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

Monday, November 29, 2021

A New Resource

 Yes, it's still MONDAY and you may be asking WHAT AM I READING?

 It's been a while since I posted for #IMWAYR.

But that doesn't mean I'm not reading like crazy!

Today I'll share a new resource you teachers and librarians out there might not know about. But it's fun to play around with.  Booklists on all sorts of topics.

This is my contribution: 

Baseball books!

So, what else am I reading?

I just finished my friend Susan Hill Long's latest, THE CARE AND KEEPING OF FREDDY.



Oh what fun this brand new middle-grade novel is. But fun with heart. So much heart.

It made me smile but it also made me think. There is so much to discuss with kids in this story.

What would a young girl do in a family like Georgia's? 

How do friends help us make important life decisions when we're young?   

And for those writers among us: How do you develop a character like Georgia's mother and make her believable?

Sue is brilliant at craft and characters. I love this book.

Monday, September 20, 2021


 It's time!

The new Motto Calendars are in production. I'm proud of our family for carrying on this tradition for so many years. Hats off to our daughter who continues to work on keeping the Quaker Motto Calendar going for another year when we all thought the long-standing tradition had ended. 

If you missed getting yours last year and don't have an order form, here it is.



Want to know more about the history of the calendars?

CLICK HERE for one of my earliest posts!

If you aren't familiar with these little gems, here's a sample page, with quotes ranging from Buddha to Disney. (AND they're small enough to tuck into a holiday card.)



Monday, May 31, 2021

What I'm Reading and Recommending

I've been sadly lacking in my reading of kids' books lately. Haven't read a middle-grade novel or even a picture book in a while.

Ah, life, right?

But we have a family birthday coming up- with party!- and the Birthday Boy loves books. When I saw this one, I had to have it. 


I'm only a little bit into it but I LOVE THIS BOOK.

First of all, Pompeii. Then a strong man who literally lifted heavy objects and moved them to safety. Or at least to where they could be looted more easily. 

I'm sure all my librarian friends already know this and other cool-sounding titles by Sarah Albee. But for those of us who don't read a lot of kids' non-fiction (anymore! I read a lot of it when I was a school librarian), this would be a fun place to start. Her turns of phrase (turn of phrases?), her sense of humor, her deep digs - pun intended!-have kept me glued to the book.

Okay, glued may be too strong. I'd be glued if I could.

But I do dip into it every day and often find myself reading more than I'd planned. Plus, deadline- Birthday Boy needs the book!

I'm reading a lot of thriller/ detective/ mystery books still. My escape into the world of adults. 

 This book is getting rave reviews and I'd love to know if anyone else has read it. 


 It was a page-turner all right. Great writing, good story. BUT...

(not exactly a spoiler alert coming up, but you can avert your eyes if you're reading or about to read)

Did anybody else see the plot twist coming?  Maybe it's because I've been reading waaaay too many "thrillers" during the past year. Maybe it's the writer in me. But the breadcrumbs were there for the following and that's all I'm saying. Feel free to comment!

Even so, the excellent writing made it worth reading. I appreciate NetGalley for giving me an early read. It's just out and available for purchase.

My friend Shannon Hitchcock- who's written a few books herself!- posted a picture of a book she'd found in a vacation rental that she said was a perfect distraction, or at least a very good beach read. This is not a genre I read much of but if you're looking for short and funny and even surprising in its own way, check out this series. 


I think there about a zillion books by this author listed at my library.

Speaking of my library. Thank you, Libby App

I would not have survived the past year + without you, my friend.

Funny aside: One summer I worked as a library intern for the Mississippi Library Commission. Wow, talk about eyes opening! But one thing I learned is that these "Regency Romances" were  very, very popular. Took up a huge bookcase and they traveled in and out of the library with great speed. All the little old ladies loved them. 

Oh dear.

Have I become a little old lady?



Friday, May 21, 2021

Iowa and Other Stops Along the Road

Do you play the "map" game where you count up all the states you've visited?

Do you think about how different places might have influenced the way you talk, what you like to eat, what you think even? I've lived so many place I'd have to stop and re-count them!

Possibly the first faraway place I ever visited was in high school when our Mississippi school sponsored an Exchange Trip with a town in Iowa. There were all sorts of reasons they chose Spencer, Iowa for us to visit. Weather, demographics, etc etc. We went there in February, they came to us in the early spring.

It was a trip I haven't forgotten. According to a now-destroyed diary, we stayed at the U-Smile Motor Hotel along the way. (Must file that name away but it sounds slightly risque, doesn't it?)

First blizzard.

First kids who talked differently from everybody I knew.

First visit to a packing plant. Eeew. How have I ever eaten beef again.

It was the only time I ever set foot in Iowa. 

But the world has shrunk since those days. Now you can visit almost anywhere, in person or virtually. You can have friends who are nothing like you, yet everything like you.

You can have a refrigerator magnet, a special gift from a friend- complete with his #truefriend heart- and be transported back to high school, and a blizzard!



In case you're wondering, here's a photo. Note: not too many of us had real snow boots. 

(I'm not in this picture so I assume I was behind the camera.)

The snow got a lot deeper. We were stranded there a few extra days but nobody complained!


 What places do you remember that were so different they made your eyes open wider or your attitude change or your idea of where you could live flipflop?

Monday, May 3, 2021

Things I Love

This used to be a THING. 

I shared "Things I Love," blatantly copied from my buddy Barbara O'Connor's blog. 

I think she calls hers Things I Love Thursdays.

It was a thing I did with some regularity. 

But when you move, many things go by the wayside, including some things I love(d).

(and writing in my blog kind of took a nose-dive, too!)

But I kept this.


Because it has a story.

My husband brought three of these from a Navy deployment in Rota, Spain. They are olive jars. I filled two with flour and sugar, back in the day. I filled the third with shells we'd collected from beaches everywhere! And he turned it into a lamp.

Then we moved to Florida. All three became shell jars. One held a large conch shell, a gift from my first-born granddaughter's Great Godmother on her baptism!

When we moved again, I gave her the jar and the shell.

I brought one with me to our new home, the one filled with shells from beaches everywhere.

The stories our THINGS tell, right?


Linda Sue Park has a new book I haven't read but keep reading about. 

I bet it would make a great writing activity, for young and old.

Sunday, April 18, 2021

The Year in my Journal, and Facebook...

I know, I know. Some of you are not fans of Facebook. And I get that. 

But I love the memories I get every day. Today Facebook reminded me that on this date in 2016, my friend Eileen Harrell, artist and designer extraordinaire, re-did my blog title and graphic. 

Maybe I should pay more attention to that blog.

Even though the posts have been few and far between this Quarantine Year, I have kept a journal. Call it my Covid Journal.

It's a very special book. A gift at NCTE 2016, from our panel's moderator, the brilliant and great and all-around fun guy, Patrick Allen. 


He presented blank journals to all the #TrueFriends, Sue Long, Kirby Larson, Barbara O'Connor and me. 


                (Here we all are! In Atlanta! Having a great time talking about books.)


I loved my journal. I'm bad about saving things I love. Saving them for "someday."

Why? I asked myself as I searched my box of journals for the blank pages to remember this year with, March 2020. Someday is now!

Don't you think I chose the perfect book?

 Page ONE- My sticker from Sarah Frances Hardy. She designed a whole packet of these. She's such a fun illustrator!

        A very recent entry. Though many of my days featured HAIR as an issue...)

My best friend forever had so many fascinating fun things she learned and did during Covid. We formed a group of three, called ourselves The Quarantiners, and we texted almost daily. She sent me this, from one of her many projects.


And then, a vaccine at last.

Did anybody else keep a journal during Quarantine? Did your kids? Your students? 

I don't know if anybody but me will ever see this. It's not exactly filled with earthshaking nuggets of brilliance. But for now, almost every page is full, and I may just keep it forever.


Monday, February 1, 2021

Time to Read!


But that's way too long.

Happy February, everybody!

Mondays always remind me that there's a whole group of you out there carefully documenting your week's reading.  #IMWAYR days are fun!

And what I've been reading is fun, too. 

Although I'd read the Advance Reader Copy (ARC) and I'd heard earlier versions as Barbara worked on this one, in honor of its true launch date, I reread Barbara O'Connor's latest middle-grade novel, HALFWAY TO HARMONY

Oh, those characters!

And her writing. Such a perfect ear. Such an economy of words. Every little detail belongs exactly where she's put it.

I dare you to open the first chapter, meet Walter, then his new neighbor Posey, and not be hooked.


When I watched the launch party interview with Amy Cherrix from Malaprops in Asheville, I remembered so many great writing tips! 

I've heard Barbara say it before but the next time I sat at my desk, I tried hard to put one into practice:


Many years and many critique groups ago, my friend Leslie Guccione created a little note, beautifully drawn and decorated, for my bulletin board. 


Way back when, Barbara's blog did a series of Writing Tip Tuesdays. If you're a new writer, or heck, even if you've written forever, they're great reminders. 

Here's one:

And another:

 (On the subject of repetition, Barbara reports, Sol Stein says, "One plus one equals a half."
If you think the reader won't "get" something unless you repeat it, then maybe you haven't written it right the first time.)

So I've always known this important bit of writing advice. Barbara's the champ at doing it and at explaining it. Read her novels and you'll see!

The other middle-grade novel, JUST LIKE THAT, skews to the upper end of MG and had me slowing down, re-reading, putting sticky notes on pages, and marveling at Gary Schmidt's skill in storytelling. I always pick up BookPage at my local library and I almost always agree with their reviews.

Forewarned, somebody dies at the very beginning. Somebody, if you know and love Schmidt's books like I do, you'll grieve right along with his friend. But the book is such great storytelling, such amazing writing, so gripping in many places, that grieving didn't detract from my loving this book.

If I'm honest and attempting to read like a kid, or even like a school librarian, my prior self, I did have a couple of issues. One, I wondered if it would have been a better book if there weren't two narrators whose stories, though often intersecting, were very different. But I think stronger readers will just go with that flow.

And some very minor plot points- like would a middle-grader, even back in the 60s and even at boarding school, be allowed to come back to school before it begins? And, yes,   she's staying with the headmistress (though she kind of bailed on the two kids in her care.)

<side note for copyeditors: >



Other good grownups books I've loved since last posting for #IMWYR :

1. Hamnet (five stars! *****)

2. Another (I've read several during this too-long pandemic)  Laura Lippman novel- my warm-glass-of-milk at bedtime books

3. The Keeper of Lost Dreams, which I mostly enjoyed though I'm not a fan of ghosts/ spirits, even when they take a minor role.




Sunday, December 27, 2020

Sweeping out The Old Year(s)


    What else does one do on a cold-for-Florida Sunday afternoon but clear out files, right? 
    Most of our neighbors with kids have boxes and boxes piled in their recycling bins. I have pages and pages.

    I sent a lot of the more interesting ephemera from my books to the University of Southern Mississippi's deGrummond Children's Literature Collection. But I kept a few "gems." 
Like a whole file of rejection letters for GLORY BE. The original title was Junk Poker. No wonder it was rejected. 
Actually, it was rejected also because 
1. The time wasn't right. 
2. Historical fiction wasn't selling. 
3. Nobody wanted to read about the 60s. 
4. That editor who requested your manuscript has left the publisher. etc etc etc. 
    I also found many, many chapters with comments from various writer friends/ critique partners/ cold readers. It was like a walk down memory lane as well as a reminder that this journey didn't happen overnight. Or even over-a-year. 
But I loved that story a lot so I refused to give up. That, I suspect, was the trick. That's how you have to feel about what you've written. You have to feel in your heart that it's a book kids need to read. A book teachers will want to share. A book families can read together. And a book that, with a new title like GLORY BE, will end up in school libraries and classrooms. You'll get letters from kids telling you they love it, telling you what you messed up, telling you you need to write more stories about Glory, her sister, her sister's boyfriend, and Emma. Even if you can't do that, the letters make you feel like a million dollars.
    So for all you writers out there. Turn the calendar page to a new and glorious year and write like kids are waiting.  You never know what 2021 will bring. 
On one of my favorite, ever, Author Visit days, a boy gave me his very realistic drawing of the fabulous cover art. He told me he'd originally left out the "L" in Glory. But not to worry, he said, and he laughed, "It's fixed now."  It makes me smile every time I remember that day. Titles are pretty important. Not sure Gory Be would have caught an agent's eye any better than Junk Poker.



Monday, December 7, 2020



It's been a very long time since I posted any IT'S MONDAY! WHAT ARE YOU READING? reviews. 

 But that doesn't mean I haven't been reading.

Hats way off to my teacher and librarian friends who've managed to read, review, and blog about so many books.

Two middle-grade novels stand out in my reading month. The first is a novel told in two voices by my friend Shannon Hitchcock and her co-writer, N.H. Senzai, FLYING OVER WATER. I bought this one at their launch party, complete with a signed bookplate. (I think you can get the same by checking with our fabulous local independent bookstore, TOMBOLO BOOKS in St. Petersburg, FL.) I bought it for a young reader who's a competitive swimmer and I've already mailed it off so I can't quote from it, but it was a very fast-moving story, with excellent depictions of real kids. The Florida middle-grader in the book (Shannon's voice) is a swimmer whose family supports a newly-arrived Muslim family, refugees from Aleppo. The telling feels real, it's fast-moving, and the background of the 2017 immigration restrictions takes the story even deeper. 

The second fascinating, couldn't-wait-to-read Middle Grade novel finished this week is by a favorite author, Shelley Pearsall. I've read a couple of her other books and heard this one recommended by lots of bloggers and readers. THINGS SEEN FROM ABOVE lived up to the hype! 

Such an unusual and interesting topic. Lots of Food for Thought and character growth and the kids mostly turn out to be just fine. There are two voices in this one also, but Pearsall writes them both. The two characters interact, mostly on the playground, as April fulfills her duties as Buddy Bench volunteer. JoeyByrd (his preferred way of signing his name) is a fascinating kid with much to teach his classmates. I particularly loved the school maintenance guy, Mr. Ulysses. And April's new friend, Veena, from the Buddy Bench, who started out as a shy newcomer and found her way and a friendship. Shelley Pearsall has the perfect touch with her secondary characters. My copy gets returned to our library today where I hope it will be snatched up by a young reader.

I was assigned a Winter Round-Up of picture books by the Christian Science Monitor so I got to read a few picture books these past few months, something I don't do often enough. My reviews are HERE

One wasn't exactly a picture book but I fudged my assignment and sneaked in a book I loved, suitable for younger kids. :)Hey, it had wonderful illustrations and I was absolutely delighted by the words, too. Have you read Amy Timberlake's SKUNK AND BADGER? Yes, that Amy Timberlake, the one who's written mostly for older kids. 


 Also included in that round-up was SWASHBY AND THE SEA. Yes, it has a summer feeling (if you don't live in Florida, like I do, you might not think of beach books in December).  But the twist near the end made me smile and the book has so much going on in so few pages that I think young kids will love hearing this one read aloud.



Enjoy December, everybody! 

Buy lots of books for everyone you love. Happy reading!

Tuesday, November 24, 2020


 Good news!

There will be a 2021 Quaker Motto Calendar.

For this year, we're asking if you'll send your email address to

to receive an order form and an address to send your checks.

You can also leave a comment with your email address on this blogpost and I'll send the mailing address for payment and orders. 

Because of the scramble to get the calendars ready ASAP, the checks will go to Katharine Scattergood Marino this year. As soon as she receives your payment and order, the printer will get them to you.

Here is some information you may want to know:


Hearing how much everyone loves these little gems really made us try very hard to keep them going.

For those of you not familiar with the calendars, here's a page from yesteryear!





Tuesday, November 10, 2020

Learn from the Best

 Writing Tip Tuesday(s)

Yesterday was my buddy and NYT-bestselling-author, Barbara O'Connor's birthday.

For a completely non-birthday reason, I happened upon this quote on her blog:

The core of the writer's challenge is to tell a fresh story. As William M. Thackeray (Victorian novelist, author of Vanity Fair), summed it up: "The two most engaging powers of a good author are to make new things familiar and familiar things new."

(via Philip Martin, the editor of The New Writer's Handbook)

I love how she puts on her teacher face and shares such good advice.

Like- go all zen into your character's head and BE the character.

(Note:Even though she's older today than she was yesterday, this is not even close to how Barbara looks or how she teaches. But it is an image I borrowed from her blog because it made me smile. There's lots there that will make you smile, too.)

If you click over to Barbara's blog, you'll find a whole bunch of her Writing Tips. 

For a long time, she actually called them Writing Tip Tuesdays and every single Tuesday, I learned a whole lot.

So, happy birthday, Barbara, and thank you for passing along your amazing, funny, helpful writing advice.

Oh, and if for some reason, you and your kids, ages 9-12-ish, haven't read Barbara's fabulous middle-grade novels yet, you are in for a treat. A HUGE treat.

It's hard to pick just a favorite, but this is one I've read more than once.


BTW, I loved the original cover, but this new one, wow!


Saturday, August 15, 2020

It's Been Too Long



 We have a calendar for 2021. 

 Check out my latest blog on the topic for ordering info!


It's been way too long since I blogged. Almost the entire pandemic, it seems. 

There's nothing left to say about Quarantine/ masks/ social distancing/ homeschool so I won't even try.

But I did want to say that, sadly, there are no more QUAKER MOTTO CALENDARS.

The Scattergood family has produced these lovely gems for generations. But for various unanticipated reasons, 2020 is their last year. 

I'll try to share a few quotes here, as that was my favorite part of these perfectly-sized calendars.

Here's one the family loves. Perfect for late summer and early fall.

Enjoy your trees, wherever you are!

"Time is never wasted listening to the trees;

If to Heaven as grandly we arose as these.

Holding to each other half the kindly Grace,

Haply we were worthier of our human place."

Thursday, April 16, 2020

Poem of the Day

This morning I woke up determined to get more accomplished than a jigsaw puzzle (no judging! It's keeping us sane.) or baking cookies (ditto).

Outside my window the rain is drizzly and grey, but after weeks of temps in the 80s and high humidity, I welcome the rain. 

A perfect day to dust, right? 
So I'm dusting and tidying up my bookshelves.
And I ran across this gem. A skinny book, it was hiding between my thick Flip Dictionary and a very old guide to using Scrivener. 

I rescued GETTING THE MAIL by Cathy Cultice Lentes to read again.

And I found the perfect poem for today.

The first line made me put away my dust cloth: "I will never have clean windows."

The last lines made me roll up my sleeves:
"I dry my hands, reroll my sleeves, for the real work to be done."

And Cathy isn't talking about washing windows. 
She has the heart of a poet. 
Here's the book:

 (note my dust cloth, at rest)

GETTING THE MAIL, published by Finishing Line Press. You may order from your favorite independent bookstore.

Take time to enjoy a poem today.  After all, it's April and that's Poetry Month, you know.


Monday, March 30, 2020


Today's Monday, though sometimes it's hard to keep up. 
But this is not really a #IMWAYR post. It's more of a It's Monday and I want to Remember What to Read. 

I've seen the word HUNKER used more in the past two weeks than I have in the past two years. (Though, honestly, it never left my vocabulary, but maybe that's a Southern thing.)

So I'm hunkering down and escaping into books.
This is a post to list books everybody's recommending.
Just a list. I'll never read them all!
Possibly I'll be the only person reading the post. It will be messy. I don't really remember where most of these suggestions came from (from whom they came...), but if I do, there's a little note/ name by the book title that will mean nothing to anybody but me. 

I'll keep adding and maybe comment as I read. 

I'm not attempting to pretty it up. Or verify the titles, unless I can't help myself. (All that librarian training and experience may kick in, who knows.)

Some are books to reserve though I've maxed out my Libby reserves. (Thank you public library people for an App for e-books and saving readers during hunkering down times.) 

I'll add links that have really touched me, made me laugh, made me want to read that book! Like these!

Now, here goes my own PANDEMIC BOOKLIST (ouch, that was hard to type, sounds much too light-hearted, but I guess we have to maintain our senses of humor while hunkering).

The first few books on my list were from a social media post by Tracy Winfield Holczer asking for something easy and fun to read. I find my British mysteries do the trick. I couldn't resist jumping in with TANA FRENCH. I'd also recommend Ann Cleeves. And the Jackson Brodie books by Kate Atkinson. But since I've read almost all of the novels by those women, they aren't on my #TBR/ reserved list. And some might not think they're exactly "fun" or light! My definition of fun and light (granted, this is a stretch) is anything that keeps me turning pages and doesn't creep me out so that I can't sleep.

So, everybody, what are you reading right now?

BOOKS for my Corona quarantine

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely fine 
Goodnight, June
Princess Bride
Rachel's Holiday

Evvie Drake Starts Over

Nothing to See Here

Corduroy Mansions

Sookie Stackhouse novels

Goodnight June

Bridge of Clay

Winter Solstice

Walter Moseley. The truth of fiction

Never have I ever. Joslyn Jackson

Joanna Trollope  

if the creek don’t rise.
Peter Swanson

Len Deighton

Blum. What I learned??  (Ron)

Eliz Stroudt. Short stories. Anything is possible

Others by OVE.   (Lyn) 

The good thief
Engineer of beasts
Owl in love

Flight behavior. Audible

News of the world(Monika)
Gesture life.

Gift of rain. (Suzanne)

In the garden of beasts. Larson. Before WW2

Gary Paulson. Winter dance

Miss Jane

Recommended books

James Sallis. Drive

We love you Charlie Freeman

Almost Famous Women. Short stories

Thunderstruck. Elizabeth McCracken

Cool beautiful world

The Wangs vs the world.

Friday, March 20, 2020

Read My Book, please! Read Aloud Permission and Links

For teachers navigating the new normal, here's the link Scholastic has shared with information about reading our books to your students.

I read Chapter One of GLORY BE here:

If you'd like:
Here I am, reading a chapter from THE WAY TO STAY IN DESTINY.

There are many resources on my blog and my website. I'll continue to post here if new ones turn up.

Monday, March 16, 2020

Monday Again!

This has been my week for reading, and hiding from the world. 

The world has slowed down here in Florida. Yes, we still have our share of spring-breakers, mostly families, but the roads don't seem as crowded, the shops are empty, and spring training has shut down. 
It's a tough time for so many.
My heart goes out to all you teachers and librarians with plans for your kids that are on hold.

SO, with all the craziness in the world, let's read some good books!

First up- a perfect Middle-Grade novel. Such kid-appeal. The clever math connections, the friendships, the strong writing and plot- all make it an easy, fun, and interesting read. 
Perfect sweet spot for MG, ages 9-12. 

Here's a link to Stacy McAnulty's website with reviews, activities, a sample chapter. Good stuff! 

Another terrific middle-grade with a hint- okay more than a hint!- of a ghost story is JUST SOUTH OF HOME. This is Karen Strong's debut, and I'll be on the lookout for her next book. 
Again, this is a story with a lot of kid-friendliness. (Is that a thing?)
Family dynamics in a small southern town, some serious civil rights history woven in, kids who aren't perfect but figure things out pretty well. I loved that the narrator has a strong sense of right and wrong. 
Don't miss this one.

I'm not quite finished with Leslie Connor's newest novel, A HOME FOR GODDESSES AND DOGS, but I'll add it to today's collection. The publisher's suggested age level is 10 and Up, and I agree. Mostly because (at least so far) though there's nothing too advanced about the topic, the language feels older. Lydia, the narrator, is 13 and has recently lost her mother, but she lovingly grieves in the care of her aunt and her aunt's wife. I love the animals, Lydia's lovely memories, the winter setting. 
It's quite different from Leslie's previous two books (All Rise for the Honorable Perry T. Cook is as good as- or better than!- any middle-grade novel I've ever read). Her newest novel may appeal to different kids, those special readers willing to invest in a quiet-ish story with heart. 

I'm not sure what made me reread SARAH PLAIN AND TALL. I hadn't read it since I worked as a librarian and that was too many years ago to count!
What a perfect book. 
If it's been a while since you read this Newbery winner, do yourself a favor and find your copy. It will make your day. A perfectly lovely, small gift of a book that takes us away from the world swirling around us.

I'm not much of a Young Adult reader, but that may change now that I've read this one by STACIE RAMEY. 
So good!  The main character is a bright girl with cerebral palsy, a crush on a boy, a mostly/usually amazing family, and a best friend. IT'S MY LIFE will have teens turning pages and then searching for Stacie's other books.


Last but not least, may I recommend a fun book about words, and writing, and grammar and all the things you never have time to think about?

This one's been on my shelf since Christmas, when my brother gifted it to me. So happy I had time to organize bookshelves!

Our lovely little public library just announced it's closed "for the foreseeable future" so I'll be using their Libby app even more and tidying up my own bookshelves.

Sending love and great reading vibes to all my #IMWAYR pals!