Books -- reading and writing.
Home, cooking, the weather.
And whatever connections I can make between these chapters of my life.

Monday, July 16, 2018


It's Monday and what am I reading?
I've been re-reading a review copy of my friend Janet McLaughlin's new book. It's available for pre-order (see link below) now and will be published in August.

I think middle-grade readers will find this novel so very appealing. 
What's inside may surprise you-- and them. I don't know of many books for kids this age about Tourette Syndrome.

This is such an important book. But it's also fun and complicated and beautifully written in Izzy's appealing and spot-on voice.  

Books written from the heart can take a long time to percolate, get written and revised many times over!- and find a home. Janet was not about to give up on this book. I'm so happy that DIFFERENT is now ready for the world.

Here's a little of what she says in her very helpful Author's Note about what inspired her to write about Tourette Syndrome-- a family member she's calling Madison:

What was going on in Madison’s head when she couldn’t walk down the street without stopping and touching the ground every few minutes? When she couldn’t leave a room unless she flicked the light switch on and off at least three times. How did she feel when she lost control and went into a screaming rage? I could only guess.
And that’s what I wanted to contribute to the world with this book. I wanted to let the world know about this neurological condition on an intimate level— what it’s like to actually live with the condition.

This is the link to the publisher's website. You can order the book, read more about it, and see this great endorsement from a long-time educator:

“As an educator for more than thirty years, it is wonderful to find a text that promotes an understanding of differences. I have had several students with Tourette Syndrome... This book lends itself to class discussions about what it means to be ‘Different.'”
Lora Netherland
M.ED Special Education Teacher

JML Author Photo 2.17.17.jpg
You can contact Janet for Author Visits, Skype sessions, or to ask her about her this excellent novel, via her website HERE. 

(I love the It's Monday! What Are You Reading? meme, and I usually am reading a ton of middle-grade books. But now I'm on vacation in a very quiet place and I've also been reading a bunch of grownup books for a change. I'm particularly loving Anne Tyler's newest novel, hot off the press, CLOCK DANCE.)

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Arkansas Connections

Thank you to the fabulous organizers and to all the teachers who came to my sessions. As promised, a few links and book titles from my workshops at the Eastern Arkansas Literacy Conference. What a great day!

Have a fabulous summer, and enjoy lots and lots of books.

Books and authors mentioned:

Katherine Marsh (Nowhere Boy)

Kirby Larson (Hattie Big Sky, Hattie Ever After)

Linda Williams Jackson (A Sky Full of Stars)

Barbara O'Connor

Ruta Suptys 

Jacqueline Woodson


Monday, June 25, 2018

Another Big Book Week

I'm excited to be presenting at a gathering of teachers on the campus of Arkansas State University this week. I'll share MAKING FRIENDS WITH BILLY WONG and the story and history behind my book. Set in Arkansas, my novel shares a bit of immigration and civil rights history that's not widely known.

Whenever I talk to teachers I like to share books-- not just mine.
So I've been doing a LOT of reading this week!

Linda Williams Jackson and I grew up in neighboring Mississippi Delta towns, and we've both incorporated memories into our middle-grade novels. They are very different memories. Set against a backdrop of the Emmett Till murder, her story takes place in the mid 1950s, and young Rose Lee is discovering a world outside her small, insulated life. I frequently share MIDNIGHT WITHOUT A MOON with young readers when I talk about growing up in Mississippi during the civil rights movement, and now I have this. The characters are the same, but this is an even more powerful story, beautifully told.

(side note: I'll be moderating a panel at the MISSISSIPPI BOOK FESTIVAL in August and Linda is one of the featured panelists. Can't wait to hear more about this story.)

Saturdays With Hitchcock
 I can't remember who told me to read SATURDAYS WITH HITCHCOCK. I've never read a book by Ellen Wittlinger, but I now look forward to reading more. This middle-grade novel kind of sneaked up on me. It seemed to be a sweet story of the love between a girl and her grandmother, and then it turned into so much more. Wittlinger masterfully handles several sensitive issues (dementia, emerging sexuality, friendship, adult siblings) in ways that are age-appropriate and caring.

My current  (can't-put-it-down but need to do a few other things!) read is an Advanced Readers Copy of a book coming in August. Two friends highly recommended NOWHERE BOY, or I might have missed it. I'll share this with the Arkansas teachers because of the connection to the author's inspiration. (Be sure to click on that link and go to Katherine Marsh's excellent website, with such good information.)
This middle-grade novel (but truly, it spans a lot of age groups) is set in Brussels and involves a young Syrian immigrant. So appropriate to our times.
Put this on your list. Don't miss it!

That's my Monday in books.

Oh! Almost forgot- I'm re-reading parts of MAKING FRIENDS WITH BILLY WONG to pick out passages to read with my new friends in Arkansas.

I know so many of you- and your kids- are finally enjoying the wonderful leisure of summer reading. What's on your list?