June 27, 2014
My friend and fellow author Lisa Robinson spotted a nice display of the Lemonade War books at the Harvard Coop in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and sent me the following picture. As an author, it's always a thrill to see your books "front-faced" on store bookshelves. (That means the cover faces out rather than the spine of the book, and thus the book takes up more space on the bookshelf.) When I was a newly published author, I used to sneak into book stores, find my books (spine out) on the shelf, and then surreptitiously "rearrange" the surrounding books to allow my books enough space so that I could front-face them. It was a singularly obnoxious thing to do, but it was something of a compulsion (that I have since gained control of). Also, I'm quite sure that the weary bookstore staff used to follow around behind me and return the books as they were. After all, it's a bookstore's right to front-face whatever books they choose. (Oh, how could they not choose mine?!?) In any case, the whole thing was an exercise in futility, although it did make me feel as though I had some control over how my books were finding their way out in the Big, Bad World. So now perhaps you can understand why it makes me so happy to see my books front-faced all on their own. (That's right; I will never admit to sneaking into the Harvard Coop and front-facing these books. Then again, maybe Lisa did...)
June 19, 2014
On the way up to Stowe, Vermont, to visit my oldest son, I stopped in Montpelier to visit with my good friend Linda Urban, author of (most recently) THE CENTER OF EVERYTHING (see posting on June 8). We had what I call a "power-gab", which means we had a limited amount of time (an hour and a half) to catch up on a whole range of topics (end-of-school madness, travel, current writing projects, kids, writing craft, agents, editors, books, business, business). Talk faster, talk faster! It was wonderful to see her and laugh! (We traveled together on a Houghton Mifflin Harcourt publicity tour last spring.) And boy did we laugh. The good folks at the Capitol Grounds, where we met, were very tolerant of our high spirits and rapid talking. Always great to see an out-of-state friend. To capture the moment, we asked a tech-savvy middle-schooler to take our picture. Notice how well the young girl framed the shot with a sign pointing directly at us: "dirty dishes & Recycling"! Oh, well. I still like the picture.
June 14, 2014
I often receive lovely letters and emails from readers, and I so appreciate all those who take the time to get in touch with me. Many times, these letters and emails are from kids, but sometimes, too, they're from parents of children who are reading my books, and their letters provide a particular glimpse into the ways in which my books are experienced "out in the world." I'm including here a wonderful email I recently received from a mother, and I include it not for the lovely compliments she offers my books (though, thank you, your words warmed my heart), but for the delightful glimpse of a family who reads together. When my children were growing up, we would end each day tumbled together on the couch in the family room with a stack of picture books (when younger) or the current chapter book (when older) or a combination of both since my children's ages spanned almost seven years. I look back on those evenings (children bathed, Mom able to sit for a minute and catch her breath, dog cheerfully making the rounds to try to get a belly scratch) and I think, I wouldn't have missed that for the world. Thanks to this parent who wrote the following for reminding me of that magical time in my own life.
June 8, 2014
Some nice news came my way: THE CANDY SMASH is included on Bank Street College's Best Children's Books of the Year, 2014 Edition. There are many sub-categories in the list (Humor, Science Fiction, Historical Fiction), and THE CANDY SMASH is included under the evocative but somewhat mysterious category of "Today." I'm assuming that means contemporary realistic fiction, but there are so many other ways to interpret it, and I like to ponder those as well. (As in, "This is the book I will read today...") The very next book on the list (THE CENTER OF EVERYTHING) is written by my good friend, Linda Urban, which means that we're also now List Buddies. THE CENTER OF EVERYTHING is an absolutely gorgeous story about the extraordinary things in everyday life. It truly belongs on a list headed "Today." If you haven't read it, do so. If you're a librarian and your library doesn't own a copy, buy one. If you have a gift to give to a 10- to 12-year old, give this.
June 7, 2014
Today is my dad's birthday. He would have been 82 years old, but he passed away in 1990 at the age of 57. I dedicated THE MAGIC TRAP to him because it's a book about (among other things) fathers and what they mean to their children. The father in the book is not at all like my dad, except in certain essential ways: all kids need their fathers, even if they've never known them. Because I was relatively young when he died, there are many things I don't know about my dad and now can't ask him. Here are three pictures I have of him that I particularly like. In the first (taken at a beach in British Columbia, which is where he was born), he's the irrepressible four-year-old on the log, second from the right). In the second picture, it's pretty clear that he loved his dog Skipper, and I remember him talking about that mutt. I'm not so sure, though, that he was a great fan of fishing—although we have an awful lot of photos of him holding up just-caught fish. (In the third picture, he's standing with HIS father. By this time, my dad was a teenager, but already taller.) In all the years I knew him, he never once mentioned fishing or offered to take any of us fishing, so I'm guessing it wasn't a love of his, or perhaps it's something that he left behind in his youth, never to be witnessed by the children that came later. Who can tell? In any case, Happy Birthday, Dad.
June 6, 2014
I'm excited to announce that ALL of the educator guides for the five Lemonade War books have been updated to include the Common Core connections. So all you teachers out there who are working so hard to make literacy and reading an integral part of the teaching day, while meeting the required standards —have at it! These educator guides really do a terrific job of suggesting ways to use the books in the classroom in a meaningful way that connects to and extends the curriculum. Just click on the book cover below to download the free guide.
June 4, 2014
Okay, just couldn't resist showing these lions that grace the entrance to the Corcoran Art Gallery in Washington, DC, and encouraging a brief Compare and Contrast to the lions I mentioned in an earlier post (May 2) who stand guard at the New York Public Library.
June 3, 2014
I'm back home, but still posting a few pictures from DC, which is one of my favorite cities to visit. (Not sure I'd want to live there, though...TRAFFIC.) I walked all the way around the Lincoln Memorial, and it is beautiful from all sides, and surrounded by a surprising amount of greenery, which just makes the white marble seem all that more noble and optimistic. But what I was struck by most on this particular trip was Lincoln's words, carved into the stone on either side of the famous statue. On one side is the Gettysburg Address; on the other, his second inaugural speech, delivered March 4, 1865. It's a very short speech, as he himself acknowledged, but there is so much in it that has become a part of our national character and ethos. (Here you can find images of the original two-page document written in Lincoln's own handwriting.) The man was a great writer—a poet, really, and if you have the time, please do take the five minutes or so to read his words. There is still so much of his wisdom and heartfulness that remains pertinent today.
June 2, 2014
What an honor it was for me today to have the chance to meet the students at Spotsylvania Middle School, the winner of the 2014 Great Lemonade War Contest. The students at the school raised $11,271 for Alex's Lemonade Stand Foundation (ALSF), an organization dedicated to funding research to cure pediatric cancer. I spoke to the students about how THE LEMONADE WAR has encouraged students all over the world to raise money for causes they believe in, and Jay Scott, Co-Executive Director of ALSF and Alex's father, spoke about the amazing work that ALSF does and Alex's courage and spirit during her short lifetime. The students at Spotsylvania Middle School raised the money in honor of their classmate, Jordan DuPriest, who passed away last November after bravely battling cancer. Here you can see a picture of me with the wonderful girls who spearheaded the effort to raise money in honor of their friend; Jordan's mom, Kim; and Jay. I am always impressed by what kids can do when they set their minds to it. If you'd like to take part in the 2015 Great Lemonade War Contest (and win a free school visit from yours truly), just click on the button below.
June 1, 2014
Can I just ask a simple question? How did it get to be June already? I flew into DC today in preparation for my visit to Spotsylvania Middle School tomorrow. The day was beautiful, and I had some time to walk around and take pictures—a favorite pastime. I hadn't yet seen the (relatively) new Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial, so I wanted to begin there. I enjoyed reading all the quotations that rimmed the memorial space, but particularly liked this one, which seems to embody (for me) an idea that is both universal and very personal: "Make a career of humanity." I've been pondering that thought since reading it, and will, no doubt, continue to think on it (and its many implications) for years to come.