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

Monday, March 19, 2018

Monday's Reading

This is the book I've been reading all week.
I want to encourage my teacher and librarian friends everywhere to rush right out and get your own copy. I can practically hear the discussions, the projects, the thoughtful poetry it will inspire!

There are so many memorable moments in the exchanges between these two poets that it's hard to single out one line, one verse, even one poem. But there was something about Charles's words in DINNER CONVERSATION, that really made me smile. Perhaps it was that wink from Grandma. 

Irene's poem, APOLOGY, tugged at my heart. 

I swallow.
I want to say
but those words are so small for something so big.

If you haven't listened to the podcast, you must!  Here's a link to Travis Jonker's excellent interview via his School Library Journal podcast. (You can also find the Teachers' Guide on this site.)

And the Kirkus review= a star!

A word on the paint, pencil and collage illustrations by Sean Qualls and Selina Alko.


Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Thank you, Martha.

I was on GOODREADS just now to post a review or two. I usually forget to review books, but I know how important it can be to an author so if I love a book, I'm giving it 5 stars and raving.

While there, true confessions, I clicked over to see if anybody had raved about my books. 

Martha, whoever you are, thank you for this lovely comment:

Told in alternating chapters between Azalea's powerful prose and Billy Wong's spare yet insightful poems makes it a gripping read. This friendship story will resonate with tweens, for its honesty and the exciting storytelling of a civil rights struggle. A must read for its relevance today.

It doesn't get much better than that.  Thank you to all the readers who take time to write about our books so thoughtfully.

Also: there's an excellent piece in the New York Times about the Mississippi Chinese community. Frieda Quon, one of my two resources for writing Billy's point of view and a friend and fellow librarian, is quoted and pictured. 

Check out the article and the wonderful photographs, HERE.

Tuesday, March 6, 2018


That got your attention, didn't it?

I'm reading SUCH a good book. A book for grownups!  I usually read a lot of middle-grade novels, a handful of Young Adult, and even a smidgen of picture books.  My adult fiction reading has suffered. I'm trying to remedy that.

This was under my Christmas tree (Okay, I bought it for myself, but still...).  

 It's a short novel. It's hard to describe. But it's so very good.
If you don't believe me, check out this great piece via NPR.

On a side, non-book note:
I used to bake sourdough bread. Three loaves a week. Fed that starter every few days! They were delicious loaves, but once there were just two of us left at home to eat it, I stopped before I turned into a loaf. I miss that bread. Especially after reading this book.

Another non-book-related note: if you do love bread, you must have my new favorite thing. My friend Patty brought it to me as a gift and I immediately ordered a few, as gifts for my best foodie friends.

This is the bee's knees. Best thing since sliced bread.
Okay, you knew I was going to say that, didn't you.

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Reading and Thinking...

A little while ago, the children's writing community joined forces to raise money for hurricane victims via a KidLit Cares auction. Over 200 authors, agents, editors, and illustrators donated great prizes. Kate Messner rallied the troops and off we went.

My Skype visit was won by Jennifer Orr, a third grade teacher in Virginia. I sent her my books and we planned our Skype. 
We had so much fun. 
Here they are!

(Also, her kids love to share via Twitter, so I got a few updates along the way! Such as Why is Uncle Raymond so Mean???

Ms. Orr also kept me posted:

"We're so enjoying Theo and Miss Sister in The Way to Stay in Destiny. We just read a part that has them rethinking their feelings about Uncle Raymond. It's beautiful to watch."

Teachers and librarians, these are the kinds of messages that warm an author's heart! 
Sometimes you toil away for a very long time with a story and wonder if anybody will ever notice a character's arc, his transformation. If a young reader will understand plot threads or "voice" or symbolism or any of those crafty things we sneak into our books.

Yes, sometimes we want them to read the story just for the fun of it. For the love of a book and its characters. And not to think too hard. But adults sharing a book can also help readers see details they may miss. They encourage them to look for connections to their own lives. They find ways to enhance the reading experience.

While Ms. Orr read THE WAY TO STAY IN DESTINY, her listeners had little notebooks "to draw or write or doodle or whatever helped them as they listened." 

 (I worried about a lot making Uncle Raymond too mean. But I think I redeemed him by the end of the book.)

Don't tell the other doodlers, but this might be my favorite.
I didn't want to make a big thing out of Theo's crush on Anabel, so I tried to be subtle.
But one of the ExplorerOrrs figured that out!

Here I am, smiling to beat the band, at the fabulous questions on Skype day.

Thanks to all who contributed to the KidLit Auction. And thanks, teachers, for all the hard work and sharing you do of our books. We so appreciate you.

Also, I love following their tweets. This is a book loving class!
For example:
Today we're reading a Martin Luther King, Jr. book by and . It felt like Ms. Orr was about to cry on one page. -AGP