Please join us to discuss everything literary (especially kid literary): good books, the writing life, the people and businesses who create books, controversies in book world, what's good to snack on while reading and writing, and anything else bookish. We welcome your thoughts.

Monday, March 31, 2014

The Book Club Boom

Once upon a time, encounters with friends on the street would be followed by questions about family, health or work. Not any more.  The first question you're likely to hear nowadays is, "What's your book club reading?" Am I right?  Book Clubs are everywhere.  According to a New York Times article estimate, some five million people nationwide gather every few weeks in a living room or in a bar or bookstore or local library to discuss someone's book.  Though some groups distinguish between the host and the facilitator, a recent trend includes having the book's author present or skyped in to facilitate the discussion.  Though such a presence might quash some feedback, what better insight than from the source? And take note authors; a new source of income is now available.
There are virtual book clubs as well - ZolaBooks connects readers while Goodreads gives members the opportunity to read a book together.  Book Clubs also form along the lines of particular constituencies, be they gender, age, fans of a single author, or genre.
In the end, says James Atlas*, book groups are about community.  "The success of the One City, One Book initiatives in Chicago, Seattle and smaller towns...reflects the longing to share.  So does Oprah; her book club binds together a nation disparate in its customs, classes, religions and ethnicities by putting it in front of the TV and telling it what to read."
Reading is a solitary activity, but talking about reading? That's the connectivity of a Book Club.

*"Really? You're Not in a Book Club?" by James Atlas, NY Times, March 23, 2014

Submitted by Andrea Perry

Friday, March 28, 2014

Book Review Friday: Susan Cain's "Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking"

By Carol Baicker-McKee

This one's for the grown-ups. (But don't worry, I'll add some picture book suggestions at the end.)

If you haven't already discovered Susan Cain's thoroughly researched (and influential) 2012 nonfiction book about introverts - individuals who prefer lower levels of stimulation - well, get thee to a library or bookstore! (The link above takes you to Cain's website where you can order copies - signed, even - of the book.) I for one regret waiting this long to read it myself.

What It's About
In Quiet, Cain explores the nature of introversion (which is not synonymous with shyness or fear of public speaking and also differs from autism) and extroversion. She sees this dimension of personality, which she identifies as "the North and South of Temperament," as being as fundamental to an individual's life as gender, affecting people's relationships, work, and sense of satisfaction, as well as influencing how easily they can make a mark on the world.

It took Cain seven years to research and write this book, which is easy to imagine even from the depth and breadth of her research in Part I on the history of how extroversion became the cultural  ideal in the U.S and much of the West and what the consequences, good and bad, have been for our society as a result. Her thorough and intriguing style continues throughout as she looks at introversion from many perspectives. Part Two examines the biology of introversion-extroversion; Part Three looks at Asian culture and its acceptance of introverts (many reviewers found this section most troubling); and finally, Part Four is a practical guide for living with your own temperament and interacting with those who differ. Throughout, Cain weaves clear explanations of scholarly research from a wide range of fields, interesting biographical anecdotes of historical and contemporary figures, personal revelations, and analyses of political, economic and news events. Although the book has had its share of negative reviews, I found it to be as readable and ground-breakingly analytical as anything by Malcolm Gladwell (author of influential bestsellers like The Tipping Point, Outliers, and David and Goliath), which is high praise from me.

If you'd like to learn more before committing to reading it, you can check out information on the book on Cain's website, watch her TED talk on introversion, read the Wikipedia entry about the book and its influence, or check out a wealth of reader reviews (and other resources) on Amazon here and Goodreads here.

Why Members of the Book Community Might Like to Read This Book
Sara Reading. Paper cut by Carol Baicker-McKee
For Self-Help/Validation
Based on her research, Cain estimates that between one-third and one-half of the world's population is introverted. Based on my personal experience, I'll estimate that the proportion of introverts among writers, illustrators, avid readers, librarians, and editors and many others in the publishing field is at least two-thirds. And that makes sense: as Cain discovered, creative work typically demands long periods of solitary, inner work - just the conditions under which introverts thrive. (Want a quick evaluation of where you fall on the introversion-extroversion spectrum? You can take Cain's informal quiz here). The information in Quiet will help us introverts understand our needs and tendencies better and help us cope better with extroverts and situations requiring a more extroverted style (think the marketing demands that are now integral to any book-related career). Perhaps even more importantly, Cain's book offers reassurance that not only are introverts okay, their style is essential for our society.

For Character Research
Books like Quiet are great for research in developing characters, particularly if those characters are different from you. Quiet not only offers a wealth of detail about how introverts think, behave and develop - it also provides behind-the-scenes portraits of extroverts, making it easier to create a convincing one (should they seem utterly foreign to you).

By  the way, I have my doctorate in clinical psychology, so I've long been a fan of books about human development and psychopathology -- if you haven't been, you might want to consider adding them to the stack by your bed as background character research. (Let me know if you'd be interested in a future post on more of my favorite psych-for-writers books.)

For the Book's Influence on Publishing?
I don't have any objective information that the book is changing children's publishing, but I do know that it has been hailed as influential in areas as diverse as college admissions and the design of office space and furniture - and over the last couple of years, I've been seeing a growing stream of picture books on the market that could only be described as, well, quiet. And this after years in which nearly every picture book writer I know accumulated stacks of rejections for manuscripts that editors liked but deemed "too quiet."

I know, the timing isn't really quite right, given how long it takes a picture book to go from acceptance to publication (let alone conception), but still..

Here are a couple of my favorite "quiet" picture books from recent years.

The title says it all (though in fairness, there's also a companion Noisy book). I especially love the softness and humor of Renata Liwska's illustrations for Deborah Underwood's spare but charming text. You can visit the illustrator's Quiet Blog for glimpses of more quiet works-in-progress and a peek at her life.

Elly Mackay is one of my new favorite illustrators, and only partly because she favors three-dimensional media like I do. All of her work is breathtaking as well as original - and quiet. She uses a unique technique she calls "paper theater" and which incorporates layered sets, watercolor cutouts, and theater-style lighting to create luminous award-winning pictures. You can visit her website and blog, theaterclouds, as well as buy prints of her work on Etsy.

So What Do You Think?
Have you read Quiet? What did you think?
Do you agree or disagree that introspection is undervalued? Is it a useful trait in today's society?
How does your own introversion/extroversion influence your work? Your reading choices?

Monday, March 24, 2014

The Art of Waiting by Judy Press

I'm often asked how I got started as a writer and my answer is that I literally "fell" into it. Twenty-two years ago I was teaching art part time when I slipped on black ice and shattered my femur. After two surgeries my family suggested that I put a few craft ideas for young children and teachers into a book. I titled my book, "The Icky Sticky Not-Too-Tricky Craft Book." That book was bought by Williamson Publishing, who promptly re-titled it, "The Little Hands Art Book." And so began my new career of writing and submitting and waiting and waiting and waiting to hear from publishers. In those "good" old days, I would anxiously await the mail carrier and the return of my SASE. Would there be a letter from an editor with high praise for my submission and a promise to publish it immediately? Or would it be a "nice" rejection where the editor scribbled a few kind words at the bottom of a form letter? That feeling of anxiety was like buying a lottery ticket and dreaming about becoming an instant millionaire. But times, along with the book business, have changed. No longer are SASE's required for most publishers and many request electronic submissions with a response  only if they're interested. Oh how I long for the feeling of my fate being sealed in a white envelope and slipped through my mail slot! So if you're among those of us who are anxiously awaiting a response to a submission, here are five fun things to do while you wait:
1. Read every book that was nominated for a Caldecott and Newbery award
2. Sign up as a volunteer reader at your local chapter of, "Reading Is FUNdamental" 
3. Donate the children's books your kids have outgrown
4. Pay a visit to your local library
5. Buy a lottery ticket (hey, you never know!)

Friday, March 21, 2014

Five on Friday - Five Picture Books that made me smile, and often laugh out loud

Scaredy Squirrel by Melanie Watt.
Scaredy Squirrel can't seem to stop being, well, Scaredy Squirrel.  In Scaredy's newest adventure, it is falling asleep and dreaming of scaredy things that has got his tail in a bunch.  Watt uses her usual format of first jumping into the specific anxiety-producing list which often includes those dreaded killer bees, and then proceeds with the plan to then avert the potential crisis.  In this case the ways to stay awake are 1) playing the cymbals, 2) scrapbooking, and 3) counting stars.  Does Scaredy stay awake? Does the strategy work? It is all very predictable, albeit hilarious.  However,  I have always loved that Scaredy is problem solver who approaches each situation by making a  specific plan, no matter how wacky. 
Sparky! by Jenny Offill and Chris Appelhans.
Sparky is the story of a sloth who arrives by Express Mail, the perfect pet for a little girl who is advised by her mother that the best pet is one that doesn't need to be "walked or bathed or fed."
Sleeping 16 hours a day is good for that.  But other pets, the little girl finds, have special talents.  Quickly she advertises a performance for Sparky to showcase the tricks she hopes to be able to teach her pet.  Will Sparky be able to do anything besides play possum? What exactly must a pet be able to do to be the perfect pet?  You might be surprised.

Superworm by Julia Donalson and Axel Scheffler
Meet Superworm, a creature of more talents than you might think.  Fellow creatures in this earthy homeland know that Superworm can become whatever the situation requires; a skipping rope, a fishing line, a lasso, a crane, a swing, or slide.  Superworm is ever so helpful to all.  Alas, Wizard Lizard has other plans.  He wants to harness Superworm to dig until he unearths some treasure, or else be eaten by a hungry hench-crow.  What will the forest critters do to save their friend from such a fate?
How to Train a Train by Jason Carter Eaton and John Rocco
I had planned on not liking How to Train a Train, but got derailed.  This delightful 'pet' training guide provides detailed steps on Train care. It is a comprehensive manual for catching, keeping, naming and training Trains.  Would you have any idea where to look for a Train in the wild? Would you be able to select an appropriate name, be it Milo or Smokey or Captain Foofamaloo?  Would you know how to make new friends for your Train, like airplanes, trucks or submarines? You will happily pass up a  Pomeranian after enjoying this tale of a companion from the other side of the track.
Sophie's Squash by Pat Zietlow Miller and Anne Wilsdorf
One day at the Farmer's Market, Sophie met a squash that she had to have. Sophie's parents were surprised to find that Sophie's plans for her little squash did not include brown sugar! Her new squash fit perfectly in her arms and in her life.  They snuggled, rolled down hills, read together and genuinely loved each others company.  However, after a while Sophie's squash began to look a little worse for wear, and so she took it back to the Farmer's Market to visit some friends.  The farmer gave Sophie some advice about just what her squash needed.  After lovingly covering her friend in some soft earth for some R&R (and a change of seasons), Sophie found come spring that her squash family had grown.  This little tale gives new meaning to loving your vegetables.

Submitted by Andrea Perry

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Kate Greenaway, Tiffany Glass, Early KidLit - and Sunshine

Boy Holding Apple Pie, 1886
Illustration detail from A Apple Pie
Hand-colored woodblock print
Kate Greenaway, English, 1846-1901
Printer and engraver: Edmund Evans, British, 1826-1905


We just got back from Florida – a welcome trip after a hard winter. My daughter’s best friend from high school is doing an internship at Disney so we went to see her and to feel sunshine again. Maybe you’re making plans to take the kids to Orlando to visit the Mouse. If you are, here’s a special treat to include on your itinerary that doesn’t involve waiting in line for rides.

The Charles Hosmer Morse Museum of American Art, located just north of Orlando in Winter Park, houses an amazing collection of the works of Louis Comfort Tiffany , along with an impressive collection of American art pottery, American paintings, and the decorative arts.

And through January 11, it is also hosting an exhibit called “Lullaby and Goodnight – Children’s Literature from the Morse Collection”. Trust me, it’s worth begging your spouse to watch the kids solo for an afternoon while you take the rental car, hop on I4 heading north and immerse yourself in the beauty of this museum and this charming exhibition. The focus of one of the gallery rooms is on three early contributors to children’s books – Kate Greenaway, Mary Dow Brine, and Eulalie Osgood Grover. Displayed are precious early books, antique pottery tiles used as nursery décor, and vintage dolls. Here’s the reasoning of that time period:

“…children’s books were part of a broad social effort to instill an early appreciation of beauty and, in turn, improve the character of children.”

Enjoy the books, the stained glass, amazing art. And enjoy the sunshine.
Wishing you safe, happy travels that inspire you and your writing.

Monday, March 17, 2014

NYT on the Apartheid of Children's Literature; WaPo on Swoon Reads

by S. C. Poe

This week two mainstream newspapers discussed books for young readers. I found the contrasting coverage instructive. 

The Washington Post discussed a glut of books; the New York Times described a deficiency. 

Swooning for Romance 
The WaPo article covered the Swoon Reads website, on which Macmillan "allows anyone to submit a completed [YA romance] manuscript directly to its easy-to-use Web site" and makes the mss available for free to as many registered members as wish to . . . swoon.  

Swoon Reads functions as a combination slush pile and focus group, with the  membership community rating every book they read. (Macmillan is careful to make no promises, but top-rated books may be considered for print and e-book publication and sale. Indeed, one story will graduate onto the Macmillan print list this year, with a first publication run of 100,000 copies.) 

Swoon, of course, took advantage of a trend that had already gone viral: a vast network of readers who craved teen e-romances, and who had already developed ways to publicize the ones they liked best.  

The WaPo lede asked "What do [children's book] readers want?" Two days later, the New York Times offered two op eds that gave a sad answer: something nobody's publishing.  

The op eds were written by Walter Dean Myers (Newbery and Printz award-winning author of more than 50 books for young readers) and his son Christopher Myers (Caldecott and King-winning author and illustrator). 

Christopher Myers illustration for NYTimes

Both editorials referenced statistics published through recent years by the Cooperative Children's Book Center at the University of Wisconsin-Madison's School of Education. (Look here for their complete statistics for Children's Books By and About People of Color Published in the U.S.)

W.D.Myers'editorial focuses on this particular finding: out of an estimated 3,200 children's books published in 2013, only 93 were primarily about Africans or African-Americans. 

As the CCBC itself notes, whether considering books about African-Americans, American Indians, Asian or Asian-Pacific Americans, or Latinos, "The news in terms of sheer numbers continues to be discouraging: the total number of books about people of color—regardless of quality, regardless of accuracy or authenticity—was less than eight percent of the total number of titles we received. Think about that. Think about it terms of what you know about the changing demographics of our nation."

And if you check the CCBC's charts, you'll see that the number of African-American writers published in a given year is also low, and actually seems to be shrinking. The whole industry seems to be failing at discovering/developing new writers of color.   

The apartheid of children's literature

Christopher Myers writes that "too often today’s books remain blind to the everyday reality of thousands of children. Children of color remain outside the boundaries of imagination."

And W.D. Myers observes that even when a story's main character is black, he or she is often primarily a victim, "struggling to overcome either slavery or racism."

As a child reader, W. D. Myers could never seem to find his ordinary self—his life, his experience—in books. And all these years later, young readers of color still can't. 

Does the publishing industry even know how to publish for readers of color? 

Are editors cautious and reluctant, because they simply don't know what to publish? How many children's publishing editors and agents and marketing people can even claim to recognize the authentic "everyday reality" of children of color?

And is there really no market for these books? Or is the market simply untapped? 

Pondering this, I clicked back to the WaPo article. 

Using the Wisdom of Crowds to Pick the Next Teen Romance Bestseller

That's how the WaPo described the Swoon Reads approach. Macmillan senior vice president and publisher Jean Feiwel explains that her team created Swoon to discover new stories and let them find their market in a way that costs less in time and money. "Okay, I thought, there are authors out there . . . . I feel there’s a lot of talent out there that can’t get to us.”

Could the Swoon Reads concept be adapted to find new writers of color, and stories in which young readers of color can find themselves? 

True, Swoon hopped onto an already thriving romance-reading network. 

But could networks for other genres be grown from seed? Could major presses follow the Swoon model to discover and test-market other genres of books? 

Could today's young Walter Deans and Christophers learn to find themselves in ebooks? 

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Tools for Protecting Your Photos and Graphic Images

by Cynthia Light Brown 

We've written in this blog before about being careful to always get permission before using a photo or other image. But writers--and especially illustrators--also need to understand whether and how to protect our own photos and images.

You may want to protect or track your images, or you may not. If you have a personal photo and are fine with it being in the public domain, then don't worry. But even if you just want credit, take some precautions before you upload an image onto a blog or website.
There are two main types of protection: visual and digital. 

In visual protection, you can put a watermark on your image that gives visual information - like your name and website. An ideal place for a watermark is near a face, but not covering it. Adobe Photoshop and other image manipulating software can do that for you, or you can simply add a label. 

Free sites that allow you to add a label or watermark:

http://picasa.com (you add the watermark when you export the photo)

You can also add either using PowerPoint or Word. In Word, you insert a text box, then format it how you like. To make the words a watermark, just use a light gray color. There's even a true watermark function in there for images. 

In digital protection, you add a digital tag that lets you track where the image is on the internet. Stipple is a free site that allows you to tag your photos, but you have to put the tagging on your website or blog. The closest thing to instructions I could find are under the "Support" link.


Stipple also allows you to reverse search. You move a photo onto the website, and it searches for other places on the web that have the photo. Google search also does the same thing, as does Tin Eye:

If you are really serious about protecting your images -- if you are a professional photographer or artist, you might consider sites that you pay for more robust digital tagging as well:


Happy Photographing!

Monday, March 10, 2014

Robyn-Headshot-Large.jpgdancing in the dark american flux book size from barnes noble.jpg

by Robyn Bavati

1) What is your favorite line or paragraph from the novel as it relates to the main character's development and/or growth?

I think there's something deeply poignant about the last paragraph of chapter 20: There was a nostalgic part of me that longed to become again the little girl I used to be. There was something unbearably sad about knowing I couldn't. 

Here is a recognition on Ditty's part of the loss of innocence that accompanies maturity, a realization that she is growing up and will never again be able to view the world through the eyes of a once-innocent child.

But equally, I think there's great strength in the last few lines of a paragraph in the middle of chapter 37:What they did to Sara was heartless and cruel, and if that was my religious heritage, I wanted no part of it. I loved my family, but I could not, would not, believe what they believed. This is a formative moment for Ditty - she realizes there is a 'bottom line'.

2) What is your favorite chapter ending or cliffhanger?

Probably the very end of the entire novel: A moment later I am moving through space. Spinning. Twirling. Dancing. In the light. After years of struggling 'in the dark', Ditty at last achieves her dream and her shadow self is no longer a dirty secret to be locked away. There is hope for the future.

3) Who is your favorite secondary character and why?

Though I feel great affection for both Miss Mitchell and Aunt Tamara, my favourite secondary character is probably Linda because she's such a breath of fresh air. She's fun, non-judgemental, and a bit of a rebel, and I'm never quite certain what she'll do next.

4) What is your favorite line or paragraph of description?

It's hard to pick a favourite, but one line I think is quite powerful is this one on p. 160, towards the end of chapter 23: 

Suddenly I felt a sharp pang of loneliness because the people I loved, the people who had raised and nurtured me, didn't have a clue who I really was.

5) What is your favorite line of dialogue?

It's a toss-up between these two, both spoken by Ditty's mother:

1) (from chapter 23) "One night... when you were about one and a half years old, you disappeared. We looked all over the house for you, but we couldn't find you anywhere. finally, we thought we'd better look outside, and that's where we found you. You were standing in the middle of the garden, dancing in the dark..."

2) (from the epilogue) "I understand now, Ditty... I understand how you can want something so badly it makes you tell lies."

Congrats again to Robyn Bavati, whose DANCING IN THE DARK, was named a Sydney Taylor honor book and on her second book, Pirouette. To read more about Robyn, please go to:

Friday, March 7, 2014

First Friday - Five Favorite Things - Debut Novel Day

by Dave Amaditz and
Marcy Collier

dancing in the dark american flux book size from barnes noble.jpg

One year of First Friday reviews is now in the books. Thank you to all of the fabulous debut authors who have agreed to participate. Marcy and I are looking for many more reviews to follow.

Welcome to March’s version of - First Friday - Five Favorite Things - Debut Novel Day. In this monthly series, we ask five simple questions about a debut novel that will hopefully entice anyone reading this post to pick up the novel and read it themselves, and/or give them at a glance some insight into the author's writing style and voice as well as how some of the characters might think or act. We do this by presenting, first, answers to our Five Favorite Things, followed by the author's answers in a follow-up post.

This month we're pleased to highlight debut YA novelist, Robyn Bavati and her novel, Dancing in the Dark.  This was a book that I read in one sitting, unable to put it down because I was so drawn to the characters, to the story. The world Robyn created was so believable and so compelling that I found myself not wanting the story to end. Dancing in the Dark reminded me of another of my favorite novels by one of my favorite authors: My Name Is Asher Lev by Chaim Potok. So now, there are two novels for you to put on your reading list as highly recommended.

1) What is your favorite line or paragraph from the novel as it relates to the main character's development and/or growth?

Dave – At this point of the story, the main character, Ditty, is involved in an internal struggle over doing something that she loves, dance, or following her father’s rule that she not participate. She’s rationalizing why following the rules of dance were so much easier than following the rules of her religion.

You could hurt yourself if you worked incorrectly, but there were no threats of punishment, no dire predictions. If you got it wrong, no one made you feel guilty, or worthless, or afraid. The rules were there to help you, and if you manage to follow them, the reward would be instant - you’d be able to dance. It was simple. Rules were something I knew all about, but here there were no pangs of conscience, no mental anguish. There was nothing that could not be understood or demonstrated or proven. The rules made sense. They were rules I could keep.

Marcy – The main character Ditty dreamed of learning ballet but never thought it was possible because of the strict rules of her religion. At this point in the story, Ditty starts to allow herself the slightest bit of hope to dream about real ballet lessons.

I continued to teach myself as much as I could through books and the occasional snippet of ballet on TV, but what I really, badly wanted was a teacher. I started to dream of real lessons, but it didn’t occur to me that the dream could ever become a reality.

2) What is your favorite chapter ending or cliffhanger?

Dave - Again, this particular section gives insight into how torn, how conflicted Ditty felt about her choice to dance.

There was a certain logic to what Linda had said. But religion went beyond logic, beyond reason. If my parents were right, if all our rabbis and sages and scholars were right, then I had sinned so badly I’d be spending an eternally wretched and miserable existence in the Olam Haba after I died. But if they were wrong, and I believed them? Then I’d miss out on this world and all it had to offer. Either way, I was doomed.

Marcy – There were so many chapter endings I enjoyed, it was hard to decide. This passage really shows Ditty's passion about dancing.

But this was my chance – maybe my only chance – to find out what a real ballet lesson was like. How could I pass up the opportunity? I knew I would never forgive myself if I did.

3) Who is your favorite secondary character and why?

Dave – I went back and forth about this so often, and originally, I was going to pick Ditty’s father simply because he was so confident, so sure of himself and his beliefs. In the end, I picked Linda, Ditty’s cousin, who in such a light-hearted way, was also so sure of herself and everything she chose to do. I think this particular dialogue between Ditty and Linda gives good insight into Linda’s character. She has such powerful arguments for why Ditty should be able to pursue her dreams of dancing.

“But Ditty, that’s ridiculous. That’s just like saying that if your parents happen to be criminals, then God would want you to be a criminal, and if your mother’s a prostitute, then you were meant to be a prostitute. Or if your parents happen to be alcoholics-“

“No. Hashem would want you to rise above that…”

“Then maybe He’d want you to rise above religion, too.”

In another section, Linda talks about Ditty’s sister, who so easily accepts the religious rules placed upon her.

“Well, maybe you’re right. Maybe faith really does make her feel peaceful, and maybe ignorance really is bliss. But given the choice, Ditty, I don’t think I’d choose ignorance no matter how happy it made me. Given the choice, I’d rather have the truth.”

Marcy – Like Dave, I was torn between two characters – Linda and Ditty’s ballet teacher, Miss Mitchell. Ditty finally confides in Miss Mitchell and tells her the truth. Ditty is afraid of her teacher’s reaction, which ends up being both heartfelt and compassionate.

“We’ll sort out your living arrangements after we get Giselle out of the way,” she says. “But don’t worry, Ditty. In the meantime, you can stay with me.”

A rush of gratitude overwhelms me. Miss Mitchell cares. She always has.

4) What is your favorite line or paragraph of description?

Dave – I picked this particular section because it is not only beautiful imagery, but it gives an insight into how Ditty felt when she danced and how dance made her view the world around her.

Miss Mitchell continued to encourage me, and I was determined to keep on earning her praise. I spent hours doing dance steps in my head, and on the days I had ballet, everyday life began to recede even before the class had begun. With each step closer to the National, I became lighter, freer. Each lesson was a gradual soaring, and by the time it was over, I felt weightless. I could’ve sworn I left the studio noticeably taller than when I’d arrived.

Ballet was beauty, and I took pride in executing even the simplest of steps. It was also perfection, but I knew that perfection could never truly be achieved, and there would always be something to strive for.

Dance opened my eyes to other kinds of beauty I’d never paid much attention to before - the different shades of green on the large oak outside our school, the way the forget-me-nots in Harlston Park were more fragrant in the evenings. Happiness broadened my perspective of the world, so that the familiar seemed new.

But it was short-lived happiness, tinged with guilt.

Marcy – By this point, Ditty’s character is changing and she begins to see the world, especially her small community quite differently.

I remembered how proud my cousin Shoshi was when we found out she was pregnant soon after her wedding. And suddenly it struck me that in haredi circles, the number of children women had was almost like a status symbol. As if there was nothing else a woman could do that would be worthwhile.

5) What is your favorite line of dialogue?

Dave – In this particular section, Ditty’s father is speaking with her uncle, who is not as conservative as Ditty’s father. They are talking about the philosophy of raising children and whether or not to give them choices as well as what kind of choices to give them. To me, it gives so much insight into the type of struggle Ditty faces living by her father’s rules.

“But don’t you want them to know there’s a world out there? Don’t you want them to have a choice, a real choice?”

“No, I don’t,” said my father. “I want them to live as Jews are supposed to live. And it isn’t what I want, Yankel, it’s what Hashem requires.”

MarcyThis line kept with me long after reading the book - both funny and poignant.

I was the lowest of the low. I should have been in shule by now, praying for world peace and the salvation of my wayward soul. Instead, I was riding a tram down Brighton Road, praying that no ticket inspector would ride the 67 route that day. I was all too aware of the inherent contradiction in the fact that I had not paid for my ticket because it was forbidden to handle money on Shabbos.

Congratulations to Robyn Bavati, whose Dancing in the Dark, was named a Sydney Taylor honor book and on her second book, Pirouette. To read more about Robyn, please go to:

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Wandering Thoughts

by Kitty Griffin

This song is called "Fishin'" and it's sung by a group called 

Widespread Panic

And there are times when this song sends me where I need 

to go. Just looking at the words I can hear the melody and 





Oh, she barely waits a moment
Elevator doors open
Hear her footsteps touch the stairs
Words walk by
Describing definition
Stop and talk about it
Is just too easy to see
We're always looking
When we see fishes
When we go fishin'
Thoughts meander
Risin' all around us
Rise and fall and rise again
Oh, we stop and talk about it
Strong beliefs
Like ideas come to life
Turn atoms into rain and stone
Sands and tall trees
Worlds passed by
Defyin' description
Stop and talk about it
Talk about it
And Maia, she dances
She dissolves into the light
Illusions of light
Oh Maia, she dances
Deep romance and poetry
Songs and movies
Virtue for la de da
She dances in the light
Dance in the light
Maia, she dances
Oh Maia, she dances
Published by
Lyrics © BUG MUSIC

Read more: Widespread Panic - Fishing Lyrics | MetroLyrics 

Go ahead, listen to the sample for free...and see if you aren't 


Because, as writers, we're always fish in' aren't we. And if 

you don't write it down, oh always remember, write it down!

Now, what I have to share isn't a book.
Not exactly.

It's an app.

And it is the most delightful charming app ever, especially if 

you have a little sleepy someone who needs to go to sleep.

It comes with a ***** 5 Snore recommendation. Shhhh. It's 


perfect for ages 6 months to four or five. You can change the 

scene from summer to winter and there's a variety of 

languages. Lately, we've been listening in German.