Happy Thanksgiving to you all! The United States celebrates Thanksgiving on the 4th Thursday of the month (which means we’re never certain when it is without a calendar), which happens to fall on November 28th this year.
That said, Thanksgiving is a wonderful time to consider all the things we are grateful for. Gratitude is something we don’t seem to have enough of in this world, so here are my top five things I’m grateful for:
1. My family.
(These people are my rock. They are there for me in all the best and worst and mediocre-est moments of my life. I would be lost without them).
2. A book coming out next year.
(I don’t take this for granted at all. Getting a book published is tough. No matter what road you take. And heck, even writing one is a BIG DEAL! So much gratitude that I’m in a position I can both write them, and have the opportunity to have one published.)
3. My faith in God, and my beliefs.
(I don’t talk about this much here on my blog, but my beliefs are my compass. They give me direction, and I’m who I am because of them.)
4. My friends
(IRL ones, writing ones, social media ones, ALL OF YOU! Wish I had a big picture with you all in it, but I don’t. Sorry if you aren’t shown, I still love you and am grateful for you!)
(Whoever invented them, THANK YOU!)
Happy Thanksgiving! And please tell me what you are grateful for! I’d love to hear. 🙂
Only three days to Halloween, and I’m in a spooky mood. So today, I want to share my top five Halloween picture books! From creepy to spooky, from silly to plain old fun, Halloween books can delight readers old and young. With the number of great Halloween picture books out there, this list barely scratches the surface, but maybe you’ll find a fun new book to delight your Halloween lovers out there.
On to the list! First up . . .
In this super fun (and super spare of words) story, three bears get their brave on to explore a spooky old tree. It has the perfect amount of scare factor for both young and old readers.
PLUS, not only is this book fun to listen to, it is fun to read! You can’t help but get out your spooky voice and start making all the sound effects. I so highly recommend this book, you might just have to make a trek to the Himalayas to get it.
Jasper Rabbit loves carrots. He eats them for lunch, he eats them for snacks, he eats them every chance he gets. And his favorite carrots come from Crackenhopper Field. But when Jasper starts seeing carrots everywhere . . . creepy carrots . . . Jasper is no longer a fan, and something must be done.
As an author, I totally wish I would have thought of this. So clever, so fun, and SO CREEPY! The pictures brilliantly capture the dark and creepy atmosphere that such a book requires. Go read this one! You won’t regret it . . . unless you, too, start seeing creepy carrots everywhere!
Once a month, on the night of the full moon, a young barber sneaks off to his father’s barber shop to follow in his dad’s footsteps. All night long he snips and snaps, buzzes, and gels his client’s hair to perfection.
I love the hilarious ending, and the whole thing is just monstrously clever. I giggle right along with my kids when we read this together. (And I giggle all by myself when I read it just for me!😉) You don’t want to miss this one!
Yukio loves Halloween, and he loves his little sister, but he is tired of her always copying him! From jack-o-lanterns to trick-or-treating routes, his sister is always right there in the way. But when Yukio goes too far, can he make it up to her? Or has he brought on the curse of the Samurai Scarecrow?
I can totally relate to Yukio in this super fun story, but I feel so bad for his little sister. I don’t want to spoil any endings, but this book takes some fun twists and turns, and let’s just say that Yukio definitely learns his lesson. This book was delightfully surprising, and a perfect Halloween book.
When Grover learns that there is a monster at the end of the book, he does everything he can to stop the reader from getting to the end of the book. From asking nicely, to building walls, to begging on hands and knees, but a determined reader can be hard to stop. What’s a Grover to do?
This is another one that is technically not a Halloween book. But with a monster at the end of it, how can it not be perfect for such a holiday? My mom read this to me when I was a kid, and I read this to my own kids when they were younger, and sometimes, I read it just because I can. This book is pretty much perfect in my estimation, and if you haven’t read it yet . . . WHY NOT??!
Voila! My top five Halloween picture books. Now, how about you? What are your favorite Halloween books?
Today is my picture book cover reveal!!!
I feel like I say this a lot, but being an author is like constantly riding a rollercoaster, full of ups and downs. There is a ton of rejection, but there are also moments that make your heart flutter. Seeing your cover for the first time is one of those.
With my middle grade cover, I knew that the cover was the only image I was going to get for my book. But with a picture book, the cover is a hint at all the lovely things to come! Thirty-two pages of beautiful, glorious pictures that represent someone’s vision of this world I created.
My debut picture book, HELP WANTED: MUST LOVE BOOKS, will be released into the world on March 1, 2020! I can’t wait for you all to see the whole thing (I just love it!), but in the meantime, here is a hint of things to come. The promise of a story that makes my heart happy. I hope it will make yours happy, too.
The illustrator is the amazing Courtney Dawson. You should follow that link to see her amazing art work! She’s so talented!
So without further ado . . .
I hope you love it as much as I do! Shailey turned out so perfect, and I love, love, love that you can read the titles on a bunch of those books on the bookshelf. The colors are so fun, and that title font (!!!). *happy sigh*
Thanks for stopping by, and I’d love to hear about what grabs your attention when looking at covers.
Help Wanted: Must Love Books is up on Goodreads, so feel free to add it to your “Want to Read” list!
And holy cow! Just this second I discovered that it’s also live on Amazon, which means you can now pre-order it!! (no cover there yet, but AAAAHHHH!) [And just so you know, this would be another one of those exciting moments I was talking about at the beginning that makes your heart flutter.]
In April 2014, I watched the #WeNeedDiverseBooks hashtag take over my Twitter Feed. I remember watching it and reading all the tweets, and trying to understand the urgency that was clearly evident in everything that was being said.
I didn’t join in.
Perhaps some of you are criticizing me now, but there you are. I didn’t join in. I didn’t feel qualified to join in.
Instead, I listened. I examined my own self and worked to figure out what I really thought about all this.
I thought back on my childhood reading. I remembered books like Mildred Taylor’s “Roar of Thunder, Hear my Cry,” and “Let the Circle be Unbroken.” I thought of Rudyard Kipling’s “The Jungle Book” and perhaps there had been some “Dear America” books with diverse main characters . . . and that’s where my memory failed me.
And I was horrified.
Though l grew up in a very un-diverse neighborhood, I always craved to know more about other cultures and people. As a child, I grew up with 2 Tiawanese exchange students who I now consider to be my brother and sister. Before 2014, I lived in a Melanesian country for a year-and-a-half. I learned French and Spanish. I lived in South America for 3 months. I got a Master’s degree in French that focused on the French works from Africa and Haiti and Tahiti and anywhere else French was spoken outside of France. I LOVE other cultures . . .
. . . but I still hadn’t seen the lack of diversity in children’s literature. I hadn’t see it. Even when an editor told me my Ecuador book would have no place in American publishing, I didn’t question that.
I was blinded by privilege that I hadn’t even realized I had.
It is a no-brainer to me that all people deserve respect. That skin color means nothing. I never saw myself as racist, but I also never acknowledged the inherent racism that permeates the world we live in.
I remember the night I first understood. I was out with my dear friend and neighbor. She grew up in Nigeria, but came to the USA for university. She is beautiful and intelligent, and compassionate. When I first met her she’d recently finished her family medicine residency. We were almost home when we noticed our neighbor’s garage door was open. It was late, so we stopped to let them know. Since I was driving, my friend ran to the door, then immediately ran back. She didn’t dare knock at the door for fear of their reaction to her skin color. And it wasn’t a silly fear. Because I was afraid for her, too.
No one deserves to feel that way.
Which is why diverse books are so important. Books and stories bring empathy, compassion, and comfort. They help us understand the Other and the Unknown. They eradicate the fear that leads to hatred and racism and bigotry.
We have all heard that everyone deserves to read about people like themselves. But diverse books are not just for them. We all need these books. All of us. We need to read about characters from all over the world, from all walks of life, living through all sorts of experiences. Because understanding and sympathizing and empathizing with an Other makes us better humans.
We. Need. Diversity.
It has taken me nearly two years of listening to understand just how much I have to learn. Just how much I wasn’t seeing. So I will be continuing to listen.
To those of you know who are speaking out, your voices are being heard. You are making a difference.
But please don’t forget how important it is to still listen. Because it takes both speaking and listening for the world to change.
One of my favorite parts of becoming an author has been learning about all the other great books that are coming out soon. And even better, I’ve gotten to read a lot of ARCs (Advance Reader Copies). My son has also been taking advantage of this, and he’s gotten to read a lot of them, too. I think I’m going to have him post some reviews in the near future.
But in the mean time, I wanted to share with you some of the amazing middle grade novels that have been and will be released this year.
Of these 19 books listed above, I have read 16 of them (including my own). You can check out my Goodreads reviews to see what I had to say. But honestly, I have been so impressed! Science Fiction. Fantasy. Mystery. Magical Realism. Historical. Contemporary. Books dealing with loss. Books dealing with change. Books dealing with mysteries. I found kids facing their fears and learning to find their voice. I found kids trying new things and making hard choices. I could go on and on (for your sakes, I won’t).
There is truly a book for every reader on these posters above! And although we say that middle grade is for kids ages 8 – 12, I disagree. These books are for people of all ages. I have learned so much about myself and about the world around me as I’ve read these stories. They truly are for everyone. I hope you’ll look some of these up and share the ones you love.
So tell me . . . which ones are you most excited for? Or, if you are looking for a book on a certain topic or of a certain genre, please tell me, and I’ll make a recommendation. I just love, love, love hooking up books and readers!
The first box has arrived in Kiribati!
I was so excited to get these pictures this last weekend! That is my dad holding the box, and those are the books that came in it. I hope to receive more pictures soon as these books go in the library (it was the weekend, so they had to wait for Monday to take them in), and I promise to share them when I do.
Two more boxes are now on their way, and hopefully those empty shelves will look a whole lot less empty in the very near future.
And because I like transparency (and lists and figures), here is what went down:
Included 54 books
Weighed 38 pounds
Cost $166 to send
Included 59 books
Weighed 42 pounds
Cost $207 to send
Included 45 books
Weighed 43 pounds
Cost $211 to send
[Weird that the one with the least number of books was the heaviest!]
Thank you! This is you. You made this happen. You have all made a difference in many children’s lives. And your involvement will continue to make a difference for years to come. I hope you feel that joy that I’m feeling right now. I hope it carries you through your day and leaves a goofy smile on your face like it has mine.
Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!
Books! Glorious books! (And yes, I’m totally singing that in my head).
Over the last couple of weeks, packages of books have been trickling in for our Kiribati Library Project. Boxes crammed full of books. Books signed to the students in Kiribati by authors. Recent releases. Old classics. It has been beautiful to see!
And it’s not done yet. Capstone (my publisher) contacted me, and they’re sending a box, too! I am so thrilled, I just can’t even express it.
Last Tuesday, an unexpected delivery from Amazon arrived on our doorstep. Someone who had already sent us a big box of books had the entire Harry Potter series sent.
“The idea that we can introduce kids to these character and the worlds created on the page is pretty much my happy place.”
And I think she pretty much captured why I’m doing this. What an amazing thought! The Harry Potter series has given me countless hours of joy. And she will be giving that to these kids.
This will be my last call for donations (so back to regular programing starting next week). For those interested, you can either donate money at our GoFundMe account, or you can donate books. Just use the Contact Me tab for information on where to send them.
Since that first post, I have received a wish list of books from the library. We have received a few on the list, but I wanted to post it in case it inspires anyone out there to join in our cause.
That said, if you have books to donate that are not on this list, that is great, too! But this gives a good picture of the types of things they are looking for.
Thank you again for reading this post and for all the sharing and donations and well-wishes we’ve received on this project. Imagining these books in the hands of these students makes me so happy. Thank you!
Hardy Boys Series Franklin W. Dixon
Nancy Drew Series Carolyn Keene
The Littles Series John Peterson
Ramona Series Beverly Cleary
The Enchanted Forest Chronicles Patricia C. Wrede
Betsy-Tacy Books Maud Hart Lovelace
The Princess in Black and the
Perfect Princess Party Shannon Hale
Matilda Roald Dahl
Are You There God? It’s Me Judy Blume
Harriet the Spy Louise Fitshugh
The Chocolate War Robert Cormier
The Hunger Game Series Suzanne Collins
(Need Hunger Games and Mockingjay)
The Giver Series Lois Lowry
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy Douglas Adam
Anne of Green Gable Series L.M. Montgomery
Graceling Series Christine Cashore
The Sisterhood of TravelingPants Series Ann Brashares
Uglies Series Scott Westerfeld
Twilight Series Stephenie Meyer
The Princess Diary Series Meg Cabot
Song of the Lioness series Tamora Pierce
Vampire Academy Richelle Mead
Fable Haven Brandon Mull
The Goose Girl series Shannon Hale
The Princess Academy series Shannon Hale
(Need book 2 and 3)
Ever After High Shannon Hale
Daughter of the Lioness / Tricksters series Tamora Pierce
Percy Jackson series Rick Riordan
The Red Pyramid Series Rick Riordan
The Chronicles of Narnia C.S. Lewis
Leviathan series Scott Westerfeld
His Dark Material Series Philip Pullman
The Mortal Instruments series Cassandra Clare
Fallen series Lauren Kate
Septimus Heap Series Angie Sage
The Maze Runner series James Dashner
Crank series Ellen Hopkins
Matched series Ally Condie
Discworld / Tiffany Aching series Terry Pratchett
Chaos Walking series Patrick Ness
Circle of Magic series Tamora Pierce
Wrinkle in Time Series Madeleine L’Engle
Roll of Mildred Taylor
Thunder Hear my Cry Series
(Need Let the Circle Be unbroken, and The Road to Memphis)
Looking for Alaska John
The Hobbit J.R.R.
The Catcher in the Rye J.D.
To Kill a Mockingbird Harper
The Book Thief Markus
The Outsiders S.E. Hinton
The Princess Bride William Goldman
Thirteen Reasons Why Jay Asher
The Curious Incident of a Dog in the
Nighttime Mark Haddon
Stargirl Jerry Spinelli
The House on Mango Street Sandra Cisneros
The Truth About Forever Sarah Dessen
Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane Kate
Tuck Everlasting Natalie Babbitt
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time
13 Little Blue Envelopes Maureen Johnson
It’s Kind of a Funny Story Ned Vizzini
Just Listen Sarah Dessen
A Ring of Endless Light Madeleine L’Engle
Before I Fall Lauren Oliver
Unwind Neal Shusterman
The Last Unicorn Peter S. Beagle
If I Stay Gayle Forman
The Blue Sword Robin McKinley
The Hero and the Crown Robin
I Am the Messenger Markus Zusak
Go Ask Alice by Anonymous Beatrice
Daughter of Smoke & Bone Laini Taylor
The House of the Scorpion Nancy Farmer
Wintergirls Laurie Halse Anderson
Lafayette in the Somewhat
United States Sarah
The Phantom Tollbooth Norton
The Diary of Anne Frank Otto
Out of My Mind Sharon
Bridge to Terabithia Katherine
Jacob Have I loved Katherine
A Separate Peace John
Princess Bride William
The Westing Game Ellen
Number the Stars Lois
Boxers and Saints Gene
The Lost Conspiracy Francise
Esperanza Rising Pam
Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of
The invention of Hugo Cabret Brian
With all the terrible things that have happened throughout the world over the past few days, it can be easy to forget that there is good in the world, too. While I know it doesn’t change what happened, or fix things for those who are suffering right now, I want to tell you about a little of that goodness.
Last week I reached out to you–to the world of social media. I didn’t know what to expect, but you all blew me away between the sharing of my post, the offers to send books, and the monetary donations. I haven’t received the books yet, so I can’t show you a picture of that, but here’s a peek at the GoFundMe page:
People are good and kind and generous. They reach out to strangers. They offer help in the ways they can. People I didn’t even know donated money. People I’ve never met are shipping off books.
Thank you! Thank you so much for being you. For being generous humans who spread good in the world. Thank you! I can’t express how touched I’ve been at your support.
For any who would still like to participate, we will be collecting books and donations over the next couple of months. For more information, please visit the original post that explains it all.
Now, one more thing. My 11-yo wanted to write in support of the cause, and I promised I would post it for him:
To you readers, I ask you this, how would you feel if you had almost no books to read? I would feel devastated, it would make me less curious, although that
might not sound bad to you, take some time to imagine what that amounts to: . .
. now that you have thought about it, I hope you realize the full gravity of
helping those children on Kiribati.Imagine
how thankful they’ll feel to have such a great gift to enjoy and share. I hope
you know to expect nothing but an unseen and unheard thank you along with the
knowledge that you helped someone besides yourself.I
sincerely hope now that you will help those children.Signed,11-yo. J.
Before I leave you, I want to give a heard and seen THANK YOU for your help.
Those of you who know me well know that my parents left on a religious mission just over a year ago about a month after they retired.
Before retirement, my Mom was an elementary school principal and my dad was a high school engineering and science teacher. So it was only fitting that in their service, they went to work in a high school on a tiny island in the Pacific called Kiribati.
While their main purpose is to train the teachers and help them pass the certification testing (Mom and Dad, correct me if I’m wrong!), they also do all kinds of other things such as helping students fill out applications for college, judging school competition events, overseeing the computer lab, and most recently evaluating the school library to determine its needs.
This last duty is what I wanted to talk about to you today.
You see, the state of that school library makes me sad. They sent pictures, and I want to share those with you. This first one is a picture of their fiction book shelves:
Oh my goodness, just so much emptiness.
And not only are the shelves empty, but many of the books they have aren’t age appropriate and are falling apart.
Now, I love the Berenstain Bears, and I love Madeline, but they are not the books I would choose to put in a high school library.
This is not something I could let go. I read their blog post early Sunday morning, and I couldn’t stop thinking about this library.
It didn’t take long to decide that my family and I would work together to collect some books and send a package. But you saw that picture. The package we could send would make nary a dent in the library’s needs.
And then I got to thinking that maybe others would like to help, too. Because you are my people. You understand how important books are. You understand their power and influence. You understand the impact a book can have on a teen. You understand how important it is to offer a wide variety of books to get our youth on that path of reading. You understand the satisfaction that comes from finding that book . . . the one that speaks to you and changes your life.
And that is why I’m asking for your help today. There are several ways you can help:
I’ve been reading the Harry Potter series to my kids, and it’s been awesome. And not just because I can get them to do their chores with the promise of reading another chapter. They’ve loved it!
But doing so has really brought back memories of my childhood. Curled up on the floor or in my bed, listening to my mom read stories to us. I even remember staying home sick from high school (HIGH SCHOOL !!!), and laying on the couch listening to her read to me. She has been a long-time lover of children’s literature, and I directly attribute my obsession with it to her.
—–> This is me way back then, so you can better imagine me sitting on my mom’s lap, listening to stories.—->
There weren’t nearly as many choices back then, but what there was, she found them. I wanted to mention a few, because not only have all of these amazing books have influenced who I am, but these authors were the pioneers that made what I’m doing even possible.
As a little kid, my mom read picture books to us. A few stand out in my memory as ones we made her and my dad read over and over and over. THE MONSTER AT THE END OF THIS BOOK by Jon Stone was the BEST.
Fear of the unknown was a real thing for me back then. (Okay, it still is.) I remember hating to go downstairs on my own, because WHO KNEW what might come out of that big pot-belled wood-burning stove down there??? And it was dark. And it smelled funny. And the carpet had this crazy brown and orange pattern that could start spinning and might HYPNOTIZE me, and what would I do then???
Point being, I got Grover. I understood! I sympathized with his fears. But I still laughed every time we turned that page, and the story got messier and messier, and the pages got rattier and rattier (both figuratively and literally because we read that book so much). I LOVED being part of the story. It was all so real. Even though of course I knew it wasn’t.
And I don’t want to ruin the ending for any of you who might not have read it (and if so, watch out for the Goodreads link above . . . they aren’t so careful), but this book made me braver. It helped me step up my courage, and you know what? I dared go downstairs on my own (okay, maybe not at night, but baby steps, people). I dared press forward into the unknown. Because lets face it. Life is full of A LOT of unknown. This book was a real part of my childhood. One that influenced me big time. So thank you, Jon Stone for writing it! Thank you, Sesame Street Creators for making such a great character!
And I realize this is all going to take more space than one blog post can handle, so I’ll just have to blog about this again. In the mean time, tell me about a book that influenced your childhood. I’d love to hear!