Friday Five – The Gary Schmidt edition

1. I’m reading Gary Schmidt’s new book, OKAY FOR NOW. In three pages I was completely sucked into the story, rooting for the main character. I would have read it in one sitting except that it was nearly 1am and I knew I should get some sleep.

2. Reading Gary Schmidt’s books makes me excited about writing middle grade and motivates me to get back to work on my two. Of course the flip side to that is if I play the compare game (hey, I know I shouldn’t do it but that doesn’t make it easy to stop.) and I realize how utter brilliant he is which makes me feel utterly ordinary.

3. Reading OKAY FOR NOW, I got a sinking feeling in my stomach very early in the book. That feeling you get when you realize another author has done something kinda sorta not exactly but somewhat similar to something you were going to do in your own book. It’s not like it was a super odd-ball character or unusual happening, the sort of thing that you could peg from book to book. No one else will give it a second thought. But I will at times. Sigh. And then I will remember the teeter totter of brilliance versus ordinary. And then I will just have to knuckle down and find my own brilliance.

4. In 2010 Gary Schmidt spoke at our local SCBWI conference at Asilomar. I was memorized. His talk about working with incarcerated students reminded me of my own work in similar situations. He made me laugh. He made me cry. I wanted him to adopt me. Okay, maybe not adopt me but I wanted to be one of his students. I know he teaches in some distance education programs but I can’t afford to sign on for a long term program. But I could afford some one-on-one time. I wish he would consider taking on a private student. Namely, me. (I have a similar writer crush on Beth Kephart and the same desire to somehow be a student in one of her classes some day.)

5. The first Gary Schmidt book I ever read was The Sin Eater, maybe 10 year ago. I remember being somewhat in awe, that you could write this kind of story, with this kind of emotion and so many layers for middle grade. I felt like it handed me a get-out-of-writing-jail free card and encouraged me to write my kind of books, the not-so-funny, probably going to hurt your heart kind of books.

If you haven’t read any of Gary’s books yet, you owe it to yourself to pick one up. Thanks Gary, for lighting the path.

Friday, June 3, 2011|Categories: Books|Tags: , , |2 Comments

Goodreads question

Those of you that use Goodreads, could you please let me know HOW you use it? There’s no way I can catalog my whole library. I’m thinking of deleting the books I have in there right now (because I can’t remember how I was going to use it) and then start to use it just to keep track of books I read this year. Then maybe another shelf for booklists I’d like to track.

I’d love to hear how you use Goodreads. Thanks.

Saturday, January 1, 2011|Categories: Writing Life|Tags: , |4 Comments

Building a Poetry Shelf (room?)

It is poetry Friday, just barely, a little left in the night. I’ve been thinking of poetry today even if I didn’t get a post up.

I want to add to my poetry collection. I have many shelves (seven so far) of poetry. I was going to say more for children than adults but I don’t think that’s true. It’s probably 50/50. I’m not interested in adding any classic poets. We have a lot of those and they are not one I turn to again and again. I’m looking for contemporary poets. The trouble is that some poets are prolific and it is hard to decide which books of theirs to buy first.

So here’s your chance – tell me about your favorite books by contemporary adult poets. I have read some of Mary Oliver and Billy Collins but which books of theirs are your favorites? Who else should I seek out?

Friday, August 14, 2009|Categories: Books|Tags: , |22 Comments

Fathers and Daughters in Children's Literature

Thanks to everyone for suggestions about books and movies about fathers and daughters. For those who are interested, here’s the mostly full list. If you suddenly remember something that should be on here, please let me know. And none of these are listed in any particular order.

Middle Grade

Young Adult and up

Picture Books


Saturday, June 20, 2009|Categories: Books|Tags: , , |0 Comments

memorable mothers and fathers in children's literature

I am working on a couple of booklists, similiar to the 175 Cool Boys from Children’s Literature and 200 Cool Girls from Children’s Literature put together by uber organized Jen Robinson and could use some help building up my lists.

Here are the lists I am putting together:
Mother’s in Children’s Literature (if someone has already done this master list, please let me know.)

Fathers in Children’s Literature (yes, I have a list of fathers and daughters in kidlit but I’d like to broaden the list to all sorts of fathers in children’s literature.

And what the heck – grandparents too!

Here is the list so far:

The mother in The Runaway Bunny (Margaret Wise Brown)
Homily Clock The Borrowers (Mary Norton)
The calico cat in The Underneath (Kathi Appelt)
Marmee from Little Women (Louisa May Alcott)
Mrs. Frisby of Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH (Robert C. O’Brien)
The mother in Are You My Mother? (P. D. Eastman)
Sarah in Sarah Plain and Tall (Patricia Maclachlan)
The mother in Love You Forever (Robert N Munsch)
Mrs Walker from the Swallows & Amazons books (Arthur Ransome)
"Moms" from the Trixie Belden books (Julie Campbell and Kathryn Kenny)
Molly Weasley from the Harry Potter books (J K Rowling)
Mrs. Sowerby in The Secret Garden (Frances Hodgson Burnett)
Caroline Ingalls in The Little House on the Praire (Laura Ingalls Wilder)
Katherine Krupnik from the Anastasia series (Lois Lowry)
Mrs. Murry from A Wrinkle In Time (Madeleine L’Engle)
Mrs. Darling  from Peter Pan (J. M. Barrie)
Mrs. Milton from Spud (John Howard van de Ruit)
Mrs.  Quimby  from the Henry Huggins and Ramona series (Beverly Cleary)
Mrs. Tillerman from Homecoming (Cynthia Voigt)
The Other Mother in Coraline (Neil Gaiman)
The mother in So B. It (Sarah Weeks)
Mrs. Coulter in His Dark Materials series (Philip Pullman)
Mrs Connor from Evolution, Me and Other Freaks of Nature (Robin Brande)
Mama from the  "All-of-a-Kind-Family" series (Sidney Taylor)

Pod Clock The Borrowers (Mary Norton)
Charles Ingalls in The Little House on the Praire (Laura Ingalls Wilder)
Ted Walker from the Swallows & Amazons books (Arthur Ransome)
Peter Belden  from the Trixie Belden books (Julie Campbell and Kathryn Kenny)
Arthur Weasley from the Harry Potter books (J K Rowling).
Mr. Melendy from the Melendy books (Elizabeth Enright)
Mr. Darling  from Peter Pan (J. M. Barrie)
Mr. Murry from A Wrinkle In Time (Madeleine L’Engle)
Mr. Milton from Spud (John Howard van de Ruit)
Mr. Quimby  from the Henry Huggins and Ramona series (Beverly Cleary)
Myron Krupnik from the Anastasia series (Lois Lowry)
Fenton Hardy from the Hardy Boys series
Carson Drew from the Nancy Drew series
Atticus Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird (Harper Lee)
Elrond in Lord of the Rings (J.R.R. Tolkien)
King Theoden in Lord of the Rings (J.R.R. Tolkien)
The preacher father in Because of Winn Dixie (Kate DiCamillo)
Pa Faulstich in Just Juice (Karen Hesse)
Henry Swann in Protecting Marie (Kevin Henkes)
Jakob in Family Tree (Katherine Ayres)
Mr. Penderwick in The Penderwicks (Jeanne Birdsall)
Mortimer Folchart in Inkheart (Cornelia Funke)
Isaiah Goodspeed in The Voyage of Patience Goodspeed (Heather Vogel Frederick )
Mr. in  Mr. And Me (Kimberly Willis Holt)
Mr. Peck in Boston Jane (Jennifer L. Holm)
Bill Casson in Saffy’s Angel (Hilary McKay)
Ben Sills in Words By Heart (Ouida Sebestyen) 
The father in Hugging the Rock (Susan Taylor Brown)
Saul Naumann in Bee Season (Myla Goldberg) 
The father in Tender (Valerie Hobbs)
Whip in One of Those Hideous Books Where the Mother Dies (Sonya Sones) 

Mrs Oldknowe (sp?) from the Green Knowe books (Lucy M Boston)
Abigail Tillerman from the Tillerman books (Cynthia Voigt).

Sunday, March 8, 2009|Categories: Books|Tags: , , , |55 Comments

Looking for books

Can anyone think of any books that deal with the theme of the sins of the fathers?

Sunday, January 18, 2009|Categories: Books|Tags: |19 Comments

Animals that hold our heart from children's literature

 I love all the great booklists that bloggers have put together like Jen Robinson’s List of 200 Cool Girls from children’s literature, Journey Woman’s list of Great  Antagonists of Kids’ Lit!  and the list of 100 Cool Teachers in Children’s literature over at A Reading Year. But as I read the lists I realized that something was missing. Something that quite often walked around with legs and a tail and a personality that that dared us to forget them.

Yes, I am talking about a new list, 100 Animals (or maybe more) that hold our heart from children’s literature.
Here’s the catch – no talking animals, only realistic portrayals of dogs being dogs, cats being cats, and so on. What do you say? Who should be on the list? I’ll start it off. Once we get to a nice round number (dare I hope for 100?) I’ll compile a master list.
100 Animals (or maybe more) that hold our heart from children’s literature 
1) The dog Old Yeller from Old Yeller by Fred Gipson 
2) Another dog called Winn-Dixie from Because of Winn-Dixie by Kate DiCamillo 
3) Flag the fawn in The Yearling by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings
4) The very special dog Shiloh from the book Shiloh by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor 
5) Hunting dogs Old Dan and Little Ann from Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls

Your turn! What animal in children’s literature has a hold on your heart?

Tuesday, November 6, 2007|Categories: Books|Tags: , |75 Comments

Books that start with the end?

I’m trying to think of any books that start with a chapter or snippet or something about the END of the book at the very beginning, you know, you have an idea of how something ends but you read the book to hear the whole story? I’m drawing a blank.

Thursday, October 11, 2007|Categories: Books|Tags: |37 Comments

What should I be reading?

I know, I know. Long time no post. I could have been posting daily but do you really want to hear me whine, still, about how I am not adjusting to the move? I didn’t think so. So I’ve been quiet. Happy to answer emails but don’t feel like I should shout to the world in electronic format that will long outlive me about my frustrations with everything.

Funny thing, I read other writer’s blogs about their day to day lives and I’m fascinated but I figure I’m too boring to keep people mesmorized that way. On top of that, I started this blog to talk about my writing life and while moving and getting settled informs my writing life I’m not doing much writing. Hence, the silence.

Plus I am tired. So very very tired. All the time. But I am trying to poke my head up a bit. I have a couple of speaking events coming up for the end of the school year and then I am going to feel a bit more free. The last event is 5/21 and I’m taking the whole week off from work. Maybe then I can finally get caught up on some rest, if even for the short term.

In any event, anticipating my upcoming time off I need, want to read. I am actually feeling like I could read fiction again and focus and enjoy it but I’ve been so out of it that I have no idea what is new and is out that I should be reading. Okay, the Newbery and Printz books. I have those on the list but what else, especially middle grade fiction (NOT fantasy/sci fi).

Tell me what I should be reading, please?

Tuesday, May 8, 2007|Categories: Books|Tags: |14 Comments

2007 Notable Children's Books

I’m tooting my own horn here as I am very thrilled to have found out that Hugging the Rock was named an ALA Notable Children’s Book.   Here’s the complete list.  Congrats to all the wonderful books who made the list.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007|Categories: Susan's Books|Tags: , , , , , |100 Comments

What are your favorite books for 2006?

Mother Reader wants to know.

Hop on over to and let her know your favorites for the year in the following categories: Picture Books, Early Elementary, Elementary, Middle School, and High School.

Monday, September 11, 2006|Categories: Books|Tags: |1 Comment

February reading

What I’ve been reading this month for pleasure:

What I’ve been reading for research: (3 guess what the topic was for the NF proposal I just turned in)

Wednesday, March 1, 2006|Categories: Books|Tags: |8 Comments

January reading

A day late but here’s a list of most of what I read in January. Some of them got put back on the shelf before I remembered to write them down.

Some reading was rereading of old favorites:

New reading


Thursday, February 2, 2006|Categories: Books|Tags: |3 Comments

Books I read in July

Okay, the idea was to post this list on the first of every month but I’m running a bit behind. Here’s what I read this past month. I might have missed a few but I think this is most of them.


Sunday, August 7, 2005|Categories: Books|Tags: |8 Comments