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Valentines for the Ugliest



Today I shared Pink is for Blobfish with students during library time.

There were “eews”, “gross” and “yucks”.

According the author Jess Keating, the Blowfish has been voted the #1 Ugliest Animal in the World.

The students didn’t think he (or she) would get any Valentines today – so they made their own.

These two are my favorites:


Aleya, 1st grade



 Marin, 5th grade

It was always my hope that young readers would learn about these strange creatures, and develop a caring attitude and empathy toward them. We share the earth with them, after all, and caring about them is the first step to sharing spaces and taking care of them. It was my hope that kids saw that the diversity of these creatures mattered, despite how weird and bizarre they are. – Jess Keating

They saw. Intermingled with the “eews” and “yucks” were “cools” and “wows” and “Can I have this book?”  I expect this book won’t be staying on the shelf too long.

Thank you Jess Keating and Kenny Brechner from DDG Booksellers who originally had the idea for the Valentine’s Day for Blobfish contest.

Happy Valentine’s Day

Celebrating Multicultural Children’s Book Day


Raising awareness for the kid’s books that celebrate diversity, and getting more of these of books into classrooms and libraries.

As an elementary school librarian, I am often asked by teachers and students for multicultural books; so I was pleased to have been offered the opportunity to review the following two books to celebrate Multicultural Children’s Book Day being held on January 27th.

51gsu06qoil-_sx329_bo1204203200_Amina’ Voice by Hena Khan (to be released March 14, 2017)
Salaam Reads, Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing
Ages 8-12   ISBN 978-1-4814-9206-5

Amina is a twelve-year old Pakistani-American girl trying to find her place in middle school. A talented  singer, she lacks the courage to face the spotlight and show her real self to others.  In addition to the typical middle school dramas of changing friendships and gossip, Amina also questions if she is a proper Muslim after her traditional uncle visits from Pakistan.  After her local mosque is vandalized and the community rallies around to help, Amina finds her voice and overcomes her fear of sharing her gift with others.

Hena Khan seamlessly weaves the Pakistani and Muslim traditions into a heart-warming realistic story.  Given the current situations this country faces, this is the perfect book to show just how much alike we all really are despite our different religions and cultures.

I put this book on my To Buy List immediately after reading it.

unknownCry of the Sea by DG Driver
Fire and Ice, an imprint of Melange Books
Ages  13-17  ISBN 978-1-61235-786-7

Mermaids.  The mention on mermaids in the blurb and I immediately thought Fantasy. But this is no Fantasy. It is in fact a very realistic story of Juniper Sawfeather, a senior in high school whose parents are both well-known environmental activists. Their “tree hugger” status and her being half Chinook and ruins any chance of her winning the popularity contest. She plans to go to a college as far away from her parents as she can. When a tanker spills oil on a local beach, Juniper’s life dramatically changes when she finds three mermaids covered in oil. She, her parents, a good-looking college intern, and the popular clique from school become embroiled in a battle with the oil company to save the mermaids and the environment.

Regarding the multiculturalism in this book, I don’t think the Chinook heritage was fully developed within the story. While the characters had tribal origins, it seemed more of an added layer to the story, rather than an integral part.

DG Driver does offer an intriguing and fast-paced adventure in which the reader gets a realistic and timely portrayal of what could happen if a new species discovery impacted the oil industry.  In particular, how the media can easily distort the truth for either side.  I would recommend this book to any middle school or high school student interested in environmental thrillers.

Multicultural Children’s Book Day 2017 (1/27/17) is its fourth year and was founded by Valarie Budayr from Jump Into A Book and Mia Wenjen from PragmaticMom. Our mission is to raise awareness on the ongoing need to include kid’s books that celebrate diversity in home and school bookshelves while also working diligently to get more of these types of books into the hands of young readers, parents and educators.

Despite census data that shows 37% of the US population consists of people of color, only 10% of children’s books published have diversity content. Using the Multicultural Children’s Book Day holiday, the MCBD Team are on a mission to change all of that. This event has also proven to be an excellent way to compile a list of diverse children’s book titles and reviews for parents, grandparents, educators and librarians to use all year long.

Current Sponsors:  MCBD 2017 is honored to have some amazing Sponsors on board. Platinum Sponsors include ScholasticBarefoot Books and Broccoli. Other Medallion Level Sponsors include heavy-hitters like Author Carole P. RomanAudrey PressCandlewick Press,  Fathers IncorporatedKidLitTVCapstone Young Readers, Author Gayle SwiftWisdom Tales PressLee& Low BooksThe Pack-n-Go GirlsLive Oak MediaAuthor Charlotte RiggleChronicle Books and Pomello Books

Author Sponsor include: Karen Leggett AbourayaVeronica AppletonSusan Bernardo, Kathleen BurkinshawMaria DismondyD.G. DriverGeoff Griffin Savannah HendricksStephen HodgesCarmen Bernier-Grand,Vahid ImaniGwen Jackson,  Hena, Kahn, David Kelly, Mariana LlanosNatasha Moulton-LevyTeddy O’MalleyStacy McAnulty,  Cerece MurphyMiranda PaulAnnette PimentelGreg RansomSandra Richards, Elsa TakaokaGraciela Tiscareño-Sato,  Sarah StevensonAndrea Y. Wang




Sh** Happens.

Sh** Happens

My family is convinced I keep a poo diary.

As a young(ish) first-time mother, I was a bit over concerned with certain aspects of taking care of a baby when my son was born – namely, his soiled nappies. I followed the maxim that if whatever went in one end came out the other end in proper form, then everything was fine.

Fifteen years later and my family still tease me about keeping track of every bowel movement. (I swear I didn’t).

When we got our German Shepherd puppy last May, we had some trouble finding him the right food. He kept getting diarrhea. Several vet visits and rounds of feeding him boiled chicken and rice, we finally figured out it was either the chicken or the rice and now feed him neither. And of course, I was once again checking output every day. And enduring the endless poo diary jokes.

Which is why I was thrilled to find the book Poop Happened (Walker Children’s 2010) by Sarah Albee, a writer who obviously understands the importance of poo.

poop-happened2-180x225 From Goodreads:

History finally comes out of the water-closet in this exploration of how people’s need to relieve themselves shaped human development from ancient times to the present. Throughout time, the most successful civilizations were the ones who realized that everyone poops, and they had better figure out how to get rid of it! From the world’s first flushing toilet invented by ancient Minoan plumbers to castle moats in the middle ages that used more than just water to repel enemies, Sarah Albee traces human civilization using one revolting yet fascinating theme.

A blend of historical photos and humorous illustrations bring the answers to these questions and more to life, plus extra-gross sidebar information adds to the potty humor. This is bathroom reading kids, teachers, librarians, and parents won’t be able to put down!

I wasn’t able to put it down, despite the wisecracks and giggles from my family. Yes, it’s a gross subject, but definitely worth reading about.

And now I must ask you to excuse me, I suddenly feel the urge to go wash my hands…

Call it serendipity

Call it serendipity. Coincidence. Divine intervention. Author Sharon Creech calls it the great unexpected.

But I thought about all the things that had to have spun into place in order for us to be alive and for us to be right there, right then. I thought about the few things we thought we knew and the billions of things we couldn’t know, all spinning, whirling out there somewhere. – Naomi, The Great Unexpected

In her latest novel, The Great Unexpected (2013, HarperCollins), Sharon Creech explores how unexpected things can be wonderful and how connected people are to each other, even if they are strangers, living oceans apart. I was fortunate to be “right there, right then” at the recent NE-SCBWI annual conference to hear Sharon Creech discuss the relevance of connections in her writing.

In an engaging manner, she explained how two poems, written by different authors and discovered at different times in her life, collided together at the right moment to provide the inspiration for her novel, Love That Dog (2001, Harper Collins). And how she found the message of her Newbery award-winning novel, Walk Two Moons (1994, Scholastic), in a most unexpected place – a fortune cookie.

I’ve had my own great unexpecteds: a visit to an Impressionists exhibit in Glasgow, a mix- up of the words to Gary Wright’s song Dream Weaver, and an introduction to the Velvet Revolution in the book The Wall (2007, Macmillan) by Peter Sis. Random occurrences that have all somehow connected to inspire and influence my own MG novel.

We may not immediately see the underlying web of interconnecting threads linking together, but they are most certainly there. And we need only to allow ourselves to be open to let them connect.

How about you? Have you had any connections, any great unexpecteds?

Thank You Sally Riley

During his ENCORE 2012 presentation this past weekend, Mark Peter Hughes encouraged us all to thank Sally Riley, the NE-SCBWI Regional Advisor, for her efforts in organizing this event.   So, this is my way of giving ways thanks…

I arrived at the conference with some trepidation.  In addition to the twinges of guilt over missing my son’s soccer game and (I admit with much chagrin) a slight hangover, I wasn’t sure if that’s where I really needed to be that day.

Here’s what I left with:

  • A method.   I had asked the main character of my WIP, a YA novel, to tell me about herself; but the four pages of enlightenment she provided wasn’t enough.  I needed something else.  Now I know I need to prepare an emotional biography, determine what she knows and doesn’t know.  I need to sort out the internal and external conflicts.  Thank you Karen Day.
  • Exercise.  I took a long walk in search of my character’s voice.  I walked in her shoes, tried to see the world through her eyes.  I must apologize to the many squirrels I frightened along the way with my mumbling musings.   Thank you Mark Peter Hughes.
  • A bedroom.  I used the Map It exercise to create my main character’s bedroom.  I uncovered details that revealed not only more of her personality, but links to more plot lines.  Thank you Jo Knowles and Cindy Faughnan.
  • A larger vocabulary.  I learned a new word: ascription.  And I’m currently on the hunt to rid all my stories of those annoying ascriptions and adverbs.  Thank you Mitali Perkins.

Finally, most importantly, I left with…

  • Confirmation.   Two years ago, at my first ENCORE, I wondered what it would be like to have a finished novel.  I now have two complete MG novels and I know there’s more to come, I have found a group of incredibly supportive and encouraging women to offer critiques, I am actively pursuing an agent, I am blogging and twittering (oops, I mean tweeting), and learning all I can about the craft of writing.  It was exciting to be able to provide some guidance and encouragement to Bob and Melanie, the newbies at our table.  I know I have truly grown as a writer.

I also know I was right where I needed to be that day.  So THANK YOU Sally Riley, NE-SCBWI, ASTAL, the presenters and assistants.   I promise next year, I won’t indulge in too much wine the night before (even if my birthday does happen to fall on the same weekend again).

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