Tuesday, February 26, 2013


Snow day! Or kind of anyway! All last week, the local news channels kept predicting a blizzard for the weekend. But it was kind of hard to believe. First off, I live in Colorado, right at the base of the Rocky Mountains and predictions for snow are accurate about 50% of the time. Secondly, we have had almost no snow this winter. And finally, it was 50 degrees on Saturday, the day before the alleged blizzard.

Even so, I adjusted my weekend plans, just a little. My mom's birthday was Sunday. She lives about 75 miles south of me. And there's a stretch of road that's notoriously bad between her house and mine. If we were going to have a blizzard I didn't want to be on that road. My sister and I moved our dinner to Saturday night at 6:30. And then moved it again to 5:00, so I could make it back to Denver before the storm started.

I arrived home about 10:00. And it was just starting to spit. A little.  I set the alarm to get up for early church. And wake up, at 6 on Sunday morning to a blizzard. Six inches of snow. Lots more falling. Wind. I declared a snow day and went back to bed.

Now I know some people view a snow day as an opportunity to be super productive. They make lesson plans for three weeks. Organize their taxes.  Catch up on their filing. Still others take the domestic approach to snow days. They catch on laundry. Bake cookies. Make soup or chili. Others have family days. Those people make memories. They build snowmen. Play endless games of monopoly. Have movie marathons.

I didn't do any of those things. Instead, I made coffee and read the newspaper. Then I shoveled. Then I tried to explain to my less-than-charming teen cellmate that I was not personally responsible for the blizzard, nor was I willing to call his girlfriend's parents and convince them to drive her 20 miles across town to our house for the afternoon. Then I thought about responding to eighth grade essays. And then I shoveled some more. And watched the Great Dane puppies on And thought about responding to eighth grade essays. And then I shoveled some more. And every once in a while I checked to see if we were going to have an official snow day on Monday.

About 5:00 I decided the chances of a snow day were slim to none. And that I might need to have my schoolwork done. So I made meatloaf. And did a couple of loads of laundry. And checked the website to see if we were going to have a snow day. And looked at the site for best dressed Academy Awards. And shovelled and brushed off the car.

And then I responded to the eighth grade essays.

Friday, February 22, 2013

KNIT YOUR BIT- Deborah Hopkinson

If you're a fan of historical fiction or picture book biographies, you probably know Deborah Hopkinson. Hopkinson's most recent book, TITANIC:VOICES FROM THE DISASTER has been on many award lists, including the CYBILS, Sibert and YALA Excellence in nonfiction. Last year, she released A BOY CALLED DICKENS, One of my personal favorites is KEEP ON, about Matthew Henson, the African American explorer who discovered the North Pole with Admiral Peary. Deborah is a master at finding unusual tidbits that make history interesting for kids (and adults!).

This week, Hopkinson's latest picture book, KNIT YOUR BIT,  was released. KNIT YOUR BIT is the story of Mikey, a  young boy whose father has gone off to fight in World War I. Everyone in the United States is doing their "bit" to help the war effort, and Mikey's teacher encourages her class to have a Knitting Bee to make winter clothing for the soldiers. At first, Mikey and his friends are reluctant to help because they believe knitting is an activity for girls, but eventually, their desire to help wins out, and they end up participating in a knitting bee at Central Park. Author's notes in the back of the book give more information about the knitting effort during World War I.

For a more detailed summary of the book, go to Jules Danielson's Kirkus Review here

This week, I had the privilege of interviewing Deborah.

1)     Some authors of historical fiction and/or biography seem to
concentrate on a certain part of the country/world, or a certain time
period. Your topics, on the other hand, seem to vary widely. How do you
select your topics? Or maybe a better question is how do your topics
find you?
I began with a strong interest in women’s history and have been especially drawn to the 19th century, both in England and in the U.S.  It was such a time of incredible change.  I do read widely and am always looking for ideas that illuminate the lives of ordinary people in history or are simply fascinating stories that make me ask: Why didn’t I know that? 
Writing is a way to be a lifelong learner and I love that about it.

2) According to your website, you also work full time as a
philanthropist at a college. How do you carve out time for research and
for writing? What does your research/writing life look like?
I work in philanthropy as a fundraiser, serving as vice president for advancement at Pacific Northwest College of Art.  (Philanthropists tend to be those folks lucky to have money to give away!)  My job is definitely more than full time, so I primarily work on weekends in my writing, though I do sometimes read or do research at night after work.  Sometimes I will take a Friday off from work to allow myself three days to write intensively.  And, if I am really on a deadline I have been known to check myself into a hotel for the weekend and work pretty much day and night!

3) Your most recent book, KNIT YOUR BIT, focuses on a knitting project
launched in the United States to support troops during World War I.
Are you a knitter? What kinds of things did you do to research KNIT
I love knitting, but am the first to admit that even Mikey in Knit Your Bit has one up on me – I stick to scarves!  I have wanted to write about knitting in WWI for many years, ever since I first saw a photograph of firemen knitting for the war effort. I love the graphic style of those American Red Cross posters as well.  So I researched books on knitting, photographs and historical articles.

4) How do you do to ensure that your books are historically accurate?
For my nonfiction books, such as Titanic: Voices from the Disaster, which recently was named a Sibert Honor and YALSA Excellence in Nonfiction Honor book, I had three Titanic experts read the book (and they all found different errors!).  I often ask academics or librarians from museums or archives to read my nonfiction books for a small honorarium to help ensure accuracy.

5) What has been the hardest book you have written so far? What was
especially hard about that book?
Well, to date, Titanic has the honor of being the hardest book I’ve written.  What makes it hard is that there has been so much written about it, it is sometimes hard to track down the most accurate information without repeating an error or misconception.

6) You’ve written about such a range of historical periods and events.
If you could have been physically present at one of these events, which
one would it have been? Why?
Probably not the sinking of the Titanic – I have a feeling I would have been in third class. I have to admit, if I had had the chance to meet Charles Dickens and live in Victorian England (despite the dirt), I think that would be my first choice.

7) If you could have lunch with anyone of the historical figures you
have written about, who would it be? Why?
Great question!  That one is also easy: Charles Darwin, without a doubt.  It would be wonderful to meet Lincoln, or Annie Sullivan, or John Adams, or Beatrix Potter or Dr. John Snow but I think the chance to spend an hour in the presence of Darwin’s genius wins out.

8) If you could meet with any living person, with the purpose of
conducting research for a new book, who would you want to meet? What
would you want to ask them?
Hmm.  Well, at the moment I’m enjoying the audio and TV versions of George R.R. Martin’s Game of Thrones.  Honestly, I think I would like to meet him to ask him how he plots so well!

9) What kinds of things do you like to read? Who are some of your
favorite authors?
Aside from Martin, my favorites are British authors such as Bronte and Austin. I like literary mysteries, which I listen to on my way to work – but only if they have a British narrator.  I deal with quite a lot of stress in my job, so my what I love most in my reading/listening these days is just to listen to a good story.

10) I know THE GREAT TROUBLE, about the London cholera epidemic will be
coming out in October. What are you working on now?
I have just completed a picture book on Beatrix Potter, and am now working on a nonfiction book set in World War Two.

11) Is there anything else you wish someone would ask you?
Well, my newest hobby is Pinterest, and while I don’t blog, I have been enjoying posting images on boards related to my books. You can check it out at:

A big thanks to Deborah for including me as part of her blog tour. For other stops on the KNIT YOUR BIT Blog Tour, check


We had snow in  Denver this week- one of those glorious mini-blizzards that makes you want to throw on your boots and stomp around outside. Today when I work in classrooms, I will be sharing two of my favorite oldie but goodie "snow poems."

"Red Boots On"

Way down Geneva,
All along Vine,
Deeper than the snow drift
Love's eyes shine:

Mary Lou's walking
in the winter time.

She's got

Red boots on, she's got.
red boots on
Kicking up the winter
till the winter's gone.
- Kit Wright

Read the rest of the poem and/or listen to Kit Wright read it here.
And then a favorite Pooh-ism.
"The More It Snows"

The more it snows 
The more it goes 
The more it goes on snowing 
And nobody knows 
How cold my toes 
How cold my toes are growing 
(Tiddely-Pom Tiddely-Pom Tiddely-Pom Tiddely-Pom)
- A.A. Milne
You can watch a video of this one here.  
Sherri is hosting Poetry Friday here
She shares "Miracles," a Walt Whitman poem that seems a perfect companion to "Red Boots On."

Thursday, February 21, 2013


Adele Enersen is a writer/artist/PR person.  In 2010, she had her first baby, Mila. One night, when Mila was about two weeks old, Enersen and her husband were talking about all the funny positions the baby assumed in her sleep. Enersen's husband, who is a musician, stuck his conductor's wand in Mila's hand and a series of photographs that Enersen calls dreamscapes was born. Enersen started posting the pictures on a blog, which became so popular that they were eventually turned into a book. WHEN MY BABY DREAMS OF FAIRY TALES is the second book in the series.
Once upon a time there was a baby girl named Mila.
Far,  far away in dreamland, where the lakes are blue as the sky
and the white clouds look like fluffy sheep just waiting to be counted
live Mila and her fairy tale friend…
Enersen uses household objects to create fairy tale settings -- the Princess and the Pea, Rapunzel, the Frog Prince, Thumbelina, then a little Mary Poppins and the Little Prince thrown in for good measure. The pictures are not so much a story as they are just fun to look at (they kind of remind me of William Wegman's dog photographs). Most of the babies I know love looking at babies in books, and I can see WHEN MY BABY DREAMS being a baby/toddler favorite. I've bought two copies for baby showers, and am sure I will buy several more.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Slice of Life: Friends Old and New

All week I have been singing girl scout songs.
Or actually only one girl scout song.
Make new friends, but keep the old,
one is silver and the other's gold. 

The first weekend in February
is always a silver and gold time for me. 
it's our state reading conference.
A time of rich learning,
professional renewal
but now
as i get closer to the end of my career
also a time
when friends and acquaintances
 from the last 25 years
a million previous worlds-
schools, university teaching, involvement in the state reading association-
collide and intersect…

I finish my after school program responsibiliities at 4:00.
Do a reading test for a a child who is just entering our school
Enlist the aid of three middle school hanger-arounders to unload 25 boxes from the back of my car.
Replace those boxes with two cartons of picture books
and my computer bag
then dash to the airport
to meet one of my dearest, dearest friends.
she is in town for 36 hours
after a way-too-long separation
and I am not going to miss a minute.
JoAnn is not in the car for five minutes
before I remember
how much I have missed her.
No one can celebrate an ordinary moment
A lavender scarf
an upcoming noreaster
a good story
like this
sister of my heart.
 No one can listen more deeply
ask better questions
probe more thoughtfully
than this sister of my heart.
For 24 hours
I gulp and gulp and gulp
drink greedily
at the well of our friendship.
I know that it will be a long time
maybe even years
before I see her again.

Thursday morning
I am trudging across the lobby, lugging my bulging computer bag.
A woman is walking the opposite direction.
We make eye contact, briefly, then again.
"Carol?" she says tentatively. 
We have never met, at least not face-to-face,
but right away, I know who she is.
It is Linda,
a dear friend
and most faithful commenter from the blogosphere.
Although we live in the same town
(actually within ten minutes of each other)
we have never met in person before
one time
we were even in the same room
at an author signing
at Tattered Cover
but we didn't know it
until she posted pictures of an author signing
on her slice the next week.
 Linda has read and commented on a million stories about my boys.
I have admired her
immense courage
as she has moved into a new home,
and begun adjusting to a  life
that she might not have chosen.
 This time
we recognize each other.
We stand and chat in the lobby
Once and then again later
I know there will other times
for deeper, richer conversations,
but it is so fun to
finally meet this
new old friend
face to face.

Make new friends, but keep the old,
one is silver and the other's gold. 
What a rich woman I am. 

Monday, February 11, 2013


Fancy Nancy, star of more than 30  picture books, is back. This time she's the star of a new chapter book series, Nancy Clancy. It's almost Valentine's Day. Nancy and her best friend, Bree, are learning about the heart in school. And love is definitely in the air. Nancy's guitar teacher, Andy, has just broken up with his girl friend. Bree's babysitter, Annie, doesn't currently have a boyfriend.

Nancy and Bree launch an elaborate plot involving chocolate (well, ok, actually granola bars), and flowers (slightly wilted roses from Bree's mom's birthday bouquet), and love poems to bring Andy and Annie together. I'm not going to give away the ending, but I loved that O'Connor didn't succumb to the "and they lived happily ever after" formula that would have been the easy way to go.

Perfect for kids who loved the Fancy Nancy series. Perfect for kids who are just moving into chapter books. Perfect for kids who just need to build fluency by getting lots of reading miles under their belts. And perfect this week for Valentine's Day!

Review copy provided by publisher.