Thursday, August 31, 2017

Books for the Third Grade

In honor of my friend Renée, who started her first year as a third grade teacher this week, these are all the books I think should be in a third grade classroom:

Wingdingdilly by Bill Peet

Here’s the rule with Bill Peet: Don’t pull out this book unless you have a glass of water nearby. Or any Bill Peet book. They are wordy, and if you’re reading them aloud you’re going to need a beverage. But they’re so worth it. There is magic here. A dog wishes he was a horse, until a witch turns him into the Wingdingdilly and he learns to value who he is.

She Persisted by Chelsea Clinton

Every child in every classroom in America will learn about certain American women. This book, however, includes many of the women our history books forget. Every classroom needs a book that reminds us that women have persisted, and through this persistence women have shaped our world.

Journey Trilogy by Aaron Becker

A girl draws a door on her bedroom wall. That door opens into another world where colors mean everything and art comes to life. This entire trilogy belongs in every classroom. Unlike Bill Peet, Becker’s books have no words, giving children the opportunity to tell the story themselves.

The Lorax by Dr. Seuss

Read this book with your children, and then spend time with it. Talk about what it means. Talk about who the Once-ler is as a person. This book is a heavy-handed examination of environmentalism, but it’s also a great way to introduce children to nuance and the gray area between good and evil where most people exist.

I Am a Story by Dan Yaccarino

I think I reviewed this one before, but it’s still so beautiful. What is story? What does it mean to share narratives and tell tales? Easily one of my favorite little history picture books I’ve ever read. A love letter to story-telling and perfect for children who are learning to fall in love with writing.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

False Equivalencies and Confederate Monuments

I’ve been listening to a lot of podcasts in regards to the recent events in Charlottesville, VA, Baltimore, MD, Durham, NC, and upcoming events scheduled for this weekend. Here’s a collection of a few particularly good ones.

Feel free to comment with more podcasts you appreciated on this topic.

A Monumental Problem from NPR’s 1A
This podcast episode from NPR’s 1A touches on the history of the Confederate monuments, including opinions on both side of the argument. I consider this episode essential listening.

Charlottesville Rally Violence
This episode from the same show touches on the specific events in Charlottesville, how they played out, and where we are headed.

It’s Been a Minute With Sam Sanders
This episode discusses how to talk to your kids about current events, and how white people can help. (You should already have this in your podcast queue. You do, right?)

Portland Press Herald’s Opinion Podcast. This is a local Maine newspaper’s opinion podcast, but worth a listen no matter where you live. It covers not only Charlottesville, but what this says about our political atmosphere right here in Maine as we head into our gubernatorial election.

My last thought comes directly from a Facebook post I put up last night:

I have seen the phrase “false equivalence” used about ten separate times today. I used it once myself. And I heard it on a podcast. 
Basically, what I’m saying is that all your attempts to justify the confederate flag and confederate statues by comparing them to other situations... they’re all false equivalencies.
And there’s a reason you haven’t found an argument that actually is logical and effective...

Attempts to say that this is equivalent to Vietnam War Monuments and (seriously?) Muslim Mosques is absolutely ridiculous. Stop trying to justify your bigotry with examples that are completely unrelated. 

As Jillian Johnson on 1A’s “A Monumental Problem” episode says, “These statues were not put up to venerate confederates, they were put up as monuments to white supremacy.” 

And I’m not okay with venerating white supremacy any longer in this country. 

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Hockey-Loving Princesses and Lumberjanes

Last Autumn I began a new job as a nanny to two wonderful children. With this job comes a lot of reading children's books, so I'd like to review a couple of them:

I Am A Story by Dan Yaccarino

On Mondays, my weekday off, I tend to run through the library and grab random books on my way through based strictly off of the cover art. This was one of those books, and I'm so glad I grabbed it. This beautiful book is a history of storytelling, broken down for children. It covers everything from cave paintings to kindles, and even sparked a conversation about book burning and censorship with one of the children I read it with.

Mother Bruce by Ryan T. Higgins

Bruce is a grouchy loner of a bear, who ends up adopting a flock of baby geese when they hatch before he can turn them into breakfast. This book is for children, but has enough entertaining adult jokes to keep the rest of us interestedHotel Bruce is just as fun.)
. (Also,

The Princess and the Packet of Frozen Peas by Tony Wilson

This prince doesn't want a whiny princess who complains all the time about things like peas under mattresses and dinner that's too cold. He wants a tough princess, who can handle an entire package of frozen peas under her mattress, and also it's best if she likes camping and hockey.

Lumberjanes by Noelle Stevenson, Grace Ellis, Shannon Watters, Brooke A. Allen

The children I nanny aren't old enough for this yet, but I have a couple of nieces who will likely end up with copies of this graphic novel in the near future. Lumberjanes is about summer camp, it’s about being a girl and it’s about being a little weird.

The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore by William Joyce

I think I’ve shared the short film of this book before, but if not click here. This book is a love letter to books. I read this one by myself, not just with children.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

A Book Update: Politics and Feminism and a Book about a Book

What I just read:

Nation by Terry Pratchett

I’m relatively late to the Terry Prachett world. Why? I’m not really sure. I should have been here decades ago! At this point, though, every Terry Pratchett book I’ve read has been an entertaining insightful examination of our world. This beautiful book explores the path of a tribal boy becoming a man after a tidal wave wipes out his entire community. He befriends a woman named Daphne, and as they learn to speak each other’s languages, they also learn who they are and what their role in the world is.

People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks

I picked this book up just after the election thinking it was time for me to read something light and beautiful that would distract me from the horror of the political election. About thirty pages in I realized that this book was not going to distract me at all. It’s a penetrating examination of prejudice, holocaust and otherness. I’ve always had a minor fascination with the job of a book restorer, and this book is about those people, along with book creators, book saviors, and people who have been willing to live and die for a book.

What I’m Reading Now:

Our Revolution by Bernie Sanders and First Ladies: From Martha Washington to Laura Bush by Betty Boyd Caroli

Aside from making my way through the Game of Thrones series, I’ve also been reading about politics. Many of you know that last year I was a Bernie Sanders Delegate at the Maine Democratic Convention. I learned so much about politics this year, about how our system works and how a person can make change.

One of the things I’m fascinated by is how the women married to our past presidents have made change, most notably (currently) Hillary Clinton, who did a lot to reframe what the job of the first lady is.

With these two books I’ve been exploring these thoughts further and exploring my own role as a voter and socially-conscious person in this country.

What I just added to my To Read Shelf:

The Shock Doctrine by Naomi Klein

Notes From a Feminist Killjoy by Erin Wunker

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Jeff Messick Interview & An Upcoming Event

I was recently given the opportunity to interview author Jeff Messick, but first I want to tell you about an upcoming event!

As the new Creative Director of BGP Publishing, my first big project is to host our first big event! The first BGP Publishing Facebook Book Crawl.

The event will take place on September 22nd as a tour of Facebook pages. I will start the evening off with a live reading from my book By The River on the BGP Facebook page. At the end of my reading I'll provide a link for viewers to go to the next author, who will do a reading on their own Facebook page, and then link you to the next, and so on. The length of the event will depend entirely on how many authors are interested in participating.

If you're an author interested in participating email me at to get sign up information. Stay tuned and closer to the event I'll have a full itinerary of the event.

Alright, Jeff Messick's interview. Jeff is another Pandamoon Publishing author. His work can be found at his website. Here is that conversation where we discuss books we love, writing advice, and what it's like to work with an indie publisher like Pandamoon.

Me - What are you currently reading?
Jeff - The Warlock Case Files by Juli Monroe,
Stephen King's Mercedes Man series and Revival
Me - Is Warlock Case Files fantasy?
Jeff - Paranormal modern day.
Me - I enjoy those. I also love Stephen King. He's always good. What has your writing career been like? When did you start writing?
Jeff - I started writing when I was really young, before it was writing, it was daydreaming and storytelling. Maybe four to six. I excelled in creative writing classes in high school.
Me - What's your favorite genre to work in?
Jeff - Anything besides romance. I'm a storyteller that is beholden to no genre, though I have a soft spot for paranormal and fantasy.  Read Lord of the Rings at eight.
Me - Tell me about your work. Anything you think particularly stands out in your writing?
Jeff - I try hard not to jump heads in scenes. Multiple perceptions in a scene is bad. I also pride myself on dialogue.  Both of these things i got from Lary Crews,  an instructor and novelist. I also have penchant for morals and self reliance,  plus honor and responsibility.
Me - Lary crews. What did he write?
Jeff - He wrote three mysteries in the 80's, taught in America online, now writing novels again. He was also in movies. He wrote the Veronica Slate mysteries. He also recently released an updated publication of novel secrets, which is the book ideas he used teaching novel writing online.
Me - Lovely. Tell me about Pandamoon. How has publishing with them worked out for you?
Jeff - It has been incredible. As an indie publisher, their approach is very different, starting with the percentage paid to their authors. There are incentives too. They also train their authors on branding, social media use, and marketing. It is more a family than a publishing company to me.
Me - That’s so lovely to hear. I’ve heard a lot of good things about them from Pandamoon authors I’ve interviewed.
Jeff - Zara Kramer is building something special and I'm excited to be with her company.
Me - A lot of people who are new to writing seem to find their way to my blog. any advice for them?
Jeff - Never stop writing and never give up.  Write for your audience of one. Please yourself with what you write and the rest will follow.  Learn the industry. Did I mention...WRITE. Reading is also critical.
Me - Great advice. Any cool projects you want to plug or talk about?
Jeff - Just plugging away at Priesthunter,  book two in my new fantasy series. Trying hard not to be the overly proud dad,  but it's difficult.