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Word by Word

Having a Wonderful Time, Wish You Were Here

Luncheon in Prince George
I recently had a wonderful time in Prince George, British Columbia. In spite of some travel mishaps (maybe someday I'll write a humorous account of my travel mishaps--but right now they are still NOT funny)I was treated like royalty by three elementary schools: Highglen Montessori, Heather Park, and Ecole College Heights.

I was invited to visit Prince George by Nancie Miners's Division 6 class at Highglen Montessori. They had read both books in The Tails of Frederick and Ishbu series, THE MYSTERY OF THE BURMESE BANDICOOT and THE CASE OF THE PURLOINED PROFESSOR last year, and wrote me letters. They sent me photographs of their classrooom pet rats--Tonks and Fleur--who just happened to look like the rats in my book! We started corresponding, and I was invited to visit.

It was wonderful to meet all of the children, parents,teachers, and librarians. One of the highlights of my visit was a luncheon put on by Division 6. We had tea brewed in a china teapot and served with cream and sugar, coffee cake made by the teacher, and a violin serenade. I shared stories about the real Frederick and Ishbu, and gave the kids some writing tips.

Thank you, Prince George! It was a trip I will long remember.  Read More 
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Pick a Pumpkin, Mrs. Millie!

It's here! My new book, PICK A PUMPKIN, MRS. MILLIE! is now available in bookstores. It's always a thrill to get a new book. All those hours and hours of work have finally paid off.

I was sitting in my living room when the brown UPS truck pulled up. My husband and I tried to remember if we'd ordered anything, then I realized it must be my new book. What a thrill! I even told the UPS driver--"It's my new book!" He was underwhelmed. "Uh, uh," he said. Maybe he hears it all the time?

PICK A PUMPKIN, MRS. MILLIE! is the third in the Mrs. Millie series. In this adventure, she takes her kindergarten class on a field trip to the pumpkin patch. Every year I took my kindergartners to the pumpkin patch. The book is dedicated to Farmer Don. He and he wife, Jeanne, had a very small farm in West Linn, Oregon. Their barn was over 100 years old. Every year, they hosted hundreds of school children. Farmer Don picked us up at the gate in his tractor-drawn wagon and drove us to the patch to pick out pumpkins. His pumpkin patch was not the biggest, or the fanciest, or the most hi-tech--but I'll bet it was the sincerest patch in Oregon. Although the events and characters in the book are imaginary, it is this patch that inspired me. Thanks, Jeanne and Don!  Read More 
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Summer Reading, Part II

I bought a real treasure at the second hand bookstore yesterday. I found a copy of "Miracles on Maple Hill" by Virginia Sorensen. Published in 1956, this book won the Newbery Medal in 1957.

The book I found is not in mint condition, but condition doesn't matter to me. If it's readable--and a book I love--I'll buy it. This copy is a discard from the Wichita City Library in Wichita, Kansas. I know this because there is an imprint embossed on the title page. The book has a red library binding with an illustration on the front. It's been well-used. There are inked-out marks on some of the pages, and the cover and edges of the pages are worn. At some time during its life, the book must have belonged to the Wyoming Indian Elementary School Library, because there's a stamp from them. I don't know if that school was in Kansas or Wyoming--I'll have to search on the internet. This book is probably the same edition that my school library had. The only thing that's missing is the old library card pocket.

I don't remember reading this book as a child, but I think one of my teachers read it aloud to the class. I can't recall the story, but as I started reading it yesterday, the chapter about sugaring off sounded familiar. I look forward to reading the whole book.

One of the best things about this book is the charming pen and ink illustrations by Beth and Joe Krush. When I was a child, mid-grade books were nearly always illustrated. I loved Beth and Joe Krush's work so much that I would check books out from the school library simply based on their illustrations. They illustrated the Gone-Away Lake books by Elizabeth Enright, as well as the Borrowers series by Mary Norton.

We've been having a lot of summer rain showers this June, so I think I'll turn off my computer and go curl up with "Miracles on Maple Hill".

Happy Reading!
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Summer Reading

Summer vacation is coming! It's so close I can almost taste it. In fact, some of my favorite things about summer are tastes--Lemonade. Fried chicken. Watermelon. Cherry Popsicles. Books.

Wait a minute--did I just say books? That's right,books. Of course, I don't actually eat books. I don't even nibble them. But certain books just seem to have a kind of flavor--a flavor that puts me in a lazy summery mood. I try to reread a few of them every summer.

Some of my all time favorites are:

The River at Green Knowe by L. M. Boston

Thimble Summer by Elizabeth Enright

The Swing in the Summerhouse by Jane Langton

The Penderwicks by Jeanne Birdsall

I hope you'll savor a few of your favorites this summer, too!  Read More 
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