Friday, May 17, 2019

Storyteller's Journey

Painting by Georges Pavis - May 1886 -1977
Engrossed in Research

One of my favorite parts of the writing process is the research required before one ever puts pen to paper. Right now, I'm writing and researching at nearly the same time. Since a story set in France burst upon my brain, I've been busy penning a first draft. However, I'm at the point where I need a more in depth knowledge of my story's setting and the time it's set in before I go any further.

These two non-fiction books by professor Matthew Cobb are exactly what I need to educate myself about the French Resistance during World War II. That being said, they aren't exactly "light reads." So, I write each afternoon, and read after dinner each night. I love this routine, but I know it's a bit much. Once I've finished these books, I'll get my life back to normal.

These books are just two of the resources I've tapped into so far for my current work in progress. I've also listened to an audio broadcast by the BBC from 1989. In it, adults who were little resisters in WWII, are interviewed. That was a real eye-opener, and extremely helpful. There have also been several online articles that have helped me as well.

Do you enjoy researching when you're working on a new project?

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Whimsical Word of the Week

Ataraxia - (n.)
the state of blissful and serene calmness.
Example: After battling - and subduing - the malevolent neighboring kingdom, a state of ataraxia fell upon the archers of the guard.

Monday, May 13, 2019

Bibliophile's Corner

Caterpillar Summer
by Gillian McDunn

Flap Copy Description:
Cat and her brother Chicken have always had a very special bond--Cat is one of the few people who can keep Chicken happy. When he has a "meltdown" she's the one who scratches his back and reads his favorite story. She's the one who knows what Chicken needs. Since their mom has had to work double-hard to keep their family afloat after their father passed away, Cat has been the glue holding her family together.

But even the strongest glue sometimes struggles to hold. When a summer trip doesn't go according to plan, Cat and Chicken end up spending three weeks with grandparents they never knew. For the first time in years, Cat has the opportunity to be a kid again, and the journey she takes shows that even the most broken or strained relationships can be healed if people take the time to walk in one another's shoes.

My Thoughts:
Caterpillar Summer is a spectacular debut for Gillian McDunn. The in depth character development in this beautiful coming of age story makes the middle grade novel especially engaging. The interplay between the young protagonist, Cat, and her little brother, Chicken, is particularly heartwarming. I highly recommend Caterpillar Summer to readers aged eight to twelve; it would make the perfect summer read. Congratulations, Gillian McDunn!

Click here to learn about the author, Gillian McDunn.

Friday, May 10, 2019

Storyteller's Journey

Music as Writing Inspiration

While I've penned a post before on how my past experience as a musician has impacted me as a writer, today I want to reflect on how listening to music inspires a writer. Most writers have their favorite tunes to listen to while they craft a story. (As I'm working on the world building for my middle grade novel I'm listening to classical music.) But why do we choose to listen to the music that we do?

While I can't speak to other writers' motivations for their musical preferences, for me, it has all to do with matching the music to the type of story I'm writing. Most days I like to listen to classical; it seems to inspire the drama I'm looking for in my stories. Some of my favorite sound tracks are: The King's Speech; The Lord of the Rings; and Cloud Atlas. While most of my stories are fantasy or magical realism, my current work in progress is historical fiction - it's set during WW II in France. Consequently, I've been enjoying the music of the iconic French singer, Edith Piaf. Listen to her signature song, La vie en rose:

Does music inspire your writing? If so, what genre?

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Whimsical Word of the Week

Mardy - (adj.)
moody or miserable.
Example: The mardy matriarch made everyone around her miserable.

Monday, May 6, 2019

Bibliophile's Corner

The King of the Golden River
by John Ruskin - illustrated by Quentin Blake

Flap Copy:
The King of the Golden River tells the tale of the Black brothers: the kind-natured eleven- year-old Gluck and his two nasty older brothers, Hans and Schwartz. For Gluck, play is cleaning the floors, and his education consists of a wholesome quantity of punches. One stormy evening, Gluck is left at home to prepare his older brothers’ dinner when an extraordinary-looking little man knocks at the door. Having been warned not to let anyone in, Gluck watches as the little old man stands drenched and shivering at the door. His soft heart tells him to ignore his brothers’ advice, and so Gluck’s encounter with the mysterious King of the Golden River begins. Appearing at first as a beggar, then the Southwest Wind, and finally as a dwarf, the King of the Golden River issues Gluck a challenge: to climb to the source of the Golden River and throw into the stream three drops of holy water. If he can achieve this, the river will turn to gold.

Ruskin’s Victorian tale—first published in 1842—of good’s triumph over evil is a gripping adventure for all ages, and is brought vividly to life in new, never-before-seen illustrations by the celebrated Quentin Blake.

My Thoughts:
While The King of the Golden River was first published in 1842, I found its message of kindness overcoming greed to be very relevant today. The exquisite illustrations by famed artist Quentin Blake make this Victorian tale, and beautiful book, a wonderful addition to every library. (Due to two references to physical discipline, I recommend that parents of young children read the book first to ascertain whether it is appropriate and acceptable for their child.) I highly recommend John Ruskin's The King of the Golden River to readers aged seven and up!

Click here to learn about the award-winning illustrator Quentin Blake.
Click here to learn about the Victorian writer and art critic John Ruskin.

Friday, May 3, 2019

Storyteller's Journey

Prioritizing My Projects

While I've mentioned before how much I enjoy working on multiple projects, that approach does present a challenge: there's a risk that I'll never fully finish any of them! So, even though I have four projects right now, I primarily work on one at a time. Here's how I prioritize my projects:

#1 - If I'm really excited about one of my projects, that's the one I work on. There is no substitute for passion when you write. You don't always have that luxury, but when you do, it makes writing a dream.

#2 - I always like working on one of our Lindstrom Wintertime Tales during the fall and winter months if I can. Writing a winter story during the spring and summer months isn't nearly as much fun!

#3 - If I'm going to attend a writing conference where I might meet a literary agent, I always hope to have my manuscript ready so I can submit it to her. (Unsolicited submissions aren't usually accepted.)

Currently, I'm working on a new middle grade novel due to point #1 - the concept seemed to magically drop into my mind. I can't seem to think about anything else! Also, since it's historical fiction set in the summer of 1944 during World War II, and this summer marks the 75th Anniversary of D Day, I feel extremely connected to my story.

August 25, 1944 - Liberation of Paris - French Embassy
This vintage photo has inspired me, and my story, so much!

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Whimsical Word of the Week

Cudgel - (n.)
a short, thick stick used as a weapon.
Example: An old cudgel was the troll's favorite weapon in combat.

Monday, April 29, 2019

Bibliophile's Corner

Rice from Heaven
by Tina Cho

Flap Copy Description:
Rice from Heaven is based on a true story about compassion and bravery as a young girl and her community in South Korea help deliver rice via balloons to the starving and oppressed people in North Korea.

We reach a place where mountains become a wall. A wall so high, no one dares to climb. Beyond that wall and across the sea live children just like me, except they do not have food to eat.

Yoori lives in South Korea and doesn’t know what North Korea is like, but her father (Appa) does. Appa grew up in North Korea, where he did not have enough food to eat. Starving, he fled to South Korea in search of a better life. Yoori doesn’t know how she can help as she’s only a little "grain of rice" herself, but Appa tells her that they can secretly help the starving people by sending special balloons that carry rice over the border.

Villagers glare and grumble, and children protest feeding the enemy, but Yoori doesn’t back down. She has to help. People right over the border don’t have food. No rice, and no green fields.

With renewed spirit, volunteers gather in groups, fill the balloons with air, and tie the Styrofoam containers filled with rice to the tails of the balloons. With a little push, the balloons soar up and over the border, carrying rice in the darkness of the night over to North Korea.

My Thoughts:
I first heard about this picture book from an agent who was a featured speaker at an SCBWI Retreat in the fall of 2018 - I'm finally featuring it on Bibliophile's Corner! Rice from Heaven is not only an inspirational true story, but it is beautifully illustrated. In these turbulent times, I believe it is more important than ever that our youth hear stories of love, inclusiveness, and generosity. I highly recommend Tina Cho's picture book, Rice from Heaven, for children aged three to seven.

Click here to learn about the author, Tina Cho.

Friday, April 26, 2019

Storyteller's Journey

Working on my World Building

Several months ago I received a response from a literary agent regarding my middle grade novel. Unfortunately, it was a rejection. However, it was not only encouraging, it was helpful. In her response she mentioned that a weakness in my work was the fact that the world building was not developed enough to support some of the scenes in my first ten pages. While I winced, I knew she was correct. I also knew how it had happened: In learning that a MG novel needed to get to the action straightaway, I had primarily focused on that task, neglecting world building.

Since receiving that constructive criticism I've been studying up on world building. While setting is a big part of developing your protagonist's world, it's also important to develop her personal world: friends, family, current events, conflicts, antagonist, etc. Blending the correct setting to the set of events your main character will experience is important; it's also important that the personal world of other characters be sufficiently developed. (That's where I had failed.)

I've often received positive feedback on my ability to create a setting - it's something I love to do. However, when introducing a scene into your work it's important to ask: Does the world I've developed support this action? In other words, does it feel like this plot point came out of left field? It's wonderful to reveal a surprise in your story, essential in fact; however, it must feel as though you can follow a thread to where that surprise originated. World building is like constructing a castle - it takes a long time! That being said, doing research (including travel) for a story is one of my favorite things to do.

Visiting the iconic bookshop in Paris, France.
As I mentioned last Friday, we traveled to Europe in 2014.  Experiencing the sights and sounds of a location provides the writer with information no amount of reading can provide.

I recently created an outline for a new middle grade novel, also set in France. It will be historical fiction, set in WW II. (Once you've visited a country, you never know what inspiration it might provide in the future!)

Click here for just one of many great articles regarding world building.

Wish me luck!

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Whimsical Word of the Week

Mendacity - (n.)
Example: The politician's comments were marked with mendacity.

Monday, April 22, 2019

Bibliophile's Corner

Ernestine's Milky Way
Kerry Madden-Lunsford & Emily Sutton

Flap Copy Description:
An empowering picture book set in the 1940s about a determined five-year-old girl who embarks on a journey to deliver milk to her neighbors in the holler.

Every morning, Ernestine shouts out her window to the Great Smoky Mountains, "I'm five years old and a big girl!" When Mama asks Ernestine--who helps with chores around the farm while Papa is away at war--to carry two mason jars filled with milk to their neighbor, Ernestine isn't sure she can do it. After all, she'd need to walk through thickets of crabapple and blackberry by the creek, not to mention past vines of climbing bittersweet. But Ernestine is five years old and a big girl, so off she sets. Along the way, one mason jar slips from her arms and rolls down the mountainside into the river, and Ernestine is sure it's lost forever . . . until her neighbor's son shows up with a muddy jar--and there's a surprise inside! With tons of flavor and a can-do spirit, here is a celebration of American history and a plucky girl who knows that helping a family in need is worth the trouble.

My Thoughts:
Kerry Madden-Lunsford set this lovely picture book in the 1940s - during World War II. While the young protagonist's father is away at the war, Ernestine helps her mother on their little farm beneath the Great Smoky Mountains. I found the enchanting look into American history that this special book offers to be so powerful. Allowing today's young readers a chance to look back at how children lived long ago is a much-needed message: A strong, yet subtle, reminder to be grateful. Introducing history to young readers in this fashion is fantastic. I highly recommend Ernestine's Milky Way to readers aged three to seven!

Click here to learn about the author, Kelly Madden-Lunsford.

Friday, April 19, 2019

Storyteller's Journey

Photos from my 2014 trip to France
Honoring Notre Dame Cathedral

On this Easter weekend my mind wanders to memories of Notre-Dame de Paris; we visited the landmark in 2014. Besides the fact that Notre Dame Cathedral is one of the most visited sites in Europe - Paris, and Notre Dame Cathedral in particular, is included in a middle grade series of books I'm working on. Researching the cathedral was one of my goals in visiting Paris. So on Monday, like so many around the world, I wept as I watched the spire and roof collapse.

While I'm an American, the part of my ancestry that is French is important to me. Seeing the majestic structure was a moving experience, to say the least. Knowing that the cathedral is centuries-old, walking into the nave of the church in 2014 & seeing the stained glass windows, silenced my soul. Famed French author and poet Victor Hugo wrote The Hunchback of Notre-Dame, in part, to celebrate the French Gothic cathedral that was about to be no more; instead, his novel served to resurrect the iconic landmark. 

Having this tragedy occur during Easter Week makes it all the more painful. However, maybe the fact that it did happen during this week will serve as inspiration and strength for the people of France in their monumental task of rebuilding Notre-Dame de Paris. 
Because that extraordinary European landmark is not just important to the French people, or to Catholics, but to all people of the world. 

Happy Easter! Happy Passover!

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Whimsical Word of the Week

Cobble - 
(v.) to mend, make, or patch together coarsely; repair or make hastily
(n.) a stone, the size of a lump of coal
Example: The artist cobbled together a collage.

Monday, April 15, 2019

Bibliophile's Corner

Raise Your Hand
by Alice Paul Tapper 
& illustrated by Marta Kissi

Flap Copy Description:
11-year-old Alice Paul Tapper--daughter of CNN's Jake Tapper--is challenging girls everywhere to speak up!

When Alice Tapper noticed that the girls in her class weren't participating as much as the boys, she knew she had to do something about it. With help from her Girl Scout troop and her parents, she came up with a patch that other girls could earn if they took a pledge to be more confident in school. Alice even wrote an op-ed about the experience for the New York Times! Inspired by that piece, this picture book illustrates her determination, bravery, and unwillingness to accept the status quo. With Marta Kissi's delightful illustrations depicting Alice's story, young readers everywhere will want to follow Alice's lead and raise their hand!

My Thoughts:
The fact that an eleven-year-old girl would not only pen a picture book, but would inspire young girls around the country to speak up, is astounding. However, the book is not only well-written, it's beautifully illustrated as well - by Marta Kissi. When I did a bit of research on Alice Paul Tapper, I learned that she was named after Alice Paul - who was a suffragist, feminist, and women's right's activist. It appears that the young author was given the perfect name! I highly recommend Raise You Hand to all young readers and their parents, as well as to elementary school teachers. Bravo, Alice Paul Tapper!

Click here to learn about the young debut author, Alice Paul Tapper.

Friday, April 12, 2019

Storyteller's Journey

Painting by Mary Ethel Hunter 1878 - 1936
My Junior Beta Reader

Right from the start of my storyteller's journey I've used beta readers - for portions of my writing, and for finished manuscripts as well. However, it wasn't until last year that I was lucky enough to find a junior beta reader; a girl that was eleven-years-old - the same age as the protagonist in my middle grade fantasy novel. The insightful feedback I received from her was invaluable!

My junior beta reader, Rayma, is the granddaughter of a very dear friend. (Who happens to also be one of my beta readers!) Laura, the grandmother, mentioned to me that  Rayma loves to read and she thought that my story might interest the young girl. The only hitch: she lives near Akron, Ohio, while I reside in the Pacific Northwest.

Laura corresponded with her granddaughter, and after learning that she was actually excited about the project, I printed off my 52,000 word manuscript, placed it in a 2.5 inch binder - complete with a mock cover, and sent it off to Rayma in Ohio. I attempted to make it easy for her, so I'd requested she do the following: Place a happy face 😄 next to portions she really liked; place a sad face 😞 next to portions she didn't like; and place a question mark ? next to places that she was confused.

Well, it turns out, I had totally underestimated Rayma's commitment to her task as a beta reader! She left numerous notes throughout the manuscript (like the ones on the left), that totally warmed my heart. Receiving a glowing report from a beta reader - not about structure, grammar, plot, etc. - but just about whether she liked it or not, blew me away. She liked it! She really, really liked it. (I always did like Sally Field.)

So when it was time for Spring Break, Rayma & her family came out to see her grandmother, Laura, my dear friend. The Friday before she was set to return home to Ohio, Rayma, her father, little sister Riley, Laura, and I, all enjoyed a delightful lunch. What an extraordinary young lady (now twelve), and a super special family. (Rayma's mom was back in Ohio where she works as a 3rd grade teacher in another school district. 💙) It was an incredible experience to meet this young lady. Thanks again, Rayma; your feedback, and now your friendship, mean so much!

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Whimsical Word of the Week

Reliquary (n.)
a container for holy relics.
Example: The ornate gold box served as a reliquary for the cathedral's important documents.

Monday, April 8, 2019

Bibliophile's Corner

Hello Lighthouse
by Sophie Blackall

Flap Copy Description:
A new picture book that will transport readers to the seaside.

Watch the days and seasons pass as the wind blows, the fog rolls in, and icebergs drift by. Outside, there is water all around. Inside, the daily life of a lighthouse keeper and his family unfolds as the keeper boils water for tea, lights the lamp's wick, and writes every detail in his logbook.

My Thoughts:
It is not surprising that Sophie Blackall's picture book Hello Lighthouse won the 2019 Caldecott Medal - the artwork is exquisite! However, it's not just that the illustrations are beautiful, it's the way they illuminate the lovely story of the lighthouse keeper. The text seems to whisk you away to the sights and sounds of the sea in a bygone era. I highly recommend Hello Lighthouse to all young readers. Bravo, Ms. Blackall!

Click here to learn about the author/illustrator, Sophie Blackall.

Thursday, April 4, 2019

Champion of Creativity

Maya Angelou

The extraordinary poet, writer, and civil rights activist, Maya Angelou was born on this day in 1928 in St. Louis, Missouri. Today I am featuring her as a true Champion of Creativity; she was an American icon & cultural treasure.

Maya Angelou was born Marguerite Annie Johnson, but as a little girl her older brother Bailey nicknamed her "Maya." Following her parents' divorce, when she was three and her brother four, they were sent to their grandmother's home in Stamps, Arkansas - all alone. They lived happily there for four years, when, for some unknown reason, her father arrived in Stamps and removed Maya and Bailey from their home, and took them back to live with there mother in St. Louis.

Unfortunately, it was in their mother's home that Maya was sexually abused and raped by her mother's boyfriend. She told Bailey about what her mother's boyfriend, Freeman, had done. The man was tried and convicted, but only served one day in jail. Within days after his release, Freeman was murdered. Shortly after Freeman's murder, Maya and her brother were sent back to their grandmother's home in Stamps, Arkansas. She subsequently became mute for five years. She later stated, "I thought, my voice killed him; I killed that man, because I told his name. And I thought I would never speak again, because my voice would kill anyone." It was during this period of silence that she developed her amazing memory, her love of literature, and her ability to observe the world around her. Angelou credited a teacher and family friend, Mrs. Bertha Flowers, with helping her to speak again. The woman introduced young Maya to books by numerous authors including: Charles Dickens, William Shakespeare, and Frances Harper.

One reason I've chosen to feature Maya Angelou as a Champion of Creativity is due to the way she lived her life; the way she made choices. At times she seemed to make only poor choices, and at other times, her choices seemed brilliant. One thing that is clear is that, as an adult, Ms. Angelou was led by her heart. This deep connection to her inner spirit is what made her such an iconic author and poet. I believe it is also what fueled her deep commitment to civil rights.

In 1969, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings was published. That autobiography quickly won Angelou international acclaim. Maya went on to publish six more autobiographies, three books of essays, several books of poetry, and numerous plays, movies, and television shows. On January 20, 1993, she recited her poem On the Pulse of Morning at the inauguration of President Bill Clinton.

Maya Angelou received numerous degrees from a variety of universities. She received three Grammy Awards for her spoken word albums. Angelou was also honored by being nominated for a Pulitzer Prize and a Tony Award. Her autobiographies have been widely used in institutes of higher education to teach students such subjects as literary techniques, race relations, psychology, and child development.

Maya Angelou died on May 28, 2014 in Winston, North Carolina.

Ms. Angelou had an extraordinary way of illuminating the human condition. I often read her quotes for inspiration along my storyteller's journey. Here's one of my favorites:

"There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you."

Friday, March 22, 2019

Storyteller's Journey

Spring is Here!

In some ways, the winter that just departed felt like one of the longest I can remember here in the Pacific Northwest. (Even though I'm aware that the seasons are always relatively the same length!) The up side to feeling like you're sequestered inside your own home, is that if you're a writer, there's no excuse for not writing. Thankfully, during the last few months, I did accomplish a lot on my writing projects.

If you'd like to read my recent quarterly newsletter, click here.

Last week I posted a contest with a Rafflecopter Giveaway - click here.

Since I'm looking forward to spending some time in my garden, I'll be taking a Spring Break. (I'll be back on Writ of Whimsy on April 4th.)

Wishing everyone a bright and inspirational spring!

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Whimsical Word of the Week

Perron (n.)
an exterior set of steps with a platform at the entrance to a large building.
Example: The princess raced up the perron of the stone castle.

Monday, March 18, 2019

Bibliophile's Corner

The Girl Who Drew Butterflies: How Maria Merian's Art Changed Science
by Joyce Sidman

Flap Copy Description:
Bugs, of all kinds, were considered to be “born of mud” and to be “beasts of the devil.”  Why would anyone, let alone a girl, want to study and observe them?

One of the first naturalists to observe live insects directly, Maria Sibylla Merian was also one of the first to document the metamorphosis of the butterfly. In this visual nonfiction biography, richly illustrated throughout with full-color original paintings by Merian herself, the Newbery Honor–winning author Joyce Sidman paints her own picture of one of the first female entomologists and a woman who flouted convention in the pursuit of knowledge and her passion for insects.

My Thoughts:
Joyce Sidman, renowned author and poet, has crafted an important and informative book that is just exquisite. The hours of research Ms. Sidman put in on Maria Merian's life in preparing to pen this biography is quite obvious - I loved it! The Girl Who Drew Butterflies recently won the Robert F. Sibert Medal for best informational book of 2019 - bravo! The illustrations and photography included in this beautiful book perfectly illuminate Ms. Sidman's text. I highly recommend The Girl Who Drew Butterflies to everyone, especially young scientists!

Click here to learn about author/poet, Joyce Sidman.

Friday, March 15, 2019

Storyteller's Journey

It's a Rafflecopter Giveaway!

In anticipation of kids being in the "Great Outdoors" this summer, I'm featuring a Rafflecopter Giveaway of my middle grade fantasy novel:
The Tale of Willaby Creek.
I'll not only be giving away three signed copies of that book, with matching bookmarks, but the Grand Prize will be one signed copy of each of my three books! (See sidebar.) Amazon gift cards are also featured! The winners will be announced on Friday, June 7th!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Whimsical Word of the Week

Surfeit (n.)
an excessive amount of something.
Example: The historic mansion was filled with a surfeit of luxurious furniture.

Monday, March 11, 2019

Bibliophile's Corner

Front Desk
by Kelly Yang

Flap Copy Description:
Mia Tang has a lot of secrets.

Number 1: She lives in a motel, not a big house. Every day, while her immigrant parents clean the rooms, ten-year-old Mia manages the front desk of the Calivista Motel and tends to its guests.

Number 2: Her parents hide immigrants. And if the mean motel owner, Mr. Yao, finds out they've been letting them stay in the empty rooms for free, the Tangs will be doomed.

Number 3: She wants to be a writer. But how can she when her mom thinks she should stick to math because English is not her first language?

It will take all of Mia's courage, kindness, and hard work to get through this year. Will she be able to hold on to her job, help the immigrants and guests, escape Mr. Yao, and go for her dreams?

My Thoughts:
Kelly Yang's debut middle grade novel, Front Desk, is a breakthrough book in children's literature. Never before have I read a more authentic and insightful novel for young readers. I wept as I learned details about the young protagonist's life in California - and back in China. (Loosely based on Ms. Yang's life.) However, it is also well-written, humorous, and a fantastic addition to the growing number of diverse books for young readers. I love it when I read a book that is not only a mirror, but a window for children of all backgrounds. Bravo, Kelly Yang! I highly recommend this award-winning novel to readers aged eight to twelve.

Click here to learn about the author, Kelly Yang.

Friday, March 8, 2019

Storyteller's Journey

Love is the Cure

In January my husband and I were lucky enough to attend the Elton John Farewell Tour in Glendale, Arizona. The reason I'm blogging about our experience is that Sir Elton John's message that Love is the Cure was laced throughout the concert and within all of his lyrics; that's a message that I attempt to include in the stories that I pen, and the words that I speak. I believe every author of children's books should make that her goal. However, it wasn't just his message, but the energy of the 71-year-old rock music legend. He seemed just as excited about performing in 2019, as he was in 1973 when I attended his concert in Portland, Oregon!

It was a thrill of a lifetime to dance with my husband, Michael, to the music of Elton John - live. It occurred to me that my taste in rock music hasn't changed much; Elton John and the Beatles were my favorites then, and now.

I was amazed that in the middle of "Trump Country," as images of a diverse cast of characters were displayed above Elton John, the crowd's cheering never wavered. A reminder that the arts can bridge a variety of beliefs.

So, thank you, Sir Elton, for an evening I'll always remember - not only for your fantastic performance, but because of how you've lived your extraordinary life - it's been so inspiring!

Check out this movie trailer of ROCKETMAN. It's a musical fantasy about the breakthrough years of Elton John's life - due out this May!

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Whimsical Word of the Week

Draughtboard (n.)
checkerboard (British.)
Example: The floor of the country manor was a black and white tile draughtboard. 

Monday, March 4, 2019

Bibliophile's Corner

Counting Birds
The Idea that Helped Save Our Feathered Friends
by Heidi E.Y. Stemple and
illustrated by Clover Robin

Flap Copy Description:
What can you do to help endangered animals and make a positive change in our environment? Get counting! Counting Birds is a beautifully illustrated book that introduces kids to the idea of bird counts and bird watches. Along the way, they will learn about Frank Chapman, who used his bird knowledge and magazine Bird-Lore to found the first annual bird count.
Bird counting helps professional researchers collect data, share expertise, and spread valuable information to help all kinds of birds around the world, from condors to hawks to kestrels and more.
Counting Birds introduces kids to a whole feathered world that will fascinate and inspire them to get involved in conservation and become citizen scientists.

My Thoughts:
Counting Birds - The Idea that Helped Save Our Feathered Friends is the perfect picture book to encourage children to bird watch! In it, the author tells the true story of how official bird counts came into being in the United States - but it's so much more. Heidi Stemple's book also features challenges for the young reader at the end of the book, and in addition to that, the illustrations by Clover Robin are exquisite! I highly recommend this beautiful and important book to all young readers.

Click here to learn about the author, Heidi Stemple.

Friday, March 1, 2019

Champion of Creativity

"Dr. Seuss"
Theodor  Seuss Geisel

Since tomorrow marks the 115th birthday of the iconic children's book author Dr. Seuss - Theodor Seuss Geisel - I thought it only fitting to feature him as a Champion of Creativity. After all, he, more than most authors, artists, etc., is worthy of that title!

After researching the extraordinary life of Theodor Seuss Geisel, it's become apparent to me that the volume of his publications and awards are beyond anything I can come close to addressing in this small blog post. Therefore, I'll share just some of the highlights from this remarkable man's life and long career that resonated with me.

He was born in Springfield, Massachusetts on March 2, 1904 to parents of German descent. After the onset of World War I both he and his sister Marnie experienced anti-German prejudice from the children in their lives. (Later in life, he would adopt strong liberal views.)

Theodor attended Dartmouth College where his writing skills were put to good use in the humor magazine, Dartmouth Jack-O-Lantern. After graduating from Dartmouth, he moved to England where he attended Oxford University. It was there, that he met his future wife, Helen Palmer. Although Theodor desired to earn his doctorate in literature and become an English teacher, Helen encouraged him to find a profession that would also utilize his drawing skills; she'd been most impressed by the animal drawings in his numerous notebooks. So he left Oxford without earning his doctorate and began sending his writings and drawings to magazines and advertisement agencies. After earning enough money to convince himself that he could make a career as a writer, he moved back to the United States with Helen, where they were subsequently married.

Theodor and Helen settled in New York City, where he continued writing, primarily for the humor magazine Judge, which established his career. It was in a 1927 article in Judge where Theodor Seuss Geisel first used the pen name of Dr. Seuss. In 1931 Dr. Seuss illustrated a children's book, Boners - a collection of children's sayings. In 1936, while he and Helen were on a cruise, the ship's engines inspired a poem that would become the first children's book he would write and illustrate: And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street. However, according to a variety of accounts, prior to the publication of his book, Geisel received somewhere between 20 and 43 rejections! In fact, while he was walking home to burn the manuscript he ran into an old Dartmouth classmate, which led to the book's publication by Vanguard Press. (I love anecdotes like that!) Following that book, he wrote four more children's books before the onset of World War II.

Leading up to World War II, Dr. Seuss wrote many political cartoons. He was a staunch supporter of FDR, and subsequently entered the U.S. Army in 1943 as a Captain. He became the head of the Animation and Film Department for the U.S. Government where he wrote several films, some of them propaganda. Design for Death was one of his war films; it won the 1947 Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature.

After the war, Theodor and Helen moved to La Jolla, California - that is when his career as a children's book author/illustrator really took off. Books like: The Cat in the Hat (1957); How the Grinch Stole Christmas (1957); Green Eggs and Ham (1960), are just a few of the sixty books that Dr. Seuss wrote and illustrated in his lifetime.

Theodor Seuss Geisel died on September 24, 1991, at the age of 87.

Dr. Seuss received far too many awards to mention in full, here are just a few:

Dartmouth College awarded him an honorary doctorate in 1956, thus making his pen name legitimate.

Pulitzer Prize in 1984 for his "contribution over nearly half a century to the education and enjoyment of America's children and their parents."

On 2004 U.S. children's librarians established the annual Theodor Seuss Geisel Award to recognize the most distinguished American book for beginning readers published in English in the U.S. during the preceding year.

Two Emmy Awards.

Two Academy Awards.

A star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

Geisel's birthday, March 2, has been adopted as the annual date for National Read Across America Day, an initiative on reading that was created by the National Education Association.

Let's all celebrate the birthday of Dr. Seuss by reading a book!

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Whimsical Word of the Week

Rubicund - (adj.)
having a ruddy complexion; high-colored.
Example: The forest ranger's face was rubicund - a result of spending endless hours in the mountain air.

Monday, February 25, 2019

Bibliophile's Corner

Finding Langston
by Lesa Cline-Ransome

Flap Copy Description:
When 11-year-old Langston's mother dies in 1946, he and his father leave rural Alabama for Chicago's brown belt as a part of what came to be known as the Great Migration. It's lonely in the small apartment with just the two of them, and at school Langston is bullied. But his new home has one fantastic thing. Unlike the whites-only library in Alabama, the local public library welcomes everyone. There, hiding out after school, Langston discovers another Langston, a poet whom he learns inspired his mother enough to name her only son after him. 

My Thoughts:
Picture book author Lesa Cline-Ransome's recently released debut middle grade novel is fantastic! The character development and voice in this beautiful book are exquisite. That being said, at 104 pages, the novel is short enough for even a reluctant reader. I highly recommend Finding Langston to readers aged eight to twelve - and to all fans of poetry. (The poetry of Langston Hughes in particular!)

Click here to learn about the author, Lesa Cline-Ransome.