I write about events that happen to me and around the world from a writer's point of view. Nothing in my life ever goes smoothly. My focus is on young adult and children's authors, but occasionally I will bring you an adult author. It is my pleasure to introduce new books and authors to my readers. Writing is my life! By Barbara Ehrentreu
Photo Album of Tragic Fire Killing a Husband and Wife
in North White Plains, NY- My next door neighbors
Fire engulfs the apartment next to us Our house was a crime scene with sniffing dogs -see the tape Firemen on our roof Firemen swarm around the house My door is the first one on the left. See the flames on the first floor Mine is the red door. See how close the fire was!
It is now 2010 and already I feel a new freedom in the air. The new year has such great symmetry. I have high hopes for it. After all it can't suck as much as 2009 did.
This last two weeks of 2009 were enough to say I'm fed up with the year and wanted it to end. My daughter had a car accident two weeks ago. A tow truck just touched the back end of her car while she was stopped and left a huge dent and destroyed the entire trunk, fender and bumper. The lights were hanging off the car. The insurance company totaled the car. Then on Thursday of last week we lost our water completely for an entire day so the landlord could have a new water heater installed for our neighbors. On Monday of this week we lost our heat and had to be without heat with temperatures in the teens. When our heat was finally restored due to the need for a new part, we felt that all would be well.
Oh, were we wrong!!!! The curse of 2009 struck again when Wednesday night I was at my computer thinking of a topic for my column as the NY Literature Examiner when I heard this little ding ding coming from my neighbors" apartment. Then I heard the sound of people running down the stairs as if their lives depended on it. So I went over to the staircase to hear it better and smelled smoke and heard a blood curdling scream that sounded like a woman screaming. I opened my front door and saw thick smoke pouring out of my neighbor's apartment, which is right next to ours. Then I saw flames beginning, grabbed my phone and called 911. The flames got higher and I frantically called upstairs to my family screaming, "Get up, get up!! FIRE, FIRE!!!! I kept screaming until everyone got up and my husband who was totally undressed came down last.
What do you grab in a moment of panic when you know you might never see your house again? I took my laptop, since all my writing is on it, and lucky my IPhone was attached for charging. I found my shoes, my handbag and my coat. Without checking to see if anyone was with me, because I knew they right behind me, I walked down our outside stairway seeing some of my next door neighbors on the lawn in various states of smoke inhalation and dressed in tee shirts. One guy had on shorts in 20 degree weather. I was in my pink pj bottoms which have red hearts all over them. One of my daughters remembered her coat, while the other one was in only a bathrobe, but she remembered her Uggs. We got our cars out of the driveway and as my husband was parking his car in the cul-de-sac, fire engines started coming and he was cut off from us. We saw the flames rising in the back of the house where our neighbors lived and some of our other neighbors from houses adjacent to ours who were helping to put out the fire.
I saw one of my neighbors (the one who died) out on the cement porch we share and he asked if everyone were out of the house. As I had been screaming to my family someone, maybe a policeman or another neighbor had banged on our door hard and yelled to get everyone out!!! We were so frightened as we drove away, because we wanted to get away from the smoke and I couldn't watch my own house burn, although we only rent there. However, I have priceless items inside the house that I would be devastated to lose. But I wasn't thinking about those when I slipped on my shoes, grabbed my bag and coat and got out of the door. Now as I drove somewhere to get away from the smoke I couldn't escape it until I got out of our neighborhood. We had firetrucks there from three different towns. You could smell the smoke all over the neighborhood for over a mile.
We drove around and finally found a 24 hour drugstore to get some needed supplies and then we drove back home. We tried to get up our street by coming a different way, because they had blocked our usual entrance. But there was no way to get to our house. The various departments had put cones across the road. We stopped in front of this house where the husband and wife were outside looking up our street. We told them it was our house and they brought us into their home. We had been hanging around in Dunkin Donuts for their restrooms and a gas station and being in someone's home was like heaven. I was still in my pink pj pants.:) These wonderful people gave my whole family breakfast, including my husband when he finally joined us.
There is a very tragic part to this whole story, but before I tell you, I have to commend the Red Cross. The Red Cross came onto the scene with all kinds of help. They have services I didn't even know about. You see, our house had been labeled a crime scene since two people perished in the fire. This is the saddest and most romantic story. The neighbor who had spoken to me realized his wife wasn't out and he went into the burning building to try to save her. When the firemen saw what had happened they tried to rescue them through the second floor windows, but the fire was too hot up there and they couldn't do it. The flames engulfed the area too fast and took them both. The Red Cross was there to comfort the surviving family and they offered their counseling services for my family as well. I didn't know that they had these services. They also gave us money to buy new clothes and for food too!!!
So as we tried to salvage a little bit of good cheer amidst all the tragedy we were in at least wearing new clothes.:) The main thing is that all of us were together and as one of my daughters said: "It doesn't matter where we are, because when I'm with you I feel like I'm home." We all got out alive and I'm sick that two of my neighbors didn't make it. Our story was in The Journal News,Eyewitness News (That is my daughter talking) and was on all day long. Both of my daughters were interviewed for Channel 12 too. As I watched each report I saw that my house was intact and probably as I said before, our apartment was in pretty good shape, but the back of the house was black and gutted.
When my friends in California were fighting those fires I felt for them, but I didn't know that I was going to suffer the same kinds of things. Fire is beyond awful. If you have never been in a fire you can't imagine the smoke and how seeing the flames is so scary. There were twelve feet between us and the fire. And I will never forget the sound of the screaming and seeing those flames outside my door. What a way to end 2009.
The Red Cross gave us two rooms in a very nice hotel where we are now. We are going to try to go back to our house and see if we can get a few things, but we are probably here for the weekend at least. We might even have to move if the damage is too great! We are in the front and they built the house in modules, so that is probably what saved our apartment. We haven't seen it, but we think that there was no fire damage except for smoke. We will have to see. But my whole family is distraught over the loss of our neighbors. They were so young and such hard working good people. The man always helped us with anything we did and they shoveled the snow for us all the time. They were the best neighbors ever. Though we didn't know them very well, it was like a punch in the gut. All I could think was thank god that we got out of that place. I think if I hadn't gotten my family up they would have inhaled too much smoke. My husband has asthma and who knows what would have happened.
So I say Good Riddance 2009 and the Curse of 2009!!! Welcome 2010!! This year is going to shine!!!!
Hope everyone had a great weekend. We got a new Breville Toaster Oven/Convection Oven today. Though we were looking for a Cuisinart or a Black and Decker we wound up with a much better one, though without the rotisserie. We had to rearrange the entire kitchen.:) Consumer Reports tested this one highest and it was rated number 1 by almost every review of it. I still haven't used it, but I plan to try it tomorrow. You have to do a few things before you can use it.
We went to a new restaurant, Peekskill Brewery. This place has a beer theme. I mean everything has been paired to its correct beer. When we started we were served a taste of beer and wonderful hot rolls with butter and tapenade. My husband, daughter and I ordered butternut squash soup and instead of being comforting it was spicy, but it was good. I think it needed a little calming. I tried adding butter to it and that was better. Though that should not be necessary with soup.:) My other daughter ordered the clam chowder which was also very spicy. My husband ordered the Blue Point Blueberry beer, which was smooth and delicious. I hope to find that somewhere again.
Our main course was excellent. My daughters shared the Shepherd's Pie and it was warm, filled with ground meat and covered with a crusted mashed potato crust. My husband had a chopped salad with pieces of steak and the steak seemed to be marinated from the little bit that I had. I ordered the Southwest Chicken Sandwich, which came with a warm potato salad and a delicious cole slaw. It was on a large sesame bun with guacamole, lettuce and tomato. There was a cumin mayonnaise, which I had put on the side and after putting it on my sandwich I realized that was the spice that was in the soup. But the chicken was cooked perfectly on the grill and I got to taste their french fries, since my daughter ordered them as a side dish. My dish had a choice of french fries or potato salad and with that choice I will always go with potato salad.:)
For dessert we all four shared one chocolate cupcake called a Porter cupcake, because of the beer with which it was made.:) I couldn't taste the beer much, but it was very good and just enough for all of us. I've always felt that you don't need a lot of dessert, but even a few bites of it is okay.
The service was so excellent that I wanted everything to be perfect so I could rave about it.:) When we finished our appetizers there was our main course. It was seamless and very rare!
We will probably go back there in the future, but I will remember that they like to spice up their food. If you like spicy food you will love this. Of course, we didn't taste everything that they make.:) I will probably be visiting their website and telling everyone about the restaurant, but you have it here first. So if you are in my area go there and see if you agree with my review.
The other thing I wanted to say is that two of the books I offered as prizes are already gone. If you were a winner, please contact me so I can send out your book as soon as possible. If they are sent Priority you will get them before Christmas and can use them as gifts.:) You can still get into the contest, since I have one more book to give away. Be the first one to leave a comment on this post and you will be the last winner!!
Dogzilla and Oliver's Must Do List are no longer available. Sorry! A lot of other great books are there for you to choose. Remember to please send me your address and choice no later than tomorrow if you want it before Christmas. Otherwise I can't promise it will be there.
Until the next time, here is another reminder that my radio show: Red River Writers Live Tales from the Pages, will be airing on Tuesday, December 22nd at 3PM Central time. I hope everyone will tune in to hear Sally Drumm with her group of Milspeak writers. This should be a great Christmas show.:)
Until the next time thank you to my new readers and of course I appreciate the ones who continue to read my meanderings.:) I hope that one more person leaves a comment so I can give away the last gift book. Just a heads up. After the contest is over I will have books left over and will be running contests regularly.:)
First of all, if you didn't read the comments on the last post you are missing a real treat! For anyone who didn't read the last post, I am giving away a free book to the first six people who commented on the last post. I am also giving away two more books. One for yesterday, Friday, and one for today. So the first two people to comment on this post will each win a book. It's my Chanukah present to everyone who visits and shares with me.:) So if you didn't comment on the last post you have a chance today.
In the comments on the last post everyone had a lot of fun talking about their own holiday experiences. In the process, everyone who commented won a children's book from my collection. If your name is here, please send me an email or notify me on Facebook and provide your home address and the book you have chosen. If there are ties I will have to decide how to break them. I only have one copy of each book.:) I am posting them in alphabetical order by title. You will see there is a wide variety from which to choose. Have fun!!!! Of course, remember it will be first come, first served.:)
1. A House Is a House for Me Mary Ann Hoberman/ Betty Fraser Primary
2. Apples, Apples, ApplesNancy Elizabeth WallacePrimary
3. DogzillaDav PilkeyPrimary
4. Franklin And the Magic ShowSharon Jennings/Sean Easy Rdr
and Shelley Southern
5. Franklin's Music Lessons same
6. Harry Potter: The Tales of J. K. Rowling8-12
Beedle the Bard
7. The Heretic's TombSimon Rose9-12
8. K is for KwanzaaJuwanda G. Ford/ Ken Wilson-Max4-7
All of these books are in excellent condition, except a couple have my name in them. If you choose those I can put something over my name. So as soon as I post this start choosing.
I thought I would share the winners' experiences with everyone.
"My family celebrates Christmas, but also Winter Solstice. At sunset on Solstice we light a candle and keep it burning through the longest night of the year until morning."
"I donate a few hours every holiday to the senior center. I bring cookies, and cards and give to those that don't have anyone. My reward is the smiles on their faces. I really enjoy it."
Interviews, books, and music:
"My Christmas will be filled with visiting our 80 year-old parents."
"I grew up Catholic and my husband grew up Jewish. Our children got to celebrate both holidays as they grew up so they are more aware of the diversity of different cultures. We also have friends who celebrate the Solstice, so we've been fortunate enough to experience that as well"
"Once a week I make soup for 10-12 folks who live here in my senior apt complex. Last week we had matzo ball soup, latkes, kugel-a big hit! I taught the history of Hannukah.
Next week, I'll do a special Christmas soup night with 3 Sisters Soup & apple pecan bread pudding."
Until the next time, thank you to my new readers and to the ones who keep reading. Everyone please remember that next Tuesday is my radio show: Red River Writers Live Tales from the Pages. I hope many of you will get a chance to listen. It's going to be a great show with the writers of Milspeak, a group of service people who write, and Sally Drumm the editor of the book Milspeak. Remember, it is aired at 3PM Central Time and the date is Tuesday, December 22nd. Happy Holidays everyone!!! I am so getting into the Holiday spirit this year!!!
I know I said that I would post every day during Chanukah, my holiday, but it didn't work out. However, I am holding a contest and anyone who leaves a comment telling me how they're going to spend their own holiday, be it Christmas, Chanukah, Kwanza, or any holiday that you celebrate around this time of year, will be eligible for a brand new children's book from my own collection. I am giving away six today, so the first six people who post comments will each win a new book.:) There are only two more days left to Chanukah, so on each of the following days I am giving away one book and for those there will be a drawing. So today is the day to comment. :)
I have some great news!! I have been chosen to be the NY Examiner for Literature at Examiner.com. I was very excited to find out this afternoon and I am planning to start writing for them very soon. I learned about it from one of my friends. You will see this is a very reputable site and several of the writers from here have been on TV too.:)
So December 15th was National Cupcake Day and I didn't get a chance to bake cupcakes. So I did it today, though it's a day late and I baked two dozen, half white cake and half chocolate cake. But I frosted all of them with chocolate icing and to tell them apart I sprinkled some powdered sugar on the white cake cupcakes. My daughter adores them even though she is grown, so I wanted to make her happy and I did. She loved the cupcake she ate.:) Please go here to this awesome blog I found that is totally devoted to cupcakes. It makes me drool to see the pictures at Cupcakes Take the Cake. I love the look of this blog too and so glad I found it.:) Hope you like it too. I think there isn't anything that makes people smile more than offering them a cupcake.
But researching the last topic I found an even better day and I celebrated it without even realizing it.:) It's National Chocolate Covered Anything Day. So covering my cupcakes with chocolate icing was perfect for today.:) I even topped them with a chocolate chip and drizzled melted chocolate on them. But think of all the things you can cover in chocolate. Only please don't use yucky things like bugs. I saw one of those Food Network shows where they had to eat insects covered with chocolate. Yummy. I mean yucky!!! But I love chocolate covered strawberries.
That reminds me about walking around the mall around Christmastime when the economy was better and passing Godiva chocolates. They had someone in the window with a big bowl of melted chocolate and a huge bowl of gorgeous, luscious strawberries. The person was dipping the strawberries in the chocolate and I think they were giving away free samples. Ah, Godiva at Christmas with the golden boxes full of delicious goodness. Ah chocolate!! You can never go wrong with a box from Godiva even if it's only a few of their goodies. Of course, you wouldn't want to give them to someone allergic to chocolate, but even then they can give them away to someone else.:) There is nothing better than a piece of Godiva chocolate melting in your mouth! I just love the chocolate and no one is paying me to say this.:)
My husband was working the first part of this week, so we didn't do much together. I lit candles for Chanukah with my two daughters and though I think that my mother if she were alive would probably be horrified, I bought store bought latkes from Stew Leonard's for the first night. After warming them in the oven they got crispy and they were just as delicious as if I had made them at home. I do have latke mix and may make my own tomorrow night. I will never forget two years ago when I had to make latkes with my daughter who was bringing them into her office. They have an International Day once a year and she and I were going to make them together. However, though we prepped the night before and had the mixture all ready, neither of us had taken the amount of time to fry them into account. So I got up early and started frying them. You know that frying latkes means you can't put too many in a pan or they won't brown. So you can only do a few at a time and that's what bogged us down. I had to go to work, because I was actually working then and didn't have a chance to take a shower before I left. When I got to work I smelled like fried latkes and unfortunately my boss had no idea what they were.:) The latkes my daughter brought into work were a big hit, though.
Thank you to any new readers and thank you to the readers who continue to follow me. I hope to be able to give away a lot of books today for the holidays. Also please remember that next Tuesday is my Christmas show on Red River Writers Live Tales from the Pages. My guest will be the writers of Milspeak and Sally Drumm, who is the editor of the book by the same name. I am pleased that at least six of them will be participating. They are members or former members of the armed services and they will be talking about how they have celebrated the holidays in the service. They will also be reading from their own writing. I think this is going to be a fantastic holiday show. Until the next time if you celebrate Chanukah, have a happy holiday. For all others, hope you are not too stressed by holiday shopping.
Quinton Aaron as Michael Oher Michael Oher (Quinton Aaron) in his old neighborhood left to right: Jae Head (S.J.), Quinton Aaron ("Big Mike"), Sandra Bullock (Leigh Anne Tuohy) Sandra Bullock(Leigh Anne Tuohy), Quinton Aaron (Michael Oher)
As I have mentioned so many times here I don't review movies that I don't like. In fact, for me to review a movie I have to practically love it. "The Blind Side" starring Sandra Bullock is one of those films for me.
At first when I read about it the film looked like another one of those stretched out made for TV movies you see on Lifetime. We had thought we were going to see it several times and actually made plans to go see it, but every time as the actual time drew near we cancelled our plans and decided not to go to the movies at all. In fact, the movie selection for the past couple of weeks has been slim. We almost went to see "Precious", but again, even though it is playing at my favorite theater, The Jacob Burns Center, we didn't see it. Something about it made me remember back to the 70's and 80's when characters like the main character here were used by right wing politicians to make their point that welfare was a crock. I remember wondering how many people were scamming the welfare system really. As I haven't seen this film and don't read reviews beforehand, I have no idea what the film is all about except for the coming attractions. It's just that having gone through that era I didn't want to see those images again. A lot of people have worked very hard to bring themselves to a point where they are self sufficient and living a middle class life.
Anyway, "The Blind Side" is about this very large, athletic boy introduced to us in the beginning of the film as "Big Mike". He has spent much of his childhood sleeping on the sofa in his friend's house, since his mother is a drug addict. His friend's father thinks it would be a good idea to get him out of the neighborhood and enrolls him in a Christian school on the good side of Memphis, Tennessee. The boy has only the clothes on his back and an extra tee shirt he carries around in a plastic bag. His grade point average from his old school is zero and he doesn't communicate with anyone at all. However, the football coach sees a linebacker in him and persuades the teachers to take an interest in getting his average up so he can be on the team.
The teachers start to pay attention to him, testing him orally, and it is really his Biology teacher who sees his intelligence in writing he throws away rather than show it to anyone. But it isn't until his encounter with Leigh Anne Tuohy, played by Sandra Bullock, that his life changes drastically. She finds him walking alone on the road in the rain with only a tee shirt though it's cold and offers him a ride, her sofa, and finally invites him into the family. His relationship with S.J. her son, and Collins, her daughter shows the strain that can develop when an African American boy from the wrong side of Memphis goes to school in a white Christian private school.
To its credit the film doesn't show the barbs of the children, instead it skirts that and shows the effects that this prejudice has on them. But the strength of this film, and why I am recommending that you go see it, is the relationship between Michael and Mrs. Tuohy. She treats him as one of her own almost from the first when she realizes the character of the boy. Her determination to give him a good home and help him play football is what moves the story and it also forms a strong undercurrent of humanity that runs through the whole film.
There are little touches that show how when you treat people with respect you cannot allow others to degrade them in any way. Everyone in the family fights back in their own way and supports Michael. Michael in turn is an amazing character. Quinton Aaron plays him with a quiet dignity.
Sandra Bullock plays the tough as nails with a heart of gold ex-cheerleader who is now a big name decorator who lives the American dream. When we first see her she is driving a beamer and on her cell phone constantly. She is always dressed like she were going to a luncheon and her friends are the same. But she really shines in the scenes where she is home and dressed down. She slips into the skin of Leigh Anne Tuohy, who is also a wife and a mother. And she gathers Michael into her family, defending him in all kinds of situations. Some of them are pretty scary too.:)
I won't give away much about this film, because I always like to be surprised. But I would say this is heartwarming in the nicest way. She fights for Michael like a lion would for her cub. She does everything she can for him in every way a mother can take care of a child. Of course, she has the support of her husband, played by Tim McGraw, who simply nods his head and acquiesces to anything she wants.
So to go back to why you should see this film. First of all, you should go out of the theater feeling a little bit better than when you arrived. Secondly, the story is gripping and there are a lot of good football scenes. The little boy is so cute and an excellent actor. If you are a fan of Friday Night Lights you might remember when Tim Riggins lived next door to the single mother with a little boy. He played the little boy and as S.J. he is a great brother to Michael.
Third, Sandra Bullock's performance is outstanding. It is very different from her usual comic shtick. Fourth, the performance of the boy who plays "Big Mike". At least I think he's a boy, but it's hard to tell. From the very first moment you meet him you can tell he's a good person from his eyes. Though he doesn't talk for almost a quarter of the movie, he is interesting to look at on camera and very believable as a boy who is desperately crying out, but no one can hear him.
Finally, there is a small part with Kathy Bates as Michael Oher's tutor.
Critics for the most part have given it good reviews. Their criticism is that it is too sentimental and maybe too conservative. Being a liberal Democrat and from the north, I am unfamiliar with the world that this portrays. But even though Leigh Anne Tuohy and her family are Bush supporters, Republican Conservatives and Christian this doesn't bother me. As I mentioned the humanity of this film, which is honest and not at all like some reviewers are saying, "Lifetime movie like" is what I love about the movie. Also, unlike "Precious" which follows the same route of helping a poor girl out of her ghetto life, this is based on a true story. Somehow that makes this more credible and less manipulative.
Read A.O. Scott's review if you don't mind being spoiled. In keeping with my usual practice I am linking you to all the reviews for "The Blind Side". You will see that mine might be a little too enthusiastic, but then again, I am not a jaded burnt out critic who has had to sit through some of the worst movies ever made, this year.:) Also, "The Blind Side" was number 1 this weekend over "Twilight, New Moon". What does that say to you?
I have been thinking of a rating system and have decided on Bettys for Betty Boop. I know someone who uses boops, so mine will be Bettys:
1 Betty Poor, not worth seeing
2 Bettys See it only if there is nothing else to see - wait for DVD
3 Bettys Worth seeing, but don't rush to see it.
4 Bettys Good, but not worth standing on line to see. One great performance or direction is outstanding.
5 Bettys Excellent, great performances, excellent direction
As you can see it has the whole package. "The Blind Side" blind sided me with its humanity and strength of spirit. (I couldn't resist that one. Sorry for the bad pun.):) I give this film:
I am so happy that NaNo is over, because I am getting to sleep a little earlier and now I only have one novel in my head.:) During NaNo I tried not to think about what I was writing. After all, it doesn't matter as long as you get the words down on the page. So now I can concentrate on my WIP again and I'm excited to finish it. I can feel the finish line coming soon, but I still have no real idea of how I am going to end it.:)
It's starting to feel a little bit like the holidays with all the towns and cities dressing up their streets with Christmas decorations. They use holly and lights and generic symbols like wreaths and snowflakes, but it's Christmas decorations. Chanukah comes next week and this year I doubt that except for lighting the candles we will do much about presents. It's even tighter tha
n last year economically, but when I light the candles it feels like a holiday. Also, the candles are what the holiday is really all about. More about this as the time comes closer. Stay tuned.
In honor of Chanukah I am going to give away a present a day here. I haven't decided what, but it will probably be a book.:) Or it may be something you can use on your website or blog. I have to decide. So in the honor of Chanukah I will be blogging every day. :)
This is completely different, but when I got my PW Daily in the email today they had a link to the Best Children's Books for 2009. So I thought maybe you might want to see them if you are looking for a gift for a child. I always feel that you can't go wrong with a good book. Of course you need to take into account the age of the child for which you are buying. It has been my experience that children over the age of nine or ten don't really go for picture books. However, there are exceptions, especially if there is a lot of text and the book has a lot of scientific or historic information. Children ages ten and up usually like chapter books only and a mature ten or eleven year old might enjoy young adult or YA.
The PW Daily list I am including here has a wide array of genres and authors from which to choose. On my radio show we had a discussion about their Best Adult Books of 2009 and one of my guests was very disturbed that there were no women authors included in the top 10 books. That is not the case here and you will see several authors that are familiar, and in my case, may even be Facebook friends.:) I'm always excited when I see my friends' names on the best of lists.:) But congratulations to all the authors and illustrators who made the list. I know this is only one of many that will come out before the new year, but enjoy it.:) I will point out books I have read and authors I know too.:) Some of these I read in galley form from BEA last year.
PW Best Children's Books of 2009
The Day-Glo Brothers: The True Story o
f Bob and Joe Switzer's Bright Ideas and Brand-New Colors Chris Barton, illus. by Tony Persiani (Charlesbridge) The unlikely subjects of this fascinating picture book biography exemplify ingenuity and dedication to chasing one's dreams.
The Curious Garden
Peter Brown (Little, Brown) With humor and some showstopping spreads, Brown offers a green fable about the rebirth of a city, without a hint of preachiness.
Yummy: Eight Favorite Fairy Tales Lucy Cousins (Candlewick) Moving beyond the geniality of Maisy, Cousins expertly draws out the primitive emotions at the core of Little Red Riding Hood, The Three Little Pigs
, and six other beloved stories.
Dinotrux Chris Gall (Little, Brown) Few things are more kid-pleasing than trucks and dinosaurs—put them together in a raucous, prehistoric hybrid and you have picture-book gold.
John Brown: His Fight for Freedom John Hendrix (Abrams) Hendrix's powerful, exaggerated imagery in this picture book biography is ideally suited to the life of this controversial American abolitionist.
Stagecoach Sal Deborah Hopkinson, illus. by Carson Ellis (Disney-Hyperion) Blithe storytelling and slyly humorous art give this story of an utterly confident, quick-thinking 19th-century heroine plenty of pioneer spirit.
* I didn't read this one, but I have read another one of her books and they are delightful.
The Lion & the Mouse
Jerry Pinkney (Little, Brown) Not a single word from Aesop's fable of friendship appears in Pinkney's version, set in the Serengeti. This isn't a problem since the lovingly detailed interplay between the protagonists says it all.
Otis Loren Long (Philomel) Long's story of the friendship between a tractor and a young calf exudes a comforting sense of nostalgia and a gentleness of spirit.
Crow Call Lois Lowry, illus. by Bagram Ibatoulline (Scholastic Press)
Newbery Medalist Lowry's first picture book, drawn from a childhood story about her father's return from war, is poignant and quietly moving, with a timely resonance.
Sweethearts of Rhythm: The Story of the Greatest All-Girl Swing Band in the World Marilyn Nelson, illus. by Jerry Pinkney (Dial) Gloriously evocative poetry and paintings create a stirring tribute to an all-female swing band that made spirits soar during an era of war and prejudice.
Duck! Rabbit! Amy Krouse Rosenthal, illus. by Tom Lichtenheld (Chronicle) A simple, fixed design and two combative, off-screen voices make this book and its central optical illusion—is that animal a duck or a rabbit?— a delight.
All the WorldLiz Garton Scanlon, illus. by Marla Frazee (S&S/Beach Lane) A subtle undercurrent of interconnectedness and a spare elegance make this picture book more than just a gentle ode to families of all shapes, sizes and kinds (which it assuredly is).
Wintergirls Laurie Halse Anderson (Viking)A powerful exploration of anorexia, dysfunction and death, Anderson's story of a friendship ripped apart is moving and haunting. *I didn't read this one, but she is such a great author. She is also my Facebook friend.:)
Going Bovine Libba Bray (Delacorte) An angel, a dwarf, cults, wormholes and mad cow disease all factor into the surreal cross-country road trip that teenage Cameron takes, in a satirical story that's as memorable as it is funny.
Fire Kristin Cashore (Dial) Introducing Fire, a human “monster” with psychic abilities, this companion novel to Graceling expands the scope of Cashore's fantasy world and offers twists, intrigue and romance aplenty.
Catching Fire Suzanne Collins (Scholastic Press) This much-awaited sequel to Collins's dystopian bestseller, The Hunger Games, doesn't disappoint; it's immersive, voracious reading as the ramifications of Katniss's actions in that book spread.
If I Stay Gayle Forman (Dutton) Masterful characterizations make the tragedy at the core of this novel all the more devastating, as narrator Mia weighs the decision to live or die. *The main character in this story has to make a very painful decision. The courage of this girl is amazing and I feel this is a story for an older teen.
The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate Jacqueline Kelly (Holt) With a detailed, evocative setting and an authentic, relatable protagonist, this turn of the century coming-of-age novel teems with humor, spirit, and energy.
This timely and provocative thriller, with a teenage American soldier at its center, is a nuanced exploration of war, heroism, and morality.
The Ask and the Answer Patrick Ness (Candlewick) Set on a planet colonized by men and now wracked with strife, Ness's sequel to The Knife of Never Letting Go entwines themes of sexism, terrorism, genocide and human nature, while bringing the action to a fever pitch.
A Season of Gifts Richard Peck (Dial) The singular Mrs. Dowdel from A Year Down Yonder and A Long Way from Chicago brings humor and heart to this holiday story; as ever, Peck's writing has a comforting, evergreen quality. * I had the honor of meeting Richard Peck at a conference and listening to him speak. Reading any of his books is a treat.
When You Reach Me Rebecca Stead (Random/Lamb) Every syllable feels rich with meaning in this atmospheric mystery involving a girl, her former best friend, and her mother, set in 1970s New York City. *Here is yet again another Facebook friend. I am so excited for all of them. I haven't read this either, but it's on my list.
Shiver Maggie Stiefvater (Scholastic Press)Lyrical and thoughtful, this paranormal romance between a girl and a werewolf offers wit, an intriguing mythology, and dual (but equally honest and compelling) narratives.
Marcelo in the Real World Francisco X. Stork (Scholastic/Levine) Artfully crafted characters form the heart of this riveting novel about a 17-year-old with Asperger's syndrome, who grapples with issues of ethics, love, and other real-life conflicts.
Tales from Outer Suburbia Shaun Tan (Scholastic/Levine) Tan proves that his prose is every bit as hypnotic as his artwork in this wondrous collection that reveals the banality and strangeness of the suburbs.
Lips Touch: Three Times Laini Taylor, illus. by Jim Di Bartolo (Scholastic/Levine) In lush prose, Taylor offers three utterly captivating stories, each centered on a kiss; comic book–style prequels from Di Bartolo, her husband, add to the enchantment.
The UninvitedTim Wynne-Jones (Candlewick) In this thriller about a college student uncovering twisted family secrets, Wynne-Jones expertly draws his characters and setting while ramping up the tension and the creepiness.
The Great and Only Barnum: The Tremen
dous, Stupendous Life of Showman P. T. Barnum Candace Fleming, illus. by Ray Fenwick (Random/Schwartz & Wade) This illuminating biography reveals Barnum as a complex, infinitely clever figure and delineates his triumphs as well as his failures.
Claudette Colvin: Twice Toward Justice Phillip Hoose (FSG/Kroupa) Colvin's memories of fighting for civil rights in the 1950s—including refusing to give up her bus seat as a teenager in Montgomery, Ala. (before Rosa Parks)—make for a searing true-life story of courage.
* I read about this book and thought of how brave this girl was to do this.
Marching for Freedom: Walk Together Children and Don't You Grow Weary Elizabeth Partridge (Viking) Arresting photography and firsthand memories from those who participated, as children, in the 1965 march to Montgomery make for a haunting and inspirational read.
You can see from this list that there are a wide variety of authors, women and men, experienced and inexperienced. Children's writing allows for this kind of diversity. Unfortunately aside from just a few exceptional women who break through the barriers, adult writers who are recognized are still very much male and mostly middle aged. The adult best of lists ought to think about including women next year. After all we are half of the population.:)
Do you agree with these choices? Leave a comment here and let me know. Which books would you have chosen?
Until the next time welcome to the new readers who have decided to follow my meanderings and thank you to all the readers who have been with me. I appreciate all of you and hope that you enjoy the gifts I will be giving starting on December 11th.
One other thing before this ends. I hope that all of you have been listening to my radio show, Red River Writers Live Tales from the Pages, which is on once a month. December's show will be on Tuesday, December 22nd and will feature the writing of the members of Milspeak, which is a group of service people who enjoy writing. They have a book published with their writings and it is edited by Sally Drumm. Sally and Milspeak are going to be my only guests on this very special Holiday show. Please join me and enjoy the writing of this unusual group of writers.