Ten writers for children. All with something to say.


On Saturday mornings my father would wake me up early and we would walk the shores of Lake Pontchartrain. The lake was around the corner from my house and was surrounded by a 20 foot levee. The levee was the closest thing to a hill in New Orleans. It was fun to climb and fun to run down. And behind it was the world of water and wetlands, piers and wondrous gifts lost or discarded from boaters and fishermen.
When the tide was out, sandbars were revealed and it felt almost as if you were walking on water. My dad and I had this shared time before the rest of our world had awoken. We walked, collected shells and sailed make-believe boats of driftwood. We’d always cut down cattails and pack a bouquet of them in the trunk of his car. That name, cattail, was even part of the delight of time shared one on one with my father.
After our walk, we would go to a diner for pancakes, then to his office where he would buy me an icy cold Coca Cola in a small green hued bottle. That same evening after dusk, he would soak the cattails and light them up like torches, illuminating the both of us.


Fathers and Waters

A significant early memory of mine is going to Minnehaha Falls in Minneapolis. My dad loved that park and I can remember that after a big rain he would say, "There's probably a lot of water coming over the falls now." We would make regular trips there to see it and the more water coming over the falls, the better.

I also have an early memory of being carried by my father at night on the way home from a friend's house. My dad was six feet four inches tall and weighed about two hundred and sixty pounds, so when I was little he seemed huge. I remember the cool night air and snuggling in close to the roughness of his cheek.

I've written books about fathers and I've written about water. It's not a mystery to me where that source is.


A Contemporary Huck Finn

When I was in third and fourth grade, my family lived on the Raging River, twenty miles east of Seattle. In those days (early Seventies), this was the hinterland – we might as well have already moved to Alaska, except for the weather, of course, which is much milder in Washington.

The nearest “town,” Preston, was a mile from our house and consisted of an old abandoned lumberyard and a combination gas station/candy store. My sister and I would ride our bikes to the candy store and spend our allowance on penny candy (literally, in those days!). A two-foot-long “rope” of gum, either watermelon or green apple, cost a nickel; epic bubble-blowing contests ensued.

We spent most of our time, however, exploring the local woods and river . . .

I caught my first fish there, a slim eight-inch trout that might as well have been a world-record marlin. I remember my breath catching as the rod tip quivered with the nibble; then, as the line tightened, I started reeling in and “striking” so hard that the fish flew out of the pool and landed somewhere behind me in the woods. That sucker was not getting away!

There was a rope swing above the same pool in the river, which provided countless hours of summertime fun, as well as a more traditional set of swings closer to home, where we reached for the sky and marveled at tales of kids who had swung so high they actually went all the way over the top, completing a full circle! Though we dared each other to duplicate the feat, I, for one, felt silent relief that none of us actually achieved it.

We played hide-and-seek in the woods, of course, and also led “expeditions” into the deepest, darkest forests of unexplored frontiers. We were cops and robbers, cowboys and Indians, bug collectors, tree climbers, and the like. Once I came upon a teenaged couple in a small clearing . . . they were kissing! Yuck!!!!

Those halcyon days along the Raging River continue to nourish my soul when the hectic demands of adulthood weigh me down, or when I just want to revisit the child within myself that still enjoys exploring forests or sitting alongside a nice quiet stretch of river…


Forty Nine Twenty Two East Third was both the name and the address of my Grandma's house in Long Beach. It was a bungalow filled with Victorian sofas, poetry books, candlesticks, and laughter. It hosted holiday meals and sleepovers and was inhabited by my lively grandma and her cat, Mr. Buttons. It had a vine covered garden in the back, just the right size for a small child's imagination.

With her red painted nails, perfectly manicured blue/grey hair, and elegant dresses (always worn with a pearl necklace), Grandma introduced me to Emily Dickenson, Edna St. Vincent Millay, and brunch at Buffums. She was a movie star, a role model, and a progressive thinking woman. She wasn't afraid to start up conversations with strangers like I was. She wasn't a wallflower, like I, and most of all, she didn't take herself too seriously. There wasn't a poet she didn't like, or an artist that she didn't share with me. (Monet was her favorite.)

She and her magical house were like water in the middle of a desert, and I still drink from those memories to this day.