Friday, December 11, 2020


Did you have an invisible friend when you were a child? She belonged to you alone. Do you remember when your friend went away? Maybe it happened when you learned to read, and your secret friend was replaced by a new friend who lived inside a book. That could be why series are so popular. Kids today are the same as we were as kids. They love having a friend that belongs to them and, they think, them alone.

Mermaid Tales, The Winter Princess by Debbie Dadey, Aladdin, Simon &Schuster, 2020

Pearl Swamp learns that of all the third graders at Trident Academy, her name has been drawn to be the Princess at the Winter Festival. She is ecstatic. But before she can share this wonderful news, her parents tell her they have decided to adopt a baby brother, a merbaby. 

What? Pearl’s amazing, fantastic, unbelievable announcement doesn't get announced. Instead, she learns her life, her home, her PARENTS are going to be shared. Raise your hand if you’ve ever heard of this surprising development in an only child’s life. (I’m waving mine!)

The story moves along from cliff hanger to cliff hanger and Pearl makes all kinds of discoveries about herself and others. If you read this before or with your daughter, you will find lots to talk about and probably learn something about your daughter, too.

Author Debbie Dadey has written more than 160 books, many in series for ages 6-9. The Winter Princess is # 20 in the Mermaid Tales. You can find other series and  titles as well as the forthcoming Mermaid Tales #21, Sleepover at the Haunted Museum, at



Thursday, November 12, 2020

Time for R-E-S-P-E-C-T


A word too long missing from our daily practices is now coming forward to be heard. How timely that a book for young people bears the title and brings forth a story that illustrates it.

R-E-S-P-E-C-T: Aretha Franklin, the Queen of Soul by Carole Boston Weatherford, illustrated by Frank Morrison, Atheneum BFYR, 2020

This is a biography in verse about the Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin. Award winning author Carole  Boston Weatherford follows this musical prodigy from her birth to gospel singing parents in Memphis, TN to her young days singing in the church her father pastored in Detroit to singing “My Country ‘Tis of Thee” at the  presidential inauguration of Barack Obama.

Aretha Franklin recorded her first album at age 14 and went on to win 18 Grammy Awards, the National Medal of Arts, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, and induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the Gospel Music Hall of Fame.  “Respect” is one of her many rhythm and blues hits.

It will be tempting for the lucky adult who reads this to a young listener to get lost in the opening scene of children playing. Hide and seek? It’s reminiscent of a peaceful worry-free time in childhood.  Why turn the page just yet? Your young listener will wake you from your reverie with a gentle tug and sweet command, “Read!”

Words spelled out in the text headings of  R-E-S-P-E-C-T, like B-L-E-S-S-E-D, G-I-F-T-E-D,              G-R-O-O-V-E, R-I-G-H-T, P-R-O-U-D, and H-U-M-B-L-E- lead readers to meet the beloved “Ree Ree”, the person behind the legend.

This skilled blend of art and words comes from an award winning pair.

Illustrator Frank Morrison is a children’s book illustrator and fine artist who has won Coretta Scott King Illustrator honors and the Coretta Scott King/John Steptoe Award for New Talent.

Author Carole Boston Weatherford’s lengthy list of books has received 3 Caldecott honors, 2 NAACP Image awards, the Golden Kite, and a Coretta Scott King author honor.

A college professor, Weatherford also loves to interact with her readers K-12. Before the pandemic, she traveled a lot. Through E-mail she nurtures other writers, no matter their ages. And in spite of Covid, she has been able to write.

In the challenging year of 2020, this is how the author is coping.

“Work is my refuge and has been for many years. If I can write, the world is not totally on its head.”

A self-described “foodie”, she finds joy in gardening and eating what she grows. “I honor my emotions and feelings in small things.” Even in small things, she stays “in the now."

“If the spirit moves us, we have to pray, believe in something greater than ourselves. What is important is that we survive.”

She encourages others to, “Engage in self-care and keep things in perspective.” In her own life, she has come up with a new day: Tomorrow’sday. “We don’t have to do some things today. Save it for Tomorrow’sday.”

Happily for us, Tomorrow'sday will also bring us more books from her busy pen.


Saturday, October 24, 2020

Tricks, Treats, and Treasured Titles


When you were a kid, did you read some books over and over? I had a whole closet of books like that. Summertime was my favorite time of the year because I could pull out these old friends, head for the closest climbing tree, and read hidden in the branches until I was missed. And that always happened too soon.


 THE SHERLOCK FILES by Tracy Barrett

THE 100-YEAR-OLD SECRET, by Tracy Barrett, Henry Holt & Co., 2008                                      A Junior Library Guild Selection

THE BEAST OF BLACKSLOPE, by Tracy Barrett, Henry Holt & Co., 2009

THE CASE THAT TIME FORGOT, by Tracy Barrett, Henry Holt & Co., 2010

THE MISSING HEIR by Tracy Barrett, Henry Holt & Co., 2011

      Armed with the casebook of their famous ancestor, 12 year old Xena and her younger brother Xander set out to solve cases their great-great-great-grandfather, Sherlock Holmes, did not.   

     Author Tracy Barrett weaves a tantalizing tale about this brother and sister detective team with cliff hangers dropped in all the right places. While they set about discovering London during the family’s year of residence there, the kids are normal enough to be curious and risk nail biting adventures, but smart enough and respectful enough to keep themselves out of the greatest danger to their freedom, parental interference (aka grounded.) Sherlock Holmes would be proud of these smart sleuths.     

     One of the nicest parts of this series is that all four are already available in libraries and book stores. Your enthusiastic young readers won’t  have to wait until the next one is published. They can indulge themselves during this spooky Halloween season and store them away for summer reading. Climbing tree recommended.

      In keeping with the new feature on Book Log, I asked Tracy Barrett how she is keeping her spirits up during this year of Covid.

      Her response:

      "I’m having a hard time with any sustained activity. That pretty much leaves writing out of my daily routine, but I itch to be creative. So what am I doing?

·      I’ve delved deep into my “recipes to try” file and have found some winners (some real losers, too!).

·      My one packet of elastic turned out to have about only a yard of elastic in it. This was before stores had figured out curbside pickup, so I found a pattern for face masks without elastic ( and sewed about 50 to distribute to friends and family. I used up a lot of scraps of fabric that were too nice to throw out but too small to do much of anything with!

·      I spent many happy hours creating a felt “Quiet Book” for my toddler granddaughter.

·      I’ve been knitting, knitting, knitting. I buy yarn online from my local yarn shop and pick it up from a rack outside their door.

·      And I haven’t neglected the writing world, either. I’m revising a manuscript I wrote a few years ago, and critiquing other people’s work. I’ve attended some of SCBWI’s* excellent webinars and learned a lot in areas I haven’t delved into before.

     I hope these activities are keeping my creative side alive until I’m ready to sit down at my computer and plot a new book!"


*Society of children’s Book Writers and Illustrators

                                                                           🌳  📚

Tuesday, October 6, 2020

How Creative Are Your Kids?

 My favorite part of Halloween has always been the creative costumes kids make on their own. Halloween 2020 is a little different, but not in the costume department.

 EENIE MEENIE HALLOWEENIE by Susan Eaddy, illustrated by Lucy Fleming, Harper, 2020

 What to wear? What to wear? A little girl with a dress up trunk full of inspiration has important decisions to make. Her imagination is off and waddling like a penguin or running like a pink polar bear. Could she be an ocelot? Giraffe or kangaroo? Eenie Meenie—at last, she knows what to do.      

Your little trick or treaters will love turning pages. Then turn them loose with “finds” around the house. Old curtains or sheets? Scraps of trim and fabric from your last burst of sewing? Don’t forget the kitchen. My daughter used a roll of aluminum foil to turn her 7 year old self into the Tin Man from The Wizard of Oz.

Susan Eaddy is an author and illustrator who sculpts in clay. For her young readers and their moms, she has thoughtfully provided crafts on her web page to help extend this book’s fun way beyond Halloween. Keep scrolling down until you find out how to make a tree for a smiling little monkey.

 Illustrator Lucy Fleming has peppered the pages of this charming book with surprises for sharp eyed readers. Tissue boxes? A bow tie? Lots and lots of tape and glue.

 Let’s get going!

 Switching gears, I’ve added a new feature to Book Log. How do creative folks keep their spirits up in this time when school visits, book launches, and book store gatherings have been reduced or cancelled?

 So I asked Susan Eaddy, how are you and what lifts your spirits these days? 


A tip from Susan Eaddy for lifting one’s spirits:

One of the things I have been thinking about is how the inability to travel has led me to discoveries in my own neighborhood. I have always been a walker for exercise, but usually limited my walks to 30 minutes in the blocks nearby. By necessity this led me to a predictable loop so I could be back home in 30 minutes. 

But now... I set out my front door and have no plan other than seeing up close a street that I've never explored. I've lived in the same neighborhood for 25 years and surprised myself by realizing that I'd never actually WALKED on the streets that are a less than a mile from my house. My curiosity keeps me walking further, and my 30 minute walks have become an hour or more as I indulge that curiosity to see what is around each corner. Every day is a new discovery of homes, tidy or unkempt, manicured gardens, or lawns bare with kids’ foot traffic.

Every home has a story I had never stopped to consider. And I make a point of making eye contact & saying hello with a big smile to every neighbor, walker or runner I encounter. It surprises people, and more often than not, they smile back. With genuine warmth.

Sunday, September 13, 2020

Mirror? Window? Sliding Glass Doors?

EVERYTHING SAD IS UNTRUE: (a true story) BY Daniel Nayeri, Levine Querida, 2020

How do you want the readers you care about to benefit from the books they read?

This is my take-away from “Mirrors, Windows, and Sliding Glass Doors.” By Rudine Sims Bishop, from READING IS FUNDAMENTAL 1/3/2015, Multicultural Literacy

If you give children books that are mirrors, they see themselves, the readers.  When you were a young reader, did you see yourself in books? Do you want your children to identify with characters in the books they read?   

Books that are windows give readers a glimpse of the world that is different from theirs.

What is it like to live in another country? Do families whose language is different from ours love each other like our families do? Do siblings fight and make up?  Do kids want to make friends in their classrooms whether the classroom is on an island or in a mountain community or inside a city building?

Sliding glass door books invite readers to step outside. What kind of world will they enter? Who will be their friends?    

Daniel (birth name Khosrou), the main character in EVERYTHING SAD IS UNTRUE: (a true story) escapes from Iran with his mother and sister, running for their lives because their mother is a new Christian who meets in secret with other Christians. Her identity is uncovered, and the secret police give her a week to reveal the names of her Christian group members or she and her children will be killed. She finds a way to escape, taking her daughter and young son with her.

Daniel recalls how they are treated and how they respond to each sometimes life threatening and sometimes long, boring, and wearying stop on the way from the UAE to Italy to being granted asylum in the USA in Oklahoma.

In a manner that evokes Scheherazade, Daniel tells his classmates about his family, his country, and Persian culture.  His classmates are skeptical and derisive. The reader learns about Daniel’s humiliating trips on bus 209, his Oklahoma neighborhood, and his family’s loneliness. Like his classmates, the reader may or may not believe this foreigner’s tall tales. (Not my description of Daniel who sometimes made me cry.)

Mirror? Window? Sliding Glass Doors?

Author Daniel Nayeri was born in Iran, spent two years as a refugee, and emigrated to Oklahoma when he was eight. This autobiographical middle grade novel is a tribute to his mother, a dedicated practicing physician before her escape from Iran, whom he says is “unstoppable.” You can meet her, and Daniel, the author, too. 

Go to

Scroll all the way down to the full document short.

You will wish you could open a sliding glass door into Daniel’s mother’s kitchen to sample a  cream puff. Have you ever tasted a pastry flavored with rosewater?

Wednesday, July 1, 2020


Today begins the second half of a year riding on a roller coaster we can’t seem to exit. Just when we think the thing has stopped, it takes off again, and we haven’t had time to re-buckle our seat belts. I’ve been looking for something to hang on to, and I’ve found something to share.


DICTIONARY FOR A BETTER WORLD Poems, Quotes, and Anecdotes from A to Z, by Irene Latham and Charles Waters, Illustrated by Mehrdokht Amini, Carolrhoda Books, 2020.

If every home had a copy of this book and used it in conversation often enough to make it “theirs”, we would definitely have a better world. One alphabet letter can start everyone in the family thinking until the next chance to sit and talk or stir dinner together or whatever you are doing to ward off your own brand of cabin fever.

Each alphabet letter has its own quote, its own poem about the topic title of the letter; and each poem is written in a different poetic form. Insights from “Irene Says” or “Charles says” are followed by “Try It” encouraging readers to get out of their comfort zones.

One of my favorite quotes is from Mother Teresa, paired with B for “belonging”: “If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other.” 

Irene, who lives her poem, is the winner of the 2016 Lee Bennett Hopkins Promising Poet Award. Enjoy her warmth and wisdom at

Charles co-authored Can I touch Your Hair? Poems of Race, Mistakes, and Friendship with Irene.  He is a poet and professional actor. Find out more about Charles at

Mehrdokht Amini, an Iranian British children’s book illustrator,  lives in London. She created the illustrations in this book with collage, photography, acrylic, and digital painting. They work together and separately to create an emotional range and set the tone for each new conversation.       

Irene’s thoughts inspire me. Charles gives me reasons to persevere. Mehrdokht's artwork is an invitation to explore.

Their book speaks to all ages.

Hillview School Library