We could all use a little


It’s a little thing that is not-so-little to those who receive it.

Lately, I’ve noticed a lot more folks being kind. I hope this isn’t a flash in the pan.

Candlewick Press tweeted a new hashtag today that floats my boat:


I love it. Especially after finishing Leslie Connor’s ALL RISE FOR THE HONORABLE PERRY T. COOK today.

Heartwarming. And not mushy. Just the way I like ’em.

What have you read lately that’s kind? And while you’re being kind to others – don’t forget yourself. ❤


What I read this summer

As I wrote way back in June, I’m not headed back to school this year. While I miss seeing my students and setting up displays of new books to share, I don’t miss being on the school schedule. (7:30 AM bus, anyone?)

It was a luxurious summer of settling into my new job and starting to shovel out the slush pile. Which was not only educational, but enjoyable. (Yes, I’m *that* crazy about reading.)

What else did I read? I caught up on some grown-up reading, enjoyed several new mysteries, and of course, treated myself to some kid lit.

  • The Porcupine Year by Louise Erdrich
  • Girl Parts by John Cusick
  • Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell
  • First and Then by Emma Mills  – Emma’s newest is almost out ! Watch for This Adventure Ends!
  • Falling into Place by Amy Zhang
  • Damage Done by Amanda Panitch
  • Forget-Me-Not Summer by Leila Howland
  • The Perfect Place by Teresa E. Harris

Kate DiCamillo’s Raymie Nightingale is waiting on my bedside table for the perfect moment, and Betsy Bird’s Wild Things! has moved from the bookshelf to my bedside, too.

I’m thinking I need to read all of Erdrich’s Birchbark stories and dive into the pile of Candlewick advance copies I was so generously given. I meant to read so much more this summer, but much of my time was spent writing my second novel, which is finished and awaiting critique at Kathy Temean’s Avalon retreat.

Too many books, too little time. I never did get around to pruning my Goodreads to-read list. But that’s a good problem to have.

What did you love reading this summer?

Walking and Talking, wow!

Last night, I saw a post from Betsy Bird, author & children’s librarian extraordinaire, and I just had to share:

Walking and Talking with… Kate DiCamillo!

Of course, Betsy is sharing one of Steve Sheinkin‘s great “Walking and Talking” comics… so you may find yourself falling down the rabbit hole of the web. It’s worth the time, trust me. And now I wish I had some of Steve’s great non-fiction in my library. Alas, that will be an order for next year.

The whole conversation resonated with me, but the point that struck me first – and perhaps most – was when Kate says, “I think about the story. If I’m thinking about the reader, I’m thinking about making the reader happy. Then I might change something for a reason that might not be true.”

Wow! I LOVE Kate DiCamillo – she’s quite possibly the patron saint of pantsers everywhere. 🙂

And I love the idea that the story exists as its own organic structure, that it contains a truth of its own. Sometimes this truth exists because of the reader, sometimes despite the reader.

What about you? Do you keep a reader in mind as you write? A specific person or just a general avatar for the audience? Or like Kate, do you focus solely on your story?




NYC Reads


If you’re in need of a reading list for Pre-K through 12th grade, check out the wonderful lists at NYC Reads 365, compiled by a committee of school librarians (who else?) and reviewed by literacy specialists from the NYC DOE. The downloadable posters and bookmarks for each borough are pretty cool, too!



And if you’re a fan – and who isn’t? – the upcoming exhibit of Mo Willems’ art at The New-York Historical Society is not to be missed. No matter how many copies I buy for my library of the Pigeon, Elephant & Piggie, and Trixie books, they’re soon loved to death. And if you want a sure-fire read-aloud, We are In a Book! always gets laughs galore. (No matter how well the audience knows it.) Not to mention Mo is a really swell guy. Not only did he sign my daughter’s books, he posed for a photo so I could show her I’d really met him at the SCBWI NY conference some years back.


All of these thoughts on NYC reading got me thinking about my favorite NYC books. Besides Mo’s books. 🙂

In no particular order:

  • From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler
  • Harriet the Spy
  • When You Reach Me, Liar & Spy, and Goodbye Stranger
  • Bernard Waber’s Lyle books (The House on 88th Street begins the series)
  • Kay Thompson’s Eloise books
  • Gregor the Overlander
  • The Lightning Thief
  • Rita Garcia-Williams’ Gaither Sisters trilogy (the girls live in New York, even though much of the action is elsewhere)
  • Uptown
  • Blackout
  • All-of-a-Kind Family
  • Under the Egg
  • Tar Beach
  • Balloons Over Broadway
  • The Grimm Legacy
  • Sky Boys

And of course,

  • The Snowy Day
  • This Is New York

Did I miss any of your favorites? Leave a shout-out in the comments. 🙂


I love

Rock and roll! (Whoops. Time to stop channeling Joan Jett and put down my highlighter microphone.)

I love lots of things. Including rock and roll. You probably already know I love reading and writing and libraries and books and…


That’s right, I love me some MG. Middle grade reading. Middle school reading, even.

Now Workman and Algonquin Young Readers are sharing the love with a special promotion just for us MG types. Seems a fella named Trevor Ingerson decided that middle grades reads needed celebrating. Apparently there was swag and everything. (I love swag too. OK, only some swag. No more lanyards, okay?)

Join up and spread the word and some love with #iLOVEmg on your favorite social media app. And check out the PW article above for Tracey Baptiste‘s take on loving MG! My MG readers are fans of The Jumbies – we’re almost finished reading it aloud. (Hey, each class only gets library once a week. It takes us a while to finish.)

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got to get back to work on my own MG novel. Four days of 500+ words! I’m on a roll. Maybe next week, I’ll shoot for 750. 🙂



My Best Books 2015

It’s that time of year when everyone makes lists of their favorite books of 2015!

My favorites? (I have to list them in no particular order. It would be like ranking children. 😉 )

  • The Wrath and The Dawn
  • Dumplin’
  • Absolutely Truly
  • Sheila Turnage’s Tupelo Landing books
  • Ember in the Ashes
  • Written in the Stars
  • Bone Gap
  • Courage for Beginners
  • If Ever I Get Out of Here
  • A Time to Dance
  • Girls Like Us
  • Rain Reign
  • Hidden
  • The Jumbies
  • Crenshaw
  • Goodbye Stranger
  • The Rest of Us Just Live Here
  • Rita Garcia-Williams’ Gaither Sister trilogy

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have gingerbread men to make and e-books to load on my Kindle for my upcoming holiday travels. 🙂

Wishing you and yours a joyous holiday season and a wonderful New Year!


Neither MG nor YA

Sometimes you miss out on  amazing things. This week, McNally Jackson Books here in NYC had a panel I would have LOVED to have attended: “Middle School is Hell,” organized by Kate Milford, moderated by Connie Hsu of Roaring Brook Press, with Kate, Rebecca Stead, and Mariko Tamaki speaking.

Sorry, Wright, Cespedes, and Murphy – that was the lineup I wanted to see. (But if you’ve got World Series tix for Citi Field, you’re not using, I’m rooting for the Mets.  😉  Go, Amazin’s! )

Beyond the stellar lineup, I was intrigued by the topic: the hole in the market for books aimed at kids 12-14 years old. I see this every day in my library – even though my oldest students are 11, if that. Many of them are reading beyond their age and grade, but not so much as to read YA. And the ones that do read YA don’t always seem to enjoy it or comprehend it full, given their comments to me.

The panel agreed that 12-14 is an awkward age, but I think it goes beyond that.  The gap between 13 and 16 is much wider than the gap between, say, 6 and 9 – wider emotionally, physically, and intellectually.

Let’s face it, kids at this age are more sophisticated readers, and many of the books  for middle grade seem babyish or are too quickly finished. These kids want something they can sink their teeth into, and I found that Puffin Classics work really well for them. But there’s only so many classic books, and many of these kids want something modern. They want books that are more complex, with bigger issues, but they don’t necessarily want all the romance (never mind sex) of YA or its all too frequent navel-gazing. And many parents definitely don’t want their not-quite or just-barely teens reading about sex, drugs, violence and other content typically found in books targeting older teens.

I’ve experienced this myself, not just with my child and her reading, but with my writing. I deliberately targeted this age group with my fantasy, and I’ve gotten feedback that I needed to age my characters up “so it’ll work for YA” or change the emphasis on certain themes so “MG can relate more.”

Maybe we all need to loosen up a little and let the readers find the book. After all, many adults find Pullman impenetrable – but I know plenty of kids who love him.

Maybe publishing will become even more granular, with a new category aimed at 12-14. MS for middle school? YT for younger teens? NQYA? (Not Quite YA.)

What do you think?