Doggone Doggerel

Hello, Readers,

It’s been a long day. I had to rush my precious poodle-bichon, Jimmy Lambchop, to the emergency animal hospital this morning after first taking him to his primary vet.

Jimmy’s in a life-threatening situation with a clogged gallbladder and tumor on his spleen, so out those offending organs must come.

Driving home, knowing that Jimmy was in good hands, I thought about how special our Fur Babies are to us. I am sparing no expense to ensure that my boy has the best medical attention possible.

For some reason, the term “doggerel verse” popped into my head. I know its meaning. The word doggerel is derived from the word dog, as you might guess. But doggerel verse is nonsense, poorly written poetry, or verse that is technically flawed! If you want to read a great example of doggerel verse, check out Scots-Irish poet William McGonagall’s (1825-1902) very flawed poem, “The Tay Bridge Disaster.”

But my point is this: how dare someone centuries ago link the great word DOG with something as odious as DOGGEREL verse. That’s so unfair to dogs!

So, get a clue, Readers and dog lovers. Maybe you could write a great poem about a dog, thereby ensuring it isn’t doggerel!

 

 

 

 

 

“No More Apricots”

Hello, Adult Readers,

Standing in solidarity with the people of Ukraine, I’d like to introduce–or reintroduce–you to a female Ukrainian poet named Lyuba Yakimchuk.

She was born in 1985 in Pervomaisk, Luhansk, in what was Ukraine’s industrial east. She and her family lost their home and fled as refugees in 2014 when Russian-backed militants occupied her city. Before that invasion, people of her town used to pick the wild apricots from the trees on their country’s border with Russia and give them to conductors to sell on trains that ran between Moscow and Kyiv.

She and her husband are currently living in Kyiv. As of yesterday, they were still there in order “to donate blood for Ukrainian soldiers and to try to be helpful.”

Yakimchuk is a multi award-winning poet, vocalist, and important artistic presence in Ukraine. Kyiv’s New Time magazine listed her among the 100 most influential people in the arts in Ukraine.

In 2021, she published a collection of poems entitled Apricots of Donbas about people surviving war. The first line of her eponymous poem is, “Where no more apricots grow, Russia starts.” The collection has been translated into over twenty languages including English.

Her poetry is described as “playfulness in the face of catastrophe” and evokes Ukraine’s fight for independence and legacy of war. Yakimchuk said, “Language is as beautiful as this world. So, when someone destroys your world, language reflects that.”

So, get a clue, Readers. Perhaps you will feel compelled to investigate this courageous Ukrainian poet’s works. You can find Apricots of Donbas HERE.

 

 

“Billions upon Billions”

Hello, All Readers and Stargazers,

This July marks thirty years since my trip to beautiful, ivy-covered Cornell University in Ithaca, New York.

My then eleven-year-old daughter and I had the honor of attending a three-week science symposium there in the summer of 1992. I was part of the San Diego educators’ team.

One of many highlights of our stay was an audience with the famous astronomer, astrophysicist, author, television personality, and Cornell University professor Carl Sagan (1934-1996). He discussed his latest work in the radio search for extraterrestrial life with the Planetary Society, the importance of science education, and answered our questions, including one from me. But more on that exciting part another day.

All of us were very familiar with this Renaissance man as arguably the world’s leading popularizer of science, mainly from his Emmy and Peabody Award-winning 1980 PBS miniseries Cosmos. It became the most-watched television show in the history of tv with over 500 million viewers in sixty countries. We also knew him for his oft-misquoted phrase, “billions and billions” (of stars). His actual words were, “A galaxy is composed of gas and dust and stars–billions upon billions of stars. . . .”!

My wonderful memory of an afternoon with Carl Sagan made me take notice of a recent Mighty Girl Facebook post. It featured Carl Sagan’s famous quote about the immortality of books and authors. Since I posted about that topic a few weeks ago, I wanted to be sure to include Dr. Sagan’s poetic words on the subject. He spoke them in Cosmos, Part 11, “The Persistence of Memory” (1980). I never tire of his exquisite use of the English language:

“What an astonishing thing a book is. It’s a flat object made from a tree with flexible parts on which are imprinted lots of funny dark squiggles. But one glance at it, and you’re inside the mind of another person, maybe somebody dead for thousands of years. Across the millennia, an author is speaking clearly and silently inside your head, directly to you. Writing is perhaps the greatest of human inventions, binding together people who never knew each other, citizens of distant epochs. Books break the shackles of time. A book is proof that humans are capable of working magic.”

So, get a clue, Readers. I hope you’ll want to learn more about Carl Sagan, who left us all too soon. You can do so at https://www.imdb.com/name/nm0755981/bio?ref_=nm_ov_bio_sm.

And if you’ve never seen his series, Cosmos, you can find it at your favorite DVD site. If I could add months to the calendar, I’d watch those episodes “billions upon billions” of times!

Wise Words

Dear Teachers, Parents, and Readers,

Recently, I shared to my personal Facebook page a friend’s thought-provoking post. It was from a public group on Facebook called “Compass Group,” which I have joined. It has 219K followers.

In addition to some stunning nature photos from around the world, there was an article about the four types of intelligence quotients.

I’m sharing the quotients because I feel they could be very important for educators and parents to recognize and develop in children. Quotient #4 is considered “a new paradigm.”

The article begins, “According to psychologists,” and proceeds to tell of the four types on intelligence:

1. Intelligence Quotient (IQ): “the measure of one’s level of comprehension.”
2. Emotional Quotient (EQ): “the measure of one’s ability to maintain peace with others, keep to time, be responsible, honest, humble, genuine, considerate, of good character, and respectful of boundaries.”
3. Social Quotient (SQ): “the measure of one’s charisma, ability to build a network of friends, and maintain it over a long period of time.”
4. Adversity Quotient (AQ): “the measure of one’s ability to go through a rough patch in life and come out of it without losing one’s mind.”

The article also states, “People that have higher EQ and SQ tend to go further in life than those with a high IQ but low EQ and low SQ. AQ determines who will give up, abandon their family, and consider suicide. Most schools capitalize on improving IQ while EQ and SQ are played down.”

“Finally, do not prepare the road for your children. Prepare your children for the road.”

So, get a clue, Readers. The article’s advice is prudent: “Develop children’s IQ as well as their EQ, SQ, and AQ. They should become multifaceted human beings able to do things independently of their parents.” What do you think?

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.