Yet another of life’s eternal mysteries

October 6, 2014 @ 8:00 am | Filed under: Family, Huck, These People Crack Me Up

Huck and Rilla and I have just finished reading three chapters of The Boxcar Children—they wouldn’t let me stop—and now I give Huck a big squeeze and say, “Okay, baby, time to go play.” He’s surprised I’ve called him “baby”—I usually say “monkey” or “my love” (same difference)—and shoots a reproachful gaze my way.

“I’m not a baby.”

“I know. But you used to be, so it still pops out sometimes.”

He considers. “But I am still little.” Burrows a little closer into my side.

“Mm-hmm.” His hair has that magical small-child scent, half fruity shampoo and half little-boy-sweat.

He takes a deep breath, as if about to unburden himself of a trouble. “That’s why I’ve been wondering…”

“Yes?” The moment has become suddenly fraught; whatever is coming, it’s clearly a serious matter.

“I’ve been wondering why nobody cuts the crusts off my sandwiches.”

Oh dear

October 3, 2014 @ 8:17 am | Filed under: These People Crack Me Up

Rilla: The next time I eat an apple, can I plant one of the seeds in the back yard?

Me: Sure!

Rilla: Oh good. I’ve really been wanting a climbing tree back there.

No post today because

October 2, 2014 @ 8:21 pm | Filed under: Bloggity

I’m playing with my sidebars again. Not finished yet, but I’ve run out of time for tonight. Just popping in to say hi. Hi!

(You may need to clear your cache to see the new header image. Which is actually an old header image. Sort of.)

Serious business

September 24, 2014 @ 8:35 pm | Filed under: Family, Huck, These People Crack Me Up

So today I wrote this thing and then I wrote that thing, and then I spent a long time on that other thing, the result of which is that I didn’t finish writing this thing here. So all I have to report today is a long, amusing moment waiting outside Trader Joe’s while Huck painstakingly read the entire cautionary messaging on the seat of the shopping cart.

serious business

 

My favorite bit: “ALWAYS buckle up child in cart and fasten seriously.”

You probably can’t make it out in the photo, but what it really says is “fasten securely.” But Huck’s version certainly made sense to him. He took these instructions very seriously indeed and stoutly refused to stand on the end of the cart as is our usual arrangement. No, Mommy, look at the picture. (Pointing to another placard on the end of the cart.) The circle with the line through it means NO STANDING. 

He’s getting too big to ride up front, but today he insisted, and he buckled the seatbelt both securely and seriously.

Home Again and New Books

September 22, 2014 @ 6:17 pm | Filed under: Books

sun and sea

We drove up the coast this weekend to move Jane back into school. My parents held down the fort here at home. Scott and I stayed in Pismo Beach and I was swooning every minute. California’s Central Coast is as lovely as it gets.

Now home, and the house seems so quiet with only five kids. Only, heh. Tomorrow we’ll be back to our regular routine. I have a stack of books awaiting me at the library, which is closed on Mondays. I was itchy all day for it to open. :)

Speaking of new books: two launches today made my heart go pittypat. One is Sarah Elwell’s latest, this one delivered in an innovative serialized-ebook fashion. Each week for three months you get a new installment. Sarah’s work is haunting and lovely, and I can’t wait to read this. A novel in weekly installments might just suit my jam-packed Cybils season schedule.

deepinthefaraway

Deep in the Far Away by Sarah Elwell

And the other is Scott’s latest! A YA novel available on Kindle. For readers of his UNCIVIL WAR series, this is NOT the next volume of that (but it too is coming out as soon as possible).

Game Over by Scott PetersonGame Over by Scott Peterson

What are you reading right now?

Poetry with kids, Storified

September 18, 2014 @ 8:05 pm | Filed under: Poetry

Today on Twitter Sally Thomas wondered aloud what a ‘poetry-centered curriculum’ would look like, and a marvelous discussion ensued. Kortney of One Deep Drawer went to the trouble of Storifying the conversation—what a gem she is! Do hasten to her blog and enjoy it. (This link goes to her intro post, which links in turn to the Storify.)

Thoughts on YA

September 17, 2014 @ 8:26 pm | Filed under: Books

So I wrote this really long post about YA fiction on tumblr, and then I was like ARGH, maybe it should go at Bonny Glen instead, what am I even doing? So now you know exactly how decisive I am.

Well, it’s there, and I’m leaving it there, but here’s a piece of it, and if you have trouble commenting on that site you’re welcome to bring the discussion here.

Something I’ll be thinking about as I gorge is what stories these writers are telling and why. (Not just how, which is a primary measure of a book’s merit—how is this story being told? How well? How vividly? How compellingly? How convincingly? How searingly? Does it leave something behind? A scar on the mind, a rune engraved on the heart? A face you can’t ever forget? How? How?)

In an endeavor like this, selecting a Cybils shortlist, the what and why questions are equally pressing. What makes this book stand out from the crowd—and a crowd it will be. Why this plot, this narrator, this voice. Why verse, or why prose? When you read a lot of books at once you can’t help but spot patterns and trends. Small details, perhaps, like the naming of cars—in 2010 we had a gaggle of them, including not one but two cars named “Holden,” (totally by coincidence I have no doubt). But larger trends as well, clusters of books exploring similar subject matter. In realistic YA fiction this very often means suicide, addiction, medical or mental disorders, sexual or physical abuse. And that, I think, tells us a great deal about what the world is like for teens. And is why the best YA is both gripping and probing—that’s what teens do: they grip tightly to each other, to ideas, to hopes, to identity, to music, to fears; and they probe and dig and ponder and search. In this light the naming of cars makes perfect sense—the quest for identity, the assignment of personality to objects of significance, the search for the real, true meaning of things. Naming a thing helps define the thing. Naming it Holden—oh there’s so much to unpack there. Holden Caulfield, the original teen gripper and prober.

You can’t read a book that is gripping without being gripped, and that’s what I’m preparing myself for. To have my mind shaken, my heart squeezed.

Cybils 2014

September 17, 2014 @ 4:01 pm | Filed under: Bloggity, Books, Cybils

cybils logo

It’s that time of year again: Cybils Award season. The judge announcements went out this morning. I’m delighted to be serving on the First-Round panel for YA Fiction. My last stint on this panel was in 2010, aka The Year I Read a Million Books. (I’m sure it’s a TOTAL COINCIDENCE that that was also the year I began to need reading glasses.)

My appointment to this panel spurred me to make a move I’ve been considering for some time, which is to dust off my tumblr (again) and try using it for my YA-related content. I’ve got a new YA of my own coming out next year, and tumblr seems a better fit for connecting with teen readers. I’ll add a link to the sidebar, or if that topic interests you enough to want to follow it in a feed reader, here’s the RSS. (I also use tumblr for reposting interesting articles and art I’ve come across, so fair warning.)

Disclaimer: I consider all platform changes to be experimental until they’ve proven themselves convenient, so this may or may not be a long-term shift. I just really like keeping things in different boxes. But if you’ve seen my garage, you know there usually comes a point where I get annoyed by the clutter and dump everything into one big container. (Believe me, you don’t want to see my garage.)

I believe this post may have set a new record for ending paragraphs with parentheticals. (Yeehah!)

Sarah and Katie by Dori White

September 15, 2014 @ 8:08 pm | Filed under: Books

The other day I mentioned I’ve been meaning to write a post about the 1972 middle-grade novel Sarah and Katie by Dori White. THIS IS NOT THAT POST. This is purely a curiosity itch I can’t wait to scratch. I took my query to Twitter, too, and…crickets. Now, ordinarily the merest mention of any book on Twitter, let alone a childhood favorite, garners zillions of immediate and enthusiastic responses. People love to talk about their childhood books.

Which leads me to believe that no one I know either on Twitter or here has heard of this book!

Can this be? Am I alone in my Sarah and Katie mini-obsession?

Sarah and Katie by Dori White

Illustrations by Trina Schart Hyman, you guys. It was a Scholastic Book Clubs book; I’m sure that’s where I came across it.

Anybody? Bueller?

This book haunted me. I don’t remember what age I was, maybe eleven? Story of two best friends, sixth graders, in Depression-era Oregon. Thick as thieves, a regular Betsy-Tacy pair, but the arrival of a new girl in their midst doesn’t work out quite as well as when Tib shows up. (Then again, B-T and Tib were around six in that book. Big difference between six and twelve. Trios are much trickier, at twelve.) The new girl is dazzlingly beautiful, a cloud of red curls, glamorous, dazzling, a wee bit manic; and everyone including Sarah is smitten—except Katie, who sees through Melanie’s stories. Ring a bell? No? There’s a play, and of course Melanie gets THE PART, and she’s amazing in it, she’s this incredible actress, but that too sticks in Katie’s craw…

And the whole scene when they go to Melanie’s crummy apartment, and she’s playing it up, lady of the manor, lavish, starletty…until her mother comes home and suddenly she’s TOTALLY CHANGED—clothes, hair, voice, manner. All meek and humble. And Katie’s like I KNEW IT!

What haunted me about it was the disturbed and disturbing tone, the undercurrents caused by Melanie’s deception. And the idea, which must have been new to me then, that a girl could so thoroughly fool people, could fool even her own mother. And the gradual realization, handled so deftly by Dori White (as I noticed when rereading it last year for the first time in maybe two decades), that there was a deep longing and desperation behind Melanie’s actions, that she wasn’t just someone you could slap a Bad Guy label on. Katie awakens to this slowly, painfully, and she brought me right along with her. The only other children’s book I remember experiencing that same awful poignancy in—almost a sense of guilt—was The Hundred Dresses.

Okay, so now I sort of have written the post I was thinking about, I guess. But really what I want to know is, have none of you heard of it?