Saturday, December 31, 2016

New Year's Eve

I have been participating in Julie Hedlund's 12 Days of Christmas which changed my mindset of New Year's Resolutions.  We have studied and learned from last year's personal successes, discouragements, and self-reflections and are now making a concrete path for 2017.  I like how this has been contemplated rather than just grabbing resolutions from thin air, as I have always done.  I chose the above graphic from Google's public domain because I felt like it depicts the journey.

Next year, I plan to work towards these goals for my writing life.

1. Make a weekly focus list to make my writing plans more intentional.
2. Get my projects organized so that I can grab one to work on.
3. Participate in Tara Lazar's StoryStrom to get my creative juices flowing.
4. Sign-up and participate in Julie Hedlund's 2x12.
5. Work through The Artist's Way, a "creativity" book.
6. Find a critique group.
7. Go to a SCBWI local meeting - yikes!

Wednesday, December 28, 2016


Day 3

Children's author Julie Hedlund, challenged participants of her 12 Days of Christmas for Writers series to post SUCCESSES (rather than resolutions) on our blogs this year. She believes the way New Year's resolutions are traditionally made come from a place of negativity - what DIDN'T get done or achieved in the previous year.  Instead, she suggests we set goals for the New Year that BUILD on our achievements from the previous one. I decided to participate in this Anti-Resolution Revolution! Here is my list for 2016.

I participated in a class that Julie was a part of (you will see below) and decided to join her for her 12 Days of Christmas.  I am enjoying it so far.  I'm not a big Facebooker, so maybe I'll go back and add day 2 here.

As I reflect on my year, I realize it has been a huge transition year for me.  I am a teacher/librarian and always will be.  But, this year my husband and I decided I would travel more with him which I couldn't do because of my schedule, of course.  I have dabbled in writing for years now.  I've even been published in some education magazines in the past.  During the summer of this year, I made the transition to working as a writer.  What will come of it?  I don't know, but I am loving it!  

So, focusing on my writing life, here is my list of successes since summer:

1. Started living my new dream...prioritized my writing.
2. Participated in Teachers Write ...with Kate Messner - thanks!
3. Participated in Slice of Life...need to do that more consistently.
4. Lots of reading...that is not a problem.
5. Submitted a poem to Chicken Soup...still waiting.
6. Participated in Picture Book was aMaZiNg!!!
7. Have a submission ready for Highlights Hello Magazine...working on the cover letter, trying to find editor's name.
8. Started Chapter Book super excited about what I've got going so far.
9. Signed up for StoryStorm for January...first timer, but love Tara Lazar's books.
10. Have a picture book biography started...research done (for now) and on to writing.
11. Joining in on the 12 Days of Christmas with Julie Hedlund...getting me hyped for 2017!

If I think of more, I'll add them here because I'm not going to change all my numbering :) !

12. Have a list started of picture book ideas...very rough ideas.
13. Have my "dream" journal by my bed...come on imagination, do your thing.
14. Have been listening to Institute for Writer's podcasts...and downloading cool tips.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

The Wolf Keepers

The Wolf Keepers
by Elise Broach
published by: Henry Holt & Co.
date: October 2016

Goodreads Summary: 
Twelve-year-old Lizzie Durango and her dad have always had a zoo to call their home. Lizzie spends her days watching the animals and taking note of their various behaviors. Though the zoo makes for a unique home, it's a hard place for Lizzie to make lasting friends. But all this changes one afternoon when she finds Tyler Briggs, a runaway who has secretly made the zoo his makeshift home. The two become friends and, just as quickly, stumble into a covert investigation involving the zoo wolves who are suddenly dying. Little do they know, this mystery will draw them into a high-stakes historical adventure involving the legend of John Muir as they try to navigate safely while lost in Yosemite National Park.

My Review:
I enjoyed this book very much.  So many topics that could be discussed with the use of this book.  It would make a great book club book!  First of all, what a great example of authentic writing in a journal which is a big part of the story.  Wow, living at the zoo, that will draw student readers in right away!  I love the insight we gain from the zoo setting. Students will also enjoy the wolves which are an animal frequently asked for at the library.  I like the historical aspect of John Muir and Yosemite National Park.  There are family dynamics and friendships that could be discussed.  Is it ever ok to keep a secret?  It seems that there are several secrets here that would lead to thoughtful discussions.  The con to this book is that my adult brain had to work hard to suspend belief over and over.  From the point that they took the 4 mile hike to Tenaya Creek and on, I couldn't find anything believable.  Having said that, I did have watery eyes in the end, and I would highly recommend this book to students.

I want to thank NetGalley, Henry Holt & Co., and Elise Broach for an electronic version of this book for preview.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

A Poem for Peter

A Poem for Peter
by Andrea Davis Pinkney
Published by:Viking Books for Young Readers
Published Date: November 2016

Goodread Summary:
The story of The Snowy Day begins more than one hundred years ago, when Ezra Jack Keats was born in Brooklyn, N.Y. The family were struggling Polish immigrants, and despite Keats’s obvious talent, his father worried that Ezra’s dream of being an artist was an unrealistic one. But Ezra was determined. By high school he was winning prizes and scholarships. Later, jobs followed with the WPA and Marvel comics. But it was many years before Keats’s greatest dream was realized and he had the opportunity to write and illustrate his own book.

For more than two decades, Ezra had kept pinned to his wall a series of photographs of an adorable African American child. In Keats’s hands, the boy morphed into Peter, a boy in a red snowsuit, out enjoying the pristine snow; the book became The Snowy Day, winner of the Caldecott Medal, the first mainstream book to feature an African American child. It was also the first of many books featuring Peter and the children of his — and Keats’s — neighborhood.

Andrea David Pinkney’s lyrical narrative tells the inspiring story of a boy who pursued a dream, and who, in turn, inspired generations of other dreamers.

My Review:
I've been waiting for this one!  It did not disappoint  and it is one of my favorites of the year!  
I love picture book author biographies of childhood book-friends! Thank you to Ezra Jack Keats for his persistence in the arts, to Andrea Pinkney for creating a wonderful collage of Keats and Peter, and to Peter for being such a good childhood book-friend.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016


by Raina Telgemeier
published by: Scholastic
publish date: September 2016

Goodreads Summary:
Catrina and her family are moving to the coast of Northern California because her little sister, Maya, is sick. Cat isn't happy about leaving her friends for Bahía de la Luna, but Maya has cystic fibrosis and will benefit from the cool, salty air that blows in from the sea. As the girls explore their new home, a neighbor lets them in on a secret: There are ghosts in Bahía de la Luna. Maya is determined to meet one, but Cat wants nothing to do with them. As the time of year when ghosts reunite with their loved ones approaches, Cat must figure out how to put aside her fears for her sister's sake - and her own.

My Thoughts:
Another great book by Raina Telemeter that students will love! It has some deep issues going on, and they're handled so well. (moving, cystic fibrosis, death, missing loved ones, making friends, Day of the Dead)  I especially enjoyed reading the back matter where Telgemeier tells us how this idea has been living in her head for quite some time.  She explained how breathing was such a central theme to this book; ghosts can't breath, Maya has difficulty breathing, and Cat needs to stop and take deep breaths to calm her anxiousness.  

Monday, October 24, 2016

Owl Diaries

Owl Diaries - Eva's Treetop Festival
by Rebecca Elliott
Series published by: Scholastic

What a sweet series, especially for early chapter book readers.  I picked one up to read because of the popularity of them among students.  I was pleasantly surprised.  Rebecca Elliott's illustrations are adorable and pull the reader along. Elliott's use of Eva and her diary is a great way to create voice for our young readers to make connections.  I really like the little bits of owl facts sprinkled through the books. I think kids will enjoy the puns scattered throughout.  It is hard to find books for good readers to read at a young age.  These fit the bill nicely.  I can see them being picked up and read over and over again. 

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Picture Book Hooks

This week, I watched the free hour of the mini Picture Book Summit.  The hour was amazing and super informative.  I am definitely going to participate in the full day also!   The action step from Emma's tip was to read some newly published picture books and write a one sentence hook for each.  This sentence should be juicy and include the main character, the general plot, and the theme while dazzling the reader to entice them to read/ask for the manuscript.  I love a little challenge and am posting my hook sentences here.

The Story Book Knight
by: Helen Docherty
Publisher: Sourcebook, Inc.
Expected publish date: October 2016

Leo's parents send their gentle little knight out into the world to tame a dragon with a new shield and sword, but Leo insists on taking his... books? 

Me Want Pet!
by: Tammi Sauer
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Published date: March 6, 2012

Cave Boy tries to find a pet that doesn't cause too many problems; a woolly mammoth, a saber-toothed tiger, a dodo bird - oh my!

Light Up the Night
by: Jean Reidy
Publisher: Disney - Hyperion Books
Published Date: October 11, 2011

A rhyming cumulative bedtime story about a boy who goes out into the universe and makes his way back to his warm cozy bed.  (Of course, I now read this book's inside flap which is two sentences, but so much better!)

"When it's time to sleep, it's nice to know there's a place that's safe.  In a cozy house, in a comfy bed, under a blanket that's white and red, under stars so bright they light up the night, in your own little piece of the universe." ~inside flap

Snappsy the Alligator: did not ask to be in this book!
by: Julie Falatko
Publisher: Viking, Penguin Young Readers Group
Published date: February 2, 2016

What will Snappsy the Alligator do when he realizes someone is narrating his ordinary day while trying to make it extraordinary?

This was an enlightening activity.  Of course, I would spend much more time on my dazzling sentence if it were for my own book that I was submitting. 

Hope you enjoyed my little
Thanks to Two Writing Teachers for hosting.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

The Memory of Things by Gae Polisher

The Memory of Things
A Novel
by  Gae Polisher
published by: St. Martin's Griffin
expected publication date: September 6, 2016

Wow!  A powerful coming of age story taking place around our Nation's biggest terrorist attack.  This was hard to read.  As an adult, who doesn't remember all the details of that day; where you were, how the day unfolded, where the members of your family were and getting everyone home safely?  So, in that regard, I felt like the emotion in this novel just skimmed the surface.  As I further contemplated the age group The Memory of Things is written for...the readers would have a child's memory if they're in college and no memory if still in High School.  That is a very interesting audience.  One I recognize well as my three boys span in age from 16-22.

I loved the book!  I would totally add it to my collection, and I think it will be one of those sought after books for years to come.  The Memory of Things is the unfolding story of Kyle and the girl with no name which parallels the unfolding story of the crumbling towers on 9-11 and the days following. Kudos to Gae Polisher for her heartfelt book that takes a horrific day in our history and weaves a fiction story for this next generation to contemplate and enjoy.  

Thank you to NetGalley, St. Martin's Griffin, and Gae Polisher for an early eBook to review.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Ranger Rick's Travels: National Parks!

Ranger Rick's Travels: National Parks!
by Stacy Tornio and Ken Keffer
Publisher: Rowman & Littlefield Muddy Boots
Expected Publish Date: 7-22-16

Ahh...the National Parks, I love them!  Making it to all of the National Parks is on my bucket list, but I haven't gotten a passport.  I've been to several of the parks, and this book would have been mighty handy, especially with kids.  I will definitely have to purchase to keep with us on the next trip and recommend for our library to purchase.  Thank you to NetGalley and Rowman & Littlefield Muddy Boots for an advanced copy in exchange for a fair and honest review.

It is great that all of the United States National Parks are included.  I love the organized approach.  It will help anyone find the highlights and also encourages us to find the hidden treasures, my favorite thing to do.  Each park is broken down into sections for quick reference.  The photographs are truly amazing.  I appreciate that this book also encourages us to celebrate the fact that we have these glorious National Parks, respect them, and to think of all the people who help make them available for us (National Park Service).

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Slice #4 - Observing and Writing while Vacationing

I am enjoying the heck out of Teachers Write on Kate Messner's blog with the many wonderful guest authors, lessons, and musings!  I've been using my summer writer's notebook to keep up with the daily activities and readings, making notes, and trying to hone my observation skills.

As I sit here next to the wonderfully peaceful sound of the West Fork Bitterroot River, (our second cabin in Montana this week),  I observe the sun coming over the mountain slowly adding the sparkle to the riffle on the river, casting the needed light to show off the river's colorful rocks lining the bottom of the riverbed.  For my slice, I've decided to create a list of sentences about the wonder of nature and it's living creatures that I've run across this past week.  (I love lists!)

-Twenty-five dainty geese (3 lines, 3 families?) strutting their necks as they paddle through the water with Mom and Dad seemingly taking up the lead and the tail of their line watching for their safety.

-A robin's nest resting in the eave above me, probably nestling spring eggs awaiting the summer hatch while mom and dad are never far, guarding.

-A herd of bighorn sheep staying close to the mountainside where their babies safely rest, growing and gaining strength to join the journey down the mountain one day soon.

-Beautiful rainbow trout, green with their distinctive pink rainbow striping and black polkadots eagerly swim away from the release of their catch.

-White fish with their sharp angles, who seem to get the bad rap in the hierarchy of caught fish.

-Tiny birds dive-bombing the river, probably catching a freshly hatched fly of one kind or another.

-Lots of deer scattered peacefully munching and meandering their way, to where I don't know.

-The occasional boat with two fly fishermen/women and their guide paddling and casting their way down the river hoping for that bite on the dry fly.

-A large herd of buffalo roaming their way along a railroad track through the meadow, looking too hot for any kind of walk in their coat of fur on a hot summer day.

-A herd of huge, muscular elk crossing the country two lane road through the mountain, their majestic stance showing off their thick furry necks.

-A mountain goat family by the side of road looking a bit confused about the cars stopping to watch them.

Thursday, June 30, 2016

On Teachers Write today, we had a Quick Write which included a little lesson about metaphors from Liz Garton Scanlon.

Here is my attempt at making a metaphor out of two seemingly unrelated words, an emotion and an object, randomly put together.  To find out how to practice or teach this to your students, click on Quick Write link above.

Worry is like a river.  It runs on and on and never tires even though the depth may change.

Heat is like a meadow.  The sun beats it down all day without reprieve.

Fear is like the wind in a tree.  It ruffles every leaf and penetrates your whole being.

Exhausted is like a fishing pole.  It tires after working all day to make only one catch.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Slice # 3 - Writing Goals

Last year, I signed up for Teachers Write, on Kate Messner's blog, but it started right during our I didn't follow through.

This year, I signed up for Teachers Write, and it started right during our vacation...but, I have set goals, and I think it will be an amazing journey!

This week, we are in the mountains of Montana along Rock Creek River in a one-room cabin.  Wi-fi will be limited, but won't hinder my summer writing journey.  It will enhance it.

I have a bit of a rule-follower personality, so I have learned to take advantage of this and set rules for myself.

Rule #1: Join in with Teachers Write whenever I can.
                This means, I give myself permission to not attend perfectly, the way
                I like to do things.
                Catch up if I've missed a day.
                Read the post when I'm in town.
                Write when I can.

Rule #2: Keep up with my writer's notebook by writing every single day.
               This means, no excuses for not writing something.
                I can repeat a quick-write.
                I can hone in on my observation skills.
                Take advantage of this beautiful place with such clean air, beautiful
                scenery, roaring rivers, and wondrous creatures. observe. write.

Rule #3: If I need something more - keep working through The Writing Book
               by Kate Grenville.
               I don't remember where I saw it recommended or I'd give you credit.
               It is helping me to keep unlocking the subconscious ideas I already
               hold within me.

Rule #4: Enjoy my family - after all, this is vacation!

These are my writing goals for this summer, and I anxiously await my journey.

Saturday, June 11, 2016

The Seventh Wish

The Seventh Wish
by Kate Messner
Published: Bloomsbury USA Childrens
June 7, 2016

Kate Messner hits a very difficult topic out of the park!  She addresses the difficult, heart-wrenching topic of addiction in a family member of an innocent Charlie, a fifth grade girl...and it is her big sister.  I read the book straight through in a couple hours and had tears in my eyes.  With the magic of wish fish, ice fishing, and Irish dancing, the topic is dealt with an age appropriate way.  Of course!  I would expect nothing less from a Kate Messner book!

Though the stories are all different, many families deal with some form of addiction.  Maybe it is even a friend's family.  Unfortunately, this book will definitely speak to many children in this day and age. I wish it weren't true.  I wish children's lives were not affected by such things.  But, we are burying our heads in the sand if we think they aren't.  Thank you Kate Messner and Bloomsbury USA Childrens for this amazing book which addresses such a difficult topic in such a sensitive way.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Slice #2 - A Different World

My youngest son finished his sophomore year before Memorial Day.  (I had another week in the library).  We went on a quick trip with some friends to Belize.  We met this amazing 4 year old who keeps coming back to mind.  This little guy has grown up in such a different world which is so apparent by his comfort in and around the water.  It was fascinating to watch.

This little guy is the son of our snorkeling guide.  He is totally competant on the boat, helping the whole entire time.  For real help, not a parent-appeasing-his-young-son's-desire-to-be-a-part-of-things help.  He climbs up on the boats hull to untie or tie up the boat.  If it takes him 4 tries to haul himself up there, he does it 4 times.  No whining - no complaining, just grabs the rope and pulls himself up there.  Once we are moving, he hops right up on his high seat and sits there until he announces, "We almost to the reef, we almost to the reef".  His speech and size are the only things that remind you that he is only 4.

Once we are at the snorkel sight, he quietly dons his mask, snorkel, and flippers and jumps right in.  He brings new meaning to the phrase, "swims like a fish".  As he swims, he points at things and shouts under the water for his Dad to look.  He even dives down to point at things.  The water was kind of rough.  If he  needs a moments rest, he just grabs the orange life saver ring that his dad holds by a long rope in case any of us needs a break.  After about an hour, when we are back on the boat, the little guy again runs to the front hull of the boat to untie us from the buoy.  Never once asked, never once told.  

Next, we make a stop at a different section of the reef where the nurse sharks are definitely used to being fed.  The boats come in and throw in baitfish.  All of a sudden, there is a feeding frenzy of fish.  I'm thinking those nurse sharks then feed on the frenzying fish, though I didn't see that happen.  The guide, my hubby, and son all get in the water to snorkel-see this.  I was done.  I stay on the boat and so does the little guy.  He opens the baitfish tank and grabs his little net to scoop a bait fish.  Picking the fish up with his hand from his net, he throws it in to watch another feeding frenzy.  After a few times, a wise bird comes along and hovers over us, wanting to catch the bait in the air.  The little guys eyes the bird, eyes the fish, back and forth, and then whips the bait in the water for a feeding frenzy and giggles.  He beats the bird at his task.  He does it over and over giggling the whole time until we have counted down the last 5 fish.  He scrunches up his nose and asks, "You no like sharks?  Why you no like sharks?".

What a different world!  I had to get this out of me.  Thanks for listening, or ... reading.

Monday, June 6, 2016

The Blue Bath

The Blue Bath
by Mary Waters- Sayer
Published: St. Martin's Press
May 3, 2016

First, I want to thank NetGalley, Mary Waters-Sayer and St. Martin's Press for this beautiful read in exchange for an honest review.  I was drawn to this book by that gorgeous cover.  I got lost in the book by it's artistic prose about the meager starving artist beginning for Daniel and Kat paired with the later mystery and intrigue taking place in the high finance London art world.

My Review:
I think this is a fantastic first book my Mary Waters-Sayer.  There were things that I absolutely loved about it.  For one, the premise of the story flashing back from Kat's unexpected reignited affair with Daniel in London to her 19 year old romantic tryst with him in his small Paris loft/art studio when he was a starving artist.  It was done in such an artfully sensual way.  Secondly, the end was filled with mystery bordering on a psychological thriller, which I thoroughly enjoyed.  Daniel was actually pretty mysterious throughout the book.  We never really got to know his character even though he was central to the story.  That added intrigue for me.  

On the down side, it was hard to believe Kat's professed "true love" for him because I felt like she really knew nothing about Daniel.  There was no friendship or multiple levels of relationship in this magnetic attraction - just love in Kat's words, or lust in mine?  It was sometimes a typical starving artist / innocent college girl story.  What was not typical was Mary's beautifully descriptive phrases which made me stop and think several times.  "A fine mist of rain was falling around her, obscuring the red brick buildings, blurring their hard edges so that they dissolved into pavement, melting into their own reflections on the slick streets."  Yes, there are a lot of rainy days in London, and that was quite a poetic description of them.  Other times it was too much, like a full paragraph description, though beautifully worded, for a small aside of a hung over roommate removing her necklace. 

I'm very glad I read The Blue Bath.  It is not my typical read, but it stuck with me, which is a true measure of a good book for me.   

They Summary by Goodreads:
Kat Lind, an American expatriate living in London with her entrepreneur husband and their young son, attends an opening at a prestigious Mayfair art gallery and is astonished to find her own face on the walls. The portraits are evidence of a long-ago love affair with the artist, Daniel Blake. Unbeknownst to her, he has continued to paint her ever since. Kat is seduced by her reflection on canvas and when Daniel appears in London, she finds herself drawn back into the sins and solace of a past that suddenly no longer seems so far away.

When the portraits catch the attention of the public, threatening to reveal not only her identity, but all that lies beyond the edges of the canvases, Kat comes face to face with the true price of their beauty and with all that she now could lose.

Moving between the glamour of the London art world and the sensuous days of a love affair in a dusty Paris studio, life and art bleed together as Daniel and Kat's lives spin out of control, leading to a conclusion that is anything but inevitable.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Slice #1

This is a new endeavor for me.  I'm so glad to have found this website, and I'm grateful for you all who take the time to prepare it.

I just wrote a blog post about the book Raymie Nightingale by Kate DiCamillo.  As I sit here in Texas, I was amazed at the connections I could very quickly come up with having grown up in Florida in the 1970s, the setting of Raymie Nightingale.  The book also reminded me of my old go-to books I enjoyed as a child; Betsy and Tacy, The Moffats, and Little House on the Prairie and how I really enjoy when I find a new book that takes me back there.  Some recent discoveries that fit that bill are The Penderwicks, A Snicker of Magic and The Poet's Dog.

Raymie Nightingale

Ramie Nightingale
by Kate DiCamillo
Published by Candlewick Press
Published date April 12, 2016

3 Friends
     3 Lives

          3 Dreams

               which all include the Little Miss Central Florida Tire competition,
               but for very different reasons.

I couldn't help but fall in love with these three girls; each having to be brave, each chasing a dream, and each becoming vulnerable as their unlikely friendships evolve.

Oh, the many connections...I had to laugh out loud at Louisiana's Granny's station wagon with the brown wooden sides falling off - we had one; central Florida in the 70s - grew up on the West Coast in Central Florida in the 70's; trying to get in the paper - my best friends and I liked to get in the paper; The Flying Elefantes - childhood friend in family circus plus lived in Ringling Brothers winter quarters town; the nursing home - candy-striper in a hospital; jar of candy corn - favorite childhood candy; dad left - so did mine; baton - orange one with green tips and glow-in-the-dark stripes on the end; green shag rug - orange shag carpet; misfit dog - misfit stuffed animals; ...just to name a few.

A big plus for me was the readability with its short chapters.  I admire Kate's ability to make magic with words.  I wish I had made notes of them!

Here are some of my favorites that I remember:
     "flex her toes and isolate her objectives"
     "Little Miss Central Florida Tire competition"
     "Very Friendly Animal Shelter"
     "swampy lungs"
     "feathers and regrets"
     "Three Rancheros"

I highly recommend this book for the elementary library and for those realistic fiction lovers.  I've seen talk about Raymie in historical fiction.  I get it - but, it isn't really about an event that happened in the 70s, so I think it reads more like realistic fiction.  Just my opinion.

And a big thank you to @Loveofxena and @MrSchuReads for my copy that I won!

Summary from Goodreads:

Raymie Clarke has come to realize that everything, absolutely everything, depends on her. And she has a plan. If Raymie can win the Little Miss Central Florida Tire competition, then her father, who left town two days ago with a dental hygienist, will see Raymie's picture in the paper and (maybe) come home. To win, not only does Raymie have to do good deeds and learn how to twirl a baton; she also has to contend with the wispy, frequently fainting Louisiana Elefante, who has a show-business background, and the fiery, stubborn Beverly Tapinski, who’s determined to sabotage the contest. But as the competition approaches, loneliness, loss, and unanswerable questions draw the three girls into an unlikely friendship — and challenge each of them to come to the rescue in unexpected ways.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

The Key to Extraordinary

The Key to Extraordinary
by Natalie Lloyd
Published by: Scholastic Press
Published date: February 23, 2016

Summary from Goodreads:
Everyone in Emma's family is special. Her ancestors include Revolutionary War spies, brilliant scientists, and famous musicians--every single one of which learned of their extraordinary destiny through a dream.

For Emma, her own dream can't come soon enough. Right before her mother died, Emma promised that she'd do whatever it took to fulfill her destiny, and she doesn't want to let her mother down.

But when Emma's dream finally arrives, it points her toward an impossible task--finding a legendary treasure hidden in her town's cemetery. If Emma fails, she'll let down generations of extraordinary ancestors . . . including her own mother. But how can she find something that's been missing for centuries and might be protected by a mysterious singing ghost?

With her signature blend of lyrical writing, quirky humor, and unforgettable characters, Natalie Lloyd's The Key to Extraordinarycements her status as one of the most original voices writing for children today.

My Review:
I just love Natalie Lloyd's books. Her magical settings are so believable, I have a hard time thinking of the stories as fantasy. A Key To Extraordinary is just as sweet of a read as A Snicker of Magic, which is a book that I am always recommending to my students. I can't wait to get this new book in the hands of my kiddos.  (And - I got to meet Natalie at the Texas Library Association meeting in Houston this year!  She is just as sweet as her books.)

The phrases and names of places that Natalie Lloyd uses are extraordinary themselves (I found this to be a nice connection to the magical words from A Snicker of Magic).  I adore her world building.  First of all, Emma lives in Blackbird Hollow located by Blackbird Hollow Cemetery, where she gives tours, feels the Touch from the Great Beyond, sees  Healing Blues and hears from Telling Vines.  Her family runs the Boneyard Cafe where they cook up the best Boneyard Brew (hot chocolate - yum!)  Emma is a girl with an adventurous spirit, but she loses her mom and has to deal with the Big Empty.  (These feelings are so spot on that I wondered if Natalie Lloyd had lost a parent.  After reading her acknowledgments, I don't think so.)  For middle grade novels, I am a fan of great, happy endings despite the hardships that a character has to go through during the story.  All I will say is - Wildflower, Stars, Treasure, and Club Pancake!  I'm not about to give away the ending.

Thank you to Natalie Lloyd and Scholastic for another beautiful story...and for signing my copy!

Saturday, April 23, 2016

The Poet's Dog

Written by: Patricia MacLachlan
Published by: HarperCollinsChildren
Expected Publish Date: 9/13/2016

The Poet's Dog is a beautiful story about friendship, love, and survival.  Teddy is a dog who knows words, but only poets and children can hear his words.  Teddy saves two children, Nickel and Flora, from being lost in a snowstorm.  As they work together to scrounge food and create heat to survive, Teddy keeps thinking about his lost person, Sylvan, the poet. Through flashbacks, we learn about the closeness of their relationship.  

I thoroughly enjoyed this heartwarming story.  Children of all backgrounds will be able to connect with the characters in some way.  I like the use of italics for flashbacks which will help younger readers to better understand and enjoy this story.  Beyond the story, I see it as perfectly choreographed with the right amount of words per page and white-space which is important for this age group.  

Patricia MacLachlan is a Newbery Medal winner for her book Sarah, Plain and Tall.  She is also the author of many other novels for young readers along with many picture books.

Thank you for the advanced reader's edition from HarperCollinsPublishers, Patricia MacLachlan and #TxLA16 in exchange for an honest review.  It is truly a gem of a book!

Sunday, April 10, 2016


I took a break from this blog while teaching full time in a school library.  My time on the computer was used for my library website.  I am transitioning this blog back to blogging about books, all things bookish that I find in my travels, and writing.