Ten writers for children. All with something to say.


Top of the Order

At the top is Top of the Order, the first book in my series about four friends in the fifth grade. It is brand new and is the first book in a series of four. Today, it is my favorite book. I love the cover that Doug Fraser created and kids have been spontaneously cheering when I've showed it to them.

One of the most interesting aspects of creating this book was working with two fifth-grade classes and having them critique it. They saw the manuscript while I was working on it and made numerous suggestions of things to change. I incorporated over two hundred of their suggestions and the book is better because of that.

Top of the Order is designed to appeal to third, fourth, and fifth graders, particularly boys as this an age where many boys make decisions about how much they like reading. It also contains a strong girl character named Sydney, and girls have been liking it, too . So if you know a baseball playing boy or girl of that age, please let them know about this book. 

As for my own reading, I've started Michael Chabon's The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay. I've owned this book for years and had many people recommend it. Now that I'm finally in it, I'm enjoying every page. 

Happy Valentine's Day. Happy Reading.


The Underneath

Every once in awhile I read a book that takes my breath away. It tells me why I want to write and whispers in threads that seem to weave my own thoughts, dreams and ideas together in new and inspiring ways of writing. Kathi Appelt's book, The Underneath is one of those books for me. I do not usually read books with animals as the lead characters... I may not have ever read it if a friend on a walk around a lake had not told me that she had just read the best book of the year and then loaned me her copy. I was not halfway through the book when I gave it back to her and went to buy my own copy-- I had to have it-- 
This book sings literally-- ancient songs, legend songs, with words that feel timeless and familiar. When I finished the book I wanted to stand and shout while clapping "Bravo"! I wish I could have illustrated it, but David Small did a fine job. I wish I could have written it, but I would have to become familiar with the bayou and another way of life. It does inspire me to listen and write my own legends. The writing encourages me to find my own way of singing, which is the best way of writing for me. Just writing about it makes me want to re-read this book again. I think I will! 

The Final Book by a Master

The book I have been recommending lately is: The Golden Dream of Carlo Chuchio, by Lloyd Alexander. Those familiar with Alexander’s writing have come to expect certain things from his novels, and this one (his last, published after his death) does not disappoint. Memorable characters, crisp writing, and witty dialogue carry the reader through a story where humor, danger, romance, adventure, and nuggets of wisdom abound.

For me, one of the most appealing aspects of this book is how humor is used to convey important themes and life lessons. You get the message(s) without being thwacked over the head; indeed, they come effortlessly as you accompany the title character on a quest for treasure that winds up being a journey of self discovery (like all great journeys?). You also discover, along with young Carlo, that “the journey is the treasure.”

This book can be read purely for the joy of losing yourself in good fiction, or as a primer on pacing, characterization, plot, and style for writers. Even the dedication is inspirational: “For young dreamers, and old ones.”

I wish this wasn’t Alexander’s last book. I have learned so much from him about writing and about life. The world of children’s literature has truly lost a giant, but there is solace in knowing he left a body of work that can be enjoyed by all for generations to come.


Favorite books

Hello Papas Calientes,
After three years, my book I Can Do It Myself! is finally in print. I'm pleased as punch with Nancy Hayashi's illustrations, and today it is my favorite book.

But my other equally favorite choice is 17 Things I'm Not Allowed to Do Anymore, by Jenny Offill and Nancy Carpenter, about a mischevious little girl who offers no apologies for her bad behavior.

Sonya Sones' semi-autobiographical novel, Stop Pretending, what happened when my big sister went crazy, is my favorite young adult book. She was a student of Myra Cohn Livingston's and uses prose to great effect in conveying the confused feelings of the younger sister.