26 Aug

I recently discovered Emma Chichester Clark’s Plumdog Blog. It amazes me how she captures such little slices in the life of her dog, Plum.She started the blog in 2012 and last year, some of her best blogposts were collected into Plumdog, published in 2014.


Beginning in January, the book moves chronologically through Plums year, with each page covering one day. Some are funny, some poignant, just like her blog. Plum is quite a poet and philosopher.


Every bordered page has a marvelous illustration with a small amount of text.

Her picture book, Love is My Favorite Thing,  came out the following year, though I prefer the British cover where things are spelled correctly!

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This one is definitely written with younger readers in mind, but maintains Plum’s voice. Plum loves many things, but occasionally makes some poor choices. Thank goodness for unconditional love! It looks as though a few more Plumdog picture books are coming out later this year and early next year.

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I will certainly keep an eye out for them and hope you pick up some books about this wonderful dog and her Emma.



24 Aug

Last night I had the strangest dream. As often is the case with dreams, many details are fuzzy, but I remember the big ideas. I was stung by a bee on my lip on a family trip with my parents ( I seemed to be teenaged). My lip swelled, I needed medication, but I was about to get on a bus to go somewhere without my family.

Where do these things come from?

Regardless of the origin or details, when I woke up I thought about books in which insect stings play a significant role.

First, there is A Taste of Blackberries by Doris Buchanan Smith. A short classic, it tells the story of a friendship that is interrupted when one of the boys dies from a bee sting.


An allergy to stinging insects runs through the four books of Maggie Stiefvater’s Raven Cycle series. The first book opens with a prediction of  Gansey’s death. We learn later of his allergy to wasps, which weaves itself through the four books


In Nicola Yoon’s Everything, Everything the main character, Madeline, is allergic to nearly everything and must live inside a carefully sealed environment.


Serious allergies are no joking matter. We had a boy with a severe peanut allergy last year and we needed to take precautions at every celebration. There are nut free tables in school cafeterias. I recall visiting a school several ago that had songs posted all over the halls, reminding staff and students that the school was citrus free due to a severe allergy.

This leads me to one of my favorite movies of  1976.


We certainly took it seriously as we swooned over John Travolta, but, looking at it 40 years later, it seems awfully melodramatic.

Where has all the pumpkin gone? 

23 Aug


Lucy was a little under the weather. She seemed fine, eating, drinking and playing normally, but last Thursday there was a good deal of blood in a place there shouldn’t be. Once is an accident, twice is a coincidence, and the third time is a sign of a real problem.  I got her to the vet Friday and was prescribed metronidazole for a bacterial infection in her intestinal tract.

To help calm her digestive system, I cooked chicken and rice for her and went out to get canned pumpkin to add to the mix. All dog owners know the benefits of pumpkin in their dog’s diet. It firms up what needs firming up and loosens that which is a little too firm.

I went to my neighborhood grocery store and searched the aisles for canned pumpkin. The shelf where it should have been, at the bottom of the baking aisle near the pie fillings, was empty. Dang. I thought I’d might check the baby food aisle. No luck there either. In the end I bought a sweet potato.

When I checked out the cashier asked, “Did you find everything all right?”

I usually just say yes to this question, but this time I mentioned the missing pumpkin. “You’re the second person to say that today,” was her reply.

Sunday, I was in a different neighborhood and decided to pop into the Safeway to see if they had any pumpkin. Not one can. What the heck is going on with pumpkin?

Finally, yesterday, I popped into New Seasons, a local chain similar to Whole Foods. SUCCESS! They had two brands of canned pumpkin. I bought two 20 oz.  tins, just in case this was all the pumpkin left in Portland.

Lucy seems to be making progress. She has four more days worth of medication and each day seems to be a little better than the one before. Things are looking up and I am content knowing I have pumpkin in my cupboard, in anticipation of the next digestive disaster.

What is seen and unseen

22 Aug

I picked up Julia Vanishes by Catherine Egan, based off a recommendation from The Book Smugglers.


It sat on my shelf for a while before I picked it up to read it and so, forgot what it was about.  For some reason I expected a contemporary mystery. It is nothing of the sort. It is set in an alternative Europe that feels a bit late 19th century. And it is full of magic. Once my head wrapped around this idea I found myself firmly engaged in the story.

Publisher’s Summary:Julia has the unusual ability to be . . . unseen. Not invisible, exactly. Just beyond most people’s senses.

The Tragically Hip

20 Aug


Many Canadians will tune away from the Olympics today to watch The Tragically Hip’ last concert live. I’ve already bookmarked the CBC’s live stream site on YouTube.


All of Canada mourned when the band announced in May that lead-singer Gordon Downie had been diagnosed with terminal brain cancer. They released their last album in June and the CBC decided to live cast the final concert from their hometown in Kingston, so the nation could say goodbye.

It is not surprising to me how Canada is rallying around the band, and doing it in a way that, I think could never happen un the USA. Because it is not about whether you like The Hip or not. It’s about rallying around an idea of what it is to be Canadian. When the CBC asked fans to answer the question“What does the Tragically Hip mean to you?” in 3 or 4 words, they got answers like “Canada’s heart and soul” and “Great poets of our time”.

I was never a rabid Hip fan, but I concur with the two sentiments above. They appeared just after I’d finished university and had started teaching, but I had cassettes of  “Up to Here” and “Road Apples”  that I played frequently. And they were two  of the cassettes I took with me when I went to teach in Colombia.

I called my 85-year-old mother this morning and, half-jokingly asked if she’d be watching. She said she would. So, this afternoon, I will join millions of people, in Canada and across the world to watch this

If you don’t know The Tragically Hip, you can get the check out Rolling Stone’s  article about what they consider their 10 essential songs.


Saving Montgomery Sole

18 Aug

Some words just feel good in your mouth, like my favorite word, bungalow. 

Some book titles have the same effect, rolling around in your mouth with a rhythm that captures your attention. So it was when I first heard the title, Saving Montgomery Sole. 


I knew I had to read it.

It wasn’t just the title that grabbed my attention. It was also the author: Mariko Tamaki, co-creator of the bestselling Printz Honor and Caldecott Honor Book This One Summer.

And I wasn’t disappointed.

At a time when so many people are so angry and so judgmental about others, this book provides a beautiful example of how to navigate a world that isn’t as black and white as it feels.

Publisher’s Summary: Montgomery Sole is a square peg in a small town, forced to go to a school full of jocks and girls who don’t even know what irony is. It would all be impossible if it weren’t for her best friends, Thomas and Naoki. The three are also the only members of Jefferson High’s Mystery Club, dedicated to exploring the weird and unexplained, from ESP and astrology to super powers and mysterious objects.

Then there’s the Eye of Know, the possibly powerful crystal amulet Monty bought online. Will it help her predict the future or fight back against the ignorant jerks who make fun of Thomas for being gay or Monty for having lesbian moms? Maybe the Eye is here just in time, because the newest resident of their small town is scarier than mothmen, poltergeists, or, you know, gym.

Thoughtful, funny, and painfully honest, Montgomery Sole is someone you’ll want to laugh and cry with over a big cup of frozen yogurt with extra toppings.


My Mother’s Hands

16 Aug


My mother cupped the apple gently in her hands. My sister and I sat on the vinyl kitchen chairs, our little legs dangling as our eyes, wide with anticipation, stared at my mother’s hands. Her eyes met ours and we wriggled in our seats and gripped the sides of the chair in excitement. Like a magician, my mother moved her hands, cupping the apple in one hand and covering it with the other. She looked at us again, eyebrows raised as if asking if we were ready. We legs swung like pendulums as she gripped the apple and twisted her hands.

“Voilà!” she cried as she showed us the apple, now in two parts. Our little hands reached out for our portion of the magical apple as our legs finally stilled, anticipation sated.

Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about mother’s hands. They seemed to possess superhero powers when I was a child. I have inherited her small hands, but not their superpowers. And the little power they possess seems to be failing me.

I first noticed it opening a jar of tomato sauce. My little fingers have always struggled to get a good grip, but it is getting harder and harder to open jars. More recently, the struggle has included resealable packages. Why are they so hard to reopen after squeezing that little zipper closed? I worry about what will fail me next.

My super human mother, now 85, is shrinking. She uses a walker and cuts her apples with a knife now. When I talk to her about how my 51-year-old body is failing me, she merely replies, “It doesn’t get any better, dear.”





A blog about children's & YA lit, with some basset news thrown in

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