Wednesday, July 1, 2015


This month's read aloud is THE GARDENER by Sarah Stewart and David Small - it tells the story of Lydia Grace who is sent to live with her Uncle Jim in the city during the Depression era, and over the course of a year, we see how her love of beauty sustains her and on the 4th July, it culminates in a touching transformation of everyone around her.

One of my favorite lines in this book is when Lydia Grace is writing home and says,

 "I've tried to remember everything you taught me about beauty."

Is that not beautiful?  It makes me wonder where and how I find beauty in the world....and how I can share that beauty with others.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Young Writers' Camp

Last week I did a presentation for a Young Writers' Camp on Inspiration. We talked a lot about what inspires them - what breathes life into them - and we talked a lot about what helps us to write.

My top writing tip - no surprise - is in the words of author, Gary Paulsen,


What a great description - we discussed how wolves devour food because their very lives depend upon it and so too with books, we need to read them as if our very lives depended upon it.  

Because, in a way, our lives do depend on stories/books.

Literature is indeed linked to life like letters in a word, like words in a story.  Literature connects us to one another, to our ancestors, our descendants, and to the world around us.

What a wonderful way to start the summer for these kids with a Writers' Camp, where they discover that good writing is not just about getting better grades, or going to good colleges, but it is also about living better and happier lives:



Friday, June 12, 2015

Story Connections

A Story for Bear
This month's read aloud is A Story for Bear by Dennis Hasely, a tender tale about a bear who becomes mesmerized by the sound of a woman's voice as she reads stories of sailors, goddesses, and far-off lands. 

I love the title of this book -it reminds us how important it is to take time to find just the right story for someone at different times in their lives.  

Often parents will ask me for a story recommendation particularly suited to their own child's problems or concerns- a move, a death, a new sibling, or some squabble in the classroom. 

 Stories are great practice for life - they can give children a model for coping with loss or betrayal or anger, but they work best, if we feed them to our children BEFORE they actually have to experience the loss or the trauma.

A Story for Bear is a marvelous tribute to the joy and beauty of reading aloud, and it shows us too that stories connect us to one another - to the world around us - to our ancestors and to our descendants, and in this case, to a gentle bear deep in the woods!

"The storytellers go back and back to a clearing in the forest, where a great fire burns and the old shamans dance and sing, for our heritage of stories began in fire, magic, the spirit world.  And that is where it is held today."   

Doris Lessing, Nobel Lecture, 2007

Friday, May 29, 2015

"The End of Absence"

I just recently read this book, THE END OF ABSENCE, and like all excellent books, it left me with more questions than answers about this life and how to live it well. 

 I will not attempt to write a comprehensive review of it here, as there are many wonderful ones that have already been written  - such as this from The Washington Post.

  But the basic theme that Harris asks us to explore is that we are the last generation who will have known life before and after the digital revolution which has enabled us to be constantly connected to everyone from anywhere.  And so we have a unique opportunity to ponder what it is we have gained - and at what price.

The word ABSENCE has a somewhat negative connotation for most of us, I think, as it implies that something good is missing, that there is a lack, a hole, an emptiness.  But of course, the irony is that many "digital natives" (term Harris uses for this upcoming generation who have never known life before the internet) do see any time away from computer/phone/internet as a negative experience - they do perceive it as an absence, and yet all these devices that promise so called connectivity, often produce the exact opposite effect - they leave us DISCONNECTED to our deeper selves and to the world around us.  They prevent us from being PRESENT to others and to the miracle of life itself. 

Much of Harris's observations and insights relate to my passion for stories and promoting the art of reading aloud to our children at home and in school - reading aloud GOOD stories. The act of reading aloud gives us that time to PAUSE and PONDER, to BASK in a whiff of wonder or a bolt of beauty - and it offers our little ones an alternative to the digital world - it fosters this sense of wonder that our digital obsession is fast eroding.

Perhaps Hamlet's dilemma "TO BE OR NOT TO BE is more relevant now than ever, as more and more of us are choosing not "to be" by being swept up into this frantic frenzy of pseudo connectivity and multi-tasking - thus we suffer a certain kind of death - not of the flesh, but of the spirit.  

Quite a quandary, no?


Friday, May 8, 2015


Mother Holle

From Cinderella to Snow White, from Mother Holle to  Hansel and Gretel, stepmothers in fairytales are notoriously wicked! 
But one of my daughter’s favorite books from her childhood was a story called The Good Stepmother by Marguerita Rudolph and illustrated by Darcy May.

It is a retelling of an old Russian folktale about a motherless Princess Elena who persuades her father to let her choose the woman that he marries.  She devises a contest for all the would-be Queens to make themselves a wedding gown, but the real test is whether or not they notice the tiny bandage that Elena wraps around her finger.  Whoever displays such sensitivity and compassion, she reasons, is sure to be a good and kind mother. 

An astute little princess!  For surely goodness is what we all seek in our lives and in our stories. 

“As is a tale, so is life, not how long it is, but how good it is, is what matters.”  Seneca

This month is a time when we celebrate Mothers, but not just biological mothers - we know that MOTHER is not just a noun, it is also a verb and so anyone of us who brings to birth goodness in the world, or MOTHERS the goodness in a little one, is worthy of the title MOTHER.

Here’s to all those who MOTHER goodness in the world! 

Happy Mother’s Day!

Monday, April 20, 2015

Hoping in YOURSELF

As this month's theme is HOPE, I think it is worth re-visiting one of my own books -

because it is about a very important aspect of HOPE and that is 


The idea for this story, stemmed in part, from this image below that I came across in a greeting card some years ago (except my cat saw himself as a tiger instead of a lion). 

Image result for picture of a cat looking in a mirror and seeing a lion

 But the dollop of hope is the same - we all have an inner greatness, an inner tiger, or an inner lion, that cannot be seen with the naked eye.  Stories are in a way, mirrors, that allow children to see and believe in their own inner greatness.  For when they see story characters overcoming obstacles and taming their demons by summoning their inner courage and strength, then they have a model - a vision for how they too can overcome such hurdles in their own lives.


Monday, April 13, 2015



According to Jane Yolen, the two most important ingredients of a good children's book are - JOY and HOPE.  

This month's read aloud is Mole Music by David McPhail, one of my favorite HOPE filled stories ever.  I share it with people of all ages to mark special milestones in life, or to spread a dollop of hope when needed.

Hope is not always a feeling - just like love, but rather, often it is simply something we do until we can feel it.   Good children's stories  can provide beautiful models of hope for our little ones, letting them believe in their own goodness and grace and light - letting them see HOW to HOPE.

MOLE is the perfect embodiment of a tenacious soul who refuses to give up and simply 'keeps at it."

When we teach our children to hope, we are helping them to "keep at it" - that is keep at this business of LIFE - of living and loving with all our might - and who knows, just like MOLE, they too  may learn to "make music" that reaches into people's hearts and melts away the anger and the sadness!