Monday, December 22, 2014

Happy Holidays!

I am about to walk out the door and head home for the holiday.  Eight days of sitting in front of a fireplace in the wilderness, my family all around me, and probably a lot of movies and wine.  So I'll be on hiatus from all my forms of socializing via online media.  Not that I have blogged a whole heck of a lot this fall.  Still, this break will be on purpose.

I hope you are all doing something that fills your soul this week.  See you in 2015!

L to R
Steve (bro), Jessie (sis), Zach (bro), Me

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Plus One

On the heels of closing this year's book recommendations as gifts, I landed on this article featured in the (my) beloved Brain Pickings.  Today, she tweeted about a book called Morris Micklewhite and the Tangerine Dress by Christine Baldacchino. I'm linking to her article because she gives you a beautiful description and a trailer.  I think we should all buy this book.

In 2014 I was continuously disappointed with decisions that humans made regarding other humans.  I watched with the world as we seemingly took steps backward in treating each other with the respect and dignity each person deserves.  I attended a conference in children's literature that screamed for more diversity in the books we share with kids.

Today, on the cusp of 2015, I read about Morris Micklewhite and I was, yet again, reminded of the power in literacy.  The ability to write and the ability to read can make a change.  Bravo to the Christine Baldacchinos, the Jacqueline Woodsons, the Andrea Beatys, and all the other wave makers.  Let's take 2015 to a whole new level.

Nobody should feel like this. Ever.

Day 8, Baby Books

Everyone is having a baby.  No really.  In the last year, friends and family have welcomed eight babies into the world, and that is only counting close friends and family.  If I counted all the FB friends popping those suckers out, man, that would be a lot of time wasted.  I haven't been able to keep up with gifts on all these babies but the last three I managed to get some goodies out.  My new approach to baby gift giving?  Baby books and baby hats.  Knitting hats don't take me nearly as long as the toys do so they have been a quality solution to cranking out gifts quickly.  I can start with a cool hat pattern and then find a book, or start with a good book and find a pattern.  Here are three that I came up with recently.  These books and hat patterns work as holiday gift giving ideas too!

Little Owl's Orange Scarf by Tatyana Feeney

Mas recommended this book last year for Christmas.  This Thanksgiving my cousin Mary Kate had a little girl, Ella Jane.  Her baby shower was owl themed so I thought this would be the perfect book to go along with the theme.  To go with the book I found a pattern for an owl hat and knit one up for baby Ella.  Alas, I didn't get a copy of Little Owl in time so I ended up giving her The Paper Bag Princess, which is a pretty good read as well.

Owl Hat for Ella

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Day 7, Honoring All Abilities

Recently a friend of mine emailed me for a list of books that honored students with different abilities.  She is a principal and wanted to infuse more books featuring students into her classrooms as one way of teaching acceptance.  I was pleased to send her a long list.  Did you know that there are some really fantastic books out there that feature kids with all sorts of differences?  We've seen a big push recently for diverse books.  Well, here is an addition to that push for diversity in a way we don't usually think of.  Being a special education teacher, these books are near and dear to my heart. In addition to Wonder and Wonderstruck (I JUST noticed that connection, ha!) here are some new books to add to your list.

I think Cece Bell, author of El Deafo, really highlighted the importance of reading books from different perspectives.  (Also, have you read this?)  She said,

El Deafo is based on my childhood...It is in no way a representation of what all deaf people might experience. It's also important to note that while I was writing and drawing the book, I was more interested in capturing the specific feelings I had as a kid with hearing loss than in being 100% accurate with the details. ... I felt different, and in my mind, being different was not a good thing. I secretly and openly, believed that my deafness, in making me so different, was a disability.  And I was ashamed....I'm no longer ashamed of being deaf, nor do I think of myself as someone with a disability.

El Deafo by Cece Bell

The main bunny in this book goes by the name "El Deafo."  At least that is her super hero name.  After recovering from meningitis as a 4 year old, she loses her hearing.  When she is old enough to go to school she is outfitted with The Phonic Ear, a devise that connects her own hearing aids to a microphone worn by her teacher.  At first she is unsure about the device because it attracts so much attention.  Then she realizes that when the teacher leaves the room she can hear everything her teacher says.  She starts to imagine her life as a super hero and El Deafo is born.  I love that this book shows how Cece (yes, this is based on the author's life.  See above.) is a normal girl, just like everyone else, with just one different thing.  I love how she accepts her difference as something awesome.  It is a great story of friendship and what it is like to be a kid.  Also, it is a graphic novel.  My kids drooled over it when they saw it in my hands. :)

Friday, December 19, 2014

Day 6, True Stories

Nonfiction seems to be the forgotten child of children's books of the past but I can assure you, my fellow readers, that this is no longer.  Nonfiction books are stealing the glory of other children's books a whoooole lot.  These books tell new perspectives, bring unique stories and experiences to life, and teach the world a thing or two.  Maybe it is the amount of nonfiction required in the Common Core standards (yes, I uttered the words-that-must-not-be-named) upping the stock of fantastic nonfiction.  I'm not really sure.  All I know is I love learning from these books.

The Right Word by Jen Bryant and Melissa Sweet

Jen Bryant and Melissa Sweet team up for another winning biography.  I loved A River of Words and Balloons over Broadway. and The Right Word is a winner again.  This time they explore the life of Peter Roget, the inventor of the thesaurus.  In this book we discover that Roget was a shy boy but loved collecting words and kept them in notebook.  He organized them in different ways and eventually created the first thesaurus.  Did you know that the word thesaurus means treasure house in Greek?  Yup!  That and a whole lot of other cool things are waiting for you in this amazing book.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Day 5, Getting Graphic

My students LOVE graphic novels.  They don't care what it is about.  I see them perusing the shelves in the library with frustrated looks on their faces and when I ask them my favorite question, "Can I help you find a book?" they respond with, "You don't have enough graphic novels."  "Have you tried Pippi Longstocking?"  "Do you have it in a graphic novel?"  "Hm. No, what about Gregor the Overlander.  It is written by Suzanne Collins!  She wrote the Hunger Games!"  "Is it a graphic novel?"

I honestly can say that I don't share their love of graphic novels.  My brain isn't wired to read that way.  Alas, I do pick up a few because they are so well-loved.  I will admit, I haven't read all the books listed below.  However, these are the ones my kiddos love so chances are the young people in your life will love them too. I also find that kids who loved Diary of a Wimpy Kid and Geronimo Stilton are big fans of these books too, if that helps your stockings get stuffed at all.

Sisters by Raina Telgemeir

Sisters is the sequel to Telgemeir's hit Smile.   I haven't actually read Sisters but I did read Smile.  Both are based on Telgemeir's own life experiences and my kids are ridiculously in love with these books.  One student said to me today, "All I want for Christmas is Sisters Miss Howe."  This student is a 9 year old Haitian boy.  I am not sure if that is the demographic Telgemeir was going for but it definitely speaks to the breadth of the audience she is reaching.  This book tells about what happens with Raina gets to be a big sister for the first time.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Day 4, Poetry in Prose

Some stories can't be told without the beautiful form of poetry to assist them.  Recently, there seem to be a lot of lyrical novels, novels told in poetry form, hitting the shelves, especially for middle grade students.  Here are two of my favorites from the year.  These would be great gifts for that child who has a heart as big as the world, notices the world around them, and stares at the clouds and stars whenever possible.
Yes, all my books come from the BPL

The Red Pencil by Andrea Pinkney and illustrated by Shane Evans

Amira is a 12-year old girl living in a rural Sudan.  She enjoys her farm, her new lamb, and dreams of going to school when her friend leaves for a school in Nyala.  One day that all comes to a halt when her town is attacked by the Janjaweed.  Homes are burned, her lamb is lost, and her father is shot down before her eyes. The Red Pencil is both heart breaking and eye opening.  Andrea Pinkney explains that sometimes the toughest stories need to be written in lyrical prose, there is just no other way to experience them.  Between her beautiful language and Shane Evans' illustrations (remember him?  from the thing I did?), Amira's story balances between her words and sketches.  This is a book the current fifth graders in my school are reading.  They read A Long Walk to Water last year and I think both these books are perfect for showing students what is happening in the world around them.

I just noticed these pictures are terrible! And I returned the book!
Man, I sincerely apologize for that!  Now you HAVE to get the book!

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Day 3, Tradition! (for your Older Readers)

First of all....Happy Hanukkah! Here are more books for whatever your motivation is to give gifts.

Folktales are all stories that have roots in the tradition of oral storytelling.  They can come in the form of fables, fairy tales, myths, and more.  Today I bring you two new books from this year that honor that tradition, but with their own story to tell.  These are longer reads for the middle schooler or teen in your house.

Egg & Spoon by Gregory Maguire
Gregory Maguire transports us into the world Elena, a poor young girl in a small town in Russia, and Ekaterina (Cat), a wealthy girl of the same age who stops in town on a train.  When Elena and Cat have a mishap involving a Fabergé egg and a moving train, the two girls find themselves in a completely different world.  Maguire weaves in Baba Yaga, Rasputin, and a narrator who is stuck in prison for, well, you don't quite know as he tells this story. 

The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavendar by Leslye Walton
I picked up this book because it said it held a bit of magical realism a la Garcia Marquez or Allende. That was enough for me to get reading!  Walton takes you back into the family tree of Ava Lavendar to learn the magic that twists its way through their tale.  Coupled with a subtly magic past is a history of lost love.  Ava, when she is born, is completely normal except for the wings she is born with.  Ava's mother keeps her hidden in the house but curiosity gets the better of her and she sneaks out with a neighbor friend.  Nathaniel Sorrows sees her and thinks she is an angel, which sounds romantic but he ends up being a bit of a cuckoo bird.  This is definitely a book for a much older reader...think high school and early college.  But a haunting story worth picking up!

Monday, December 15, 2014

Day 2, It's as Easy as ABC!

Alphabet books are no new addition to the world of picture books.  They just happen to be one of my favorite formats.  This year, three amazing alphabet books hit the shelves.  These are great for your early readers looking to learn their ABCs in a cool way, for your older kiddos who will understand their subtle humor, or for the grownups in your life who need a good giggle every now and again.

Once Upon an Alphabet by Oliver Jeffers
*sigh* Oliver Jeffers.  I want to be his artistic bff.  He has yet again come out with a work of quirky brilliance.  In One Upon an Alphabet, a hefty book, Jeffers gives each letter its own story.  Wanna know how an owl and an octopus fare in their adventures out on the ocean?  Flip to the story of the letter "O."  You will even find some guest appearances from Jeffers' previous books. 

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Day 1, Something is Missing...

My grandiose plans of reviving the 12 days of book gift ideas totally failed this year.  I don't know why because I had some ideas and actually drafted the blog entries but it just sorta slipped away.  So, I'll hit you with what I have.  Eight days of holiday gift ideas!  Here we go!

Wordless books have been popular for awhile.  I love reading them with kids and students because they can tell their own story and everyone has their own version.  (Not to mention the great inferencing skills you can build...c'mon I'm a teacher after all...)

Today I bring to you three wordless books and one...picture-less book!  These are some of my fave's from the year that will be sure to find a place in any home.

Journey by Aaron Becker
Remember how The Purple Crayon opened up the possibility of a world within one singular drawing tool?  Well, Journey takes it one step farther. A girl draws a door on her wall and opens up a world of possibility.  It is no wonder this won the Caldecott.  Check out Quest for a beautiful sequel.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

December Events

It is looking like a lot of authors are staying home to drink egg nog in the month of December.  Author visits in the Boston area are on the light side.  Don't fret!  I'll be coming your way with my annual 12 days of Books with lots of ideas for gifts this holiday season.  If I can get my act together I might start it early to include all the winter holidays and so you can get books in time for whatever day you plan on giving them.

Jessie and her finished product.

I hope you had a nice Thanksgiving!  My roomies are back and we celebrated with our own Thanksgiving dinner and Christmas tree decorating.  It is smelling mighty good in my apartment right about now!

December 6
Harvard Bookstore is having their Winter Warehouse sale! December 6 and 7, 10 am to 6 pm.  A perfect time to stock up on gifts!

December 7
Gregory Maguire, author of Wicked, will be at Porter Square Books promoting his new children's novel, Egg & Spoon, 5 pm

Zoë and R. W. Alley, author and illustrator of Enzo Races in the Rain present their new book, a collaboration with Garth Stein, author of The Art of Racing in the Rain, at Wellesley Books, 2 pm

Friday, November 28, 2014

Back in Black Dance Friday

So here's a recap.  Yesterday I decided to revel in a solo Thanksgiving because it is my favorite thing to do.  Boston was my oyster and I chose to take a 3 hour walk through the chilly city and then settle in for an Audrey Hepburn marathon.  Soooooooo good.

Crossing the Charles River after my stroll
Dedications in front of benches and trees
on the Commonwealth Ave Mall

Even the Velveteen Rabbit made an appearance!

Now it is back to the regular old day off schedule.  I realized this morning it has been sometime since I posted a Dance Friday video. There was so much dancing in Funny Face, one of the movies I watched last night, that I thought clips from the movie would serve nicely as your inspiration on this Black Dance Friday.

One of the best scenes, in which Jo, Audrey's character, dances in a bohemian little cafe, was turned into a Gap commercial a few years back.  The song featured is Back in Black, and that goes along nicely with the fact that today is Black Friday. What I also like about the Gap folks turning this into a commercial is that you can see Audrey's dance moves a lot better than in the smokey joint in Paris in the movie.  However, nothing truly beats the real thing so if you want to see it, check out the link here.

Another of my favorite dance scenes in the movie is when Fred Astaire and Kay Thompson pretend to be a couple of beatniks to save Audrey from the likes of her beloved/notsobeloved professor.  Throwing this one in the Dance Friday mix as well.

Wanna hear something super cool?  Kay Thompson, who plays the glamorous magazine editor in this movie, is the author of the Eloise children's books!  Can you believe that!?  She was most famously known for writing these books but was also a vocal coach and choral arranger in Hollywood.  She was Judy Garland's vocal coach and subsequently became Liza Minelli's godmother.  It was Liza who is thought to have inspired the Eloise stories.  FOR REAL!!! 

 Have a great Dance Friday!

Thursday, November 27, 2014

My Thanksgiving

For many, Thanksgiving is about being with family, lots of food and laughter, and taking time to be grateful.  I love that we have a holiday in our country that celebrates all those things.

Can I tell you a secret, though? I love not celebrating Thanksgiving.  It first started on the day this blog got the name Alice, Ever After.  That year I was in Boston and didn't go home for Thanksgiving.  Instead, I had breakfast with some local friends and watched the Macy's Day parade. We brainstormed ideas for my future bookstore and the name Alice, Ever After was born.  Then I went back to my apartment and relaxed.  No turkeys, no stuffing. The following year, in LA, Nikolas got sick right before Thanksgiving and I decided not to leave him alone.  I cozied up in my apartment and read a whole lot of books.  The year after that I was determined to have a solo Thanksgiving and was ridiculously happy with the decision.

Last year, being back on the east coast and living with my sister, we knew we had to go home.  We braved a major winter storm to drive 8 hours back to Buffalo and the weekend was filled with all those Thanksgiving traditions - food, laughter, family.

This year, my sister and her boyfriend are with his family in Virginia.  This left me with a couple of possibilities but I will be honest, I pined for my solo Thanksgiving days of the past.  I told local family I would be joining them because they are just so damn lovely and I didn't want to hurt their feelings.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

November Events

Earlier this week the forecast said snow was in the works for the weekend.  Snow.  SNOW!!!??? Man I am not ready for that yet!  You know what I am ready for?  More great books and author events! November doesn't have a whole lot of events but they are big ones. 

Here's what's up for November!

November 2
Mo Willems will be at the Carle Museum!  It's sold out so unless you have a ticket (LIKE I DO!!) you can't go.  I'll let you know how it goes.

November 15
Did you miss the Madeline at 75 exhibit in NYC this summer?  Fear not!  The traveling exhibit will find its way into the Eric Carle museum.  Definitely worth every second.

November 16
Jeff Kinney, no joke, of Diary of a Wimpy Kid fame, will be at a ticketed event, limited to 800 people.  You must go to Brookline Booksmith, purchase a book, and that will get you up to 3 tickets.  Get em fast people!

November 21
Mockingjay Part I comes out!  Go see it!  See it with me!

Thursday, October 23, 2014

What the....!?!?!

I swear like a sailor.  I try to tone it down on here because this is a blog focused on children's literature.  However, in real life, my language is a lot more colorful.  I've heard two opposite opinions on the use of foul language.  I get it when people say that there are better ways to express yourself, that choosing swear words is lazy, etc., etc.  But goddammit sometimes the best words are the kind that come in only 4 letters. Last weekend at the Horn Book Colloquium, Andrew Smith addressed the use of "profanity" in his book Grasshopper Jungle.  His point of view, and one that I strongly support, is that words are not bad.  It is the way words are used that make them bad.  He argued that words like ugly, stupid, idiot, etc, were far worse than shit, damn, and fuck.

Today, I saw this new advertisement from FCKH8.  It has the same basic idea.  Yes, the "f-word" is a "bad" word.  But their list of words that are far worse include "pay inequality" "rape and violence" and "be pretty."  (Sorry grammar friends, just couldn't figure out the commas there.)  I'm with 'em.  I could probably clean up my language but is that really important?  Am I using those words in a detrimental way?  Maybe I am.  Maybe I should stand up for equal rights and use words that are less offensive to some. Or maybe society does need to take a look at where our priorities lie.  I could start a list of other things that would take a higher spot on that list than curse words. How about finding value in education?  Let's talk about class in America.  Who gives a crap what words I use when there are kids who, from the moment they are born, are dealt a pretty shitty hand in life?  Knowwhatimean?  Or not. What do you think?

This video reminded me of the book The Paper Bag Princess by Robert Munsch.  And this is a blog about books really.  So let's talk about that.  Have you read this?  Elizabeth and Ronald are a happy prince and princess couple until a fire-breathing dragon destroys everything, including Elizabeth's princess clothes, and takes Ronald off to his lair.  Elizabeth, through her brains and cunning, thwarts the dragon and saves Ronald.  His response?  

"Elizabeth!  You are a mess! You smell like ashes, your hair is all tangled and you are wearing a dirty old paper bag.  Come back when you are dressed like a real princess."

To which Elizabeth responds by telling Ronald to fuck off.  Well, she calls him a bum.  Could/should/would Robert Munsch have included a different word? I mean, we all know what she really meant. *wink

Ronald is about to get what is coming to him.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Stocking up on Picture Books

Cool air is finally making it's return to New England and the leaves are cooperating by really starting to do their thing. It is the perfect time of year to buy more socks, wear layers, and stock up on all the best soup-making supplies.

I've also been stocking up on some pretty spectacular picture books.  Last weekend I spent a day at Simmons College for their annual Horn Book at Simmons Colloquium.  This event is aimed at discussing the Horn Book Boston Globe award winners as well as discussing important happenings in children's literature.  Myself and about 200 other participants listened to the authors who won awards discuss this year's theme, minding the gaps in children's literature.  We talked about diversity, the balance of girls and boys being represented, how class is represented in children's literature, and where and how nonfiction fits in the world of children's literature.  It was one of the best events I have attended about children's literature because of it's willingness to delve deep into what is missing for our young readers.

I also got a lot of great books and the picture books stole my heart!  Here are some you should pick up!  (Note: not all of these were discovered at the colloquium but they are amazing enough to include.)

Rosie Revere, Engineer and Happy Birthday Madame Chapeau by Andrea Beaty, illustrated by David Roberts

These two books were not featured at the event but talk about diversity!  Rosie Revere shows a young girl taking a risk to be an engineer when no one else thinks she can do it.  She gathers materials all around her to build things but is discouraged to do so and thus, hides her efforts.  Alas, all is not lost because her great-great-aunt Rose swoops in and tells her what's up.

Madame Chapeau is about a hat maker who fits the entire town with the best hats possible.  She's a successful single woman who has her own business and every year she takes herself out for her birthday to the fanciest spot in town with her favorite hat atop her head.  This year, her hat is snatched by a crow and all the towns people offer her their own hats.  One quiet observer, a little girl, knows the secret to a perfect hat and helps save Madame Chapeau's birthday.

Mr. Tiger Goes Wild and My Teacher is a Monster written and illustrated by Peter Brown

Mr. Tiger was a hot contender for the Caldecott last year but much to the surprise of the book community, he did not win.  However, all was not lost because Peter Brown did win the Horn Book- Boston Globe award for this book and it seems as if a little of that wrong was righted.  Mr. Tiger lives in a city where everyone just goes along with the day-to-day monotony.  Soon, he starts to feel antsy and wants a change.  So he starts walking on four legs, and then takes off his three-piece suit. Well, all the animals won't stand for this kind of anarchy so he gets booted to the forest.  However, this does not seem to solve his problems because he realizes he misses all his friends.  Mr. Tiger heads back to the city but is surprised to discover he was not the only one ready for a change.

Mr. Tiger's transformation

My Teacher is a Monster is a cheeky little tale about what happens when you see your teacher outside of school.  Robert is pretty convinced his teacher is a monster and is shocked to see her sitting on a park bench one day.  Make sure to pay attention, because the teacher doesn't look so thrilled to see young Robert, either.  I chatted with Peter about the book a bit and he said his mom was a fourth grade teacher (!!!) and he remembers how she reacted one time when she say a student outside of school.  He said he wanted to capture a little of that other side in this story.  So when a chance wind snags the teachers hat and sends it flying (p.s. LOVING all the hats in books these days), Robert and his teacher find that they can find some peace between them....until Robert starts flying paper airplanes in school again.

Josephine: The Dazzling Life of Josephine Baker by Patricia Hruby-Powell, illustrated by Christian Robinson

This 100-page picture book tells the life story of a woman who was an important part of the civil rights movement and yet not widely talked about.  She was a dancer in the 1920s, making the charleston come alive, but was not allowed to dance in many clubs in the US because of her skin color.  She took herself to Paris, where they were more accepting of differences and she boomed as a dancing sensation.  She continued to voice her opinions of segregation in the United States and eventually headed back.  One amazing thing I learned was Josephine adopted 12 children from different countries and called them her "Rainbow Tribe" to prove that different people could live together in harmony.  Move over Brangelina!!

Sam and Dave Dig a Hole by Mac Barnett, illustrated by Jon Klassen

I've been waiting for these fine gentlemen to get another book together and at long last it has happened!  Their last book, Extra Yarn! was a HUGE favorite among my students and this book has already won them over.  In this story, two young boys, Sam and Dave, are joined by their dog in a quest to dig a hole.  Yep, just dig a hole.  They are hoping to strike it big somehow but their efforts seem to go unrewarded.  In the cheeky way that this bestie author/illustrator team know so well, there is more to the story than the words tell you.  The ending, is a perfect subtle way of making the reader say, "Wait...wait...did they?...wait....I think...." and then they leave you hanging.


Sunday, October 5, 2014

October Picks

Due to my tardiness, I have picked just a few events in October that I would attend if I could. Hope you are enjoying a crisp fall day somewhere.

Raina Telgemeier, author of Smile and Drama, will be at Wellesley Books tomorrow, October 6, at 7 pm.  If you have a child in 4th, 5th, or 6th grade they will definitely want to be there!

Chris Raschka is sweeping through town.  He will be at the Boston Book Festival on the weekend of October 25 and will also appear at Brookline Booksmith on October 26th at 2 pm.

Junot Diaz is the Cambridge Reads author this year and he will be featured on October 14 at 7 pm and the central library in Cambridge.  This is a first come, first serve event.  No tickets.

Tomie dePaola will be honored by the Concord Public Library October 18 at 6:30 pm.  Tickets are required and can be reserved here.

And finally, the Boston Book Festival is October 25th.  Tons of great folks, including one of my personal faves, Tony DiTerlizzi, will be there.

Friday, October 3, 2014


Sometimes sadness permeates. Despite the busying of schedules, the running around, the avoiding of responsibility and the putting on a good show, we just can't shake it.  I feel silly discussing such sorrow when the world struggles with bigger issues and there is so much in my life to be thankful for.  But when I stop running and when I finally pause for a moment, all of my heartache races back and I find that I can't stop tears from coming.

It has been one month since my furry companion died.  He was a cat.  I knew it would happen someday.  But suddenly, this world I created for the past 16 years was no longer the same.  I guess I didn't realize how much this little buddy became a part of me.  In the book The Amber Spyglass by Philip Pullman, we learn that a person's animal companion is more than just a pet, it is part of their soul.  When a person becomes separated from their animal or their animal dies, the person suffers excruciating pain.

The past few weeks, as I have wandered through my world, I see that the people I love all still have their companion.  They have one person who belongs to them.  Despite being surrounded with so much support, I feel alone all the time. I never felt like I needed that person and maybe it was because I had NJP.  I realize now I liked that feeling of belonging to something.  Yes, I have good friends and amazing family, but NJP was just mine and I was just his.  Is it silly to fill that role with a pet?  I guess it doesn't matter, because that is just how it feels.

So, my apologies for not posting new events, not writing about amazing books, and no dance videos.  I'm healing.  It's taking a bit of time. Tonight I am turning to music to try to sooth my soul.  Aoife O'Donovan happens to be the daughter of a dear friend of mine.  Her voice always captures my deepest emotions and it just seemed the right stuff to listen to.

Take care of those people and pets you love.  They matter oh so much. 

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Some Quick Reads

Good morning!  After an exhausting week, and my heart still hurting, I was grateful to have a quiet  morning in bed.  Staying in bed for a couple of hours on a weekend morning is one of my favorite gifts in life.

Happy birthday Roald Dahl!
(photo from

While perusing I found some cool things happening in the great big world of children's literature.  Here are some for you!

Today is Roald Dahl's birthday!  If you were in England you could celebrate by dressing up as an Oompa Loompa and jump out of a plane!

Do you draw a line for literature being too dark for children?  Interesting article.

Newbery season is upon us.  Folks are gathering their lists, adding more interesting books.  But what does it take?  Check this out. 

Want to know some new, exciting books coming out this fall?  Have a looksee! Or check out this list.

Books ARE fashion.  From Fashion Week in NY to your own bookshelf. 

Moon Dance Friday

Actually, it should be aurora borealis dance Friday because right now, some people near me can see it!  I went out and took a look but my city lights are outshining nature's light show.

Moon Over My Boston

Alas, I will have to dream of dancing under the aurora some other night.  But you? Find someone you love, play this song, and give em a twirl or two under the aurora if you can see it and if not, the moon will do as well.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Hold Fast to Dreams

My dream was always to be a writer and to write children's books.  My friend's mom told me in 5th grade, when she came to teach us about careers, that I would never make enough money as a writer and maybe I should think about something else.  "What about a teacher?"

I love teaching.  However there is some part of me that has always wanted to belong to that community, the family of writers, the people who could tell stories and make you laugh weep cry wonder think.  I wanted to bring stories to people who didn’t have them.  I wanted to give a voice to those who couldn’t speak. Teaching lets me do this in many ways but I have always held a place in my heart for that spot in that other place that I haven’t been able to belong.

When I started this blog four years ago it was with the idea that my dedication to “the magical world of children’s literature and a dream come true” would set the foundation for my place in the family of writing.  I thought for sure this world would recognize the stuff my dreams were made of.  They would know that this was always a part of me and what possibly took me so long to get there.

Little things happened.  I started going to events, I started asking questions, talking to important people in the world of children’s literature.  But the open arms weren’t there.  Their embrace of a long lost family member never happened.  I was told by an “expert” that all the books I loved were the wrong ones.  Clearly I wasn’t thinking enough about what children’s literature really was.  I felt like I was in middle school all over again.  “You dress like a poor person,” was how they told my I didn’t belong then.  “You just don’t know,” is what I’ve been told now.

Cheers to all the "wrong books"
Text from Brown Girl Dreaming
Still, I’ve struggled to keep up, like the middle schooler I was back then, doing everything I could to find my place in this world I so deeply wanted to be a part of.  I tweet.  I blog. I follow.  I attend. 

This summer, the popular group started posting about a book they all loved.  And I thought, “I am going to read THAT book and then they will like me!”  So I looked it up.  The book hadn’t come out yet but they all had an early released copy.  Every day I read another important person talk about this book.  They tweeted.  They blogged.  I felt left out again.  I was too poor to read the book ahead of time.  So I pre-ordered and awaited its release.

Monday my cat passed away.  Thursday I got the call that my time had arrived, my book was available.  

I felt my voice and my heart in these
words from Brown Girl Dreaming
This morning, I sat and read the whole thing in one sitting.  It was everything they said it was.  But it was more for me.  I may not belong to that group, but I did belong to someone.  In the past 16 years as I struggled to find my place among friends, at jobs, in my dreams, Nikolas James Pumpkinhead came with me.  I told him my stories, sang him my songs, cried in his orange fluff when my heart broke.  In this book I read today, words washed over the new hole in my life and gave it a voice when I haven’t been able to speak.  This book started to heal my heart.  No group can take that away. 

So I may not be a part of the popular group.  Your world may not follow my tweets or read my blog.  But today I realized I truly don’t give a fuck.  I’ll keep reading the wrong books and the right books and keep writing even though it doesn’t make me any money.  You may know all the publishers, you may be able to afford to have my favorite authors come visit your students, you may all get advanced copies, but you can’t take the change that happens in my heart whenever I read and whenever I write.  That is my new dream come true.

Me too, Jacqueline and Langston, me too