your hand if you ever missed going to the zoo during summer vacation. OK, I’m
looking, but I don’t see any hands out there.
my brothers and me, it was a pack a picnic lunch, spend the day occasion. The
event usually included at least two or three aunts and several cousins. During
winter months I wrote letters to Suzy the gorilla at the Cincinnati Zoo (which I never
mailed). When I grew up, I took my own kids, chaperoned classes and troops,
even hosted a birthday party at the Louisville Zoo. I remember looking back
over my shoulder at the cleanup crew hosing out our party room, washing away
ice cream and chocolate cake and trampled party streamers and thinking that was
the ONLY way to celebrate a birthday. What took me so long to learn this?
I ever want to live at the zoo? No, but what if I had? Author Irene Latham could
be a kindred spirit.
FEED THE BOY by Irene Latham, illustrated by Stephanie Graegin, Roaring Book
eleven, has lived his whole life at the Meadowbrook Zoo. Dad is head elephant
keeper and Mom is a veterinarian and zoo director. Ms. Connie is his kind,
understanding, home-school teacher who has always been there for him.
one lives, a few well thought-out rules make life run more smoothly. Here are
the rules Whit’s parents expect him to follow:
Don’t feed the animals.
Schoolwork comes first.
Don’t leave the zoo property for any reason.
that Whit is approaching middle school, these rules are beginning to feel
confining, like a skin that’s growing too tight. He looks at life, his life in
particular, and wonders what it would be like to fit into a world of people.
Little does he know that is exactly what other middle school kids are
wondering, too. They just do their wondering at a public school while Whit is
fulfilling Ms. Connie’s assignments and bemoaning his predictable routine at
the zoo. In some of his moodiest moments, he even thinks his parents care more
for the animals than they do for him.
then Whit notices a girl who looks to be about his age and who appears at the
zoo every day. She settles into the same spot and draws pictures of the birds.
He christens her “Bird Girl” and wonders why she is always alone. It takes some
time, but he finally works up enough courage to talk to her. His courage is rewarded.
They become friends.
there is an ancient saying somewhere that says one should always see home
through another’s eyes to truly appreciate it. Whit thinks his ability to
recite all the keepers’ public performances for the public--like every word the
keeper says at feeding time at Pelican Plaza-- shows just how dull and boring
his life is. However, Stella’s eyes grow round with surprise and admiration at
each recitation. As Whit points out small things that only an everyday person
could see or observe or understand, he realizes how much he loves his home.
Whit gets to see what Stella’s home life is like, his theories about families
and the lives other people surely must enjoy more than he enjoys his, come to a
screeching halt. Stella needs help. Whit
is determined to provide that help. As Stella and Whit try to solve some
adult-sized problems, the carousel and train figure into a variety of plot
twists and turns.
won’t spoil the ending, except to say parents will applaud and kid readers will
be happy for both Whit and Stella. (No, Whit’s parents do not adopt her.)
capture the characters and their emotions as if a photographer followed this
engaging pair and offered them a package of photos at the end of their zoo trip
to be a souvenir of their vacation. In her acknowledgements, Author Latham addresses illustrator Stephanie Graegin: ”You’ve
charmed Whit and the Bird Girl to tender life.” Tender is a fitting word. They
are like tender shoots of the flowers they will become.
more about Irene, see her webpage and be sure to visit her blog and read happy news about Don’t Feed the Boy.
This is not an entry from my Book Log. It is
not about books. It is about people who write them.
I’ve been tagged!
Connie Fleming and I are members of an on-line
critique group known as the Golden
Girls. Our other member is Kathye Marsh.
Connie writes for all ages and her blog is especially helpful for those of us who sit at our computers for
long stretches, write, eat (after all, we have to keep up our strength) write
and eat some more.
Kathye writes the most fun fantasy novels for
young readers and some rather stark paranormals for older readers. I’m older
than her older readers, and I read Kathy’s work when I’m not alone at home.
She’s too good and I react to strange noises.
Kathye’s middle grade novel, Pansy Pants, was a
recent runner up in the CBAY competition. You can read all about this on her blog.
Connie tagged Susan Spain, a member of her writing
group, Kathye Marsh, and me for this Hop and we were asked to answer at least four of
ten questions. Then it was our turn to tag three authors of our own
Here are the questions I answered:
1. What are you working on right now?
A novel for ages ten and up set in
Alabama during the 1960’s.
4. Why do you write what you do?
Underdogs call my name. If the team I root for
doesn’t win, I consider that a second place win, not a loss. This drives me to
write about characters who strive to do the right thing, no matter how many
times obstacles bowl them over. They struggle to stand again, dust off, and
6. What is the hardest part about writing?
Surviving transitions between writing stages.
A) Research. All parts of the research
process, interviews, archival digging, reading stacks of books on the topic or
all around the topic, taking copious notes, and traveling to actual
settings—all of this fascinates me. I never want it to end.
B) Writing the story swallows me whole. I
forget where I am. Hours disappear. Suddenly it’s 4 o’clock and I haven’t fixed
anybody lunch. The dog is giving me that you-should-be-ashamed-of yourself look. This can go on for weeks.
C) Polishing the manuscript--like choosing which adorable kids' vacation pictures to share. All are memorable (the manuscript looks
pretty darn good) and Mom (also a literary parent) is button popping proud.
D) Handing the package over the counter to the
friendly postal person. She knows I'm a writer. She’s going to be one, too,
when she has time. I make encouraging comments and go home to wait.
E) Waiting. It’s tough to let go of the
characters who’ve moved out of my head and into the hands of others. It’s time
to move on, to meet new characters solving a new puzzle.
During the transition from one stage to the
next, my confidence fails me. I should call a halt to this time consuming thing
called writing. Whoever told me I could write anyhow? OK, so a few people have said
that but they were friends or relatives or editors who probably didn’t want to
hurt my feelings. I know how to turn every supportive comment on its head.
The hardest part of writing is I can’t quit. I
can’t not do it.
are the authors you most admire?
A) the ones who didn’t quit
B) today’s pre-published writers who refuse to quit.
I’ve chosen three talented writers who model the
most intriguing characters: distinctive, authentic, and hard to forget. I’ve
known each one a long time and still am surprised by their myriad interests and
When I asked Gina Hagler which blog to link—she has several—I
was amazed to learn about her financial management background. Who knew? Not I.
Certainly, writers need tips and tools for managing the business of writing.
And make no mistake, publishing our work is a business.
Sandy Fry is a world traveler and photographer. Her
challenge will resonate with all of us who research a topic and create stacks
of important information which quickly explode all over our homes and offices. How
Sandy wrestles with this problem is definitely a blog worthy topic for every
Jan Godown Annino introduced me to blogs and talked me through posting my early ones. She was one of the first authors I interviewed and I was
delighted to review her stellar biography, She Sang Promise, The Story of Betty May Jumper, Seminole Tribal Leader. Jan is a master at finding the
hidden muse. Sometimes the muse finds her. Scroll through her photographs and phrases and see if your own muse doesn’t whisper your name.
To all who click your way through this blog
hop, explore and enjoy!