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Word by Word

Behind the Scenes The Case of the Purloined Professor

If you've read the first book in The Tails of Frederick and Ishbu series, The Mystery of the Burmese Bandicoot, you know that Frederick and Ishbu are based on two real pet rats I had in my kindergarten classroom a few years ago.

Frederick was a slim gray rat, the color known to rat fanciers as "lilac". Ishbu was a hooded rat with a white body and black head. Both rats had round shiny black eyes and whiskers that vibrated with every motion. I spun tales of their imagined adventures to entertain my kindergartners. Many years later, I expanded the adventures and wrote them down.

Most of the places in the first book were researched through the internet, books, and magazines, but when it came time to write the second book, I wanted to recreate places I'd actually visited--my hometown of San Francisco, one of the world's loveliest cities; Loch Ness and Cawdor Castle in Scotland; Zermatt and the Matterhorn in Switzerland.

I don't know where the rats will travel to next, but I hope they will take me along.  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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