“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.



Reading in the New Year

Hello, All Readers, and Happy New Year’s Eve!

For all reading’s purposes we could recount, reading should never devolve into drudgery, in my opinion.

If we’re lucky, reading will mostly be for pleasure. distraction, comfort, and escape. I must admit that those are the primary purposes or qualities I seek as a reader, but also as a writer for children.

If pastime reading has become a chore at times, perhaps you could set as a goal for 2022 to find literature that makes the corners of your mouth curl up to your cheekbones, that causes you to relish the words on the page, and that sets your imagination on fire.

And for a loftier goal, think about seeking or rereading a landmark piece of literature–you know, one that has or could guide or even change your life. For me, that has to be the Nancy Drew Mysteries series. I read those books as a child and reread them now when I want to escape or recall happy times.

But in my youth, my sleuth-hero Nancy gave me some grander purposes that have stuck with me, namely, to be charitable and community minded, to achieve stellar-reader status in school and beyond, and to dream of writing my own mysteries for kids someday.

So, get a clue, dear Readers. May you be transported by words toward a happy, healthy 2022 that is filled with marvelous, smile-worthy books, the best riches of all.


Looking for Gratitude

Hello, Kids and All Readers,

Continuing last week’s blog about Viktor Frankl and his practice of “Self-Transcendence,” (moving from the Self to the Other), I’d like to share this fun and potentially meaningful game with you.

It’s a Gratitude Scavenger Hunt! For me, one way to shut down the pity party and focus on my blessings is to become aware of what I’m grateful for. Try this game to help yourself do the same.




1.      Find something that makes you smile really big.

2.      Find someone you can give something to that will make them smile really big.

3.      Find one thing you love to smell, and sit with it for 2 or 3 minutes while acknowledging your gratefulness for your sense of smell.

4.      Find something that’s your favorite color and sit looking at it for 2 or 3 minutes while acknowledging your gratefulness for your sense of sight.

5.      Find something you like to snack on, and while munching on it, acknowledge your gratefulness for your sense of taste.

6.      Find something you like to touch, like a soft pillow, a warm blanket, or even your cat or dog, and acknowledge your gratefulness for your sense of touch.

7.      Find something in nature, and acknowledge how grateful you are for this awesome place we call home.

8.      Make up your own Gratitude Scavenger Hunt list and share with someone else.

So, get a clue, Readers. May you have a meaningful holiday season this year having found some of your greatest blessings.