Monthly Archives: January 2013

First review!

PHOEBE’s first review is in. “Emotive and playful”, “nuanced and humorous”–thank  you, Kirkus!

Review Date: February 1, 2013 
Pages: 32
Price ( Hardcover ): $16.99
Publication Date: March 26, 2013
ISBN ( Hardcover ): 978-0-7636-5281-4
Category: Picture Books

Phoebe overcomes new-sibling qualms and fear of a playground bully in this emotive and playful story.

“When Mama got a new baby…Phoebe got a new digger.” Comical illustrations and text play this dynamic out as the baby cries, eats and poops; Digger (a toy backhoe), controlled by Phoebe, is equal in attention-seeking behavior, knocking over trash, chasing the cat and pulling tablecloths down. An outing to the park becomes the perfect distraction, as Digger enjoys real dirt and Phoebe her imagination. Parental misinterpretation of behavior lands Phoebe in timeout—a perfect representation of Phoebe’s feelings regarding the injustice of the family’s latest change. When play resumes, a bully snatches Digger. Phoebe tries to get him back, but to no avail. When she’s on the brink of tears, Mama reassuringly steps in. With Digger back in Phoebe’s arms, and Phoebe back in Mama’s arms, the heroine once again feels safe and loved. With a new connection to her sibling made, a frozen treat shared and her world restored, all ends happily. Newman’s expressive drawings, done in a loose and economical style, serve the story well. His artwork, from the way he considers perspective to the interesting and emotionally truthful portrayals of the characters, allows readers (and parents!) to identify with this feisty yet sensitive heroine. 

Nuanced and humorous, this is a worthy addition to the new-sibling shelf. (Picture book. 3-6)



I’m working on another draft of my new middle grade novel. Yes, that one. Since Charles Darwin plays a role, you’d think I’d be fine with it taking eons to evolve, right? With all its random mutations, directional selections,  and internal combustions (wait, maybe that’s cars, not creatures).  By now I have two folders full, enough paper that, if it were bank notes instead of book notes, I’d be off to my villa in Tuscany. 

But the truth is that, the longer I’m a writer, the more patient I become.  The idea, after all, is not just to make something, but to make something that lasts.

Just today I had a school in California contact me about doing a Skype visit. I was flabbergasted to hear that the book that lead them to me was “Pet Sitters Plus Five”, a Little Apple paperback that Scholastic published in 1993 which, gulp, yes, is two decades ago. The fact that a copy of the book is still intact in a library is miracle enough, but that it still intrigues kids is an enormous gift. It’s like a very old friend, one whose face and voice you haven’t thought of in years, suddenly calling you up or appearing at your door.  Kind of shocking, then immensely gratifying. Art is long!  (And they must have made books far sturdier 20 years ago).

Writing quote of the day:   “It is an intriguing fact that in order to make readers care about a character, however bad, however depraved, it is only necessary to make him love someone or even something. A dog will do, even a hamster will do.” –Ruth Rendell (“What to Pack in Your Fiction Tool Kit,” Writer’s Digest, December 2010)

While the year is still tiny as a teaspoon

My friend, Susan Grimm, is writing a poem a day for a month.  Susan gets up much earlier than I do, which means that somedays I am  lucky enough to find, first thing, the newest poem in my mailbox (not just me–our other writing sisters, too). Today she sent  one called “Things So Small They Don’t Need a Sentence”, and here are a couple of my favorite lines:

Reading five pages, writing one. (The pens I like that don’t have 
skippy ink.) 


My earrings from the poetry auction–green danglers, half-fingernails of leafy light–found.

This poem makes me happy for many reasons, not least of all that Susan is my friend. It also reminds me of a writing exercise I love to do with kids, which is to spread out big sheets of newsprint, set out a   basket of markers, then scrawl across the top something like, “Cures for Sadness” or “Things to Do When You Cannot Fall Asleep” or “Places to Hide a Secret Message”  and let the kids have way. Afterwards, it’s fun to make a group list poem and try to think, all together, of a good last line.

Here in Cleveland, January is cold and hard, silver and slippery. Out my window I can see the snowman the girl next door made. She had the brilliant idea to spray it with colored water, so he’s a blue man, alien and inscrutable. Whenever I pass by, I give him a nod, but he has yet to acknowledge me.