If you are between 8 and 108 years old and like to read middle grade books, then you are especially welcome here!

Book break

Posted: February 6th, 2013 | Author: | Filed under: T Writes | Tags: , , | No Comments »

In a day that’s filled with school, work, and chores, it’s a blessed relief to put all worries aside and escape into the funny, exciting, suspenseful, and informative pages of a good book. What are we waiting for? Let’s all take a book break now!

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Happy Hanukkah!

Posted: December 12th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: T Writes | Tags: , | No Comments »

Potato latkes with sour cream or applesauce or BOTH are among my favorite holiday foods…or ANY DAY foods, too! But they are especially good on a cold Hanukkah night. And after this yummy treat? An even yummier one! I like any fruity rugelach, but sour cherry is my all time fave.

And why not follow something sweet with something sweeter? Fab bakery Eleni’s in New York offers these fun cookies and lots more for the Festival of Light.

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Happy Easter!

Posted: April 7th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: T Writes | Tags: , , , , , | No Comments »

At Easter I think of bunny ears in all their glory, ending with my favorite kind: the ones atop a delicious coconut bunny cake.

My love for this holiday treat started early. Here I am, your not-so-humble author, proudly showing an Easter bunny cake I helped create. I haven’t made one since. It’s baking time!

Happy Easter, everybody!

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THE BOY WHO HOWLED is number one!

Posted: May 10th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: T Writes | Tags: , , , | No Comments »

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Thank you, Diana Wynne Jones

Posted: March 26th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: T Writes | Tags: , , | No Comments »

Writer Diana Wynne Jones said goodbye to our earthly realm today.

She was the author of HOWL’S MOVING CASTLE, one of my absolute favorite books of all time. I discovered it as an adult. I wish I had read it when I was a kid, because I would have no doubt read all her other books by now!

As it is, I have the great blessing to catch up now.

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Reading roundup

Posted: February 3rd, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: T Writes | Tags: , , | No Comments »

Meeting this longhorn steer at the Autry National Center got me thinking it was time I shared my latest MG book faves in a reading roundup.

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First up is Greg van Eekhout’s THE BOY AT THE END OF THE WORLD. This book is so new, it isn’t even OUT yet. (I was lucky enough to get an advance reading copy.) It’s the story of a boy named Fisher who awakes in the distant future to discover that he is the only survivor of a space-age Ark. Joining Fisher on a dangerous mission across what was once the United States to find and awake possible survivors of a mysterious Western Ark are Click, the robot caretaker from HIS Ark, and a friendly pygmy mammoth named Protein that they met along the way.

The story is serious, funny, scary, and suspenseful. Fisher learns a lot from his surprising experiences. When he comes across some old human writing in his journey, he realizes that “to read the thoughts of long-dead people seemed as crucial a part of being human as building a fire.”

How right he was about that! If I had to choose between this book and a cozy fire, I would have to think long and hard about it. Have you ever wondered what super-intelligent prairie dogs would think of a custodial robot and a cloned pygmy mammoth? Read THE BOY AT THE END OF THE WORLD to find out.

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My next new fave is Paul Feig’s IGNATIUS MACFARLAND: FREQUENCY FREAK-OUT! In this funny, suspenseful adventure, the universe is like a radio, and there are as many different worlds as there are channels. All you have to do to travel from one “frequency” to another is twist the dial of a certain kind of transporter. This is exactly what Iggy and his friend Karen do, and it lands them on a planet where walking, talking trees lord it over walking, talking plants, and they all make war on creeping, crawling weeds.

Shocking but true: Another human visitor has stolen the trees’ gold, and the ferocious forest wants to KILL Iggy and Karen for it!

Tree-huggers might think twice before cozying up to a botanical buddy after reading this book. There is only one word to describe the action in IGNATIUS MACFARLAND: FREQUENCY FREAK-OUT! And that is “nonstop.”

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Last up is another action/adventure, with emphasis on ACTION. Dee Garretson’s WILDFIRE RUN is about a boy named Luke, whose dad just happens to be President of the United States. Luke is on vacation at woodsy Camp David, the historic presidential retreat, along with his friend Theo and not-quite-friend Callie when all heck breaks loose in the form of a devastating earthquake and subsequent wildfire.

The three kids have got to put their differences aside and work together when it turns out that the adults have been pushed out of the picture and escape is up to them. Their very lives are at stake on nearly every page in this suspenseful survival tale. Luckily, Luke, Theo, and Callie are smart and resourceful and up to the task.

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Those are my three latest MG faves. I’m still reading, so there will be another roundup soon. I can’t put it off for too long, or I’m sure Mr. Longhorn Steer will be on my case about it. His horns are pointed my way.

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Fantastic Mr. Dahl

Posted: November 22nd, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: T Writes | Tags: , , , | No Comments »
Mr. Dahl

The tall Mr. Dahl.

Six foot five-inch tall writer Roald Dahl is one of the Immortals. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and his other great books will live from now until the end of time.

Two of Mr. Dahl’s books have been made into stop-motion films. Stop-motion is a form of animation where moveable models are photographed in incremental movement. A model is photographed, then repositioned and photographed again, and again and again until a required action is completed.

The first of Mr. Dahl’s books to become a stop-motion adventure was James and the Giant Peach in 1996.

James and the Giant Peach—the book.

James and the Giant Peach—the book.

Grasshopper and James mid-adventure. Photo (c) cinefantastiqueonline.com

Grasshopper and James mid-adventure in the stop-motion film version. Photo (c) cinefantastiqueonline.com

Now Fantastic Mr. Fox has received the amazing stop-motion treatment.

Fantastic Mr. Fox—the book.

Fantastic Mr. Fox—the book.

A scene from Fantastic Mr. Fox, the stop-motion film. Photo (c) bbc.co.uk

A scene from Fantastic Mr. Fox, the stop-motion film. Photo (c) bbc.co.uk

Wes Anderson is the director of the filmic Fantastic Mr. Fox. He talks about bunk beds and toy trains—the inspiration behind one of the scenes in the movie—here. Included is a sketch of his ideas, and a clip of the scene in question from the new film.

Mr. and Mrs. Fox on the set of their new stop-motion film. Photo (c) huffingtonpost.com

Mr. and Mrs. Fox on the set of their new stop-motion film. Photo (c) huffingtonpost.com

A peach that grows big enough to live in and a fox that talks may sound crazy, but not to those who enjoy having fun. “A little nonsense now and then is relished by the wisest men,” Mr. Dahl was known to say.

The Roald Dahl Museum in Great Missenden, Buckinghamshire, England is dedicated to preserving the legacy of the great writer. It is the current home of Mr. Dahl’s writing chair, where James and Mr. Fox came into being. Not everyone gets to sit in Mr. Dahl’s chair, but author Val Tyler can boast of having done so.

Mr. Dahl in his chair. Photo (c) Roald Dahl Museum

Mr. Dahl in his chair. Photo (c) Roald Dahl Museum

Ms. Tyler in Mr. Dahl's chair. Photo (c) valtyler.co.uk

Ms. Tyler in Mr. Dahl's chair at the Roald Dahl Museum. Photo (c) valtyler.co.uk

No wonder she looks so happy. She’s probably picking up a lot of great ideas!

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Blast from the past

Posted: August 20th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Letters to T | Tags: , , , | No Comments »

Marianne from Palo Alto, CA writes:

Dear T,

I was the naughtiest child you could ever imagine. My goodness, did I ever get into mischief! I nearly drove my poor parents crazy. I haven’t a clue as to why I was so naughty. Misbehaving certainly didn’t make me happy. No, it was quite the opposite. It made me feel absolutely miserable. But I was a child possessed and couldn’t stop myself from breaking every rule I came across.

Fortunately, when I was eight or nine years old, I came across a book that changed my life for the better. It was the charming story of a brother and two sisters who share exciting adventures while helping their mother after their father mysteriously disappears. They move from their home in the city to a cottage in the country, and save a train filled with passengers from a landslide, and rescue a baby from a fire, among other heroic deeds.

This book taught me that there are nobler and more fulfilling pursuits in life than breaking every rule there is, and now that I am a grandmother with four naughty grandchildren, I would like to introduce them to this wonderful tale. Unfortunately, I can’t remember the title for the life of me! Can you help?

T replies:

Welcome, Marianne! I’m pretty sure that the book you’re describing is The Railway Children by E. Nesbit. As it was written more than a hundred years ago, it had already been kicking around some by the time you read it at eight or nine years old. Although it takes place long ago in England — which means American readers must exercise their brains a little in order to understand the curious things about another time and place — the adventure is every bit as gripping as it was in 1905, the jokes are just as funny, and the children in it still show bravery, generosity, perseverance, and how to be good without being a total suck-up. I’m certain your grandchildren will enjoy it as much as you did. It’s a favorite of mine, too.

This is the 100th Anniversary edition of The Railway Children by E. Nesbit, with a jacket illustration by Caldecott medalist Paul O. Zelinsky.

This is the 100th Anniversary edition of The Railway Children by E. Nesbit, with a jacket illustration by Caldecott medalist Paul O. Zelinsky.

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