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Review: How They Croaked for NONFICTION MONDAY

  • Posted on May 30, 2011 at 6:13 PM
HOW THEY CROAKED: The Awful Ends of the Awfully Famous
by Georgia Bragg (
Illustrated by Kevin O’Malley
March 2011 ~ Ages 10-13
$17.99-Hardcover ~ ISBN: 978-0-8027-9817-6

One of my very favorite nonfiction titles this year is Georgia Bragg’s book HOW THEY CROAKED: The Awful Ends of the Awfully Famous. If you have the stomach to get past the concept of gory dying and bizarre medical treatments, you’ll find How They Croaked to be a humorous, fascinating read.

Georgia Bragg employs a surprisingly light tone that draws the reader into considering:  the total contributions of these 19 people’s lives, the condition of living with bizarre medical treatment at their times, and the inevitability of their deaths. This beautifully illustrated title is filled with gory details of how medicine has changed in treating people over the centuries. Nineteen famous personalities were chosen who led passionate, hardworking, unforgettable lives and ended up dying in distinctly unglamorous, nasty and gory ways.

“Every kid knows how Abraham Lincoln was killed, but do they know that George Washington expired from a sore throat? Or that Beethoven died from lead poisoning and his doctors drained his stomach using something resembling a backyard garden hose?” (Publisher description)

Author Georgia Bragg was interviewed on NPR Weekend Edition by Linda Wertheimer, who called HOW THEY CROAKED “…a delightful and disgusting sliver of history.”  Listen to the full interview here.

Many bloggers receive books from publishers and publicists. Sometimes we receive paper sketches of stories, uncorrected advance proof’s, ARC’s (advanced reader copies), pdf files, links to author websites, publicist press kits, video book blurbs, and then finally the finished copy. With so many titles coming in so many formats, it’s hard to balance when we write about a title.

  • If you write about a book from an ARC, there could be substantial changes between it and the finished product.
  • If you fall in love with an ARC too early and immediately write a review, you are telling readers about titles they cannot even order yet.
  • If they’re in a district like mine that doesn’t allow backorders or ordering of titles before they are published, then the blog reader is frustrated with having to wait to order a title you review six months in advance.
  • If you wait until the title is published, you risk becoming just one more voice in the blogosphere talking about a title.

I have watched the development of this title from uncorrected proof to beautiful finished project. For this title I waited too long to get the review up, but I loved it and I didn’t want to finish it. I wanted to write about it, but with a fresh angle. I didn’t want to be just another blog on a blog tour, but to contribute something.

It’s available now for purchase and How They Croaked is on my list of must have’s for every middle school collection this fall. The dramatic artwork adds to the design of this book and draws reluctant readers in to turn the pages. Students and teachers have been fascinated with this title every time I pull it out. Boys cannot keep their hands off and I have chased them down to get the copy back just to share with you.

I compared my uncorrected proof with the finished project. At the end of every chapter biography, there is a two-page spread of trivia  sparked by deathly details of the person’s demise. Most of the differences I found between ARC and finished title involved those two-page spreads and I spent quite a bit of time pondering these.

Sometimes the changes were cosmetic with the final product being condensed and laid out in a more readable style. Most of those design changes seemed obvious (after I saw the revision). The chapter on Julius Caesar cleared up the mathematical calculations of leap years but removed a humorous author quip.

Lists were cleaned up, redesigned to fit better on pages, and updated with a world-wide focus of diversity. For example, the original list of “famous people who were imprisoned or captured” (Cleopatra, Christopher Columbus, Pocahontas, Elizabeth 1, Galileo Galilei, Marie Antoniette, and Napoleon) was expanded to include Nelson Mandela, Daniel Boone, and Richard I (the Lionheart).

The list of “famous gout sufferers” expanded to include Leonardo da Vinci, Thomas Jefferson, Karl Marx, and Theodore Roosevelt. The list of “famous last words” added five additional quotes. The “list of phobias” doubled but still omitted Pinaciphobia (katastichophobia) – the fear of lists. It shows that everyone keeps learning and how important these drafts and edits are.

I just keep learning new things every day! The spread with directions for leeching with Do’s and Don’ts is sure to appeal. The directions for Cremation 101 include cool facts. The finished copy also includes an extensive list for further reading and surfing of each of the 19 biographees. Finally, at the end of the lists was one fascinating link to:

FIND A GRAVE Go check it out and search for famous people!

With Kevin O’Malley’s illustrations complementing Georgia Bragg’s humorous, yet thoroughly detailed descriptions, How They Croaked: The Awful Ends of the Awfully Famous will be one of the most popular titles you add to your middle school collection.

I must confess I took both my uncorrected proof and the final book with me to write in a friend’s establishment with free wi-fi. While there, I had several men reading the book and talking about it. These grown men were so fascinated that they intend to go to the bookstore to buy their own copy of How They Croaked: The Awful Ends of the Awfully Famous.

Breath of Angel

  • Posted on May 15, 2011 at 10:28 PM

Breath of Angel (The Angeleon Circle #1) by Karyn Henley. WaterBrook Press,  Expected publication: June 21st 2011. ISBN13: 9780307730121. Paperback, 277 pages.

On March 3, 2011 thanks to the efforts of librarian Hope Hall, I was able to join with other librarians and meet Nashville author Karyn Henley.

Breath of Angel is Karyn Henley’s first Young Adult title. It is book one of The Angeleon Circle. She has written three titles so far. Books one and two are under contract. She is editing book two and hopes to have a contract for book three in May. June 21, 2011. Breath of Angel will be released by Waterbrook Press – a division of Random House. The e-book will be simultaneously released.

Karyn Henley began a blog last August to take people along with her through the steps “from contract to release.” She has a facebook fan page and a twitter page. In April she anticipates opening a fan-based blog focusing on settings, characters, and themes with a contest to win an ARC (advanced reader’s copy). Karyn is a long-term member of SBCW and will be at BEA (Book Explo America). She will check with her publisher on attending the ALA Annual Conference in New Orleans. (I strongly encourage this) Her website is

Karyn has published many other titles including preschool, easy reader, and curriculum titles. She is the author of the original Beginner’s Bible. While her name will help do half her marketing in the Christian market, she does not want this young adult title pigeon-holed as a Christian book.

Karyn began her novel while attending the Vermont College of Fine Arts writing program and continued working on it for three semesters there. She has stayed in contact with her 13 co-horts including two Tennessee connections – Helen Hemphill of Nashville, TN, and Wilmoth Foreman of Columbia, TN.

Karyn shared with our group information on contracts, copyrights, royalties, and how to obtain “A Poor Man’s Copyright” by writing a novel; sealing it in an envelope; mailing it to yourself via certified mail and keeping it unopened with a clear date on it. She reminded us that if we put something on the internet, it is considered published, so we should put our copyright © on it.

During her time at VT, her professor urged her to try a young adult novel. Karyn’s philosophy is “If it scares you, it’s probably the place you should go.” She told us that if we worry something is too big or we could fail, we need to go there.

Karyn began Breath of Angel with an emotion – the feeling of betrayal by a friend. The advice is given to “Know what you want to write about and that you will write best what you like to read best.” Karyn likes to read fantasy and historical fiction. Breath of Angel is loosely based upon ancient Greek and Roman culture.

She began submitting her title for publication after Vermont, but it wasn’t ready. It needed work and something really special because she states “To be published, a book needs to be unique and something special.” Her friend Helen Hemphill helped her search for that something at the (now closed) Davis Kidd bookstore. They inspected the YA Department and Helen asked Karyn if she’d like to write about … vampires? … werewolves? … angels? Ah-Ha! Angels.

Another piece of the plot for Breath of Angel came to Karyn while listening to an NPR interview with Margaret Atwood one day. Atwood was talking about her book Payback: Debt in the Shadow Side of Wealth and the word DEBT leapt to Karyn’s attention.

Karyn Henley loves editing and revising. She stated that the rough draft is much like a ball of clay. It needs to be sculpted for themes to rise and stand-out. The big themes that emerged for Breath of Angel are:

  • Betrayal and Forgiveness
  • Fear and Courage
  • Choice and Responsibility
  • Family Relationships
  • Mythology

Karyn is very supportive of writers and readers. She is willing to meet with school groups – even the informal ones like our library club lunch group. She provides a Teacher/Reader Guide and a guide for Creative Writing Exercises that can be incorporated into the curriculum of instruction. One of the strong areas of her instruction centers on the similarities and differences between myths, legends, fairy tales, and fables. Genre instruction is often needed in middle school.

I look forward to bringing Karyn to my school to work with my students on their writing.

What’s my take on Breath of Angel? I was hooked in the beginning and compelled to keep reading this fantasy. I admit that the large number of characters was confusing midway and I caught myself double-checking on some names. Of course with this being the first in a series, it is common for authors to introduce us to many characters and this doesn’t detract from the story enough to prevent you from reading it. The plot-line was well-planned. There were numerous surprises just when I’d get smug and think I’d figured out where the author was going. The romance seemed a little hasty to be, but it was “clean” so not as controversial as some paranormal titles.

While listed in Christian fiction, there is nothing in this to isolate it as such. None of my Hindu,  Islamic or Jewish students would have any problems with the elements in this story. All in all, it was a satisfying first book in a series and I’m happily anticipating books 2 and 3.

Karyn is a member of Elevensies and suggests that everyone go to to download their latest poster. Follow the directions online at to enter the contest to read these debut novels by tween and teen authors. The next deadline is August 31, 2011.

It’s simple. All you have to do is display their poster, which invites your patrons to enter their own giveaway. Then email them a photo of the poster up in your library and receive one entry for the random drawing.

You can participate in up to three drawings this year:

Spring – Random drawing took place April 30.

Summer – Random drawing takes place August 31. Poster will be available May 1.

Fall – Random drawing takes place December 30. Poster will be available Sept. 1.

When your patrons enter, they select which package they’d like to win. If YOU are a winner, however, you get ALL of the books that are available that season. They will be delivered within three weeks of each season’s drawings.

Want extra entries? Encourage your readers to mention your library when they enter. Each time they do, you’ll receive another entry!

Let No Good Deed Go Unpunished

  • Posted on May 15, 2011 at 1:56 PM

A Guest Blog by Susan Norwood:

Ms. Chen worked her tail off for three years. She donated thousands of books to the library, worked countless hours overtime, and functioned as a quasi-therapist to our students. She is acknowledged by the American Library Association, Tennessee School Library Association, and by Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools as a leader. Why then is she being moved to teach 6th grade? I expect it has much to do with her devotion to defending intellectual freedom.

My heart is heavy with the injustice. She has managed the library admirably. The simile that comes to mind is the “one-armed paper-hanger.” I have seen her manage several classes at once on days when her assistant was out. I think that Ms. Chen is a truly incredible person. Her job is her passion, not just a paycheck.

What do students think of our library and Ms. Chen? Last week, their assignment in the library was to write about what the library means to them. What, to them, is the benefit of having a library and a librarian? I do not know what role libraries will fill in the decades to come; however, I did want to know what students think of them here and now. Their comments tended to fall into these categories. The library is a place:

  • To check out books
  • To conduct research
  • Learn computer safety
  • Learn about reliable resources and propaganda
  • Use the printer
  • Read on-line
  • Relax and read

Let me share some quotes from my students. I have not put their names, but their initials, to let you know that these kids really exist. I didn’t even clean up the faulty grammar when it occurred; I will let them speak for themselves.

A place to check-out books

Ms. Chen helped me pick out the perfect books for me. T.A.

You know how to pick out really good books for teens. D.C.

If you can’t find a book, you can count on Ms. Chen to help you find the book you’re looking for.  . . regardless of what you want, you will find a great book at our Middle School. S.M.

You always recommend great books that people our age would love to read. You know a good book when you see one. L.V.

Ms. Chen lets everyone choose their own types of books and tries to order them. P. C.

You have the most entertaining books of every book you could think of. D.A.

A place to use the printer and conduct research

I have printed lots of pictures and information throughout the school years. Ms. Chen is a very good librarian. S.R.

When I needed the computers it was always available for me. T.A.

Ms. Chen lets me come in the library and print stuff out. That helps me get my project done quicker. A.M.

The library let me do my projects and research. I.R.

She lets us use the computer when we have projects. She also lets us print things out! And she puts a lot of useful and good informational books in the library. P.C.

We get to do tons of research there for projects. C.X.

A place to relax

The library helps boost your intelligence. Another [reason for coming to the library] is that reading sort of calms you down. D.B (boy)

Books help the students calm down. A.D. (boy)

It lets me have a peace of mind when I enter through the door. J.T. (boy)

Books help de-stress the students. That’s why I like libraries. S.W. (boy)

It is a quiet and peaceful place where students come read. M.N. (boy)

The library is one of the most important rooms in the school because it teaches you . . . that you can dream and that’s o.k. You grow in grammar and expression. T.B. (girl)

***Note: I didn’t realize until I was typing this that boys viewed the library as a place to de-stress. What a wonderful side-effect. Particularly as so many of our young men have difficulty managing anger. That’s why I included gender in this section.

Provides a personal relationship with a caring adult:

Thank you for being the best librarian ever. You have really helped me out a lot since 6th grade and I am really going to miss you next year. B.W.

You’re an amazing librarian. You will be very much missed by everyone. You are a super nice lady. Thank you for being such a fantastic person. L.V.

It’s like you were fit to be an amazing librarian. D.C.

You have helped me so much in the three years I’ve been here. I’ve enjoyed being in the Library Club and working for the Book Fair. B.B.

I don’t want you to have to be a 6th grade teacher. I really like Ms. Chen because she helps us look for a book. And you don’t scream at us or be mean. R.B.

Ms. Chen is cool. L.W.

Ms. Chen doesn’t deserve to leave the library. Because she is a hard worker. You have been a very helpful librarian to our school. S.F.

The library is just plain fun. R.A. (boy)

I don’t want you to leave, to be a 6th grade teacher. G.A.

You have been a good and kind person to everyone. J.B.

I really thank you for your hard work. E.C.

It has been a fun three years with you in the library. I have always enjoyed coming up here because it is always so relaxing. When you teach, I always learn so much. I think that the students here will miss you. I know I will. You are such a great librarian because you help us find really good books. I love you Ms. Chen J.E.

You have inspired many people to read all the years I’ve been here. You even inspired me. It seems that everyone loves to come to the library. I forgot to mention that the library has a good selection of books. Our library is way better than ______ Elementary. Why don’t you come to _______High School next year? I bet all of the 8th graders attending the school would enjoy that.  You have worked hard to help us. Thank you so much. H.M.

She is very kind. I will miss her. She is funny. I wonder where she’s going to go? We don’t want her to leave. Ms. Chen have a great time. Please stay with us. We will miss you. T.J.

There were a couple of negative comments, but they weren’t directed at Ms. Chen. Some felt that they were not allowed to go to the library enough. I will not copy those, because I want this post to be upbeat. I really do not understand this situation in which a dedicated teacher, who is so obviously adored by her students, is being removed from a position in which she does so much good for young people. Before I read what my students wrote, I was getting pretty put out with them. It’s the end of the year, and it’s been a long haul. Now and then I start to despair that they will ever value education. Reading what they wrote re-affirms why I teach.  There are many good kids who do care. Don’t let their sometimes rowdy behavior fool you.

Ms. Chen, I am truly upset with the situation. I am so saddened that I am unable to express my feelings without being negative. Therefore, I will close with another quote from one of my boys:  When I come to the library the teachers over there feel ecstatic. (J.T.) I couldn’t put it better if I tried. Good luck next year. I sincerely hope that you find a position worthy of your skill, dedication, and passion. It has been an honor to work with you.

Susan Norwood

Note from Diane: I am not giving up on the library or those students. I believe that I am the best person for that position so we’ll wait to see what happens. Have hope. I met the incoming fifth and sixth graders when they toured the building for the first time. Their faces of awe when they saw so many books and so many students using the library was very satisfying. They watched students working on presentations and many expressed how exciting a place it seemed to be. I want to be that new group of students’ librarian so we’ll see what happens.

Ethical Dilemmas: What would you do?

  • Posted on May 14, 2011 at 11:06 AM

Students suggest titles and topics for the librarian to purchase books. I took a photo of the small bag hanging on my desk where I collect suggestions year round. Note some of the most recent requests for Teen Pregnancy books and Sex-Ed books.

Big deal, you’re probably thinking. You teach in a suburban middle school and teens always request this information. So what?

How about being put in a situation where the principal tells you in front of the assistant principal to make sure you understand it that “no adult in the library will help students research STD’s”?

Why? Some of the website images that a classroom aide accessed at school showing STD’s were graphic and a parent complained. The aide was put on leave.

I had to explain to administration why I would allow a student to research treatment on STD’s after they told me they’d gotten it from someone else at school. The explanation was not enough. The administrator told me he was fully aware of the first amendment and what part of his order did I not understand. Also, I had to justify and provide a list of every title we had on STD’s so higher officials in the district could determine if they met the science health department’s policies on sexual education instructional guidelines.

I had to point out that the majority of the titles were purchased as part of an opening day collection in 2001 so some were dated, and they were there long before I arrived.  I admitted I was currently researching new titles to add to the collection to meet the needs of our students. I was immediately interrogated as to who would make the decision as to the final purchase selection and I confirmed that my district coordinator reviewed each list.

Then my yearly evaluation was marked as less than satisfactory for my ability to select materials. What?! Someone is trying to say that I cannot evaluate a collection and select appropriate materials? May I beg to disagree? I believe I have far more “street cred” with librarians and teachers than that.

What would you do in this situation? Also, do you have additional titles you’d add to middle school collection for the topic of sexual education, diseases, and dating? I’m still interested even though I’m being reassigned to a classroom instead of the library next year.

UPDATED: Attached is my district policy  IM 4 154 F amily Life and Sexuality Education Policy (2010-2011) (2) . As I read the policy, I cannot locate any specific information on school library materials, only materials for instruction in classrooms.

Librarians Interrogated, Under Attack

  • Posted on May 14, 2011 at 8:52 AM

You must read   The Library is Not a Fruit blog by Nora Murphy. Thanks to Julie Walker I was able to read the blog by one of the librarians under attack, who was RIF’d and has to defend her being a teacher-librarian to people who don’t understand that she is a teacher.

Not only are these tight times for finding and keeping library positions, librarians are having to justify whether they are teachers in LA. The news article (below) on the interrogation of librarians in a basement was shared widely on ALA Council listserv.

LA Times Article:  “The disgraceful interrogation of L.A. school librarians,0,3002882.column

In these times it is understandable why librarians are clinging to their jobs and not wanting to make waves. Unfortunately, I believe that the principles of Intellectual Freedom are more important and that book banning is wrong. I have been fighting this battle all year with the result that I am being sent to be a sixth grade reading, language arts, and social studies teacher next year at my building and told I will not be the librarian at that building.

You can be sure that I will have much more to say about this in the future. For now, be aware that if you are under attack, you are not alone.

Cenicienta La Novela Grafica

  • Posted on May 12, 2011 at 8:26 PM
Cenicienta La Novela Gráfica (Cinderella). Contada por Beth Bracken. Illustrada por Jeffrey Stewart Timmons. Stone Arch Books, 2010. ISBN: 9781434219008.  S & L price: $16.99

The Spanish teacher at my school is the wonderful, fabulous, talented Courtney Rayburn. She and I were enjoying this Stone Arch version of Cinderella today while her class of Spanish students were in the library checking out and using the website We don’t really have a lab available to support the needs of our Spanish class, so once every two weeks, her students are able to take advantage of BuildaBurrito and StudySpanish.

Most of these students have tested out of taking reading during their 8th grade year so they are assigned to take high school Spanish instead. (If you are wondering about this, so am I. It doesn’t make sense to me to stop teaching reading in 8th grade when they are going to have four years of Reading/English in high school, but remember, I’m not in charge of the world.)

The Spanish teacher and I work together to provide opportunities for her high achieving groups to have access to books and magazines. We want to help them continue to love to read and to learn. Frequently we review bilingual titles and those in only Spanish.

The teacher and I both love the dark illustrations of this version of the fairy tale Cinderella and agreed the illustrations were definitely appropriate for high school and middle school students learning Spanish.  While the story is familiar, there are plenty of words in Spanish that neither of us knew and had to research, too. (Google Translator is my friend.) Her students now groan when she puts comic strips up on the screen in Spanish since the vocabulary is more difficult to read. I love providing her with more material that can help connect links between English and Spanish.

Three of my favorite new phrases are:

“¡Recuerda regresar antes de la medianoche!” – Remember back before midnight
El hada madrina – The fairy godmother
La Malvada Madrastra – The Wicked Stepmother

Other titles in this series include Caperucita Roja: Red Riding Hood, Frijoles Magicos: Jack and the Beanstalk, Hansel y Gretel: Hansel and Gretel, La Bella y La Bestia: Beauty and the Beast, and Rumpelstiltskin (same in English and in Spanish).

I believe these are good acquisitions for our Spanish collection and to support the Spanish classroom collections. The words flow well and are not terribly difficult, yet are culturally more responsive with the tone from wealthy and peasant characters. Enjoy.

Susan shares her experiences at IRA

  • Posted on May 12, 2011 at 4:06 PM

Guest blog post “From the Field- Day 1 IRA Convention” by Susan Norwood

I just returned from the International Reading Association (IRA) Annual Convention in Orlando, Florida. I had two wonderful days surrounded by books and those who love them. If you have never been to an IRA Annual Convention, plan to go to one. It is a must for everyone who loves to read.

Upon registration, I was given a program that was the thickness of a telephone book. It contained everything you needed to know about the convention. If you plan to go next year in Chicago, take a look at the workshop offerings, speakers, exhibitors, etc. on the IRA website. The book has gotten too big and costly to mail, so you get your copy when you show up.

I came to attend the programs on Monday and Tuesday. There are programs on the weekend, but they cost extra. The weekday programs/workshops are anywhere from an hour to almost three hours. I liked the shorter programs. There was so much to see and do, that I didn’t want to commit to one program for too long. To tell the truth, my favorite part was the Exhibit Hall. I spent most of my time there.

The Exhibit Hall had booths representing the wares of all kinds of companies and publishers. I liked going to the publishers best, because they had the most freebies. You can pick up all sorts of goodies for your classroom, including, but not limited to: pencils and pens, notepads, post-its, bookmarks (LOTS of these!), posters, candy, etc. My favorite freebie of all is the ARC (Advanced Readers Copy). I know you librarians know all about these, but many classroom teachers do not. These are books that are about to be published and may have a few little typos. Usually they look like a paperback copy of a hardcover book that has just come out, or is about to come out. ARCS are also known as Galleys. You’d be surprised at the number of people I educated about ARCs. Lots of people don’t know that it is illegal to sell these books! Hence, publishers GIVE them away!

I felt like a kid going Trick-or-Treating. Publishers would set them out on the ground or on the display table. I had plenty of chutzpah and didn’t mind asking for them. Consequently, I have added about 100 books to my classroom library. Okay, I’m not really sure of the number, except to say that I Fed-Exed 4 boxes full of books. Today when I arrived at my house on Wednesday, I found the books that I had shipped on Monday! Wow! It’s like Christmas (insert your favorite gift-giving holiday here)! My two boxes full of books and assorted goodies are 14 x 14 x 14, and 17 x 17 x 7. Word to the wise: Unless you have driven to a major convention, Do Not attempt to take your books back. Plan to ship them. I could barely carry all my books to the Fed Ex store, let alone trying to schlepp them onto a plane. They were so heavy, I actually dragged them along the carpet. “No wheeled carts, backpacks, etc. allowed into the Exhibit Hall.” This means you.

I am still awaiting two boxes, which will probably arrive tomorrow. I spent about $200 to mail all my books. Don’t complain about the cost, just plan for it. After all, the books are free. I will let you know which publishers were generous and which were chintzy. Right now, I can certainly say that Houghton Mifflin (pronounced HO-like ho, ho, ho) was very giving. Thanks HM!

My other favorite part of the IRA Convention was meeting famous authors. I was star-struck! I will tell you more about this in my next post. I must leave you now to go unpack my boxes of (free) books.

Your Mommy Was Just Like You

  • Posted on May 8, 2011 at 8:00 AM

Grandparents love to tell their grandchildren all the good and really bad stuff about their children. Why? Maybe it’s revenge for all those nights when their child woke them up to say “Mommy, I feel sick” and then vomited all over them.

Or maybe its for these lines in the book Your Mommy Was Just Like You by Kelly Bennett and illustrated by David Walker:

Your mommy is my baby.
And no matter how big she gets,
or how old she gets,
she will always be my baby.

Bennett’s narrator is the grandmother who shares the secrets of her daughter’s childhood with her granddaughter. This is a wonderful story for grandparents to read to their grandchildren. It will help spark dialogue on a more meaningful level. And it will make a fun storytime. The illustrations are simple and big so you can easily show them to larger preK groups. I think I’d keep this in the preschool area primarily to the phrasing “I’d bandage her scrapes and give her extra lovies.”

Lovies? I think my mother gave us extra kisses on our booboo’s and owies. No matter this one phrase, this title remains a sweet celebration of families and childhood. The author has a companion title from 2010 called Your Daddy Was Just Like You which I think is a necessary purchase if you missed it last year.

Being a blogger means sometimes I receive publicity information about titles and authors. Kelly Bennett’s Your Mommy Was Just Like You is one example. The publicist shared “Q & A with Kelly Bennett” with me and I loved getting the inside picture on her writing process. Here’s a sample question:

Tell us about your writing process. When and where do you like to write, and do you spend time each day writing? Do you believe in outlining?

I don’t write everyday. But everyday I do something writing-related, whether it’s reading, dreaming stories, critiquing other writers, or taking care of writing business. I don’t outline. I find I lose energy for a story if I tell it to anyone or solve all the problems. I brainstorm stories in bed, last thing at night and first thing in the morning. When I’m ready to write, I work on the computer because my handwriting is horrible and my hand gets tired easily. Good thing I’m a fast typist.

I saw by the author information that Kelly Bennett has written a picture book about Dance Halls called Dance, Y’all, Dance and I immediately thought of my colleague Mary Gavlik who loves contra dancing (which I’ve still never seen in my life). Mary shared this info on facebook and I think it so wonderfully expresses why dancing is important to so many people and books like Dance, Y’all, Dance need to be in our collections:

I enjoy contra dancing because it’s a place where time stands still. I can dance for hours & it seems like a minute. It’s a place where I can turn off my brain and just relax. Contra dancing, like no other activity, compels me to live in the present.

On Mother’s Day, I miss my grandmother and wish I could be close enough to my mother Sue Lynne Ekren Ritts to show her how much I love her. I’d bake her breakfast (my favorite cinnamon coffee cake) and make her coffee. But she’d most likely beat me to the kitchen because I inevitably forget an silly ingredient like baking soda or salt. I’d make sure she had her beautiful corsage to wear to church and I’d give her lots of hugs. You see, I will always be my mommy’s baby, too, and I love her.

Other reviews of Your Mommy Was Just Like You can be found below:

Can BMI information be dangerous?

  • Posted on May 8, 2011 at 6:30 AM

Years ago when I took my library comprehensive oral examination, I was asked if I thought information could be dangerous. I think back to that question many times. Take a situation that is slowly occurring across the country with schools sharing body mass index information about students with the parent(s). We recognize we have a problem with childhood obesity in this country. Shouldn’t this information be helpful?

Recently author Cheryl Rainfeld posted on one of the listserv’s I monitor the highlighted information below. With her permission, I am sharing her email with you plus adding the question I asked her and answer.

Hi there,

I wanted to let you know that you (and your readers) can enter to win 1 of 2 signed copies of Scars by me, 1 of 2 signed copies of Purge by Sarah Darer Littman, and a signed copy of Hope In Patience by Beth Fehlbaum by signing a petition to help stop the dangerous practice of putting BMI and weight grades on report cards (and letting either Sarah or me know you’ve signed).

So many of us struggle with negative body images and issues with food. Girls and teens are especially susceptible; eating disorders and body image issues (including self-harm) are on the rise. Now there’s something that will make this worse–many states are now sending weight grades and BMI scores home on students’ report cards. Can you imagine the affect that will have? ( ) (If you can already imagine and want to help, please sign the petition here: )

I can. As a sexual abuse survivor, I hated my body. HATED it. I wore baggy clothes, trying to hide from anyone seeing me; I used food in binge episodes to try to suppress my pain; and I cut myself up–a lot. There were many other reasons I cut–mostly to escape the pain of the abuse, to get through another minute, to punish myself, sometimes to keep from killing myself–but hatred for my body was in the mix.

And at home, I had my abusers telling me I was a fat cow when they’d rape me. I had forced impregnations — god, how I dissociated from my body, wanted to be anywhere but in my own flesh.

If I had had BMI and weight grades on my report cards, my abusers would have used it as another form of emotional abuse. I would have used it to beat myself up more. I know I would have been cutting more, and I would probably also have gotten a lot more messed up with food than I already was. And I am sure that the bullying I experienced, especially by other girls, would have increased.

I could barely get through some of those days as a teen. I wince to think how much worse they would have been with my BMI on my report cards.

We know girls are pressured to be thin. We know eating disorders and negative body issues are on the rise.

We know that:
�    Anorexia has the highest mortality rate among all psychological disorders.
�    10% of all eating disorders cases are children under the age of 10.
�    The most common behavior that will lead to an eating disorder is dieting.
�    4 out of 10 Americans have either suffered or have known someone who has suffered from an eating disorder.
�    One-half of 4th grade girls are on a diet.
�    Among high school students, 44% of the females and 15% of the males are attempting to lose weight.
�    Anorexia is the 3rd most common chronic illness among adolescents.

That is scary enough. Putting  “weight grades” and BMI on report cards is only going to make it worse. When I read a newspaper article on this, I knew I had to do something. Together, author Sarah Darer Littman ( and I wrote and created a petition to help stop the spread of this dangerous practice. I really believe that we can make a difference if enough voices are heard.

Please, please–sign the petition , let your friends know about the petition, and help us make a change for the better.

I care about this so much that I’ll do another giveaway. Let me know that you’ve signed the petition in the comments of my post ( , and you are entered to win one of two signed copies of Scars. These are first edition, hardcover copies. Sound good? Please go sign the petition and help spread the word!

Take good care,

Author of:
*Hunted* (WestSide Books, Oct 2011) *Cassie, a telepath, must choose between saving herself or saving the entire human race.

*Scars *(WestSide Books, 2010) *Kendra must face her past and stop hurting herself–before it’s too
late….* Governor General Literary Award Finalist; #1 in ALA’s 2011 Top 10 Quick Picks for Reluctant Readers, and 2011 Rainbow List Bibliography

*Skinwalkers: Walking Both Sides* (HIP Books, May 2011) *Dragon Speaker: The Last Dragon* (HIP Books, 2009) *Engaging fantasies for reluctant readers..*

*Cheryl’s Book Blog:*

I (Diane) asked: We have a problem in our country with childhood obesity. Can you provide some alternatives to these measures or a way to address this differently so the children are helped, not harmed?

Cheryl replied: I think there are many ways to help children be healthy. One is regular gym classes, which many schools have been cutting. Extra curricular activities that involve sports, movement, dance. Healthy food in cafeterias and snack dispensers, instead of some of the fattening or sugar-laden junk that is there. Compassionate education for everyone (not just kids who may be overweight) about healthy eating, exercise, healthy living–*mindful* eating and awareness of how we can use food. I think some parents, especially, may need that education. If they’re feeding their kids junk…well, it’s going to show.

So now readers, I ask you. Are your state and your school districts sending weight scores and BMI information home on report cards? Do you believe this information will be helpful or harmful? I really want to know your opinion. Since I have struggled with my weight and body image for years, I can appreciate both viewpoints. Tell me your point of view. You can either post it here in the comments section or email me and I’ll upload the information you are willing to share. Thanks.

Susan writes about Balancing her Collection

  • Posted on May 5, 2011 at 4:11 PM

Susan writes today about her collection. We joke at school that she runs the branch school library.

What is a balanced collection? Obviously, a librarian or teacher wants to have materials for a variety of students. But, the truth is that our schools are no longer balanced. Public schools in urban areas are re-segregating. I want my classroom library to appeal to my students. Yes, I look at the demographics. My students are predominantly African American and Hispanic. White students, those of European descent, are in the minority. My classroom is a microcosm of what Diane deals with. She has to consider the whole school – I only have to consider my students.

Who are my students and what issues do they face?  Let me tell you. In this school year alone, my students in 7th and 8th grade have told me that they:

  • Have a parent, or close relative, in prison
  • Have witnessed violence
  • Have relatives (including parents) who abuse illegal drugs
  • Have parents who “disappear” for periods of time
  • Have a parent that they have never met, or not seen in a long time
  • Have parents who are high school drop-outs
  • Have anger management issues
  • Are currently having sexual relations
  • Worry about having an STD
  • Worry about pregnancy

I could go one. The question is: What books do I buy for them?

Clearly, they want books that address their lives and their issues. My kids want increasingly edgy books, and I am afraid to get them. Until this year, Go Ask Alice used to be edgy. It is no longer. What do I do, without incurring the wrath of administrators?

There is no easy answer. I feel like I am always in danger of censorship; yet, I want to provide informative, thought-provoking material for my kids. It is a risky business—I don’t want to lose my job. I have already been challenged once this year and suffered the repercussions.

My kids want “real” books. These books contain profanity, drug use, sex, and other real issues with which my kids deal. Kids quickly determine what is “real’ and what is “fake.” (Thank you, Holden Caulfield). Here is some of what’s “real”:

  • Yummy (I’d look up the author, but it’s MIA)
  • Scars
  • My Life in Prison—Stanley “Tookie” Williams
  • Anything by Ellen Hopkins

I am nervous about having some of these books in my room, because I fear censorship from administrators. Nonetheless, my concern for my students is what drives me. I am willing to take a stand, knowing that I risk censure.

I end with my favorite quote from the epitaph of Jonathan Swift: I have gone where savage indignation will lacerate my heart no more.