Archive for September, 2013

I Met One of My Favorite People EVER This Weekend

September 30, 2013 @ 8:46 am | Filed under: ,


She passed by the SCBWI booth at the San Diego Central Library grand opening celebration where I was signing books, and I dashed down the street after her, hollering “Miss Rumphius! Miss Rumphius!” like a loon. Because I was Just That Excited to see her, lupines and all! She’s my role model, after all.

(Instead of lupines, I plant milkweed.)

The library celebration was marvelous. I never actually made it into the new building for the sneak peek! The line was four blocks long when I arrived for booth duty at noon. But I had a wonderful time visiting with Edith Hope Fine, Cindy Jensen-Elliott, and my other fellow local children’s authors at the SCBWI booth and chatting with our friends at Yellow Book Road on one side of our table and the very nice Mysterious Galaxy folks on the other—along with author Mary Pearson, whom it’s about time I met in person after all this time being Facebook friends, and YA author Kiersten White, whom I know from Twitter, and whose new book sounds very much up Rose’s alley. (Human daughter of ancient Egyptian gods: you have her at hello.)

Kiersten White at San Diego Central Library grand opening celebration

(Isn’t that the most gorgeous cover?)

The street fair covered many blocks and was one of the best I’ve ever been to. San Diego Mini Maker Faire was there—I’m counting the days to the December event (December 7th, Del Mar Fairgrounds; spread the word!)—and lots of other interesting artisans and entertainers.

giant scary leopard guy

Not Miss Rumphius.


The Maker Faire booth. I finally got to see a 3D printer in action! It made that orange comb right before onlookers’ eyes. At least, I think it did. I wasn’t there for that part.

Happy to say I signed many copies of The Prairie Thief! And perhaps my favorite sight of all (after Miss Rumphius, of course) was this mother and son who sat down to read Fox and Crow on the spot. 🙂

mom and boy read fox and crow

I’ll have to make another pilgrimage downtown soon (with the kids, this time) to see the inside of the beautiful new library that was thirty years in the making.

The Lord Byron of Marsh Birds

September 27, 2013 @ 4:18 pm | Filed under:

We went geocaching at a nearby park today. No luck locating the cache (we’ll try again), but we were dazzled by a close encounter with what we think was a great blue heron. He was just standing there on the grass a few yards away, gazing broodingly into the distance. Beanie and Rilla edged as close as they dared and studied him for a long time while Rose and I scoured the leaf litter for that well-camouflaged cache.

My photos didn’t come out terribly well, but when we got home, Rilla drew this picture from memory. What do you think? Great blue?

rilla's heron

San Diego Library Grand Opening

September 27, 2013 @ 5:44 am | Filed under: ,

Tomorrow, Saturday the 28th! I’ll be there—will you?

Look for me at the SCBWI booth between noon and 5. Lots of other children’s authors attending too. My books will be available at the Yellow Book Road booth. The San Diego Mini Maker Faire will have a booth as well—I can’t wait to check it out!

Catching Up, Catching My Breath

September 23, 2013 @ 6:05 pm | Filed under:

The trouble with a gap between posts is that when you come back, there’s too much to catch up on. Especially a gap like this one, such an epoch in our lives! Abridged version: the trip up the coast was incredibly fun, the college is wonderful, she had a great week of orientation, today is her first day of school. As in EVER.

And there’s too much to say, so I’m not saying any of it. Instead: some pictures from the hike Beanie and I took yesterday morning.






Assorted things:

• I’ve resumed posting at the homeschooling side-blog. If you’d like access, drop me a note.

• I’ve decided an easier way of keeping up with the Huck-and-Rilla book log is to tweet it. Every day, I’m trying to tweet a recap of whatever picture books we read together that day.

• Speaking of picture books! I was on my way up the coast when the announcements came rolling out, so I haven’t had a chance to do more than tweet my excitement at having been selected to serve once again on the Cybils Fiction Picture Book panel, Round 1! Fiction Picture Books was my first Cybils judging experience, back in 2008. I always remember the year because I was very, very pregnant with Huck, and we actually scheduled our big discussion with the possibility of his sudden arrival in mind. Of course, there was to be no such sudden arrival. He was born fully two weeks after our discussion, continuing the family tradition of hopeless tardiness.

Since that time, I’ve had the pleasure of serving on several other Cybils panels: Young Adult Fiction (2010, round 1), Graphic Novels (2011, round 1), and Book Apps (2012, round 2). I’m delighted to return to Picture Books—as you know, reading them occupies a significant part of my day—and am looking forward to working with this crackerjack team of fellow judges. Not to mention Pam Coughlan, aka MotherReader, our category chair!

• Her first day of classes!! Did I mention?

The road goes ever on and on…

September 13, 2013 @ 7:47 pm | Filed under: , , ,


Sent this picture to Alice the other day because I knew it would get her the way it got me. She pointed out that four out of five of these girls are in college now. Well, almost! Jane moves in next week.

She was barely a month old when I decided I wanted to homeschool her. I’d been poking around the AOL parenting boards (having obtained my first modem and my first baby within six weeks of each other) and stumbled upon the Home Education Magazine boards. Before long I was devouring back issues of Growing Without Schooling and amassing a collection of Holt and Gatto books. Sandra Dodd and Pam Sarooshian were among the moms-of-youngish-kids enthusing about unschooling there, using the word in the broad Holtian sense, living and learning outside school. By the time Jane was six months old, Scott was on board, with reservations. Those dissolved over the next year or two, as we talked and talked and read and read (well, I read and talked, he mostly listened). Really, the notion had me at hello.

jane age one

It felt right for us, and it kept on feeling righter and righter, all these past eighteen years. When Jane was five, finally finished with her cancer treatments, an early and voracious reader, addicted to the Magic Tree House books, I hung a sheet of butcher paper the length of our hallway and we pasted little copies of the book covers in the pertinent time periods. We still have that timeline, now ripped here and there and crammed with tidbits. It was on the wall in this house until last year; it comes and goes as the urge hits us. There in large wobbly letters are young Jane’s notations: “Golden Age of Pirates,” “Charlemagne,” “King Alfred BURNED THE CAKES!!!”


Back up to when she was—around four? Alice will remember—we’re in an educational supply shop, Alice, her small girls (two of them on the slide above), Jane, probably a couple of babies. We’re browsing at a placemat spin rack. I put a few in my cart: planets, U.S. map, presidents. On the next aisle, I drop something else in and discover a placemat I hadn’t selected: the periodic table of the elements. Seems a bit early for that. I put it back. But a minute later, I glance in the cart and there it is again. I’m perplexed. “Did you put this in?” I ask my wee daughter. She nods. I’m taking it out to return it to the rack, we have enough in the cart already, and she bursts out earnestly: “But Mommy! I need to learn about the EE-laments!”

(Sold. We still have that placemat.)

One year I was speaking at a homeschooling conference, and the teenaged daughter of my boothmate took Jane—around age six, I think—to the drinking fountain. She reported back that when Jane saw the water arc out of the spout, she exclaimed over getting to drink a rainbow. Took a drink. Frowned, puzzled. “Funny. I always thought rainbows would be crunchy.”


She so often surprised me with the knowledge she’d absorbed from I knew not where. Scooping something out of water one day (had the baby dropped Cheerios into Jane’s cup? it was something like that), she remarked that her fingers were like a whale’s baleen. I didn’t know what baleen meant, but luckily I had Jane to enlighten me.

308850682_8975e6182c (1)

The year she was eight, we read our way through a tower of America-themed historical fiction. Witch of Blackbird Pond, Moccasin Trail, By the Great Horn Spoon, Understood Betsy, whole bunch of others. That was a fabulous year. We were in our big house in Virginia then, with the propane fireplace you flipped on with a switch. That thing drew me like a magnet. I’d stand there toasting myself, reading aloud while the snow fell heavy on the hills and the juncos hopped beneath the feeder, and Jane lolled on the sofa with Beanie banging dents into my cedar chest with Wedgits—the first in a line of toddlers to bash away at that spot. Its entire surface is pockmarked with enthusiasm and glee. Sort of the best-loved-doll of furniture.


Project Feederwatch. Journey North Mystery Class. Shakespeare Club. Piano Guild. Film Club. Living Earth School—a nature camp in the Blue Ridge Mountains where Jane learned to make fires, to eat violets and chickweed. She had sold all the kids on our street on the virtues of chickweed for iron and violets for vitamin C, and they’d comb our yard, nibbling weeds until their teeth were green. I delivered a hasty lecture about pesticide and lawn fertilizer, and extracted a promise that the kids would only eat from our lawn, because I couldn’t be sure the others were chemical-free.

And that weed book! I blogged about this years ago: “Two summers ago I wanted to know what was growing in our unlandscaped side yard, so I checked a book on weeds out of the library. I glanced at it but decided this book was too dry to make it worth the effort and tossed it onto the kitchen table. The next day I returned it to the library. The next day, then-7-year-old Jane summoned me with an anguished wail. ‘Mommy, where’s that great book I was reading? The one about weeds? It was SO interesting!’ She’d found it lying on the table and naturally assumed that it was meant for her. I admitted I’d returned it, and she was crushed. I had to promise to schedule a special trip to re-check it out.”


Through high tide and low tide, we’ve learned a million things together. And now she’s heading off to go on learning somewhere else, and I couldn’t be more grateful, and more excited for all the adventures she has ahead of her.


Rabbit Trails (and Caterpillar and Crocodile)

September 10, 2013 @ 5:39 pm | Filed under: , ,

Collecting some of the links and detours we’ve explored so far this week.

Chrysler Building

(Thank you Wikimedia Commons)

Our Round Buildings, Square Buildings reading took us to the Flatiron Building, which led to the Chrysler Building (cue “Hard Knock Life”), the Empire State Building, the old and new Manhattan skylines, and much discussion along the way. I got a bit homesick for NYC. Somewhere around here I have a copy of a letter I wrote to friends back home during my first year in New York—a long description of the view from the top of one of the Twin Towers. Ouch. It would be a good thing to post tomorrow, if I could find it, but them’s slim odds.

A friend posted a caterpillar pic on Facebook, looking for an ID. Beanie was game, and we wound up meandering around this ID site for a good long while. Didn’t find our friend’s critter, but I learned a whole lot about ghost moths…

Rilla is interested in French, which led to an hour on YouTube this afternoon, listening to French children’s songs (and marveling at their unabashed gruesomeness, some of them). It all began with Alouette:

Little lark, nice lark, I am plucking you?! Who knew? (French speakers, that’s who.) Oh, the belly laughs this generated.

Many videos later, we discovered the Most Persistent Earworm of All Time.

Les crocrocro, les crocrocro, les crocodiles will be haunting my dreams tonight.

There are no words to describe…

September 9, 2013 @ 9:09 am | Filed under: , ,

…just how much this kid loves Paddle-to-the-Sea.


“A bumpy line of buildings stretched like castles along the horizon. They were grain elevators at Port Arthur and Fort William filled with mountains of grain which trains had brought from the plains of western Canada. The ships now passing Paddle would carry the grain to other lake ports and other lands…”

(She decided to draw stalks of wheat to represent the grain. She’s charting Paddle’s journey through the Great Lakes in blue.)