Thursday, May 28, 2009

poems of work - sewing

Tricia of The Miss Rumphius Effect blog is hosting/posting a collection of poems of work.

I will post an old poem about sewing - something which I haven't done a lot of lately. But I have made a few things in my time - enough to know how it feels to be a novice (very novice!) seamstress.

In Stitches

I am in the choice of pattern
and in my fantasy
of how the suit sketched in tweed
will be incarnated in velvet

I am in tissue pieces
laid precisely, pinned snugly
facing the right way
on the wrong side.

I am in the concentration of my tongue
and in the rhythm of my heart
as scissor blades
crunch, crunch, crunch.

I am in the synapses that pass
from instruction sheet to brain
to fingers, in spaces
filled with the conductive medium of faith.

I am on the rolling highway of stitches, even and perfect
seams, smooth and straight
then in the pin-prick that sees
something is wrong; I must rip and return.

I am in the mirror
reflecting shoulders that bag
a waist too tight
and a skirt that sags.

Then at last, after being in gathers, easements
overcast hems and under the hot iron
I am, snug and snazzy
in this garment I have made.

© 2006 by Violet Nesdoly
First published in Poets Online (Archive: February 2006 - "In The Moment" prompt)

Read more poems of work here.

This post is also part of the KidLitosphere's Poetry Friday. This week it's hosted at Irene Latham's blog Live. Love. Explore!

Monday, May 25, 2009

Non-fiction Monday - Learn how to think

Book: The Thinking Toolbox
Authors: Nathaniel Bluedorn & Hans Bluedorn
Genre: Young-adult non-fiction
Publisher: Christian Logic, paperback, 235 pages
ISBN: 0-9745315-1-0

The Thinking Toolbox is a 35-chapter book written by brothers Nathaniel and Hans Bluedorn. Its purpose is to help kids and adults develop reasoning and thinking skills.

The book is divided into three main sections: "Tools for Thinking," "Tools for Opposing Viewpoints," and "Tools for Science." Each chapter is a lesson and the lessons build on each other in a logical (of course!) way, though each is self-contained.

The lessons are short. They are introduced with an example or problem to solve, then the concept is taught, and this is followed by a sum-up statement of what was learned. The lesson concludes with exercises, giving the reader practice in applying the concept to real life situations (answers and explanations are at the back of the book).

After the brief introductory "How To Use This Book" chapter, the first main section – "Tools for Thinking"– teaches (Lessons 1 - 8) concepts like what is the difference between a discussion, a disagreement, an argument and a fight; when is it appropriate to argue; what are fact, inference and opinion; and how does one state a premise and come to a conclusion.

I found Lesson 6 in this section, which taught about listing and sorting reasons, the weakest in that the example used to illustrate how this was done was more confusing than helpful. But Lesson 7, "How to Defeat Your Own Argument," was excellent in the way it suggested anticipating objections to arguments. I also appreciated the way Lesson 8 "When Not to Use Logic" taught the importance of knowing when to hold one’s tongue:

But sometimes a different logic takes precedence; the logic of human relationships and emotions. When we realize we should not speak our thoughts we are not being illogical. We are being logical in silence.
The second main section "Tools for Opposing Viewpoints" (Lessons 9 - 21) includes lessons on recognizing opposing viewpoints, evaluating the quality of evidence, defining primary and secondary sources, and recognizing and analyzing circumstantial evidence.

In this section I found myself arguing with the sum-up statement of Chapter 12, the rule for analyzing sources: "If you don’t know how a source obtained his information – how he knows what he knows – then the source should be considered unreliable." Come now gentlemen, do you even follow that advice yourself? In this day of information glut, is such a thing even possible? I doubt it. Some tips here on the hierarchy of, say, web and print sources, may have been helpful in explaining how to realistically put this principle into practice. On the plus side, a highlight chapter in this section was Chapter 18, which uses as its example the Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday. story from American history.

The third main section (Lessons 22 - 32) teaches "Tools for Science." It covers topics like what are scientific tools, observing, brainstorming, forming hypothesis, setting up experiments and analyzing data.

The book ends with a three-chapter section of games and puzzles. (And if you want more, the authors have set up a web site: where they invite questions on logic)

The book’s target age range is 13 to adult, although I think younger kids could read and benefit from at least parts of it. It is written in a light-hearted, friendly style with lots of humor and the text is broken up with Richard LaPierre’s cartoon illustrations. I can see this book being a welcome resource not only for home school kids and their parents, but for any kid or adult who is bombarded by 21st century media and its "Believe Me!" messages.


This review is part of Non-Fiction Monday.

Visit Miss Rumphius Effect for the rest of the Nonfiction Monday posts.


Wednesday, May 20, 2009

What it takes to be a children's book writer

Do you have it?

Jon Bard, editor of Children's Book Insider tells us what it takes to be a successful children's book writer in this 5 minute video.

CBI Clubhouse

Monday, May 18, 2009

Are your feet ugly?

Author: Debra Beck

Publisher: Beaufort Books, April 2007

Genre: Self-help, Youth nonfiction

ISBN: 082530542X

If Debra Beck ever meets the guy who told her, at 15, that her feet were ugly, I hope she thanks him for us. Because if it hadn’t been for that mean remark then, we might not have My Feet Aren’t Ugly: A Girl’s Guide to Loving Herself from the Inside Out now.

Debra’s goal for writing this 130-page self-help book for teen girls was to give them a hand in achieving the self-esteem and healing she missed when she was their age. The long first chapter talks about learning to like oneself by doing things like living with integrity, finishing projects, taking care of personal health and appearance, and being a good friend. The following eight chapters relate that foundation of healthy self-esteem to the many other challenges modern teen girls face in areas of conquering fears, risking creativity, maintaining physical appearance (including a discussion of eating disorders), encountering drugs, resisting suicide, dealing with the physical changes that accompany adolescence, and developing a healthy outlook toward sex. She also lists web links to help-agencies in appropriate sections.

Debra’s understanding of and love for teens shines through. From a girlhood plagued with low self-esteem, the mothering of two teens of her own, and continuing to work with young women in Spirited Youth comes a voice that is part big sister, part mentor, part cheerleader and always encourager. In a warm, chatty style she shares her own struggles, lists fears, tells lots of stories from her life, and through it all challenges girls to be their own person.

The inviting cover, cartoon-type illustrations (by Maggie Anthony - bottom), and Debra’s own occasional lapse into humorous girl-speak (e.g. talking about street drugs: "One big problem is that a lot of them are made in someone’s lab at home mixing the ingredients [a guy probably high out of his gourd]") make the book a lot of fun. It is interactive too with numerous journal prompts, lots of space to write, lists, and quizzes sprinkled amongst blocks of text.

If the book seemed weak in one area it was in the discussion of spiritual health. Described as "moving forward, evolving and growing . . . . taking care of business" the subject appeared little different from all that had already been said about gaining healthy self-esteem on one's own – as opposed to joining with God or a higher being in this quest, which is what I expected to find when I read "spiritual health." However, the way Beck doesn’t take sides on religion may turn out to be an asset, in that the book’s neutrality would make it easily adaptable to girls of many faiths.

All in all, I would have no problem recommending this book to any 10- to 16-year-old girl – or her caregiver. For as well as providing a great way for teen girls to gain confidence and a sense of who they are on their own, I think the book could be an excellent discussion starter between girls and parents. I wish I’d had it when I was a thoroughly self-conscious and self-loathing teenager.


This review is part of Non-Fiction Monday.

Visit ACPL Mock Sibert for the rest of the Nonfiction Monday posts.


Saturday, May 16, 2009

Drinking from the Twitter stream

Picture 1

Twitter is a never-ending source of goodies - if you're following the right people...and I have some wonderful follows. Here are a few goodies gleaned in the last little while:

  • @susanwrites: "Don't be afraid of backstory. I've written 100+ pages of backstory to learn about my characters - I just won't put it in the book."

Book Review: Your Best You: Discovering and Developing the Strengths God Gave You by Bonnie Grove

Title: Your Best You: Discovering and Developing the Strengths God Gave You
Author: Bonnie Grove
Beacon Hill Press, February 2009, Paperback, 192 pages

If you're one of those people who have looked at your life and thought, I need to make some changes, Your Best You is the book for you. Not to worry if there is a secret addiction, a hurtful past or even a history of failed attempts at change. Author Bonnie Grove, a program developer and trainer, covers all those angles in this compact but complete self-help manual

Grove starts out by explaining her strength-based approach and how it differs from the commonly used method of effecting personal change by working on one's areas of weakness. Using questionnaires, quizzes, self-tests, personal inventories, and journals she guides the reader in discovering personal strengths and then shows how to exploit them to make the desired changes.

In fifteen chapters Grove moves the reader step by step from identifying personal strengths and determining what really matters to him or her, through making the actual changes, to establishing long-term goals. All along the way she stresses the importance of being patient with oneself and acknowledging the progress already made.

Though her method is complex, Grove's instructions are always clear. She uses word pictures to clarify her ideas, e.g. she compares trying out new behaviors to trying on clothes in a store - a visualization which takes some of the heavy seriousness out of what can be a stressful process. She precedes each assignment with a detailed example of the kinds of answers the reader might give when dealing with a variety of issues (e.g. lose weight, stop smoking, deal with a difficult relative). She also states how much time each assignment should take and if it should be done in one sitting or spread over several sessions.

The multi-week program described in Your Best You is built on a solid biblical foundation. Grove explains how acknowledging and using one's strengths is a form of worship. She demonstrates the place of prayer and encourages the reader to be aware of God's presence in every aspect of the change process. Her own transparency in describing her relationship with God serves as an inspiring and encouraging model.

My one small quibble is with the physical design of the book. Though I didn't do the assignments, the book, with its lines, charts and tables to fill out, is meant to be written in. However, the tight paperback binding make that awkward and the small boxes in the tables and charts are too tiny to hold all that's required. A workbook-sized coil-bound book would have been more practical for such a hands-on program. Of course there's nothing stopping the reader from using a separate notebook instead of the paperback textbook to do all that writing. And that would preserve the book for more readers too - always a good thing.

Though I only read through the book and didn’t actually do the program, I wouldn't hesitate to try it in the future or recommend it to others. It is designed primarily for individual use but I'm thinking it might also work well with groups. Each person could work on their own issues with the group members to fall back on for encouragement, feedback and accountability.

From the already successful person who wants to maximize their potential to the one who desires to change destructive lifestyle patterns, Your Best You is a detailed and versatile roadmap to a fulfilling tomorrow.

Read a sample of the book here. Check out the Your Best You blog for news and promotions.

  • Would you like to WIN an author-signed copy of Your Best You?
  • To enter just leave a comment (including your name) in the comments section of this post.
  • Contest ends May 31st. I'll announce a winner here on JUNE 1st. (Sorry, Canada and U.S. residents only)

Friday, May 15, 2009

Scenes from childhood

A few days ago I went through all my books. That's because in early February a water pipe burst outside our townhouse, water seeped onto and under the laminate in the den, and all the flooring had to be replaced. The books, which live in that room, were packed into boxes and moldered in the garage for weeks (funny how you NEED them when they're not available). I only moved them back a few days ago.

And so I got to revisit all my books, like the ones I saved from when the kids were little. The battered old board-book - A Child's Garden of Verses by Robert Louis Stevenson - is one.

I'll bet you can recite with me:


The Swing

How do you like to go up in a swing,
Up in the air so blue?
O, I do think it the pleasantest thing
Ever a child can do!

Up in the air and over the wall,
Till I can see so wide,
Rivers and trees and cattle and all
Over the countryside -

Till I look down on the garden green,
Down on the roof so brown --
Up in the air I go flying again,
Up in the air and down!

And remember...


Of speckled eggs the birdie sings
And nests among the trees;
The sailor sings of ropes and things
In ships upon the seas.

The children sing in far Japan
The children sing in Spain;
The organ with the organ man
Is singing in the rain.

And finally, this one kids throughout the northern hemisphere must be thinking, if not reciting, at this time of year:

Bed in Summer

In winter I get up at night
And dress by yellow candlelight.
In summer quite the other way
I have to go to bed by day.

I have to go to bed and see
The birds still hopping on the tree
Or hear the grown-up people's feet
Still going past me in the street.

And does it not seem hard to you,
When all the sky is clear and blue,
And I should like so much to play,
To have to go to bed by day?

I must keep this old relic of a book handy so that I can introduce it to my grand-baby when he next comes to visit (although at 15 months, he may be a little young... oh well).


PFThis is a post for Poetry Friday.

See all the Poetry Friday blogs at Kelly Polark

Monday, May 11, 2009

Incredible woman - amazing discovery

Title: Something Out of Nothing: Marie Curie and Radium
Author: Carla Killough McClafferty
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR); 1st edition (March 21, 2006), Hardcover, 144 pages
Suggested age: 9-12 years
Genre: Biography
ISBN-10: 0374380368
ISBN-13: 978-0374380366

Juvenile biographies like Something Out of Nothing: Marie Curie and Radium by Carla Killough McClafferty are why I love non-fiction. This book not only brings Marie Curie to life but adds lots of details from a time in history when radioactivity was a new and unexplored phenomenon.

McClafferty tells Marie Curie’s story chronologically, starting with an incident from her childhood in Poland. Though at 10 she was the youngest person in the class, “Marie was usually chosen to answer the inspector’s questions because of her incredible memory. Everyone knew she could recite a poem by heart after reading it twice.”

We follow Marie as she completes school, works as a private tutor for a wealthy family and finally at the age of 24 travels to Paris to study at the Sorbonne. There she meets Pierre Curie, falls in love and opts for a life in Paris devoted to Pierre, later a family, and science.

The story of radium’s discovery is as captivating as any fiction. We cheer for the Curies as they overcome lack of funds, poor lab space and health problems. Especially admirable is their refusal to take out a patent on this new element, which soon fetched huge amounts of money and could have made them rich. When asked why there were no patents, Marie replied, “Radium is an element. It belongs to all people.”

The section which tells of the world’s initial reaction to radium is chilling in the light of what we now know about radioactivity. We read with horror about medicines laced with radium, rooms where people gathered to drink tea and breathe irradiated air, and factories where workers sharpened the points of paint brushes with their mouths in order to paint the tiny numbers and dials on watches with radium paint.

McClafferty has done a wonderful job of bringing Marie Curie to life by including quotes from letters, journals, and newspaper clippings in the text. Something Out of Nothing is illustrated with lots of photos of the Curies as well as historical items like pictures of products and labels.

The hardback volume is printed on heavy paper. With its black-and-white photo illustrations, the book is an object of beauty on its own.

The story is well-documented with a back section of source notes, chapter footnotes, a selected bibliography, a list of recommended websites and an index. McClafferty, who graduated from the Baptist School of Radiologic Technology, has previously written a book about X-rays and appears to have a good grasp of the scientific aspect of the subject. Yet she writes simply enough for kids to understand. Something Out of Nothing is rated at a 9 to 12-year-old reading level but older kids and adults will enjoy it too. Highly recommended.


Interesting links:


Visit Book Scoops for the rest of the Nonfiction Monday posts.


Friday, May 08, 2009

A priceless gift for Mom

Do you have your Mother's Day gift all wrapped and ready to deliver? Or maybe you're still in the planning stages? Here's an idea...

"This year you could celebrate Mother's Day with more than a card, bouquet of flowers or restaurant dinner. You could write a poem to or about your mother—or memorialize motherhood by expressing how it feels to be a mother.

Below are four kinds of poetry that lend themselves to poems for or about mothers. I have suggested prompts or strategies to help you write them. Hopefully you'll come away with a Mother's Day poem (or poems) that is both universal—because everyone has some experience with mothers—and unique—because the relationship with this special person is a bond like no other..."

Read all of "Poems for Mom"

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Book Review: Face of Betrayal - A Triple Threat Novel by Lis Wiehl with April Henry

Title: Face of Betrayal
Lis Wiehl with April Henry
Thomas Nelson Publishers-Fiction (April 7 2009), Hardcover, 320 p.
ISBN-10: 1595547053

When Katie Converse, a 17-year-old Washington page home for a Portland Christmas, goes out on December 13th to walk the dog and never returns, the three members of the Triple Threat Club are naturals to get involved. Allison Pierce, a federal prosecutor earns her bread and butter prosecuting family law cases. Nicole (Nic) Hedges’ FBI experience investigating cyber crime against kids gets her posted to the Converse house to work with the distraught parents. Cassidy Shaw, Channel Four journalist, quickly discovers that the position next to her two sleuthing buddies is perfect for breaking new Converse case details nightly.

Katie’s MySpace blog, the philandering ways of her sponsor, Senator Fairview, anonymous threats from a sexual stalker, and a severed hand make for lots of intrigue, tension and red herrings in Face of Betrayal, a detective mystery by Lis Wiehl and April Henry.

Wiehl and Henry’s easy-to-read writing style is perfect for this fast-paced and intricate tale. The chapters, each of which is written from the point of view of one of the Triple Threat club members, are short with many a cliffhanger ending to keep the reader turning pages. Katie’s blog, a voice from where – maybe the grave? – gives the book a touch of modern realism and provides the reader with one more set of clues with which to try to solve the crime on his/her own. Of course the misty cold setting of Portland in the winter doesn’t hurt the story’s ambiance either.

The three strong women who reconnect at their 10-year high school reunion find they have a common interest in crime. Now they meet frequently for coffee or eats and we get to know them on many levels as they discuss life, love, faith and, of course the Converse case. Of the three, the authors give us the closest view of Allison, whose Christian worldview comes across clearly, although Nic and Cassidy are also satisfyingly complex and portrayed sympathetically. In this department, the characterization feels realistic when Nic doesn’t veer from her agnostic belief system, nor does Cassidy stray from her flavor-of-the-month spirituality.

On top of spinning a captivating story, peopled by interesting characters, Wiehl and Henry have managed to weave a variety of themes into their whodunit. Within the story we experience the lives of women making their way in male-dominated careers. Allison is concerned about coming across as seasoned and knowledgeable. Nic has to prove herself doubly – as a female and black FBI agent – while juggling her professional responsibilities with mothering Makayla. Cassidy’s concerns are more with how the HD cameras will accentuate her laugh lines and being big-footed out of the Converse story by superior Madeline McCormick should her sources dry up. Allison’s involvement with a safe house brings up the subject of abuse, especially as it occurs within families. Friendship is also a main theme as the three women are there for each other despite differences of personality and belief.

When asked why she turned to fiction writing after successfully authoring non-fiction, Wiehl said, “… I had an increasingly hard time finding stories I could relate to. And I wanted to read about strong women solving crimes. So, I thought, why not create my own mysteries… fiction stories with a slice of reality about how law and journalism really work.” Wiehl is knowledgeable on both counts, judging from her experience as a trial lawyer and legal analyst and reporter on the Fox News Channel. She has graduated from both the Harvard Law school and University of Queensland. Learn more about her and her books at Lis Wiehl.

April Henry has published seven young-adult mysteries. She blogs at So many books, so little time , and has her own MySpace blog as well.

Bill O’Reilly of Fox News blurbs Face of Betrayal “A blast to read.” I agree – and so do many others. The book sits at #34 on the New York Times bestseller list for May 10th. The hardback edition concludes with a short Reading Group Guide, the transcript of Wiehl’s interview with Bill O’Reilly, and (oh yummy!) the first two chapters of The Hand of Fate, the next Triple Threat novel, available April 2010.