we are there)
Should we give our hearts to a dog to tear?


And some dogs are worth their weight in gold.


Thank you Rob Tysall of Tysall's Photography for the photos.
(www.tysallsphotography.org.uk)

And if you'd like to look at me website, it's:  www.annevansbooks.co.uk

Out now: Become a Writer - A step by step guide. 


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14. Dog Loves Books, Drawing AND Counting: Louise Yates

Books: Dog Loves Books, Dog Loves Drawing, Dog Loves Counting 
Author: Louise Yates
Pages: 32 (each)
Age Range:3-6

We just discovered the Dog Loves ... series, and my 3 1/2 year old daughter and I are both hooked. We actually started with the third book, then realized that we had the second one hiding out on our shelves, and naturally had to purchase the first. To be fair, I was vaguely aware of having read the second book when it came out, and I liked it enough to keep it, but I didn't appreciate it until I had actually read it with my daughter. Because it is the interactivity that is beautiful about the Dog books. 

These books are of the genre that I would classify as "sneakily educational", and which can totally work if done well. Because let's face it, preschoolers are little sponges, looking to soak up learning wherever they can find it. Give them a cute dog with a vivid imagination and an appreciation for books to help them along the way, and they are all set. 

Dog Loves Books is the first of the series. You can't really go wrong with a book that starts out: "Dog loved books. He loved the smell of them, and he loved the feel of them. He loved everything about them...", accompanied by a series of illustrations of Dog glorying in his books.

In this installment (the least educational of the three, but the one that introduces readers to Dog's personality and preferences), Dog decides to open up a bookstore. Sadly, no customers come. But once he gets over the initial disappointment, Dog realizes that he's perfectly happy to sit in his bookstore, reading books. A lovely series of pages shows Dog surrounded by dragons and giraffes and spaceships, as he dwells inside of his books. And in the end, all of his experience reading books turns out to be useful, when he finally gets a chance to make recommendations. 

In Dog Loves Drawing, Dog still has his bookstore. He is initially surprised when his Aunt Dora sends him a book with blank pages. A note from his aunt tells him that it's a sketchbook. Once again demonstrating his ability to immerse himself in a story, Dog draws several friends, and then travels with them through a series of adventures. Throughout these adventures, Dog and his friends are shown drawing the next steps, coloring things in on their own, etc. At the end, the reader sees Dog with his filled sketchbook, and only then is it confirmed that the adventures were all in Dog's imagination.

My daughter had a bit of trouble grasping the concept here - that the friends weren't real, and the adventures weren't actually happening. But I think it will become more clear on future readings. And she still enjoyed it. She also learned things like what doodling is, and how to make scenery look like it's going by "FAST!". This one is a good companion book to I'll Save You, Bobo! by Eileen & Marc Rosenthal, in which Willy draws similar stories.  

Dog Loves Counting is the most overtly educational of the three. But still totally fun. Dog is having trouble getting to sleep, and counting sheep doesn't seem to work. So he decides to count creatures that he meets in his books, like a dodo and three-toed sloth. He marches merrily along, collecting creature after creature.

In addition to there being a running total of the creatures, each creature also has an attribute that Dog can count, like the bands on the nine-banded armadillo. The illustrations show small numbers about each band, encouraging young readers to both recognize the numbers and practice counting. And once the numbers are all counted up to 10, the animals go off for a bit, and Dog has a chance to count backwards, too. We end with: 

"When Dog woke up the next morning and looked at his books, he knew that friends and adventures were never far away--that was something he could count on." 

The thing about these books, particularly the last two, is that they simply beg for interaction between the reader and the child listener. My babysitter used the first one to teach my daughter how to spell Dog. I used the third one to practice counting to 10 forward and backward with her. I let her count things on each page. She counted things that weren't directly part of the story, like the number of leaves on the ferns shown on one page, etc. Her only disappointment was that the book didn't continue to 11, 12, etc. 

Yates' watercolor illustrations are perfect for these stories. Dog is rendered mostly in outline, a white dog against a white background, as counterpoint to the vividness of the animals and settings that he imagines. You can tell from his perky ears and big smile that he's friendly. His eyes are often closed (probably because he is busy imagining things).

The animals with which Dog surrounds himself are colorful and big-eyed. They're not realistic, exactly (how often do you see a dodo anyway?), but they welcome Dog, and the reader, to their fanciful world. The pictures in Dog Loves Drawing are particularly fun, including a big green monster, furry with sharp teeth and four feet clad in red sneakers. It looks exactly (and in the best possible way) like something that a six-year-old would draw. 

So we have a series of books that celebrate reading and the imagination, and incorporate concepts like drawing and counting without being even the least bit dull. All with warm, surprise-filled illustrations. No wonder these are a hit with my daughter and with me. I wonder what Dog will love next? We'll be waiting! 

Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers (@RandomHouseKids)  
Publication Date: July 2010, August 2012, September 2013
Source of Book: Review copies from the publisher (2/3) and purchase

FTC Required Disclosure:

This site is an Amazon affiliate, and purchases made through Amazon links (including linked book covers) may result in my receiving a small commission (at no additional cost to you).

© 2014 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage or at my Growing Bookworms page on Facebook

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15. Countdown Wednesday

caneldar

Today, Mom and I are counting down about rest.

What I Know About Rest

3. I nap in my bed.

photo 1

2. I nap on the couch.

photo 2

…a lot.

photo 4

16. I nap in the street. (But only in the summer.)

street nap2

1. I nap on Mom’s bed. I am allowed on her bed when she says the word, “OK” and then we sleep there all night long.

photo 10

Who turned out the lights?

I am not allowed on there when she makes the bed, or when she is sorting out her folders and paperwork for her college job.

photo 3

Who? Me?

What Mom Knows About Rest

3. Waking up super-early in the morning, lazing in bed, drinking tea is a perfect, restful start to the day.

photo 11

2. After a story is finished it needs to rest. No working on it, no looking at it, no THINKING about it.

photo 20

Sometimes, a story needs to rest for a week. Sometimes longer.

calendar

1. While a story is asleep, it’s difficult to wait for it to finish resting. It’s good to start mind-writing a new story right away. (And all new stories should be about me!)

swing

26. When stories wake up from resting, they sometimes stink.

photo 30


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16. Dog Daze (S.A.V.E. Squad: Book 1)

Dog Daze
Authors: Lauraine Snelling & Kathleen Damp Wright
Publisher: Barbour Publishing
Genre: Children / Dogs
ISBN: 978-1-61626-560-1
Pages: 160
Price: $5.99

Author’s website
Buy it at Amazon

Aneta Jasper is Ukranian by birth and new to the United States, having recently been adopted. So when her new mother encourages her to enter a contest, she’s willing to try, mostly out of fear of saying no and being sent back. She never actually expects to be a winner and have to team up with three other girls as junior event planners.

But Aneta soon finds herself happily working on their group’s big event – the Bassett Waddle. They not only want to raise money for the animal shelter, but also catch the culprit who tried to drown a Bassett puppy, Wink. And since Aneta has fallen for Wink, her motivation includes figuring out a way to convince her mom to let her adopt him.

Dog Daze is a wonderful book on so many levels. It highlights the feelings Aneta has as an adopted child wondering if her new mom really intends to keep her, along with the isolation of not being familiar with the English language. And it brings four very different girls together to work as a group toward something important. It also touches on the problems of puppy mills and animal abuse. I enjoyed reading this great story, and I look forward to the next installments in the S.A.V.E. Squad series.

Reviewer: Alice Berger


0 Comments on Dog Daze (S.A.V.E. Squad: Book 1) as of 1/16/2014 12:42:00 PM
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17. Book Review: Shadows



 Shadows

by Robin McKinley

It's not just that Maggie misses her father, or understandably resents her new stepfather, Val. No, it goes beyond that: Val has too many shadows. Whenever Maggie looks at him, she sees him surrounded by wiggly shadow shapes with too many appendages. It can't be magic, because there is no magic in Newworld. Anyone with the potential for magic must have a procedure to snip the gene before they reach puberty, and even though Val is an immigrant, he wouldn't have been allowed in if he had any magic.

Maggie tries not to think about it, and avoids Val as much as possible by throwing herself into her work at the local shelter, which isn't hard, since Maggie loves animals anyway. Then a cobey — a "coherence break" in the universe — opens nearby, and with one revelation after another, Maggie begins to discover that the world — and Newworld specifically — is full of surprises, among them that Val is not such a bad guy. When the situation goes from bad to worse, Maggie and her friends set out to set things right, accompanied by five very large dogs, a cantankerous Maine Coone cat, a friendly shadow named Hix, and one stubborn algebra book.

Shadows is a fun book with loads of teen appeal. Maggie's voice as the narrator is authentic and entertaining, if a bit rambly in parts, and there's gentle humor woven throughout the book. The pacing is excellent, perfectly balancing character development, excitement, humor, and reveals. All of the characters are interesting and well-developed, including animals, shadows, and semi-animate objects. Even the dogs each have distinctive personalities. Although Maggie finds she has some unusual abilities, she can't do it alone - it takes the combined efforts and abilities of everyone to succeed. There is romance, but it's not overdone and I like the direction that McKinley went with the it.

There are dystopian elements, such as soldiers in the streets with scanners, roadblocks, and forced genetic manipulation, but I wouldn't call this a dystopian book. The focus is not on fighting against a dystopian government, although there is certainly some of that. Instead, it's more about finding yourself and discovering that the world is a different place than you thought.

Shadows is a 2013 Cybils Awards Finalist in the YA Speculative Fiction category.

Who would like this book:

Readers of both traditional fantasy and dystopian stories will enjoy this, as it has elements of both. Dog lovers, cat lovers, and origami artists will also find a lot to appreciate.

Get it from:
FTC required disclosure: Reviewed from library copy. The bookstore links above are affiliate links, and I earn a very small percentage of any sales made through the links. Neither of these things influenced my review.


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18. Countdown Wednesday

Today we are counting down about winning. Not the Charlie Sheen kind which was kind of weird, but the writer kind. And the blogging-dog-of-a-writer-kind.

photo 1

Mom is a Winner

3. Mom’s book won a prize once. It’s called The Moonbeam Award. It shows as a badge on the cover of her book. I think it would look better shaped like a dog bone.

book cover

2. In 2013, Mom’s story Show and Tell Surprise was in Humpty Dumpty Magazine. That was a winner. Plus, magazines taste delicious.

humptyhumpty2

1. Mom also had an acceptance from MeeGenius for her first ever ebook, named What If I Don’t. We can’t even wait to see that one in the MeeGenius Bookstore. BIG winner. Plus, inside my head, I often think, “What-if-I-don’t?”. I hope someday to say it out loud.

meegenius blue

78. Mom is a winner in the 12×12 Challenge. She wrote 12 storybooks in 12 months. Just barely by the skin of her teeth, but she did it.

12-x-12-new-banner

I am a Winner, too!

3. Hutch a Good Life awarded me the Sunshine Award. Yay! I love sunshine. Plus I am afraid of the dark. 

Sunshine

2. Along with Nikitaland, Hutch also gave me the Blog of the Year Award. I have seen friends that have this award, and I am in good company with it. Plus stars are my favorite shape – except for dog bones.

boty-banner600

1. Bacon and AngelsWhisper both awarded me the Friends and Followers Award. I love friends and followers. So, thanks, friends! And thanks, followers!

FRIENDS-FOLLOWERS-award

67. I will give myself the Biggest Rule Breaker Award.

photo 3

Something smells good in here…..

I always ignore rules, so if you are reading my blog, you deserve an award. Feel free to share my bling, and also take a minute to click my friends’ links and check them out. Then maybe you can be a Rule Breaker, too.

photo 2

Mom left a cup of coffee for me. Yay!

 


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19. Ideas

Starting on November 1, Mom will be a part of PiBoIdMo.

piboidmo2013-participant-214x131

Yep. November is Picture Book Idea Month. That means she will have to get a picture book idea in her head every day for 30 days.  Last year, she wrote 30 ideas, and 8 of them are now either stories or poems. And one of them will be Mom’s first ever eBook, called What If I Don’t.

piboidmo2013-slogan-490x301

Ideas are a way of life when you’re an author. They are also a way of life when you’re a dog. Here are some ideas I have for stories….

Cupcake, the Best Dog in the World.

polka

Cupcake Gets Unlimited Treats

101 treats

When Cupcake Went for a Ride

car

Cupcake Looks Pretty

closet

Read to a Pet Night Starring Cupcake

pet night

Street Naps for Cupcake

street

Cupcake Turns Seven Years Old

birthday 7

That’s a week’s worth of ideas, right there! What’s the big deal? I wish November was named DogIdMo. I could totally do this!


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20. Dogs calling wolf!

He's bearhind youMaybe it’s because it’s Halloween, but there’s a presence in the house, and Pink keeps looking behind her, scared of her own shadow. Last night she was with the dogs on the big yellow sofa, just as normal, when a nasty, grisly, horrid sensation gripped her and she wanted to turn around and look but she was too scared to move. The dogs felt the same as she did. Normally they’ll bark at the smallest disturbance (like a leaf blowing across the lawn) but they were so scared they couldn’t make a sound and it took all of Bernie’s courage to call for Alleycat with a little yapping bark. Alleycat ran in from the kitchen, but of course he’d been fast asleep and he’s not as quick as he used to be, so when he arrived on the scene there was no sign of uncanny intruders or walking shadows at all. You can imagine he didn’t take too kindly to be woken up for nothing, but Berne and Lucy were adamant that they seen (or felt) something nasty, and Bernie decided to put on her quilted jacket for extra protection and Lucy and Pink begged Alleycat to stay close and help them to settle down.Dogs calling wolf As soon as they felt confident enough to be left alone, Alleycat returned to his gentleman’s chair in the kitchen, where he went straight back to sleep. But he must have half-believed that something was amiss because he kept one ear open, and presently he heard a weird, unaccountable sound that wasn’t normal at all, and he woke himself up to find a rather sinister looking bear snooping around the kitchen. As soon as it realized that Alleycat was on to it, the bear tried to escape through the outside door, but Alleycat chased it into the house and made it stay there. He’ll be questioning it later and that bear had better be sorry for frightening Pink and promise to mend its ways, or I wouldn’t like to think how angry Alleycat will be with that miscreant night-wanderer.You can't hide


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21. GeoDog

Mom and I went geocaching again last week. Geocaching is like treasure hunting. Mom holds the phone that shows the GPS and compass. Then we walk and walk and walk and walk.

walking

Then she decides the phone is upside down, so she turns it around and we start over. We walk and walk and walk and walk some more – the other way.

walking 2

The phone tells her when we’re getting close, and then we start searching and scanning till we find the treasure.

in a tree

Sometimes, Mom says, “No acorns.”

acorns

and “Don’t eat the pine cone.”

pine cone

and “Yikes! Hornets!”

nest

Geocaching is fun!

geo green

Mom does treasure hunting when she wants to submit a story, too. She has too many stories to count inside her computer and some more inside her head (that’s what’s up in there…). She is sure that one of them is a treasure and will be Book #2. Whenever she reads about a publisher or an agent that seems to be looking for the type of story Mom writes, she starts treasure hunting. She opens up story after story, revises them a little, talks to herself about them, and decides whether she’s headed in the right direction, or needs to turn around and start over.

map


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22. The gipsy

George and the bearsYesterday evening there was a knock on the front door.  No one knocks on our front door, they always come in via the kitchen, so that was strange right away.  I never receive unexpected callers either and everyone knows it, so I was more than surprised when the knocking continued and didn’t stop, and I was more than annoyed when the dogs didn’t bark at all.  I hate to think of my dogs being cowed, so I ran to investigate and flung the door wide open. There on the other side of the threshold was an old, thin-looking woman with a gipsy ring on her outstretched hand and a hooky nose on her narrow face.  Yet she wasn’t thin exactly, more wiry than anything, and she had big bones, and steely muscles, and if I thought she was thin I didn’t think she looked puny. Far from it. This was a formidable woman, you understand.  Here! she said, and I stood my ground and said nothing because I was amazed and disconcerted. Here, she repeated. Here, you!  Do you want your fortune reading! Now, for all that I would love to have my fortune read, I am afraid to see into the future, so I held out my hand in front of me and opened the palm in her face to show her what I thought of her question.  The grim old woman didn’t speak again, but she stared through me and fixed her gaze on something behind me.  She crooked a finger and beckoned it to come and when I turned I saw bears, dozens of bears, crawling along the tiled floor of the hall towards me (or rather towards her).  Alleycat!  I cried. Alleycat, where are you!


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23. Inspirational Quote of the Week

All the effort in the world won’t matter if you’re not inspired.
Chuck Palahniuk

Experiences inspire ideas. Mom has completed her PiBoIdMo challenge with 35 inspired ideas for new stories.

piboidmo2013-winnerbadge-700x700

Some of her ideas will become picture book manuscripts. Some will become poems. One of them might become the elusive Book #2 or eBook #2. Some of them stink so bad that they will stay in her phone and rot. But somewhere, somehow, all of them were inspired for a few minutes by an experience during the month of November.

At her author visits, students or teachers often ask Mom if she ever has writer’s block. She says, “Never.” That’s because as long as she has a list of ideas, even if one story gets stuck, there are a bunch of other stories just waiting to get started.

I was inspired last night, so I started playing the piano with my paws…

piano paw

…and my face.

piano face

Mom came in to see what was inspiring me. Was I a genius and she was just finding out? No. Did I suddenly get skills that no dog in the world ever had? No. Would I play at Carnegie Hall and be famous? No. There was a fly in the house. And I wanted a closer look at it.

*Not actual fly

*Not actual fly

The fly disappeared after my concert, and later he met with an unfortunate end. Rest in peace, little fly. I think you would’ve been delicious.

clipart-rip-b846

*Not actual fly tombstone


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24. Zoomer's Out-of-This-World Christmas: Ned Young

Book: Zoomer's Out-of-This-World Christmas
Author: Ned Young 
Pages: 32
Age Range: 4-8

Zoomer's Out-of-This-World Christmas appears to be Ned Young's third book about Zoomer, but it's the first one that I've run across. Zoomer is a young dog, preparing for Christmas with his two brothers. While on the lookout for Santa, the brothers are surprised to discover that a spaceship has landed in their backyard. The alien family that comes from the ship is friendly (and surprisingly humanoid). Adventures ensue, followed by a sacrifice made by Zoomer on behalf of his new friends. 

I'm not sure that I am completely on board with the end of this book, in which Zoomer is rewarded by Santa for his sacrifice. Does this suggest that we should do good things only in the hope of someone noticing and quietly rewarding us later? Perhaps there is truth in that, but it's not my first choice for a Christmas message. Still, it does make for a festive ending to the book. 

Ending aside, it is a fun book. Young includes a few nonsense words, like this:

"... And out stepped a family from outer space, their robot, and their pet--a yarple-headed gigantaziller."

"They feasted on kookaloon sandwiches, zablookee salad, and blopwapple pie and washed it all down with some zoinkinfizz soda. Everything was out-of-this-world delicious."

And yet, despite the innate ridiculousness of the whole thing (from the pups living with their parents in a gabled house, as though they were regular children to the aliens somehow managing to eat pie through their space suits), Young presents everything in straight up fashion. Apart from the aforementioned nonsense words, the text is relatively staightforward.

The real playfulness comes via the illustrations. The aliens and their gadgets are brightly colored and detailed, with a vaguely Seussian flair. The gigantaziller is a friendly blending of giant caterpillar and butterfly, with several shoe-clad feet. There is a force-field swimming pool that makes for interesting visuals, too. The pictures are highly dynamic, and certainly kid-friendly. There are plenty of details to reward repeated viewings.

All in all, Zoomer's Out-of-This-World Christmas is an unconventional holiday-themed book, merging sled-riding dogs, humanoid aliens, and Santa Claus into one colorful, snow-covered mashup. For those looking for something to mix things up a bit, and especially for kids who are fascinated by aliens, this one is worth a look. 

Publisher: HarperCollins (@HarperChildrens)
Publication Date: September 24, 2013
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher

FTC Required Disclosure:

This site is an Amazon affiliate, and purchases made through Amazon links (including linked book covers) may result in my receiving a small commission (at no additional cost to you).

© 2013 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage or at my Growing Bookworms page on Facebook

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25. Gotcha Day #4

Stories go a long way from start to (hopefully) finish.

Mom’s first book went from this…

lightbulb

to this….

manuscript

to this…

book cover w border2

December 12 is my Gotcha Day. You can read my Gotcha story here . We celebrated with ice cream. Mom made me a doggie yogurt ice cream pop with a cookie handle.

pop

I went from this…

blanket baby

to this…

swing

to this…

dress

Change is good.


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