November 27, 2012

Guest Blogger -- Hammy the Hamster

In honor of Hammy's world-famous YouTube video hitting over 30,000 views, I invited him to create today's blog post.  Take it away, Hammy!

I'm Hammy the Hamster.  That's me on the cover of How to Survive Middle School, written by What's-Her-Name.  She's busy writing her new novel, so she asked me to write today's post.  And she's not even paying me.  Cheapskate!  And I don't even have fingers.  Just really cute paws.

Anyway, here I am in this video created by the awesome team at Page Turner Adventures.

"I'd like to thank my mom and dad and my 17 brothers and sisters and--"

"Ahem, Hammy, could you please get back to the post?"

"Sure.  Sorry."  Bossy writer lady!

Because I LOVE books about hamsters (They're DELICIOUS!), I wanted to let you know about some other hamster books I think are yummy, er, super fun to read . . .

Try Betty Birney's Humphrey books.  Check out the entire series . . .

Also, there's the I, Freddy series by Dietlof Reiche . . .

Need a dose of pun fun?  Try Bruce Hale's Chet Gecko mystery series book, The Hamster of the Baskervilles . . .

You might even like The Great Hamster Massacre by Katie Davies about, gulp, hamster homicide.  I don't!!!  Even the cover gives this hamster hives.

Rev your engines for the awesome Hot Rod Hamster by Cynthia Lord . . .

Cynthia Lord has some cute photos of her guinea pig, Cookie, on her blog

I like guinea pigs.  They're funky!

And this video (for Scholastic Book Fairs) by Page Turner Adventures proves it . . .

"Now, I'm going to recite for you my 12-page hamster ode that I created to--"

"Say good-bye, Hammy."

"Good-bye, Hammy."

November 16, 2012

Should Adults Read Children's Books?

An opinion piece from The Huffington Post made me think about this.  The author's point was that books for children shouldn't have a "Young Adult" designation. 

Actually, her post isn't what got me thinking. 

Scroll past the short post and read the comment by BlackJAC, who states that once you're old enough to vote/gamble/drink, you shouldn't even be reading young adult books.


There's a hidden (or not so hidden) implication that one's emotional growth must be stunted if one is reading children's books. 

If you're not an educator/librarian/children's book author/parent, should you be reading children's books?

Personally, I read both children's and adult literature.  When I bring our adult children to the library, they head to the adult section and I to the children's section. 

When I research a topic, I always begin in the children's non-fiction section to get a solid overview of the topic before heading to the adult non-fiction section.

Yesterday, I got an e-mail from someone who said she enjoyed Olivia Bean, Trivia Queen and flew through its pages.  The author of that e-mail is 31.  

Why limit oneself?  A great story is a great story.

I'm a richer person for having read Patricia McCormick's SoldIt gave me context for watching the documentary, Half the Sky, about abuse and oppression of females turned on its head by hope-filled, can-do people.  Jerry Spinelli's Wringer, allowed me to see inside the cruelty of the annual Higgin's Pigeon Shoot, which used to take place near my home.  And Patrick Ness's A Monster Calls allowed me to have a cathartic cry about my mom's death from cancer.

Children's literature contains a wealth of timeless/ageless themes -- surviving loss, cultivating individuality, creating compassion, responding to injustice, etc.  It would be a great loss to dismiss the entire canon of children's literature because one "should outgrow it." 

Has a children's book made an impact on your adult life?  Is it okay to read children's books at any age?  I'd love to know what you think.

November 12, 2012

Why I Write for Children . . .

When I was a kid, my parents divorced.  My mom worked full-time.  My sisters were older and mostly out of the house.  Friends were scarce. 

I spent a lot of time here . . .

The Northeast Regional Library in Philadelphia.  (The children's department was in the basement.)

I made friends with Mr. Popper and his penguins.  I enjoyed the adventures of Ben Franklin and his trusty mouse, Amos, in Ben and Me by Robert Lawson.  But it was Wanda Petronski in Eleanor Estes' The Hundred Dresses that made me feel understood.  Less alone.  Like I had a friend.  Wanda was broke.  She didn't have a lot of clothes.  Or friends.  But she was imaginative and creative.  She was like me.  I was like her.

I hope the books I write help young readers feel less alone.  More understood.  Provide a few hours or days or a lifetime of literary friendship.

That's why it's such a delight when I open my P.O. box and find (not mail for the previous owner) but a letter from a young reader or a large envelope of letters from students at a school, which is what happened last week.

Here are some gems from 7th grade students in Illinois who read How to Survive Middle School:

"I would like you to write about in your next book, maybe about a boy that is having girl problems and doesn't know how to deal with them.  I would want it to be a comedy."  (Idea noted!)

"I really enjoyed this book.  I hope you make a squeal to this."   (How sweet is this misspelling?)

"It was one of the few books I could read, and not bore me.  The only bad part was how many characters there where.  If you fixed that then this book would be perfect.  I guest that nothing is perfect."  (My future editor.)

"I did not really connect to any of the characters."  (Love the honesty.  The young reader went on to tell me all the reasons he enjoyed the book.)

This letter from Emily, had me tearing up . . . 

"I relate to David because, just like him, I got bullied.  After Tommy gave him a "birthday gift," he said "Even though I could turn on my computer and read dozens of fan messages from people all over the world, I feel more alone than ever."  To me, that was the saddest part of the book, but the most relatable because when I was bullied, it seemed like I was all alone, and no one cared or understood what was going on.  I felt like no one knew how to help.  After I read that part of the book, I realized there is someone who is feeling the same way, and someone who was hurt just as bad as I was.  I learned not to give up hope."  

Thank you for your letter, Emily.  It's why I write for children.

November 6, 2012


I was honored to be one of the authors presenting at the 40th annual F.A.M.E. (Florida Association for Media in Education) Conference this past weekend.

Imagine being in a room with over 600 media specialists.  For this book-loving nerd, it was a terrific experience!

I enjoyed reconnecting with old friends and making lots of new ones.  Finally got to meet the awesome Shannon McClintock Miller.  Her F.A.M.E. blog post is here.  Shannon gave the opening keynote:  "Be the Change You Want to See in the World."  It energized, inspired and featured a great photo of "Pig Day" -- a program she did in conjunction with the amazing Mr. Schu and his students.

Sharon Draper was presented with the Sunshine State Young Reader Award for 3-5 and 6-8 grades for her book, Out of My Mind.

Sharon is raising her hand to ask if she can use the bathroom.  Or to thank everyone.
My presentation the following days involved talking about male models and the essentials to pack when you run away from home at age five.  (Hint:  Books!)  It ended with a fun trivia contest with prizes.  Loved the energy from attendees.

Managed to snap one quick photo as attendees were coming in.

The book signings were a great opportunity to chat with uber-media specialists.  Amazing what they do for their students.  Most of the books I signed will be given as prizes for young readers in schools all over Florida.  This makes me very happy.

Blurry, but sincere. 

There were some crazy things going on . . .

The force was with me . . .

Thanks for the late night chat ANDREA BEATY and JAMES PONTI.  And the happy surprise hello -- HENRY COLE.

And HUGE THANKS to Andrea Parisi and Helen Zientek for inviting me and making sure I had a wonderful experience. 

What a FUNTASTIC weekend! 

Hope to see you all again next year.  Until then . . . see you at APRIL IS FOR AUTHORS!