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

When old sounds new

Posted: August 3rd, 2013 | Author: | Filed under: T Writes | Tags: , , | No Comments »

Paraguay’s Recycled Orchestra is a children’s musical group that plays instruments made from recycled trash. The instruments incorporate everything from tin paint containers to spatulas.

The idea of turning something discarded into something uplifting came when music teacher Favio Chávez and trash picker Nicolás Gómez  joined forces in the city of Cateura to find a way to teach economically disadvantaged kids to play music in a place where a real violin costs more than a house.

The idea is nothing new, but the instruments are!

“Repurposing materials that are part of your everyday culture has been something that a lot of cultures have done for thousands of years,” says Dr. Daniel Piper, curator of musical instruments at the Musical Instrument Museum in Phoenix, Arizona.


Sometimes it’s okay to play with your food

Posted: March 14th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: T Writes | Tags: , , , , | No Comments »

I’m gonna be round my vegetables

I’m gonna chow down my vegetables

I love you most of all

my favorite vegetable…

So sang The Beach Boys in their song “Vegetables.” Beatle Paul McCartney joined the band to chew raw vegetables for percussion effects on the recording.

The Vegetable Orchestra is an Austrian musical group that uses instruments made entirely from fresh vegetables. The group consists of ten musicians, one cook, and one sound engineer. A concert of the Vegetable Orchestra appeals to all the senses. As an encore at the end of the concert and the video performance, the audience is offered fresh vegetable soup.

Two brothers in China have caught the vegetable music bug. They’ve carved out an odd career, turning vegetables into musical instruments. The creative pair began their craft two years ago and spend most of their time scouring food stalls for the perfect pieces.

I’m never going to look at the veggies on my plate the same way again!


Sing along!

Posted: December 19th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: T Writes | Tags: , , , , | No Comments »

I have written about my distant relative, American songwriter Cornelius Power, and his fierce, artistic rivalry with his BFF, composer James Lord Pierpont, author of the immortal classic “Jingle Bells.”

Cornelius’s sleigh-ride song, “Horsey Snow Ride,” is not as well-known. The sheet music has been lost in the sands of time, sadly, but the lyrics can be sung to the tune of “America the Beautiful.” Whether or not it’s snowing outside, it makes a rousing holiday number. Let’s all sing along!

HORSEY SNOW RIDE by Cornelius Power (1821-1915)

Let’s take a sleigh ride on the snow

And travel to and fro

While snowflakes pile on our heads

As we cry, “Here we go!”

Oh horsey ride, oh horsey ride,

You are so fast and fun!

You make us glad that winter’s here.

God bless us, every one!


A holiday letter

Posted: December 17th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: T Writes | Tags: , , , , , | 1 Comment »

This is my second cousin once removed, composer Cornelius Power.

Composer Cornelius Power (April 1, 1821 – July 4, 1915)

Cornelius loved writing letters, and every year at holiday time, the Power family turns to one of them in particular, which has been handed down through the generations. It is dated December 17, 1856, and I’d like to share it with you.

Greetings, Holiday People!

You’ll never guess what I’m doing right now. I am actually dashing through the snow in a one-horse open sleigh. Contrary to expectations, I am not laughing all the way. It is far too cold here in this winter wonderland for that. As it is, I am bundled up from head to toe in warm clothing, but I think I’ll burrow down deep into the cozy quilts and blankets that my sleigh driver has so thoughtfully provided.

Sleigh driver? Ha! It is my BFF, James Lord Pierpont, the famous organist and composer and my comradely rival in all musical endeavors. James has got a thing about one-horse open sleighs. The only thing he cares more about than composing catchy songs is dashing through the snow. He is working on a new song about it now, but I can’t see it going anywhere. He calls it “Jingle Bells,” and it’s fairly simpleminded, not at all up to the high standard he set with “Ring the Bell, Fanny.”

How I long for a cup of hot cocoa! We brought a whole lake of it in a thermos, but it spilled all over the floor of the sleigh thanks to James’s erratic driving. He’s up there now on the absolute edge of his seat, cracking the whip and singing at the top of his lungs. I’m burrowing further into the blankets and quilts. It’s a well-known fact in these parts that survivors of sleigh crashes are nearly always found closest to the floor of the vehicle.

I can only imagine how wondrous one-horse sleighs will be one hundred and fifty or so years from now, but I daresay holiday wishes will have remained exactly the same. By then, no doubt poor James’s simpleminded ditty “Jingle Bells” will have been long relegated to the dustbin and some other songwriter will have come along to better describe how fun it is to ride in a one-horse open sleigh. I am far too humble to be referring to myself, of course, although some say my sleigh song “Horsey Snow Ride” is the catchiest number they’ve ever heard.

Darn it, James! That turn was much too sharp. Ohhhhhhhh!!!!

(At this point the letter ends in a series of jagged marks.)

Of course, as history shows, Cousin Cornelius was wrong about “Jingle Bells.” James Lord Pierpont’s sleigh-ride song went on to become one of the best known and most commonly sung winter songs in the world, whereas, sadly, Cornelius’s own sleigh song “Horsey Snow Ride” has been completely ignored. But he was right about holiday wishes. They’ve remained exactly the same.

Give thanks for blessings.

Say a prayer for peace.

Give a donation where it’s needed.

Resolve to be a little more patient, a little more forgiving, and a lot more helpful.

Amen to that!


Tut uncommon

Posted: September 3rd, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Letters to T | Tags: , , , , , | 5 Comments »

Sarah from Seattle, WA writes:

Dear T,

I am writing a story about an Ancient Egyptian girl named Tibby. She is the secret daughter of the famous Boy King, Pharaoh Tutankhamun. The Boy King Tut wasn’t really a boy when he died under mysterious circumstances in 1323 BC. He was nineteen years old, which was plenty old for a father in those days.

When her father, King Tut, dies, Tibby goes to live among friends of the former Pharaoh. She grows up as happy and content as a girl can be. However, the day soon comes when she must sacrifice a bull to the God Osiris to ensure the fertile crops, and she cannot bring herself to perform such a bloody deed. She is given a chicken to sacrifice in place of the bull, but she can’t bring herself to do that, either. So the High Priests decide to sacrifice HER to Osiris instead.

Needless to say, Tibby must flee for her life. Luckily, she befriends the handsome son of an Egyptian slave and together they sail down the River Nile to live out the rest of their days in peace and happiness.

I have drawn the cover for my book, which I have entitled Daughter of Tut. Here it is in all its glory.

Book cover for Daughter of Tut, drawn by Sarah

Book cover for Daughter of Tut, drawn by Sarah

P.S. King Tut didn’t really have a daughter named Tibby. I made her up!

T replies:

Your story about Tibby, the secret daughter of King Tut, sounds like a real page-turner, Sarah! And I really like your book cover. I have always been fascinated by Ancient Egypt. It’s thrilling to imagine the excitement archaeologist Howard Carter must have felt in 1922 when he discovered King Tut’s glamorous tomb, with all its golden treasures. Of course, poor Mr. Carter was later struck dead by the Pharaoh’s Curse. Oh, well! I’m sure it was worth it.