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Viewing: Blog Posts Tagged with: home, Most Recent at Top [Help]
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1. Home Once Sweet

  The house sat in the middle of the street. The tall maple in the front yard had already changed from its deep lush green to beautiful shades of yellow, rust and orange. The wide floor boards of the front porch were warped and in needed repair. Once painted a soft blue, they were now worn and gray. The wide planks of the houses façade once painted off white was now dingy and in need of a fresh coat of paint. The front door, painted a dull red with a large window collected the sun light on a sunny day. Now it sits dusty and dirty catching no light at all.

          The house had served the family well. The family is gone though and the house stands alone. The rooms are bare. The birthday parties gathered in here are mere memories, and one could almost hear the walls cry as the foundation settles in the ground. No one is here, and the house is cold, empty, void of life.

     If walls could talk, the stories this house could tell; the joy of childhood, the pains of teenagers; cries of broken toys and tears from broken hearts. All of this lived within these walls, but now only the memories remain. The house seems to sigh as the wind whips through her cracks around the windows. Winter is coming, and the house longs for its’ owners. The warmth of an active fireplace where logs once warmed the room and people once cuddled around it is replaced by a cold empty fireplace, void of heat or embers.

          In the kitchen the cupboards are bare. All that can be heard is the slam of the back screen door broken off its hinge. Upstairs the rooms are empty and silent. The fuss and arguments over the bathroom quieted. The phone has stopped ringing, and the echo of conversations resound all over the house.

     The laughter has gone. The owners have moved on, leaving the house to sit and morn the loss of a home.

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2. Portfolio Piece Rehash: The Mouse at Home

I had so much fun doing the last portfolio rehash that I decided to do another one.

Back in 2013 I did a series of mouse illustrations. They were an experiment into using bolder colors and different materials. While I learned a lot from this phase of my illustration journey, it isn’t exactly representative of the kind of work I really want to be doing. Something just felt… off. So I posed the question to myself: can I re-do some of these pieces, and bring them to the next level?

Mouse at home by Jessica Lanan

Here are some of the things I liked about this piece:

  1. This has a fun “hobbit hole” or “wind in the willows” feel to it
  2. There are lots of charming details that enrich the mouse’s world
  3. This is the sort of thing I would’ve loved when I was a kid

Here are some of the issues I defined:

  1. The mouse lacks personality and narrative. He could be pushed to be a more robust character.
  2. The piece feels stiff. It would be stronger with a looser, more painterly feel. (Easier said than done, am I right?)
  3. The perspective is a little too extreme and is causing some distortion in the foreground. The high horizon line makes us feel a little distant–the exact opposite of the cozy moment I had in mind.
  4. The stairwell behind the mouse is dark and ominous. I keep looking up those stairs waiting for something to creep in from behind. Not good.

The mouse’s lack of character was the biggest problem, so I went back to the drawing board and spent some time coming up with a simple story to add context: a little mouse goes on a wintertime visit to his grandfather’s house. With two mice, this cozy scene would be a perfect family moment.

I redesigned the piece with a round, egg-like composition in order to enhance the safety and stability of the scene. I made a special effort to keep things loose while still including many of the same details of the original. Cold pressed paper and a messier technique helped to add texture. Here’s the final result: (Click to enlarge.)

Watercolor illustration by Jessica Lanan of two mice sitting in a chair by the fireside.

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3. 16 Animated Features Submitted for 2015 Oscars

Here's the complete list of animated features that will compete for the 2015 Academy Award.

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4. Welcoming everyone to the neighborhood

Welcome neighborhoodWhen I saw Welcome to My Neighborhood: A Barrio ABC at the library, I was immediately intrigued. I am always interested in books about people of color and since my daughter is half Latina, I wanted to see what this book was about.

I’m all for “keeping it real,” but when I read the first page and saw that A was for Abuela — and for abandoned car — I wondered if this book was keeping it too real with its depictions of neighborhood blight. But as I flipped through it, I decided that it was not too much. Abandoned cars and other signs of neglect are a very real part of some kids’ lives. There is beauty everywhere in life and the narrator finds it in broken bottles “that are smashed like falling stars” and a vacant lot that has become a vegetable plot.

My husband, who is Puerto Rican, read the book to our daughter and when they got to the letter R, the book mentions Rincón, a town in Puerto Rico where he has family.

It is so very important to see yourself reflected in all types of media. And a book like this will probably be very affirming for kids who have similar experiences, but what about the kids that don’t immediately identify with the kind of neighborhood portrayed in the book?

The jacket copy suggests that after reading about this neighborhood, young readers can think about what is special about their neighborhoods. They can also reflect on memories that make their lives special because that is an important part of the book.

For example, if a student says the book doesn’t reflect his or her life, ask questions such as:

  • If your Abuela doesn’t make ham and cheese or teach you to play dominoes, what special things do you share with your grandmother?
  • People don’t play basketball where you live, okay, what do they play?
  • The mother wants the children to remember certain things, specifically about their heritage and the narrator admits to forgetting Spanish words. What are adult always telling you to remember?


The post Welcoming everyone to the neighborhood appeared first on The Horn Book.

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5. An Update on Writing Smart and Not Scared


You might remember earlier this year I committed to  learning how to write smart and not scared.  At the time I was working on a picture book manuscript as I awaited first-round edits on my next novel.

That picture book is now on submission. The first-round edits are back with my editor. I’d love to say everything has been as easy as pie, but that’s not the way the writing life works — or any part of life, really. Here are the things I continue to learn as I think about writing in light of this mindset:


Discomfort will always be part of my process. I find the writing life wonderful and challenging and joyous and hard, but I often let the more difficult parts that come with writing play a starring role. I’m trying to remember those hard parts don’t get the final word. As Elizabeth Gilbert says, fear can ride in the car, but it has to stay in the back seat.


My deepest satisfaction comes from the work itself. I know this. But somehow along the way, sales and reviews and all the ridiculous externals out of my control can hijack what’s really important. A huge thank you to Marion Dane Bauer for her recent blog post I’ve read a couple dozen times about satisfaction and gratitude and letting go of the rest.


“No” is often a gift. All of September and October, I’ve been running on Wednesday evenings with my seventh grader’s soccer team. One particular Wednesday held the perfect combination of the out-of-my-hands highs and lows that make up the writing life. A novel was nominated for an award. A manuscript, after ten months with a particular editor and extensive re-writes, was rejected.

I left for the run pretty heartbroken and in need of distraction. As I settled into the soothing familiarity of a steady run, the clouds opened in a desert storm above us, and I was able to move beyond the disappointment, I was able to celebrate the beauty of my surroundings, the gift of movement, the privilege to share in this piece of my son’s life. And when our hour in the Sandia foothills drew to a close, I was ready to reflect on that rejection more objectively. The editor who said no to my work really gave me a gift. Her request for a re-write helped me find a stronger book in the process.


Choosing a challenge is ultimately satisfying. Writing the book I don’t know how to master can keep me up at nights, but that’s the direction my heart is often drawn. These words will keep me moving and believing.


Breaks feed my creativity. In the last four months I’ve re-written a novel for the second time, finishing with a mad twenty-five hour weekend dash to the end. Something that kept me focused during that last month of hard work was the promise I’d take a whole month off of writing afterward. Fear would not be allowed to drive me to spin my wheels in meaningless productivity. Outside of blogging, my focus would be reading.

I’m in week three of my writing vacation, and let me tell you, it’s everything I needed and more.

When I first mentioned this concept of writing smart and not scared, a number of you contacted me to say you were all in. I’d love to hear how you’re doing in the comments below.

The post An Update on Writing Smart and Not Scared appeared first on Caroline Starr Rose.

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6. Rumpeta-ing through Reading: Picture Books for the Very Young

My daughter Emily has always been a reading omnivore: we have photos of her poring over books from the time she could first sit up. Everything was of interest: catalogs featuring photographs of children; books verging on toys, with flaps or holes or even wheels; concept books; story books. Gradually, certain authors and books became favorites, and through a curious alchemy of interactions — child and parent with the book, and child and parent with each other — they seemed only to get better and better over time.

We read books by Eve Rice, especially Sam Who Never Forgets and Benny Bakes a Cake. Rice’s world in these books is immensely reassuring, with small disasters (Did Sam the zookeeper really forget to feed Elephant? What will happen now that bad dog Ralph has eaten Benny’s birthday cake?) transformed into hugs, birthday parades, and other expressions of love. Rice’s books surprise when read out loud: her prose has a tendency to form itself into meter and rhyme, appropriate for these structured stories.

We read Anne Rockwell, one of the best at reflecting and celebrating a child’s own world. Her pictures are perfectly ordered, whether crammed full of detail (an entire town busy with seasonally appropriate activities, in First Comes Spring) or rivetingly simple (a close-up of a sled, in The First Snowfall). Rockwell is also spectacular on that other topic of perennial interest to toddlers, machines and vehicles. Big Wheels is a modern preschool classic.

And we read Shirley Hughes, a master at inhabiting the minds and emotions of small children. Particularly appropriate for the very young are her Alfie and Annie Rose books (Alfie’s Feet and Alfie Gets in First being our personal favorites), her small-format concept books Bathwater’s Hot, Noisy, and When We Went to the Park, and her “doing” books (Giving, Chatting, Bouncing, etc.). Hughes’s specific, urban British settings add to her books’ believability: her child characters are so rooted in their home places that the child reader feels at home as well.

But the two creators most consistently on Emily’s hit parade were Donald Crews and Byron Barton. Crews’s Freight Train is a spellbinder; it creates such a strong mood that the words — like the smoke of the train that’s “going, going, gone” — quite literally seem to hang in the air for a few minutes after you finish reading. Crews’s strong graphics are perhaps the most appealing aspect of his other books; in School Bus two-year-old Emily developed a ritual of pointing out all the vehicles of interest: school buses, city buses, taxis, and the particularly exciting garbage truck (and each time we found the cameo of the author-illustrator himself, on a street corner, portfolio tucked under his arm, Emily would croon, “Donald CROOOOZ!”).

Byron Barton is a guaranteed success with his direct, no-nonsense texts (“Hey, you guys! / Let’s get to work. / Knock down that building. / Bulldoze that tree”); his bold typefaces; his black-outlined, color-blocked pictures of machines, astronauts, construction workers, dinosaurs (hear any bells going off in your toddler-interest geiger counter?). There wasn’t a detail Emily wasn’t fascinated with, from counting how many construction workers were girls and how many boys in Machines at Work (quoted from above) to carefully tracing the Diplodocus’s “long, long neck” and “long, long tail” in Dinosaurs, Dinosaurs.

There were many other individual favorites, as well. In addition to high-interest subjects, these books shared three other characteristics. First, a pacing appropriate for the material and for the age group. Successful books take into account the young child’s attention span. The length of the text per se is not a guarantee of success. Some of our favorites had quite a lot of words; however, these books had zesty texts full of repeated phrases and a lot of broad action. Other books contained few words, but the field of action was limited, and the pictures carried much of the story.

Second, a use of repetition, whether in repeated words or in story structure. We saw this in almost every book we read and loved. Some of our favorites were the Provensens’ Old Mother Hubbard, with a page turn before the dog’s nonsensical reaction to each Mother Hubbard action is revealed; Blueberries for Sal, with its parallel stories of Little Sal and Little Bear and its chantable kerplink kerplank kerplunk sounds; and Sue Williams’s I Went Walking, similar to Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? but with a satisfying and child-pleasing story framework.

Third, a construction that allowed for (but did not demand) some kind of reader participation. Many of the best books for small children seem to be constructed with some room in them — space that lets the child and the adult expand the reading experience. For instance, one of the first things we all seem to teach our children are the sounds different animals make, and many books seem to tacitly encourage mooing and meowing simply by picturing cows and cats. (See Nancy Tafuri’s Early Morning in the Barn for an ingenious, overt animal-sounds book.) These books are complete in themselves, and work perfectly well when read aloud without embellishment. But they also seem to promote participation — whether it be points in the narrative art that call for comment; strategically placed wordless spreads that provide a chance to recap action or to prepare for what comes next; words or phrases in the text that call for gestures or actions; or situations that call for something as simple as added sound effects (like animal sounds). And some of them provide opportunities to carry over some of the delights of baby-play (such as “This little piggie” or “Trot, trot to Boston”) into the comparatively new experience of reading.

Nancy Tafuri’s minimalist The Ball Bounced was one of our earliest favorites — a perfect transition from board book to picture book. With its brief (33 words), verb-heavy text, its homey, familiar setting, and its satisfyingly circular plot full of surprise and action, it affords a short but complete reading experience, and mirrors the adventure small children find in the most mundane of activities. As a baby is being carried out the back door in Mother’s laundry basket, he jettisons his ball, and off it bounces. “The cat jumped. / The water splashed. / the dog ran / the door slammed,” etc., until the ball stops — right next to the baby. “And the baby laughed.” (The ball’s eventful and entertaining journey is baby’s to enjoy alone, by the way: Mother has her back turned, hanging out the laundry — a shared secret between book character and child reader.) Tafuri’s pictures are bold, in extreme close-up; they held Emily’s attention completely. But the active verbs encouraged me to add a kind of fingerplay to the already-satisfying experience of the book: I would walk my two fingers along the pages as the dog ran, flap my hand up in flight along with the bird (and land with a tickle), and “slam” the book with my arm in imitation of the door. She never failed to laugh at the end, along with the baby.

In John Steptoe’s Baby Says, the story is all in the two brothers’ faces. Baby — who, plump and cuddly in his molten-sunshine pajamas, is the epitome of babyhood, both nuisance and pure joy — wants out of the playpen, and pesters his big brother until that softy lets him out. Then, parroting brother’s words — “Okay. Uh, oh. No, no” — he heads straight for the irresistible tower of blocks brother has laboriously constructed, and knocks it down. Then follow two glorious spreads, one wordless, with brother glowering at mischievous baby, the next showing brother won over by baby’s spontaneous kiss. “Okay, baby. Okay.” By supplying just seven words in different combinations, the author forces the adult reader to pay close attention to this small home movie of a picture book. Intonation is everything. Knowledge of who is saying what is everything. But whether it was the emotion-filled pictures, the repeated words (with someone else being told “no”), or our own narration, Emily loved it. And since she called it “Uh-oh,” she could ask for it before she could talk.

A more recent beautifully-paced-for-toddlers book is Peggy Rathmann’s sweet and sly Good Night, Gorilla. What will your child like most about it? Following the progress of the released balloon? Eagerly awaiting that cartoon-like sequence of big and small goodnights followed by a pair of very surprised eyes popping open in the dark? It will probably vary from night to night, but there will always be something to keep a small child’s attention.

Two of our all-time favorite books raised the use of repetition to high art. Elfrida Vipont and Raymond Briggs’s brilliant Elephant and the Bad Baby begins with a deceptive innocence: “Once upon a time there was an elephant.” We see a massive elephant standing still — though it soon will prove itself very light on its feet (and equally light-fingered) — dwarfing the airplanes buzzing about it like mosquitoes. The elephant meets up with a “bad baby,” and they soon become the Thelma and Louise of the picture-book set, rampaging through town lifting goodies from this shop and that. Though it looks like it has far too many words for young children, in fact it is the ideal two-year-old book: a romp so full of action and choice repetition and so perfectly paced that it is more like an exhilarating amusement-park ride than a picture book. Much controversy has arisen over the plot (we are talking rampant shoplifting here) and over calling the baby “bad” (though he does learn to say please); all that went right over the head of Emily-at-two. She loved the refrain, which virtually repeats as is on each page, with only the scenes of the crime changing: “Soon they met an ice cream man. And the Elephant said to the Bad Baby, ‘Would you like an ice cream?’ And the Bad Baby said yes. So the Elephant stretched out his trunk, and took an ice cream for himself and an ice cream for the Bad Baby. And they went rumpeta rumpeta rumpeta, all down the road, with the ice cream man running after.” She loved those galloping rumpetas, the contrast between the immense elephant and the small baby, the angry merchants going “bump into a heap,” and the reassuring ending to the wild adventure, as the elephant rumpetas off into the night, “but the bad baby went to bed.” Here is a perfect last sentence: the alliteration and the rhythm and the droning emphasis of those one-syllable words winding down the book like a worn-out baby.

John Burningham’s Mr. Gumpy’s Outing was practically Emily’s mantra as a small child (she used it, rather than the traditional blanket or stuffed animal, as her so-called “comfort object”). Here the repetition is in story structure, as two children and then a succession of animals, each larger than the last, politely ask to join Mr. Gumpy on his boat ride. “‘Can I come along, Mr. Gumpy?’ said the rabbit. ‘Yes, but don’t hop about.’” Never mind that the average one- and two-year-old doesn’t know enough animal behavior to be able to anticipate the inevitable disaster. The introduction of each personality-rich animal in close-up on the righthand page (as the left page shows the ever-more-crowded boat) and Mr. Gumpy’s unheeded warnings allow for the incorporation of a variety of sounds and actions (the most fun is the pig “mucking about” and chickens flapping: the mucking about calls for some creative interpretation, and the flapping calls for a lot of energetic exercise). The two double-page spreads — of the capsize and the tea party — provide plenty of time and space to locate and identify all the characters. (It was of particular interest to the pre-verbal Emily that the little girl’s hair flew straight up as she fell into the water; Emily would always make her own hair stand straight up as well.) The book’s pacing is impeccable, from the introduction of Mr. Gumpy and the build-up of the appealing animal cast, to the exciting, kersplashing climax, to the reassuring resolution. Again, the book has a remarkably satisfying last line: an open-ended, inclusive, circular “come for a ride another day.”

Two more recent examples of books using repetition with great success are Ashley Wolff’s Stella and Roy — a wonderful, toddler-empowering tortoise-and-the-hare variant, in which slow and steady wins the race for younger brother Roy on his little four-wheeler (“and Roy rolled right on by”) — and Minfong Ho’s Hush!: A Thai Lullaby, with its humorously overzealous mother trying to hush all the animals in the jungle in turn so that her baby can sleep.

These are just a few examples of what’s out there for the youngest reader. There is much more to recommend and share — whether you read books straight through or make them, when appropriate, into more participatory experiences. (Obviously, how much embellishment you add depends on the material, the situation, and the child. You wouldn’t add train sounds or quiz your child on color identification if you were reading Freight Train at bedtime to a sleepy toddler.) For us, the books in which we participated — the ones in which that curious alchemy took place — are the ones we both remember best. We’ve moved on now, to books for older picture-book readers — and Emily has long since outgrown the need for those transitional moos and bounces. But at age one, and at two, such participation helped make reading into something active, something she helped make happen. And that seems like the first step toward the more internal but just as participatory activity of independent reading — and toward a lifelong love of books.

From the March/April 1997 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

The post Rumpeta-ing through Reading: Picture Books for the Very Young appeared first on The Horn Book.

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7. Balloon Fiesta!


Check out the loveliness from opening day at the 43rd Annual Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta!









The post Balloon Fiesta! appeared first on Caroline Starr Rose.

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8. take up your happiness

Some thoughts about life, love and happiness, after a few photos from the past two weeks of research, writing, organizing my work (on a chalk wall, no less), a couple of close-by field trips, a book festival (that's my editor, David Levithan, talking with shiny new (amazing) author Will Walton), a bit of teaching, a lot of home-making, a birthday cobbler, some celebrating, lots of gathering with peeps, and the inevitable bringing-in the last of the garden.



When I was a kid, I wanted to be a mom more than anything else. I wanted to sit at a desk and play office. I wanted to scribble on a chalkboard and teach my dolls things I didn't understand yet myself. I wanted to lie on a blanket in the clovered grass, stare at the night sky, and wonder. I wanted to keep house. And I wanted a Prince Charming to come into my life, sweep me off my feet, and love me all the days of my life, and make me happy.

I got all my wishes, in an odd and amazing order that still takes my breath away when I think about it. How perfect it has been, the grime and the glory alike. How lucky that my people are in my life, and that this life is full of good work that I love, and that there is space for wondering and dreaming, still, and that people love me and I love them, and that there really IS someone to sweep me along with devotion, into the later chapters of my life.

Slowly, slowly, I have come to understand, in a deep and steady way, that home is where you make it; that people are complex, nuanced, textured, wonderful puzzles; that work is like that, too; that Uncle Edisto's messy glory is indeed the way we live; and that I am responsible for my own happiness.

Rise up, I say to myself this morning. Take up your happiness and walk into the days ahead.

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9. back to work

"Writing and rewriting are a constant search for what one is saying." -- John Updike.

I've got notes (once again) from a new-to-me editor at Scholastic, Ken Geist, on a picture book I've sold about Bobby Kennedy. It's exciting to work with a new editor -- David L. is wonderful novel editor, and now Ken steps in to work on picture books with me, and I am so glad.

So today's work is about looking at these notes and writing a response to them, and then, we hope, talking next week before I head to the D.C. area for my first school visit this fall, combined with some family time. We drive to Charleston on Sunday, to celebrate Jim's birthday with his mom and sister... I am going to write in the car. Watch me do this daring feat of amazing car writing, just watch me.

In the meantime, I have these revisions this morning, a house to clean, a class to teach tomorrow at the Atlanta-Fulton County library, a birthday dinner here on Saturday night, my favorite 4-year-old spending the night on Saturday night, and then we're off to Charleston. And... it's all what I want, in this Year of Exploration. It's all good.

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10. “My Home, Your Home” Book Sample Illustrations

“My Home, Your Home”, an educational children’s book from Cloverleaf books, and some samples below.

mhyh cover&spread1

mhyh spread 2

mhyh page1

mhyh page4

mhyh page2

mhyh page3

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11. dispatch from mississippi: belonging

I was born in Mobile, Alabama, while my dad was stationed at Brookley Field. He had gone off to the Korean War in 1951, just after he and my mother married, and now here I came, in 1953, on the heels of his return. We lived in Mobile for five years, until the Air Force transferred us to Hawaii. I have always claimed Alabama as the land of my birth, and I also claim Mississippi as home, as it was the land we returned to over and again as I grew up, and as my own children grew up, as my people were there. And so was my heart.

My mother was born in Mississippi and grew up in West Point, MS. My dad was born in Jasper County and grew up there. I grew up there, too, with the wacky grandmother who became Miss Eula in LOVE, RUBY LAVENDER, and the three maiden aunts who become Ruby's chickens, and all the cousins and aunts and uncles and a decaying town that is even more of a ghost today than it was when I was wandering its one main road and its cemetery and crossing the railroad tracks to visit Aunt Mitt and playing piano in the unlocked Methodist church.

Mississippi doesn't claim me, though. According to book committees who decide these things, I didn't live for five continuous years in Mississippi, so I am not in the club, even though I am a Mississippian by blood and by words.

This is a long story and one I hope to write about at some point, so I can figure out how I feel about choosing home. Home is in Atlanta today, of course, but home will always be where I've hung my hat: Hawaii, Maryland, D.C., South Carolina, North Carolina, Georgia.... and Mississippi as well. "What you know first stays with you." I am a Southern Girl, through and through. I am a human being with stories to tell. What does that mean?

Here's what it meant this week, as I took part in the first-ever Mississippi Book Festival, visited that family I love so much (Uncle Jim is our patriarch now, about to turn 92), and that place that defined me as a child -- and as a writer. Photos below of what becomes Aurora County in my books LOVE, RUBY LAVENDER; EACH LITTLE BIRD THAT SINGS; and THE AURORA COUNTY ALL-STARS.

And then there is my first book, FREEDOM SUMMER. I have never before posted pictures of the pool and roller skating rink that closed in 1964. The forest is claiming it now. I have taken photos there for many years, and have documented this abandoned place as it goes back to forest land. I wrote FREEDOM SUMMER -- and REVOLUTION -- to understand what happened. To keep this time and place alive, so we remember our history. So young people will know what it was like then. What it is like now.

Dispatch from Mississippi:

Picking up Kerry Madden along the way
downtown Jackson, Mississippi. My folks retired to Jackson after a long military career, and I kept coming to Mississippi with my own kids as they grew up... Mississippi has been a constant in my life, all my life.

With Ellen Ruffin at the Eudora Welty house on Friday night at the author reception
Kimberly Willis Holt, moi, Chris Barton, and Karen Rowell of USM.
Jamie Kornegay and Turnrow Books in Greenwood, Mississippi has been such a staunch supporter of my books. Jamie's new novel is SOIL. "It has saturated the South!" Jamie says.
Kelly Kornegay, who (among other things) reads and buys children's at Turnrow. She heard me whining about not being recognized literarily as a Mississippian and said, "Debbie, people who have lived here all their lives are trying to ESCAPE Mississippi!" which made me laugh and gave me perspective. She also said, "Your books are THE quintessential books on what it means to be from Mississippi, to be a Mississippian. You're IN." hahaha.

Fuzzy photo of a bunch of us including Lori Nichols, Ellen Ruffin, Greg Leitich Smith, Susan Eaddy, Kerry Madden
taking in all in. What a lovely evening.
We had to turn people away, in Room 113 of the State Capitol, for the Young People's Literature panel. It was that way on all panels, all day. The turnout was tremendous. HOORAY!
Pontificating. Which I am very good at.
This is what it's about at a Festival.
And this. Clara Martin is the children's book buyer at Lemuria Book in Jackson. Last year on the REVOLUTION tour, she had me sign her copy of LOVE, RUBY LAVENDER that she has had since she was a fourth grader. "My favorite book!"
Chris Barton signing Shark vs Train and John Roy Lynch in the Lemuria tent.
At dinner, Saturday night, with my loves.

My son Jason with his Great-uncle Jim. Both of them jesters.

Two more Jims: mine, and the cousin I have always called Bubba.

If you're a RUBY fan, you recognize this sign!

My grandmother's house, The Pink Palace, in RUBY, Snowberger's Funeral Home in LITTLE BIRD, House Jackson's home in ALL-STARS, and Young Joe's home in FREEDOM SUMMER. This was my world every summer, and the place I longed for when I wasn't there. Still do, I guess.
The back kitchen. Sloped ceiling, lightbulb on a string, Nanny eating buttered toast and milky coffee at the enamel table, closthepins in a bag hanging on the door, a pan of green beans waiting to be snapped. I did dishes in the deep sink with my Aunt Evelyn, who we all called Goodness. Once, when my mother sent me in to dry while Aunt Evelyn washed, Goodness waved me away with, "Go play. I let God dry the dishes."
My friend Howard now lives in Rhiney Boyd's house, across the road from my grandmother's. Rhiney had a son named Luther Rhinehart Boyd, which is where I took Mr. Norwood Boyd's name from in ALL-STARS.

Kerry listens to Merle's stories. Merle now owns my grandmother's house (The Pink Palace, in the background).

I adore Lois. She has just entered the Witness Protection Program. I think she got dressed just for us. "I used to wear all black and brown, but now I wear COLOR all the time." You go, Lois. Go on with your colorful self.
This is where I'm sitting this morning. Back to the pink chair and back to work. Knowing that it doesn't matter if Literary Mississippi claims me or not. I claim me, and those people who are, and who once were: moments, memory, meaning, as I always say when I teach. 

I will never live long enough to write all the stories asking for my attention. They claim me. And for that I am grateful.

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12. Resilience and Restoration


I moved to Terrebonne Parish, Louisiana in 2007, a few months short of Hurricane Katrina’s second anniversary. To see the marks of devastation New Orleans still carried, to hear the daily conversations, it was clear Katrina, “the single most catastrophic natural disaster in U.S. history,” had left a lasting impact on countless lives.

What was completely unknown to me was the plight of Louisiana’s wetlands. Louisiana, which contains approximately 40% of the nation’s wetlands, experiences 90% of the coastal wetland loss in the lower 48 states. The state loses 25 to 35 square miles of wetlands per year. If nothing is done to alter this, all of Terrebonne, along with other coastal parishes, will be underwater by 2050.

Follow me over to The Nerdy Book Club to read the rest.

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13. 48 days, day 35-36: what helps, 10 things

{{ I am chronicling 48 days of writing before my July 31 travel. If you are chronicling your summer writing/days and would like to share, please link or comment so we can all cheer one another through. Strength to your sword arm!}}
What helps you through the sludge? Putting it here so I remember. Ten things this weekend:

1.  Time. Two days off to listen and rest and try to believe (I do) it's a good thing to do for myself. Staring at the wall in the quiet.

2.  Journaling. Writing about it. "I write because I don't understand what I think until I read what I say." - Flannery O'Connor

3.  Activity, half-mindless. Organizing the office on more than a surface level has been on my list for years. My office serves as overflow whenever someone spends the night (or visits, depending), and it catches EVERYTHING in between visits. It's a big space -- my living/dining room in this house. I've pulled everything out to look at it and I've got boxes ready. Keep, toss, save for one day, give away, etc. It feels good. I couldn't do it until now, for some reason. And the going is slow. But it's going. It's like emptying out my mind to look at its contents and putting everything back in order... or letting things go.

4.  Podcasts, old movies I don't have to really pay attention to to enjoy, music -- depending on my mood. Usually while doing #3. Mostly I prefer silence, though.

5.  Sleeping in. Napping.

6.  Connecting with people I love who love me right back. You can tell, can't you? You can feel it. That's good medicine.

7.  Eating good food. Eating bad food. Special thanks to frozen strawberry fruit bars and the beans from the garden (not at the same time) that are inspiring me.

8.  RAIN. We finally had some decent rain yesterday. Last night we went to bed listening to frogs. Frogs! The gardens are making me happy, and now they are happy, too.

9.  Not writing.

10.  Feeling like writing again.

So here I go. Thank you for all the mail of the past two days. I've tucked all your good wishes into my pocket, where I touch them like they are wishing stones.

crazy, amiright?
right down to the drawers and shelves (not shown) and closet (ditto)
The garden is coming in. These are our green beans. This is the first garden we've had in so many years... already making plans for next year.
I'm loving apple cider mixed with fizzy water over ice. Jim and I are using our old standby coasters: the back of the old Methodist hymnal for me, and the back of an old Dr. Seuss for him. It works.
I'd like to think I can go through the entire house with my box system. But I'm trying to stay in the present and hope I can finish the office. That would be a major coup.
Saturday breakfast. You should have seen it smothered in almond slices next. Because I could.
Our tomatoes are slow to come in. Next year we'll be here in May (so she says) and have more time to get the garden in. I have traveled for 15 years and not had a garden, and I have so missed it. I am determined...
Come on! You can do it! Grow, grow... this tomato is on a berm in the back (water management project) along with six or eight others, in an experiment to see if we get enough sun in the back now to grow tomatoes. I think not. The tomatoes in front yard are exponentially bigger. These guys got into the ground at about the same time, the first week in June... we'll see. They are scraggly... grown from seed and too long in their little cups, I fear...

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14. Finding Home in Our Work Spaces

I’ve talked a lot here about my office space through the years. There was the post about my closet office back in Louisiana and the picture of my research spot in a nearby park. Here in Albuquerque, you’ve seen my office when we first moved in, the addition of my desk, a tour of my bookshelves, the bulletin board above my desk, the rubber rat on the desk itself, and the closet overhaul I had done in May.

While I don’t do the majority of my writing here (I still prefer the couch, the bed, or Starbucks), I love this space. There’s something about being surrounded by familiar books and inspiring words that makes me feel at home.

Last month I added in two more pieces of furniture, a secretary and chair from my parents, who have recently moved to town.


I bought some blue and white knobs and two yards of bird fabric at Hobby Lobby (since a certain sometimes-grubby puppy likes to sit nearby).


The desk as been in front of the window the last year or two, and while I loved being able to look outside, it could get pretty toasty in the summer and rather chilly in the winter. See the little lamp I’ve hooked onto the desk? It’s the one from my office closet days and makes things feel extra cozy in a way the overhead light just can’t.


Here’s a glimpse from the doorway.


And one when standing in front of the window.


Here’s the secretary all prettified.

Sara Zarr in her podcast talks about being “at home in your work”, an idea I really love. Having a welcoming space like this helps me find my way into the writing and all the other tasks that come with the writing life.

How does your work space influence your work?


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15. Titan at SDCC: Assassin’s Creed, The Blacklist, Heroes, Lenore and, of course, Doctor Who!

Titan has announced their full line-up of SDCC activities, and there’s lots to choose from with ten signing sessions and two panels, as well as a bunch of exclusive covers, merchandise and sneak-peaks of their upcoming titles.


Their Doctor Who line gets it’s own panel this year, where details of a brand new Doctor Who miniseries will be announced, including which of the Time Lord’s many regenerations will star in it. From Titan:

Titan Comics gives you a sneak peek at the next chapters for the Doctor in all his incarnations – including sneak peeks at the direction of Year Two featuring the Tenth, Eleventh and Twelfth Doctors! Writer Cavan Scott and artist Blair Shedd discuss the smash-hit Ninth Doctor mini series! Writer Paul Cornell gives you a sneak peek at August’s comics cross-over event! Writers George Mann and Cavan Scott and cover artist Alice X. Zhang take you behind-the-scenes of the Twelfth Doctor SDCC exclusive short story edition. Plus, we reveal the next brand-new mini series – which Doctor is it going to be? Come along to find out! All attendees receive a FREE Doctor Who comic + prizes to win!

The Titan Doctor Who Comic panel is on Saturday July 11th from 3:30PM-4:30PM in room 5AB.



Fans of Assassin’s Creed can look forward to Titan’s global premiere of  artwork from the upcoming comic series based on the hugely popular video game franchise at Titan’s other comics panel on Thursday July 9th from 2:30-3:30PM in Room 4. In addition, the panel features TV producers and writers from Heroes Reborn and The Blacklist who will discuss their work on series tie-in comics. Roman Dirge, creator/writer and artist of the cult-smash series Lenore will also be on hand to talk about his planned new work. From Titan:

Titan Comics takes you behind-the-scenes of major new projects including Assassin’s CreedHeroes and The Blacklist! See the global premiere of artwork from the new Assassin’s Creed comics, plus be the first to find out about the launch storylines and the all-new Assassins! Heroes Reborn Supervising Producer Seamus Fahey gives you a sneak peek at the new Heroes comic and special SDCC ashcan. The Blacklist TV show writer Nicole Phillips talks about writing the new The Blacklist comic series, which debuts at SDCC! PLUS! The artists of the creator-owned hits of tomorrow will be in attendance! Cult writer Roman Dirge gives you a ghostly glimpse at Lenore and his upcoming new projects! Artist Des Taylor takes you undercover of hit series Scarlett Couture! Harvey award nominated writer Mark Wheatley discusses his new remastered edition of Breathtaker! Plus, more comics talent and prizes to win!


Want to grab an author-signed copy of that gorgeous, SDCC exclusive Heroes ashcan with art from Paul Pope? How about one of only 200 FREE Doctor Who: Four Doctors art cards signed by four Doctor crossover series writer Paul Cornell? Here’s the complete signing schedule, all signings taking place at the Titan booth #5537:




Writer/Artist DES TAYLOR signs copies of Scarlett Couture from 12:30PM – 1:30PM


Writer/Artist ROMAN DIRGE  will be signing copies of Something at the Window is Scratching, The Cat Really with a Really Big Head and Lenore Pink Bellies: 4:00PM — 5:00PM



Heroes Reborn Supervising Producer Seamus Kevin Fahey will be signing copies of the Heroes comic SDCC ashcan with exclusive art from Paul Pope from 12:00PM — 1:00PM


The Blacklist TV show writer Nicole Phillips and cover artist Alice X. Zhang will be signing copies of The Blacklist #1 from Time:  2:00PM – 3:00PM


Writers George Mann and Cavan Scott and cover artist Alice X. Zhang will be signing copies of Doctor Who: Twelfth Doctor SDCC exclusive short story edition from 4:00PM — 5:00PM

Did you miss Roman Dirge’s 7/9 signing? No problem. he’s back at the Titan booth on 7/10 signing copies of Something at the Window is Scratching, The Cat Really with a Really Big Head and Lenore Pink Bellies5:30PM – 6:30PM



Writer Cavan Scott and artist Blair Shedd will be signing copies of Doctor Who: The Ninth Doctor series from 11:30AM – 12:30PM.

Writer Paul Cornell will be signing a FREE Doctor Who: Four Doctors art card. Only 200 available! From  1:30PM – 2:30PM.

Did you miss Writers George Mann, Cavan Scott and cover artist Alice X. Zhang on 7/10? Fear not, they’re back at the Titan booth signing more copies of Doctor Who: Twelfth Doctor SDCC exclusive short story edition from 5:00PM – 6:00PM.


Writer Max Davison, artist Matt Hebb, colourist Tracy Bailey and inker Jason Worthington will be signing copies of DreamWork’s Home #1 comic from 12:00PM – 1:00PM.

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16. Office Transformation

Some of you might remember the days I worked in a closet office, a tiny 3′ x 4′ space where I wrote May B. When we moved to New Mexico, I graduated into a full-sized office. Last week the office closet got a little makeover.


Here’s how it all started — a jumbled mess.



Closet insides now on the outside.


Here are my wonderful new shelves from California Closets.


There’s even a special nook for my fake sod brick (doesn’t every author who writes about pioneers have one in her closet?).


Getting organized…


I wrote some words in every single one of these books! Way too fun.


I’m hoping this little fella sends his joy and inspiration over Jasper‘s way.


And here it is! Isn’t it beautiful? I trust nothing will fall on my head the next time I pull back that shower curtain…

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17. back to school

On Being a Late Bloomer is here.

The Year of Exploration is here.

 It occurred to me yesterday: I am intuitively doing what I did when I was so young and a single mom, uneducated, needy, and wanting a life for my kids, for myself, wanting to understand the world and to find my place in it. I went to school. I got my undergraduate degree from the many libraries I haunted during those years.

I was barely 22, I was broke, I was alone with two small children, but I had a library card. I still have a library card. Now I have two (we made peace). Suddenly, in this year of exploration, I am back to school and in much the same way. Let's call it a graduate degree.

I'm following my intuition, pulling on strings when an idea comes to me or someone mentions something that rings a "year of exploration" bell. I am truly following my nose here, as well as my list of things I want to explore. These notes are the ones I took when listening to Malcolm Gladwell's THE TIPPING POINT from my library system's Overdrive account. I *love* Overdrive.And my library.

I don't know what I'll do with what I learn from THE TIPPING POINT, but that's not the point. I know I will use it. I know it's part of the year of exploration. It will tie in with everything else. I've always been a learner; I rarely have a stretch of time in which to learn in depth, intensely. That"s where I am now.
I finally excavated my office. I've been on the road for the past six months -- I've traveled in six months as much as I usually do in a year. I have bought myself some time off the road. My sabbatical starts June 1. I'll still travel. But that travel landscape is going to look different going forward.

More on that later. For now, I've spent the most lovely, rainy Friday afternoon going through ephemera of the past six months on the road. Letters from students, student writing, receipts, little gifts and remembrances, bills and business stuff... "Oh! There's my parking receipt!"... and photographs to remind me of good work done with new friends.

I got on the road 15 years ago when I became so suddenly single, and I've done a good job of taking care of me and mine, I've done good work on the road -- I've learned so much -- and I've written some good books. Now is the time for stillness and learning to love my new hometown, and writing, and learning, and being. Becoming. Something. I don't know what yet. I am trusting the process.

Have a great weekend, friends. I'm going to be off exploring....

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18. Megan Dowd Lambert Hubbub booklist

Books in the Home, from My Home to Yours
Megan Dowd Lambert megan.lambert@simmons.edu
Boston Book Fest Hubbub, The Four Seasons, Boston, MA 4/14/2015

Selected Books about Books and Reading

Bottner, Barbara Miss Brooks Loves Books (and I Don’t), illustrated by Michael Emberley

Gerstein, Mordicai A Book

Gravett, Emily Again!

Klausmeier, Jesse Open This Little Book, illustrated by Suzy Lee

Lehman, Barbara The Red Book

Mack, Jeff Look!

Novak, B.J. The Book with No Pictures

Seeger, Laura Vaccaro Dog and Bear: Two Friends, Three Stories

Smith, Lane It’s a Book and It’s a Little Book

Stein, David Ezra Interrupting Chicken

Stewart, Sarah The Library, illustrated by David Small

Willems, Mo Hooray for Amanda & Her Alligator!


Dr. Seuss’s I Can Read with My Eyes Shut!

Willems, Mo We Are in a Book

Scieszka, Jon Summer Reading Is Killing Me, illustrated by Lane Smith


Selected Over- and Under-the-Radar Chapter Books
I’ve Loved Reading Aloud with My Kids

Cleary, Beverly Ramona the Brave

dePaola, Tomie 26 Fairmont Avenue

Gantos, Jack Joey Pigza Swallowed the Key

Gannett, Ruth Stiles My Father’s Dragon

Lai, Thanhha Inside Out and Back Again

Palacio, RJ Wonder

Wilder, Laura Ingalls Little House in the Big Woods


Babbitt, Natalie The Search for Delicious

Cassedy, Sylvia Behind the Attic Wall

Cooper Susan The Magician’s Boy

Jarrell, Randall The Animal Family

LeGuin, Ursula Catwings

Rhodes, Jewell Parker Ninth Ward

Schlitz, Laura Amy The Night Fairy


A senior lecturer in children’s literature at Simmons College, Megan Dowd Lambert writes and reviews for Kirkus Reviews and the Horn Book. For nearly ten years she worked in the Education Department of The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art, and in 2015 she published her debut picturebook, A Crow of His Own, illustrated by David Hyde Costello. Her book, Reading Picturebooks with Children: How to Shake Up Storytime and Get Kids Talking about What They See, which introduces her Whole Book Approach storytime method, will be published by Charlesbridge Publishing on November 3, 2015. Megan lives with her family, including six children, in Amherst, MA.


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19. on being a late bloomer

This is the hashtag I used on Instagram -- #teachinghongkong2015 -- to document in photos my trip to Hong Kong this month. You can find photos of the trip there, and even more on Facebook, here, along with a few thoughts about teaching writing to students who are learning to be fluent in both English and Mandarin Chinese.

 We mainly focused on personal narrative and moments we could add color and flavor and texture to, characters we could create from those moments -- and how to make them come alive on the page -- and then we moved into fiction with them.

We used several mentor texts, including FREEDOM SUMMER, LOVE RUBY LAVENDER, and EACH LITTLE BIRD THAT SINGS.

I learned to write by reading like a writer, modeling my writing on what I admired, then making it mine, so that's how I teach. I turn my life into stories. I understand how I do it. I have broken it down to the foundations of how it works, and it's always a stretch and a pleasure to share it with young writers and their teachers.

I am a writer who teaches, and to that end, I will always be a writer first. I have developed my teaching over the past twenty years by teaching in classrooms, from K through college, and I know that what I have to offer is substantial, meaningful, useful, and offers a lasting toolbox partner for teachers and their young writers to use for years to come.

And yet.

I am thinking about who I am today, as Jim and I return home to spring in Atlanta -- we left in a February snowstorm. This ruminating always happens after I am thrust for a sustained time into an unfamiliar environment, where I am constantly thinking on my feet, meeting new people in new cultures, learning new customs and traditions (and food!) and discovering how people make meaning in their lives.

Traveling, especially internationally, invites me to rethink everything. Invites me to make meaning. It reminds me of my young life, when, as a teenager, I became a mother, and a wife to a boy I did not know, and moved to a place I did not understand, with no support, with people and customs I could not comprehend, and with fear and isolation so complete it would take me years to assimilate and integrate and create meaning from it.

So I am thinking.

I want to chronicle some of that thinking here on the blog. I'm going to play with short posts about what I'm discovering, and just see where it leads me. I can feel myself entering a time of change. I'm working on a sort of manifesto for my sixties. God. I grew up in the sixties, and now I *am* sixty. 61. Talk about a late bloomer.

I raised a family first. I was homeless first. I was lost, first. I had to find ways to stabilize my life and my children's lives, first. I had to live some, first. Make sense of some things. Find my way into my life. Do a whole lot of different things with my life and teach myself how to do... pretty much everything. It would take me time to learn how to help myself, so I could help someone else.. I taught myself how to write so I could tell my stories and find home, belonging, safety, meaning, love.

My first book was published the year I turned 48. I went back to school that year and got my credentials to teach -- I'd been teaching informally for years without them. I became suddenly single that year. My heart was broken. I wrote EACH LITTLE BIRD THAT SINGS in response to that loss.

By the time I turned fifty, I had lost not only the long-years marriage, but my mother and my father and my siblings and my home of 25 years and my hometown. My youngest of four graduated and left home for college. I moved to Atlanta. The dog died. My editor of 12 years was fired. My publishing house was decimated.

The bitter was tempered by the sweet. I had created a support system by that time, and my friends became my family. They held the space for me, held me up until I could stand on my feet again. I met my husband, Jim. We had a three year long-distance relationship, a three year Atlanta relationship, and then we married. My books did well in the world, even though my life was so chaotic for a time, I couldn't always appreciate it or participate in the book community that celebrated all of it. Much of my life was a blur.

Little by little, though, I came back from a devastating time of loss. My children grew up and began to blossom. I began to create a home, here in Atlanta, a family home, a home for friends, a home for my own heart to rest in once again.

It took me a long, long time to do this. I was scared, and once again lost, even in the midst of the sweetness. But I kept writing. I kept teaching. I kept on trying. I have been emerging from that difficult place, once again forging an identity and discovering who I am. Making meaning. It's a process. Life long.

I am happy to be here. I love my life. I know how lucky I am.

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20. ‘Home’ Occupies Top Spot At UK Box Office

DreamWorks Animation needed some good news and they got it this weekend.

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21. the year of exploration

For some time I have been birthing -- in my head and on paper -- a new way of seeing, working, living, connecting, and being in the world. Why? Maybe it's turning 60, with the knowledge that there is less time before me than behind me for sure. Maybe it's recent disappointments and realizations. Maybe it's recent gifts and surprises. Maybe it's the on-going therapy, which is hard work. I'm sure it is.

Whatever it is, this shift in my thinking feels major, so I'm going to do something about it, and I will chronicle it here, March 20, 2015 to March 20, 2016 (start where you are, and I started with Saturday's post).

I want to see where this new energy and commitment take me and my work. I'll also Instagram my explorations, using the hashtag "theyearofexploration."

I'll label it that way here, too. I used the blog to chronicle my 2012 year off the road to finish REVOLUTION and called it "the year of possibility." You can read about it by clicking on the label on the sidebar. (or here. :>)

I'll tag some of these exploration posts "the home economics project." I've had a project in mind for a long, long time, and I want to start making it visible.

I'll chronicle book three of the sixties trilogy as well. I've already starting documenting photographs and research at Pinterest. You'll find a "book three hold file" and a "book three playlist possibilities" board as well as the many boards for COUNTDOWN and REVOLUTION... and I've started resource boards for my other books.. I'll get to them as I can.

I'm going back to the roots of what makes me happy. I'm going to write more. I'm going to use my hands more, which is something that grounds me and centers me and helps me understand my place in the great continuum.

To that end, I have purchased four cacti, three French lavender plants, and a mother fern. I'm going to take a class at Creativebug - line drawing with Lisa Congdon. Also, Lisa's sketchbook explorations work-along at Creativebug. I've got my supplies (which include these plants!) and I'm ready to go.

I have no expectations. I want to do what I ask students to do when I teach writing: pay attention, ask questions, make connections.

I'll be an explorer like Comfort Snowberger in EACH LITTLE BIRD THAT SINGS: Explorer, Recipe Tester, and Funeral Reporter. Like Dove, the 9-year-old anthropologist-in-training in LOVE, RUBY LAVENDER. I shall be an anthropologist of my life. I'll try to let go of anxiety about the future, and just stay in the day. I will work hard. I will try to uncover as well as discover. I hope to learn a lot. Wanna come with?

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22. ‘Home’ Review Roundup

What the critics are saying about the cutesy alien invasion offering from DreamWorks.

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23. DreamWorks Animation Hits A ‘Home’ Run

For DreamWorks Animation, "Home" is where the money is.

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24. HOME by Carson Ellis

A lot--A LOT--of people are writing to me about a page in Home, the new book by Carson Ellis. Published in 2015 by Candlewick, here's the cover:

I draw your attention to the last image in the top row (a tipi) and the first image in the fourth row (an igloo). And... I sigh.

Once you start reading this picture book, you'll come to a page that says "Some homes are boats." But it isn't just a boat. No boat is just a boat, right? They have purpose.

On the facing page of the boat are three figures, partially clothed, standing in front of a structure, looking out at that boat as it approaches. The text is "Some homes are wigwams." That tells us that this particular boat is one on which--shall we say, Europeans--are aboard.

That boat has been their home for a while, but they're looking to build new homes. On Native lands. On the home lands that belong to those three figures standing by that wigwam.

I wonder if those thoughts occurred to Ellis as she did this part of the book?

I wonder if Ellis imagined, say, children of tribal nations on the East Coast as readers of her book?

While a lot of people are sighing with pleasure as they turn the pages of this book, lots of others are rolling their eyes. I'm among the latter. And all the Native and non-Native people who are writing to me? They're of the latter group, too.

Home  -- for its point of view -- is not recommended.

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25. ‘Cinderella’ is (Briefly) the Highest Grossing Film of 2015

Also, DreamWorks Animation's "Home" recorded a respectable second weekend domestic gross.

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