Preparing for Fun

Dear Kids, Teachers, Librarians, and Parents,

I have spent part of yesterday and today preparing for one of my favorite activities as a children’s author: a school author visit!

Tomorrow, February 11, for forty-five glorious minutes, I will have the privilege of joining virtually fifty-two fifth graders and their two teachers in Pennsylvania. 

I’ve smiled as I’ve rehearsed passages to read from my three books and anticipated questions the students might ask. I’ve visualized how I will set up my desk area to show them my writerly life.

This will be my second visit to the group. I had so much fun with them two weeks ago that I asked if I could return. Happily for me, they replied with a resounding “YES!”

Last time, the students were mesmerized by my discussion of lexical-gustatory synesthesia, a mental ability that my character Rani Kumar and I possess. Basically, it means that we taste something when we hear a word or name. Following that presentation last month, I sent the teachers a list of their students’ names and what each name made me taste. I hear it was a big hit!

I look forward to what they will ask me next. You can read all about my visit when I post the details in my website’s Events section soon.

So, get a clue, Kids, Teachers, and Librarians. Children’s authors enjoy interacting with their audience. Speaking for myself, kids are the reason I write. I’m available for visits in grades 3 – 6, virtually now and in-person post pandemic. You can find out more about my visits HERE. As always, they are free. Kids, I’d love to meet you!



“A Blooming Genius”

Dear Kids, Gardeners, and Lovers of the book The Secret Garden,

I recently received an article from a dear friend (thanks, Deb!) dated October 30-31, 2021, from The Wall Street Journal, page C11. It is entitled “A Blooming Genius,” by the WSJ’s children’s book columnist, Meghan Cox Gurdon. She was referring to the British author of The Secret Garden, Frances Hodgson Burnett (1849 – 1924).

In her article, Mrs. Gurdon reviewed a related book by Marta McDowell, released last fall, entitled Unearthing the Secret Garden. In the book, McDowell intertwines Burnett’s talents for writing and horticulture.

Burnett’s The Secret Garden, written in 1911, is my favorite children’s book, so, of course, this article and the new biography grabbed my attention. 

Ms. McDowell’s book reveals that Burnett was fond of flower gardens from childhood, especially growing roses, but she did not take up gardening in earnest until she was nearly fifty years old. She was too busy being a prolific writer. The review also reminds the reader that in her book, “Burnett makes an explicit link between the turnings of the year in a Yorkshire garden to the rejuvenation of two children: a sour little orphan named Mary Lennox and her hypochondriac cousin Colin Craven.”

For me, the attraction of The Secret Garden, aside from a mysterious walled garden on the grounds of spooky mansion in a desolate corner of England, is that it is “a story about transformation, second chances, and perhaps even miracles.”

I have reread The Secret Garden numerous times over the years. It never fails to cause hope to bloom in my heart. Next up: Unearthing the Secret Garden.

So, get a clue, Readers and Gardeners. Now is the time to peruse those seed catalogs, plan your garden (secret or otherwise), remain hopeful, and expect some miracles.



“Put Your ‘John Hancock’ Right Here!”

Dear Kids, Educators, Families, and All Readers,

Do you remember John Hancock? He was a wealthy Massachusetts businessman and one of the earliest and most outspoken American patriots calling for independence from Britain in the 1770s. He was public enemy number one to General Thomas Gage, commander of British forces in the colonies, so his life was in danger constantly with bounties placed on his head.

In addition, Hancock was the first signer of the Declaration of Independence. He wrote his name large and in a beautiful flowing cursive script, which he underscored with an elaborate paraph, or flourish. Legend has it that he made his signature proportionately bigger than the other signers so that the “fat old King [George III of England] could read it without his spectacles.” The king never saw it, but the British officials in the colonies did.

Hancock was targeted for execution by hanging. Fortunately, this never happened. He personally funded the Continental Army in 1775 and throughout the Revolutionary War. His generosity helped the entire nation.

Hancock’s rebellious, courageous actions led to the expression we still use today: “Put your ‘John Hancock’ right here,” meaning, of course, a person’s signature.

It is not an accident that National Handwriting Day is held annually in America on January 23. That was John Hancock’s birthday!

In honor of Hancock, the national handwriting observance last Sunday, and my belief that cursive handwriting should still be taught and used, I wrote a blog to that effect for my Blackbird Writers group that published on January 24. Please see the link below.

In it, I quote research for the pros and cons of requiring cursive instruction in schools in the US. For example, cursive has been found to be very beneficial for brain development, especially in attaining proficiency in the Language Arts, and in boosting memory and thought as it creates synapses across the brain’s two hemispheres as they mimic the flow of the writing.

If you’d like to read my entire blog with its abundance of evidence in favor of cursive, please click HERE.

So, get a clue, Readers. How do you feel about cursive handwriting after reading the research? I hope you will join me in being an outspoken proponent of cursive writing for all!



“Hey, Author!”

Hey, Kids, and All Readers of our Botanic Hill Detectives Mysteries,

“This is Moki, the funny, foodie detective. We’re on a new case. At least, we were. It seems our creator, the author, has gone missing!”

“I’m Lexi, the arm-squeezing detective, and Moki’s right. We haven’t seen her in a couple weeks. Usually, she drops in quite often and records our conversations. Then she asks us what’s going to happen next. Where in the world is she, anyway?” 

“Yeah. Rani here. I love to wear saris from my native India, but I’d give them up in a heartbeat if the author would just return. We need her desperately!”

“And I’m Lanny, the head detective. It’s time we try to find out what’s happened to Sherrill Joseph. Not that we need a case within a case. But she’s apparently abandoned us in Book 4, Saffron Street: Island Danger. We’re in Hawai’i. (Someone’s got to do it.) We just spied a red-hot Ferrari screeching its tires as it peeled away from the curb near Ms. Leilani’s house. A burglary has just occurred there. We think the hotrod is the getaway car and need to take up the chase. But the author’s frozen us in midair! And, by the way, we look pretty silly floating like that.”

Oh dear! I’m so sorry, my wonderful detectives! Here I am. I didn’t mean to desert you. But, you see, my bathroom remodel has started, and it’s pulled me away from escaping with you, which I’d rather be doing. I promise to come back soon. Just keep your eye on that car!

“So, get a clue, author! We detectives can’t solve this crime without you. And you can’t write this book without us. We’re a team, remember? Come back now! Forget the bathroom plumbing. We need to plumb ideas with you and solve this case, pronto. There’s too much at stake.” 





Books vs. People

Hello, All Readers,

During the ongoing pandemic, I have spent much time at my desk writing. But when I am not writing, walking, or playing with my dog Jimmy Lambchop, I read.

I must admit that sometimes, I prefer books (and dogs) to people. How about you?

I can forget my cares–usually people related–and get lost in a book. I have a huge collection of the classics, a holdover from my college days as an English major. I alternate rereading many of those with contemporary works.

I will leave you with an excerpt from Dr. Thomas Sheridan’s “A Letter to the Dean When in England” (1726). It is entitled “Better Companions than People”:  “While you converse with lords and dukes / I have their betters here — my books: / Fixed in an elbow-chair at ease / I choose companions as I please. . . .”

So, get a clue, dear Readers. I hope you find some wonderful companions in books, especially on these wintery days. But, yes, people are important, too!

Escape and Immortality

Hello, All Readers, and Happy New Year! 

Since January marks the end of one year and the beginning of the next in our current western calendar, it’s little wonder that its name derived from Janus, the ancient Roman god of gates and doors. It was believed that Janus held the key that could unlock the portal, allowing transition to what is to come. Appropriately, he had two faces looking in opposite directions. 

Consequently, Janus and January remind me of a working hourglass. They represent the past–the sand that has already collected in the base of the glass; the present–that which is rapidly passing through the narrow center tube; and, the future–the sand in the top of the glass that has yet to begin its journey.

In other words, this first month in the new calendar gives me pause to reflect on time. I look backward to all that has shaped me. I experience myself in the present, trying to get square with the pros and cons of that shaping. Then, I look ahead as I attempt to become the best person, mother, mother-in-law, grandmother, dog owner, friend, neighbor, and kids’ author that I can be, one day at a time.

Invariably, books play an important role in my reflections about self and time. One of the reasons I read and write is to escape the confines of time and to achieve immortality. Sound impossible or, perhaps, vain? I thought so but have found other authors down the ages who have shared my thinking. Here are six in descending time order:

From Jesse Lee Bennett, What Books Do for You (1923)–  “Books are the compasses and telescopes and sextants and charts which other men have prepared to help us navigate the dangerous seas of human life.”

From Emily Dickinson, “Poem 1263” (c.1873)–  “There is no Frigate like a Book/To take us Lands away . . . ”

From William Hazlitt, “On Reading Old Books” (1821)–  “In reading a book which is an old favourite with me . . . . It recalls the same feelings and associations which I had in first reading it. . . . They are landmarks and guides in our journey through life. . . . They give us the best riches . . . and transport us, not over half the globe, but over half our lives, at a word’s notice!”

From Richard Whitlock, Zootomia (1654)–  “Books are for company, the best friends . . . the home traveller’s ship, or horse . . . the seedplot of immortality.”

From Francis Bacon, Advancement of Learning (1605)–  “Books are ships which pass through the vast seas of time.”

From Richard de Bury, Philobiblon (1345)–  “”Towers have been razed to the ground . . . triumphal arches have perished from decay; nor can either pope or king find any means of more easily conferring the privilege of perpetuity than by books. . . . As long as the book survives its author remains immortal and cannot die.”

So, get a clue, Readers. May the New Year and good books transport you on incredibly rewarding journeys beyond time or mortal boundaries.