One of the best things about having kids--or in my case, students--is introducing them to your old favorite books. This school term I again shared my dear Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of Nimh with an appreciative juvenile audience.
The story starts out with good conflict: Mrs. Frisby's son is sick but her cozy mouse house is in the way of the spring plowing. She goes to The Rats for help.
Things get a bit annoying when the story goes into flashback mode for a good share of the book. (The rats' backstory is fascinating and could easily have been the focus of the book, in my opinion.) However, it's a good opportunity to talk about flashbacks and story frames. There are a lot of fun "ah-ha moments" for the kids, and the rats' advanced civilization amazes me every time.
Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of Nimh won the Newberry Award in 1972. What a wonderful, timeless read by Robert C. O'Brien!
Now, for the first time, we as a class are following the Rats of Nimh further. I wish the kid me had known there were more books in the series, but at least I get to enjoy them now.
The last two books--Racso and the Rats of Nimh and R-T, Margaret, and the Rats of Nimh--are written by O'Brien's daughter. The writing style is a bit different--lots of short scenes hodgepodged together--but my audience's enthusiasm hasn't waned. As long as they're gasping, cheering, and chuckling, I'll keep reading.
I spent a lot of time in the car last week. Thankfully, audiobooks shortened the road and propped open my eyes. Since my mom and niece were along, and since we all have different reading tastes, I chose two middle-grade books at random. They turned out to be almost equally enjoyable but very different, and I'd recommend both Inside Out and Back Again and Liar and Spy for easy summer reads.
I expected Liar and Spy to be more mystery/external conflict and less emotional/internal conflict, but I did enjoy it a lot. The secondary characters are great (love me some secondaries!) and I especially liked the chapters set during science and gym class.
Inside Out and Back Again opens in Vietnam. I loved the way the author wove the Vietnamese culture throughout the story, and the main character is very likable. If you like bittersweet, this book is for you.
A funny thing about audiobooks: you don't see the formatting. I noticed a poetic feel to the short, almost dreamy chapters, but not until today did I use Amazon's "look inside" feature and realize the entire book is told in free verse! Wow. I love poetry, and I love middle-grade books, but I would never have willingly spent time on a combo of those two things. Had I picked this book up at the library, I would never have read it.
But I'm really glad I did.
Just a reminder: there's one day left on my Goodreads giveaway, so if you haven't signed up, head on over and do so!
My short memoir piece will be published in the June issue of Purpose magazine by Mennomedia. This issue's theme is Being Content, which immediately made me think of our adopted grandparents in Romania.
Grandpa Dumitru and Grandma Aurica have less than most of us, but paradoxically are more content than most of us, too. "The Lord Giveth" tells the story of how we met them in dire circumstances, but with their contentment shining through.
For someone as scatterbrained as I, Goodreads has saved the day by keeping track of my books. Over the years I've located and shelved many of the books I read as a kid and teen, as well as kept track of most of the books I currently read.
I've also entered quite a few Goodreads giveaways and actually won a book once. Now it's my turn to offer this opportunity. For most of May, I'm running a new Goodreads giveaway for Growing Toward the Sun, open to readers from the United States and Great Britain. The giveaway ends May 25th. Good luck!
Two weeks ago my husband and I spent a day in central Kansas. We were there for a school-related meeting but stole a few hours to visit my old haunts.
I grew up in McPherson County but chose to set Growing Toward the Sun in nearby Reno County. The descriptions of book places, though, come from all over my small childhood world.
We drove through my tidy hometown, past the rest home where Grandma worked, past the hardware store, the library, and the former grocery store. The gas station isn't one anymore. My childhood best friend's house is still there and Elm Street, where Grandpa and Grandma lived, is as shady and pretty as I remembered.
In Newton, I was sad to find a large empty parking lot where the old Alco store (Kmart in my book!) once stood. The Taco Tico is still there, though, the place I turned into a burger joint for one of the first scenes in my book. I'll bet one could still keep a sharp eye on the parking lot from the booth where I sat as a kid.
Later, we toured a place I've had on my list for years: the Kauffman Museum, specifically the permanent exhibit called "Of Land and People," which tells the story of my people, the Mennonites who immigrated from Russia to the Great Plains in the 1800s. Many familiar family names mark the exhibits and I wondered if an ancestor brought that worn leather coin purse across the Atlantic, if a distant relative wore that battered fur hat.
The workshop and tools reminded me of Great Grandpa, the cute front porch replica of Great Grandma. If I could get my hands on a one of those wooden chests, or better still, a handmade wardrobe or bench...
The museum is small but worth the visit. Don't forget to take the path through the trees to explore the Voth-Unruh-Fast house and the Ratzlaff barn. (Yes, it smells like Great Grandpa's.)
It's good to re-examine one's roots. I hope to write a book about those roots someday.
Author ED Martin and I belong to the same critique site. Every Friday she features a different author on her blog, and this week it's my turn. You can read the interview here.
I'm super excited to announce that copies of Growing toward the Sun are now available at "brick and mortar stores" in several new locations.
Here in Jamesport, Missouri, you can purchase copies of Growing Toward the Sun at the following locations:
Last but not least, my wonderful library bought a copy. I'm a member of the Gallatin Writers' Guild and we meet at the Daviess County Library every other Tuesday afternoon. The last time I arrived, the librarians were waiting with my book and requested an autograph. Kids checking my book out at our local library? A childhood dream come true...
The Gallatin newspaper, The Northwest Missourian, sent a reporter to one of our November guild meetings and she interviewed us all collectively and separately. The full-page article came out in the December 6 issue. The well written story painted our group in a complimentary light and also served as a nice bit of free advertising for those of us with published books.
One more thing: my Goodreads giveaway is over but another begins on April 25. Stay tuned.
Just a reminder: you still have a couple of days to enter the Goodreads giveaway for Growing Toward the Sun. It's open for US and Canadian Goodreads members.
Happy New Year!
My short story "Gabriela's List" will appear in the January publication of Purpose magazine.
"Gabriela's List" is a creative non-fiction piece about one of my Romanian friends, a Christian girl with high (maybe too high!) ideals about marriage and a life's partner.
Purpose magazine, published by Mennomedia, is a monthly periodical that contains inspirational short stories, essays, and poetry.
I recently ordered a year's subscription as a Christmas gift for my grandma. It's available via phone or email at mennomedia.org.
Growing Toward the Sun officially goes live December 5th!
It will be available in paperback on Amazon, directly from me, and at Bricktown Coffee in Jamesport, Missouri. Ebooks will be available on Amazon.
You also have a chance to nab a free copy. I'm giving away two copies on Goodreads, starting November 29.
Watch for more giveaways - both here on my site and on Goodreads - in the future.