Thursday, December 19, 2013

Merry Christmas

I love the "reality" of this picture. There are many lovely nativity scenes, but some of them, frankly, strike me as quite staged and over-religious. I think this picture, with Mary, Joseph, and Baby Jesus alone, and only God sharing their moment, is probably closer to the real nativity.

I will see you again in this space on January 2, 2014. I wish you all a holiday season filled with joy, celebration, family, friends, and reality -- not reality in its grittiness or grimness, but in its wonder and splendor, its love and peace. Blessings ~~

Thursday, December 12, 2013

A Hint of a Playlist, and a Scary Idea

A playlist for a novel? Me? Nuh-uh. I've always written in silence. I may or may not be the mother of a kid who did his homework in front of the TV and protested that he needed two things going on at once, but for me, the background never stays in the background. It ends up becoming the foreground...which may make me the one who can't stay on task. Anyway.

I also think playlists are way more common among YA than MG writers, and I am MG. That is, until last week I got this completely impossible dangerous scary idea for a YA. I mean so impossibly dangerously scary that I may not ever write it. (And for now, I won't; I have to finish the one I'm on.) But it has a few notes jotted on its behalf, and now it may even have a song. The song came to my mind totally unbidden a few nights ago, and I seemed to "know" it was for this idea. Uh-oh.

So, before I leave you with Dan Fogelberg, I pose a discussion question: Do you think playlists are mainly/only a YA thing, and if you use them, by what process do songs "make the list"? Do you go looking for them, or do they just come?

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Flora and Ulysses, by Kate DiCamillo

It's hard to know where to begin with this one. Flora and Ulysses is a MG story that's part "regular" text and part graphic novel; part light and part serious; part fantasy and part realistic. It's funny and original.

It all begins the way superhero tales normally do: a freak accident endows somebody with superpowers. In this case, "somebody" is a squirrel who gets vacuumed up by an ultra-powerful vacuum cleaner, the Ulysses 2000X, and when resuscitated by the main character, Flora, has become a squirrel that has can lift large objects, understand English, and write poetry. Flora believes it's her mission to help the squirrel, whom she names Ulysses, to fulfill his destiny and vanquish his arch-nemesis. But what if his arch-nemesis turns out to be Flora's mother?

This book is filled with quirky characters, including Flora, who is a self-described cynic (which we learn is how she deals with the pain of her parents' divorce), both her parents, the neighbor lady who received the vacuum as a birthday gift from her husband, and the great-nephew she watches, a boy Flora's age who is temporarily blind due to family trauma of his own. Quirky isn't normally my taste, really, and you have to suspend disbelief to accept this many characters who are this quirky in one small geographical area (and two kids, ages ten and eleven, who can use such big words), but the good writing and the charm and the humor and the underlying poignancy drew me in and held me fast. You just might have to be Kate DiCamillo to pull this off, and she does. Recommended.