Tag Archives: Kidlit


With Children’s Non-Fiction author, Jennifer Swanson

Friday, December 29, 2017

The ABC song is one of the first fun songs we teach our children to sing. Why? Because the alphabet is the backbone for learning to read and write. For some people, reading and writing is not fun at all. 

My new series, ABC’S OFF THE TOP OF YOUR HEAD offers a new way to have fun with the alphabet. Every week, a children’s author, illustrator, literary agent or editor will Jennifer swansonshare their ‘top of the head’ answers to the ABC category list they were given, A to Z. Following their answers, I ask a few questions to gain a little insight into their world.

Feel free to play along, maybe your answer off the top of your head will match theirs. Enjoy! 

Science is awesome and learning it is fun with books from today’s ABC contestant, children’s non-fiction author, Jennifer Swanson!



Below is a list of Jennifer’s categories from A – Z and her answers off the top of her head.


ANIMAL:  Koala

BERRY: blueberry                                         

COLOR:  green

DESSERT: apple turnover

EVERY CHILD:  should read


GAME: Battleship

HOBBY:  reading

INSECT:  spider

JAMMING SONG:  Anything by Bon Jovi

KNOW HOW TO:  detassel corn

LAUGH (WHAT MAKES YOU):  smart humor on TV shows

METAL:  gold




QUICK, A ‘Q’ WORD: quark



TREE: red oak

UNUSUAL COMBINATION:  nanotechnology and sports

VEGETABLE:  don’t like them – ha, seriously, cucumbers

WISH: for peace

X WORD:  x-ray


ZANIEST THING YOU’VE DONE:  give a chow call


ME:   The first question that came to my mind after I read your answers is what is a chow call? Do you mean a Chow dog? Or chow as in food is ready?

JS:   Ha. No, a chow call is something we had to do when I was a plebe (freshman) at the Naval Academy. You go and stand on the corner in the hallway and yell out the menu of the meal for that day. You have to do them before lunch and dinner. From memory, of course, and as fast as you can. It was a sight to see. When I tell my kids about it they just look at me and think I’m nuts for actually doing it. Hey, USNA was a great school and it was free. 😊 

ME:   HAHA! That’s awesome! What if you forgot the menu though? My guess, is that you didn’t. But I can imagine the fun your peers had if you did. (It wasn’t your peers that you had to worry about. It was the upperclass!)

Science is your forte, which is awesome! I have read some of your published books  

     and learned so much from them because you make learning science, fun! What can you tell us about your unusual combination answer: nanotechnology and sports?

JS:   I love to find science topics that are unique. For me, science is awesome! I love supergear2017-225x300the technology/engineering aspect. There are so MANY cool things that we are discovering and creating these days that I just want to write about it all. But you have to find the HOOK. For me, a lot of that is finding a unique combination, interesting angle or answering that question ‘Did you know?’ 

ME:   Did you know… I love your awesome Pirate name answer! What kind of adventures has One-Eyed Jen had while jamming to Bon Jovi?

JS: Ha. I love to ride my bike to Bon Jovi. The music is active and gets me moving faster. A nice to change to my many hours at the computer. 

ME:   Definitely music to keep you motivated. Science is not my forté. I looked up ‘quark’ to find out what it was since it is indeed a funny word. And it has to do with physics. Ugh. What can you tell us about quarks?

JS: First of all, most people don’t learn about quarks until college, if then. They are subatomic particles (think really, really small) that are believed to make up protons and neutrons. They are really cool, but complicated type of science.

 ME:   Whew! Onto less complicated science. 😀 Red oaks are beautiful in autumn. And apple turnovers are a wonderful autumn dessert. Are you a champion Battleship player?

[photo credit: rarityguide.com] 


JS: Yes! I played this game all the time with my brothers growing up. Of course, we didn’t have video games back then—or cable. (Yikes!)  Instead, we spent MANY hours playing board games. We had almost 40 of them.

 ME:   Battleship was one of my favorites too. Like you, board games were hours of fun for me and still are! What are your favorite TV shows that make you laugh? And if you were given the go ahead to create a new TV show, what would it be about?

JS: I love M.A.S.H. I can watch that show for hours and hours. I just love intelligent humor. What would my TV show be about? Science probably. 

ME:   M.A.S.H. was brilliantly funny. Your knack for showing the coolness of science would make your TV show a smashing hit. 😊

 2017 has been a really busy year for you. And you are kicking off 2018 with 2 new books coming out: ENVIRONMENTAL ACTIVIST WANGARI MAATHAI, published by Lerner Books, and National Geographic Kids:  ASTRONAUT-AQUANAUT: HOW SPACE SCIENCE AND SEA SCIENCE INTERACT. I know you have been heavily involved with research for upcoming projects; do any of those projects have to do with the dreaded vegetables? And if not, would you consider any upcoming projects using any of your category answers?

JS:  Nope. No veggies in my books. I do have a book coming out with another unusual combination, but I can’t talk about it right now. As for the rest, who knows. I am FULL of ideas. I never know what will hit me next. 

Thanks for having me, Traci. This was FUN!

ME:  Anticipation is making me wait for your new project announcement…ugh!

However, readers are grateful that you have so many ideas and that many of them are now books. I know I am. Always looking forward to reading your books, since I discovered them. 

Thank you for playing the ABC Game with us this week, Jen and giving us a glimpse into your cool world!

Readers, thank you for stopping by. I hope you played along. If you would like to know more about Jennifer Swanson and her books you can find her on the following social media:

@JenSwanBooks  on Twitter


And on the following websites:



Don’t forget to check out the new STEM Tuesday blog! STEM Tuesday Where Jennifer, along with other kidlit science authors bring attention to middle grade STEM books.

STEM books ENGAGE. EXCITE. and INSPIRE! Join us each week as a group of dedicated STEM authors highlight FUN topics, interesting resources, and make real-life connections to STEM in ways that may surprise you. #STEMRocks!



Wishing you all a safe and wonderful New Year! See you in 2018. 











 With Fiction & Non-Fiction Picture Book Author, Janet Halfmann

Friday, December 8, 2017 

The ABC song is one of the first fun songs we teach our children to sing. Why? Because the alphabet is the backbone for learning to read and write. For some people, reading and writing is not fun at all. 

My new series, ABC’S OFF THE TOP OF YOUR HEAD offers a new way to have fun with the alphabet. Every week, an author, illustrator, literary agent or editor will share their ‘top of the head’ answers to the ABC category list they were given, A to Z. Following their answers, I ask a few questions to gain a little insight into their world.

janet 5 web use 8x10Feel free to play along­, maybe your answer off the top of your head will match theirs. Enjoy!

Today, we welcome Janet Halfmann to the ABC Game. She is the author of many fiction and non-fiction picture books, many of which are about animals. But not all.

[And this is timely: she has a special holiday promotion going right now and your opportunity for this ends December 15!  Signed Books for the Holidays  ] 

Here are a few of my favorites:  


Below is Janet’s category list from A – Z and her answers off the top of her head.


BIRD:  cardinal

COLOR:  blue


EXERCISE:  walking

FLOWER:  sunflower

GAME:  Scrabble

HOLIDAY:  Thanksgiving

ICE CREAM FLAVOR:  Death by Chocolate

JELLYBEANS ARE:  rewards at my grandson’s school

KNOW HOW TO:  use my green thumb

LIQUID:  rainwater

MONTH:  January

NON-FICTION BOOK:  Once Upon an Elephant’


PRINCE:  frog

QUOTE:  Love your neighbor as yourself

REPTILE:  skink



UNUSUAL COMBINATION:  homemade sour pickles and milk

VACATION SPOT:  secluded cabin in the woods in winter


X WORD:  xylophone

YEAR AND WHY IT’S IMPORTANT: 1967, 1969, 1973, 1985—the years our kids were born

ZODIAC SIGN:  never can remember these signs

ME: I have to ask, have you ever tried homemade sour pickles and milk?

JH: Yes, this combo was a favorite when I was a child. I would bite off a piece of pickle, take a gulp of milk, savor the two together, and then swallow the concoction. My mother and I used to can lots of pickles from our garden and also put many in a crock for eating fresh.

ME: I used to can pickles with my mom too! Our dogs hated the smell though.

Many of your books are about animals. One of my favorites happens to be about the animal in your reptile answer: skink. Have you ever held one and what were your research methods while writing this book?

JH: I have never held a skink nor would I want to because the fright would likely Skink_187 copymake the critter snap off its tail. Growing the tail back takes a lot of the skink’s energy. I had never seen a blue-tailed skink before I wrote the book, but I have seen them since when we vacationed in Florida and Mississippi, where they are more plentiful than in Wisconsin where I live. In Mississippi, we were climbing the steps of a monument when one of the people in our tour group saw a little skink and picked it up to put it out of harm’s way—and sure enough it snapped off its tail! I was heartbroken! 

I decided to write “Little Skink’s Tail” after writing an educational nonfiction book about all kinds of skinks. In researching the first book, I became fascinated by skinks and their ability to snap off their tails, which kept on wiggling to distract predators. In researching both books I read a lot of books and online articles about skinks, especially those written by scientists and naturalists in the field. I also spent a great deal of time trying to come up with just the right fun phrase for Little Skink to say about each animal tail that she tried on while waiting for her tail to grow back. 

ME: Awww. Poor little skink. You make a great point about dealing with wildlife. Thank you! You portray animals beautifully in your books. As you said, you read a lot of books and did immense research, which shows you are an avid reader. You wrote Sandy Brehl as the author of the last book you read. What is the title of the book and what about the book did you like?

JH: The book I read was “Odin’s Promise,” and I’m now in the process of reading the second book in this middle-grade trilogy, “Bjorn’s Gift.” I need to get busy because the third book in the set, “Mari’s Hope,” is now out. 

I must admit that most of the extra time I’ve had in the twenty-one months since our newest grandson was born has been spent in playing and spending time with him—and every minute is delightful. He’s inspired several new stories, which are waiting for publishers. 

To get back to “Odin’s Promise,” I liked how the book made me feel so close to eleven-year-old Mari and her family, and care so much about what happened to them. I also liked learning about the Norwegian resistance during World War II, an aspect of history I was unaware of before. 

ME: I finished that trilogy two weeks ago. Like you, I learned an aspect of history I had never known about. The trilogy is amazing!

Speaking of amazing . . . you have a green thumb! Makes sense how rainwater came to mind first for the liquid category. Having the knack to grow things, to me, is a superhuman power. Therefore, you are a SuperHero! Do you have a garden (s) and what would we find in your garden(s)?

JH: I grew up on a farm and my family always had a large garden. As the only girl in the family, I spent a lot of time with my mother in the garden. I also have had a garden most of my adult life, and have one now. I have a fairly large vegetable garden with veggies for using for meals and also for making spaghetti sauce, chili, and other dishes for freezing for the winter. I also have flower gardens, and especially like to grow edible flowers, perennials, sunflowers for the birds, and plants for butterfly caterpillars. 

ME:  You connect with the earth, another reason we get along so well! And we have game choices in common. I love to play Scrabble!  Do you play Scrabble and when you do, do you play for the most points per word or try to play unusual words?

JH: My husband and I play Scrabble to relax in the evening, and play mostly for the fun and togetherness of it rather than to be competitive. We both get excited when one of us is able to form a long word or create a play with lots of points.  

ME:  I like the way you play!  😊 And it’s perfect for cozy evenings in a secluded cabin in the woods in winter. Is this a vacation spot for you or is this a bucket list vacation spot? Would you choose to be connected or disconnected to internet and television while vacationing?

JH: My husband and I got married in January and usually try to go away for days or a week for our anniversary. We love to stay in cabins and the more secluded the better because it then seems like the whole world is ours. We like TV to watch movies and I like the internet to keep at least a bit up on the news and to find information on things to do around us. But mostly we enjoy the solitude of the cabin and its natural surroundings.

ME:  Sounds enchanting! A wonderful way to celebrate your anniversary.

I chuckled when I read ‘frog’ as your Prince answer. I expected a name to follow that category but you delighted me with your answer. And I agree that 1967 is a great year! (I was born that year as well. :))

You have a warm sense of humor, which also shows in your books. Can you share with us your next book due to come out? Have you infused a little humor in it as well?

JH: My next book is a true story and very serious, so it doesn’t have any humor. But Midnight Teacher jacket front coverI am prouder of this book than perhaps any of my others. Titled “Midnight Teacher: Lilly Ann Granderson and Her Secret School,” the book will release this February from Lee & Low Books and is illustrated by London Ladd. It has been many years in the making, and is the story of an enslaved woman who ran a secret midnight school in Mississippi in the mid 1800’s under fear of being whipped for her actions, and who continued to teach after the Civil War. Her complete story has never before been told, so I feel so honored to be able to share it with the world. Plus, I recently found out that the book got a STARRED REVIEW from Kirkus Reviews, which I hope will attract lots of attention for this amazing woman’s story.

ME:  Congratulations on the upcoming book and the starred review!!! I will definitely be preview-1buying this book! Many of your books have earned awards.

Thank you Janet for being this week’s contestant! It’s always a joy to connect with you.

JH: Thanks so much for asking me to be a part of this fun series. I’ve enjoyed getting glimpses into the “book” lives of those who have participated before me, and I hope others enjoy learning some unique things about me and my books.

Readers, if you would like to learn more about Janet and or/her books, please visit her website which has a special

“SIGNED BOOKS FOR THE HOLIDAYS!” promotion going on right now, which again ends December 15, 2017. http://janethalfmann.com/news-a-events

You can also find her on these social media:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/janethalfmann

Twitter:  https://twitter.com/JanetHalfmann

Thank you for stopping by. Have a fantastic weekend everyone!


(p.s. Books make fantastic gifts for all ages because there’s a book for everyone.)




furious – adjective 

[fyoo r-ee-uh s]

1 : very angry

2 a : very powerful or violent

   b : very active or fast
Long ago, the landfill in Titustown had filled up. The town agreed that they needed to do something better with the garbage than to fill up land with it because it would fill up too fast. The solution was to build a large incinerator that would burn the garbage that could not be recycled in one way or another. But the only land large enough to hold it, belonged to Gortok the Greedy, as the townspeople nicknamed him, and he refused to have that ugly incinerator on his property.
The only solution left for the town,  was pile all of the garbage on the only open lot in town that still belonged to it. Which was right next to Gortok the Greedy’s house.
Gortok wanted more than anything, for the mountain of garbage behind his house to disappear. He hated the sight of it and the smell was atrocious. The town had been using the lot as the dump for too long.
The mountain just grew…
and grew.
and grew.
And now, the smell was coming into his home.
So Gortok made a wish.
“Mother Nature,  please make the garbage go away.”
A few days later, Mother Nature granted his wish.
The wind came from the outskirts of town and blew in with a fury.
Garbage from all over town rose up from the streets, the gutters, the lawns, everywhere, and landed on top of the mountain.
The town was clean. But Gortok the Greedy’s property smelled worse than before.
In a huff, Gortok walked to work. On the way, he unwrapped his granola bar, ate it then tossed his wrapper to the ground. He then he popped open his juice box.
Mother Nature was not happy. She sent the wind out once again.
The wind picked up the tossed wrapper and whipped it at Gortok.
The wrapper hit him square in the face.
“Who threw that?” Gortok asked, expecting to find kids near. He grabbed the wrapper and whipped it to the ground again. He finished his juice and threw the plastic bottle as well.
Furious at Bartok’s behavior, Mother Nature once again sent wind out to do her bidding.
This time the wind blew the bottle at Gortok, hitting his leg, and the wrapper hit his arm as he walked.
Gortok kicked the bottle and flung the wrapper.
“Enough!” he shouted, though no one was near to hear.
At the factory, a newspaper flew through the air, landing against the door Gortok was opening.  He threw it onto the walkway and went inside.
Mother Nature decided she had had enough herself. She told wind what to do and wind got right to it.
It was quite late when Gortok left work. He was half asleep as he walked home and fell exhausted into his open doorway.
In the morning, a cool breeze woke Gortok up. He noticed the sweet smell coming in from the open doorway.
“This is unusual.”  He shuffled around his property. His jaw dropped open at the sight of the lot behind his house. The mountain had disappeared! Mother Nature had granted his wish. He did his happy dance, jigging and jagging around his lawn.
That day, Gortok whistled as he walked to work, saying hello to his factory workers as they walked past, plugging their nose. [He should have been more concerned as to why they were not on the job.] 
Around the corner, he found out why.
The mountain of garbage now covered his entire factory.
He was bewildered until he remembered his wish.
Gortok made his way through the garbage, into the factory and got right on the phone.
The headline on the next newspaper read,
The opening sentence of the article said,
‘Gortok Industries to start making incinerators for home use after finishing a large scale incinerator for the town’s garbage which will be built right on Gortok property.’
Mother Nature did not help Gortok with the garbage this time.
Gortok cleaned up the mess himself.


With Children’s Author, Mary Amato

The ABC song is one of the first fun songs we teach our children to sing. Why? Because the alphabet is the backbone for learning to read and write. For some people, reading and writing is not fun at all. 

My new series, ABC’S OFF THE TOP OF YOUR HEAD offers a new way to have fun with Mary amatothe alphabet. Every week, a children’s author, illustrator, literary agent or editor will share their ‘top of the head’ answers to the ABC category list they were given, A to Z. Following their answers, I ask a few questions to gain a little insight into their world.

Feel free to play along, maybe your answer off the top of your head will match theirs. Enjoy!

Our contestant today is children’s author, Mary Amato! Known for her spectacular humor and heart books and series.




But these aren’t all. Here are a few more to tease you:



Below is Mary’s list of categories from A – Z along with her off of the top of her head answers.

ANTONYM FOR AWFUL:  chocolate cream pie

BREAKFAST CHOICE: chocolate chips, melted in oatmeal

COLOR:  purple, I know, but I just don’t get tired of it


EVERY CHILD: should get to grow up


GENRE (MUSIC): gothic film score (I’m writing a spooky book right now)

HAPPINESS IS…: singing harmony with people you love (but only as long as they can sing in tune)

INVENTION:  the 0.5 mm Pentel deluxe mechanical pencil with Sliding Sleeve

Technology, but I wish it would come with a cap because the tip of lead breaks off in my purse.

JUNK FOOD:  BBQ Potato Chips or Salt & Vinegar Potato Chips

KEEPSAKE:  my parents’ love letters, not gushy, just adorable


MOST LIKELY TO:  multi-task! Why can’t I stop? Right now, I’m filling out this form while cooking dinner, listening to a podcast, stretching my neck muscles, and chastising myself for not getting enough done.

NATURAL WONDER’:  the fact that every single kid has a unique personality. This blows me away every time I do an assembly at a school and look out at 247 kids. 

OUTDOOR ACTIVITY: the only thing I ever do is walk. It’s enough for me.

PICTURE BOOK:   into That is Not a Good Idea by Mo Willems right now, and I wish he hadn’t written it so that the idea could fly into my brain, but I’m also glad that he wrote it because it’s hilarious.

Q NAME:  Quinnie

RIVER:  Styx

SPORT:  Solo Synchronized Swimming

TOOL:  belt

UNIQUE ANIMAL:  platypus

VISIBLE FROM YOUR WINDOW:  A porch swing with a sign on it that says “It’s probably not a good idea to sit on this.”

WISH:  to live in the Netherlands for three to six months

X-RAY VISION (BENEFICIAL, YES OR NO & WHY?):  Archenemy of Imagination

YUMMY TREAT:  dark chocolate, always and forever

ZANIEST THING YOU’VE DONE:  filled out this form

ME:   You had me at ‘I’m writing a spooky book right now.’ (and all of the chocolate answers ) My absolute favorite books and stories to read are spooky ones, so when your book comes out, please e-mail to let me know so I can buy it!

Okay, on to a more serious subject: Why should people not sit on the porch swing outside your window?

MA:  Since you love spooky things, you might want to sit on it. The swing creaks and moans as if it is made of the bones of sad dead people who might get a kick out of collapsing into a heap whenever someone sits on them.

 ME:   You are correct…I now want to sit on it. 😊

What specific months would you want to live in the Netherlands for? And would you watch or participate in solo synchronized swimming while you were there?

MA: February, March, April, May, June, and July would take me from pensive winter into the tulip-induced ecstasy of spring and then the sweet lull of summer. I wouldn’t swim there if you paid me. Too cold.

 ME:   Great answer!

Curious, why Tuesday?

MA: Tuesday is my favorite work day. On Monday I’m still in a Sunday fog. By Wednesday, I’m thinking about Thursday night, which is when my husband and I go to the farmer’s market and a beer tasting. Tuesday is my favorite work day because I’m focused only on Tuesday. 

ME:   Tuesdays are the perfect work day; perfect too for the imagination to let loose because I am not thinking about Friday yet (well maybe a little).

I agree that x-ray vision is an archenemy of the imagination. Another superpower would be better. If you could have any superpower, which one would you choose and why?

MA:   Flying without a doubt. I wouldn’t do anything with it. Just enjoy it.

ME:   Oh the sights you would see if you could fly!BBQ potato chips

What do you think about BBQ potato chips with a dark chocolate chaser?

MA: No way. I’m a total purist with class. They have to be separated by at least ten minutes and a glass of bourbon. 

ME:   Agreed, except for the bourbon. Ate too many bourbon balls as a kid which did not taste good coming up.

Using as many of your answers as possible, will you write a synopsis for a children’s book off the top of your head?

MA: A lonely Dutch pencil named Quinnie wants to find a cap for her  head so that her lead doesn’t keep breaking. As she sets off, she faces many obstacles along the way—horrible people that abuse her by using her for boring things like keeping synchronized swimming scores, tracking pollution levels in the River Styx, and listing ingredients for junk food. But with the help of an adorable harmony-singing platypus, on a lovely Tuesday morning she finally makes an origami cap out of dark-chocolate bar wrappers that is sturdy yet stylish. This captures the attention of a nice young man named Jack who proceeds to use the pencil to write love letters to his wife-to-be Jan. They have a child who becomes a children’s book writer and continues to use the pencil to write stories with humor and heart. The End. 

ME:  I really want to read that story now, endearing and humorous! I also smiled when I read that a keepsake for you is your parents love letters. Would you ever write a young adult using those letters as mentor texts for the book? And speaking of possible projects, please elaborate on any upcoming projects you have right now.

MA:   I have a YA coming out next fall called Open Mic Night at Westminster Cemetery, which is also a musical. A new funny series for ages 7-10 called Lucy McGee will debut next fall, as well. I’ve finished the first two books and will work on book three after the holidays. I’ve just written the first draft of my first adult novel, which I’m revising now. As for future projects, I have three or four I’m trying to decide between.

ME:   Wow! You have been busy!!! I have so much reading to catch up on in the next few years. 😊 OPEN MIC NIGHT AT WESTMINSTER CEMETERY sounds intriguing. The fact that it is a musical is phenomenal and great for theater everywhere. I hope it goes to Broadway!  

Mary, this has been delightful playing the ABC Game with you. Thank you for being a contestant!

Readers, if you would like to connect with Mary on social media you can find her:

Twitter: https://twitter.com/maryamato @maryamato

If you would like to know more about her and her books go here:


p.s. Books make great gifts throughout the year for all ages.

Thank you for stopping by today’s edition of ABC’S OFF THE TOP OF YOUR HEAD. If you like this post, please share it. And feel free to leave a comment for Mary or me.

#justkeepwriting #justkeepwriting







Rex’s Big Words

Wow! I have not done a Word of the Day story on here in months.

To you the reader, if you are not familiar with my Word of the Day posts, I take the word of the day entries from dictionary.com, Learners Dictionary or Merriam Webster  (I may use all or just one or two) and create a story for children which have to include the words I post below. I give myself one hour to write and edit the story before posting it. The reason behind only the one hour is to give writers the incentive to just write, as the hardest part of writing is getting started. My story will never be perfect when it is finished in this time frame, but it is not supposed to be and in this case, I went over by nine minutes to finish editing. Feel free to leave comments at the end. I hope you share this story with your child and spark a conversation or a writing project. Enjoy!

scapegrace – noun


  1.   a complete rogue or rascal; a habitually unscrupulous person; scamp.


kudos – noun

[koo-dohz, -dohs, -dos, kyoo-]
      1.   fame and renown resulting from an act or achievement : prestige
      2.   praise given for achievement

This story can be summed up with it’s end…

Kudos to Rex for keeping the light burning in Olympus Theatre. Her ongoing crusade to raise enough money to restore it and get it declared as a Historical Landmark will keep theatre alive and thriving for many years to come. To Rex! May you someday be on that stage, but not in a boxing ring on it!”

But if you always read the end first, you miss the fun and excitement of the beginning and the middle and end up wondering what happened. Like, why would Rex be in a boxing ring? This is how it all started

“We are finished for the day. Thank you for coming in to help us set up the fundraiser. That scapegrace, Pinche, has a fight on her hands,” said Mr. Torres, owner of the Olympus Theater which was in danger of being condemned and torn down by the city.

Lottie, Rob, Arnold, and I packed up our flyers, loaded our backpacks and met outside.

“We did good today,” I said.

“We did well,” Lottie corrected.

“We done did good,” Arnold snickered.

“Yup,” was all Rob said.

“Hey Rex, we need to divide up the town between us to hand out the flyers. Which section do you want?” Arnold asked.

“Makes the most sense to cover the areas around each of our schools, right? Grab as many people as you can to help distribute them.”

Lottie, Arnold, and Rob nodded in agreement.

“If you need more flyers, Mr. Torres said he would be at the Olympus tomorrow evening.”

Again, everyone nodded.

Rob hopped on his bike, Arnold took off walking and Lottie and I waited for our rides.

“See you all on Saturday,” I said.

Lottie waited until Rob and Arnold were out of sight.

“What happens if Mrs. Pinche gets her way?”

“We need to make sure that doesn’t happen,” I told her.

Our rides pulled up next to the curb.

“That scapegrace has no chance against us!” I said fist in the air.

“You and your big words Rex,” Lottie said rolling her eyes, playfully.


“Rebecca, your dinner is in the oven,” my Mom said the minute I walked in the door. She’s the only person I know who won’t use my nickname. Even my grandparents call me Rex.

“Thanks Mom. I have homework to do so I’ll eat it in my room,” I told her as she followed me into the kitchen.

“Good try Rebecca, you can eat at the counter or at the table but not in your room. What kind of homework?”

I fumbled with the hot pad and the plate of food in the oven.

“I have to write a one page paper about a local historical landmark or a place that should be saved and considered as one. I chose the Olympus Theatre.”

“That should be easy since you’ve been volunteering there for months now.”

“Hope so,” I said, mouth full of food.


Upstairs in my room, I gathered my resources. In my notebook, I wrote notes and points of interest. Next, I wrote my paper. I read it over twice, crossed out words and added words like my teacher told us to do and rewrote it neatly. Something was missing. My older brother Mike, is in ninth grade and in his paper for English, he had to write a closing statement. That’s what my paper was missing. I raced to his room.

“Hey Mike, what’s a closing statement for a paper?” I asked him.

He stared at me like I was an alien. “Since when do fifth grade papers need closing statements?”

I rolled my eyes, but not playfully. “Since right now,” I shot back.

Mike raised his eyebrows but told me anyway.


At school, I was the first to read my paper in class.

“In closing, the Olympus Theater has been a part of Pepper Grove for over a hundred years. Letting the Olympus get torn down is like letting your grandparents home get torn down with them in it. It is a historical landmark and needs your help. You can help me by handing out these fliers today after school.” I waved a handful of flyers around.

“Nicely done Rex. A little dramatic but nice,” Mr. Buckley said.

A hand shot up in the back of the class. Stephanie Pinche. Bully extraordinaire and only child of Mrs. Pinche.

“Go ahead Stephanie,” Mr. Buckley said.

“Who cares about that smelly old place. My mom says it’s a dump and unsafe and theater is dead. Everybody watches Netflix now or rents movies. Tear it down, a gas station will be a gold mine there.”

The room erupted in noise.

My face burned hot.

“Stephanie, Rex made a nice case for the Olympus and why it should be a historical landmark. You can read your paper next.” Mr. Buckley said.

I walked down the opposite row of Stephanie to avoid her.


After school five kids met up with me and we walked the neighborhood around school and handed out all flyers that I had. They agreed to tell their parents about how important the Olympus is and I promised them cookies if they brought their parents to the fundraiser on Saturday.

I stopped by the Olympus on my way home and picked up more.

“Yours are gone already Rex?” Mr. Torrres asked when he saw me.

“Yup. I need more. I recruited friends from school to help me hand them out.” I told him a big smile on my face.

“Well done. You are an activist already,” he said, his toothy grin hidden partially by his mustache.


The next day after school Stephanie chased me to my house.

“T-Rex, would you stop running so I can tell you something?” she hollered behind me.

I stopped and turned around. “What do you want?”

Out of breath, she huffed, “I can hand out some of your flyers if you need help.”

My eyes popped right out of my head. (not really)

When I popped them back in, I narrowed them at her. “I thought you said the Olympus should be torn down.”

“My mom wants to share them at the Historical Society committee meeting tomorrow night. She said it would be good to know more about it since you researched it and all.”

I didn’t quite buy her story but I gave her a few flyers.

“Thanks,” she said and left.


Thursday, Lottie, Rob, Arnold, and I met Mr. Torres at the Olympus and helped him clean the lobby. We scrubbed the counters, swept the floors, scrubbed the floors, cleaned the glass and shined up the staircase until the entire lobby sparkled. When we finished, we took the last of the flyers and headed home.


Friday morning, Stephanie grabbed my arm. “My mom loved the flyers. Said they helped her make her point at the meeting so you can have them back.” She handed them to and sneered. “Good luck saving that dump.”

When I opened a flyer, everything looked good.


On Saturday, people from all over Pepper Grove turned out at the Olympus Theater. Mr. Torres was strutting around, handing out cookies and coffee to the adults, while Rob, Arnold, Lottie, and me handed out cookies to the kids. The five kids from school were there along with their parents so I gave them extra cookies as I promised.

Mr. Torres walked onto the platform to give his speech. He glanced around then smiled and started. He answered questions and when no one had any more to ask, he held up his hand and shouted, “Can the Olympus be saved?”

The crowd replied, “Yes!” and waved their flyers.


Mr. Torres dropped his hand.

Mrs. Pinche rushed onto the platform. She held up a flyer.

“Mr. Torres stated in the flyer, ‘Olympus Theater has served its community and in its current state of disrepair, I recommend it be torn down and the lot sold. To remember it in its glory days, I will donate photos and memorabilia of the Olympus to the library for all to enjoy.’”

People held up their flyers.

Mr. Torres grabbed the flyer from Mrs. Pinche’s hand. He scanned it and his face turned beet red.

The crowd started booing.

Lottie nudged me. “Do something Rex!”

Without thinking I ran up to the platform and shoved Mrs. Pinche away.

“The Olympus Theatre was home to the first performance…” I read from the flyer in my hand.

The crowd quieted. I read some more.

“We already heard this speech by Torres,” came a snotty voice from the front.

Stephanie sneered up at me. She started chanting, “Tear it down. Tear it down.”

Some older kids in the front joined her.

I watched Mr. Torres slump his shoulders forward.

Now adults joined in the chant.

“HEY! NO SCAPEGRACE IS GOING TO TEAR DOWN THIS HISTORICAL LANDMARK!” I shouted into the microphone, creating an ear-splitting ring.

The crowd covered their ears but stopped.

I recited my paper and ended with this, “Olympus Theater is a historical landmark and needs your help. Pepper Grove will lose its fame if the Olympus gets torn down. Instead, help us bring it back to its former glory. How many of your grandparents came to shows here when stars of their day took to the stage? How many of you performed here when you were in school? Does Pepper Grove need a gas station right in the heart of downtown?”

A buzz started in the crowd. People looked at each other.

“Open your flyers.”

People opened them.

“Does your flyer have a quote from Mr. Torres on the bottom of it?”

People checked and rechecked the flyers in their hands.


“That’s because you have the original flyers, not the ones Mrs. Pinche copied and remade with her added fake quote.” I went on to explain about her and her gas station idea.

Finally, Mr. Torres, Mike, my parents, Rob, Lottie, and Arnold flooded the platform next to me. We held hands and raised them.

“Are we going to save the Olympus?” I asked fist pumping in the air.

A few people mumbled yes.

“ARE WE GOING TO SAVE THE OLYMPUS?” we shouted together.


“Is Mrs. Pinche going to build a gas station here instead?” I shouted.

“No!” the crowd replied.

“Save the Olympus, save the Olympus!” I chanted.

Soon everyone was chanting it.

Mr. Torres grabbed the donation box and held it over the side of the platform. People lined up and dropped money and checks into the box. Our town mayor pushed through the crowd, held up a fistful of fifty dollar bills and dropped them in.

The crowd cheered.

When the event was over, Rob, Lottie, Arnold, and I along with our families, sat in the lobby while Mr. Torres and his staff counted the money.

“We have enough money to start renovations.”

“Yay!” we cheered.

“And this was in the bottom of the donation box.” Mr. Torres held up a sealed envelope. He tore it open, read it and sucked in his breath.

He read it out loud,

‘Dear Mr. Torres,

Your request for consideration of the Olympus Theater to be a recognized Pepper Grove historical landmark has been approved. Attached is the documentation form for you to fill out and to mail to the state Historical Society. You will receive official paperwork from the state upon receipt of the completed form.

To help ensure the Olympus is ready for a public announcement of its inclusion into the Historical Society, we have set aside money to help offset restoration costs.



Pepper Grove Historical Society’


We cheered and whooped and hollered.

Mr. Torres gave each of us kids a big hug, and thanked us for our help.

Lottie whispered in my ear, “big words.” Then she held up my hand like a champion and said, “Kudos to Rex for keeping the light burning in Olympus Theatre. Her ongoing crusade to raise enough money to restore it and get it declared as a Historical Landmark will keep theatre alive and thriving for many years to come. To Rex! May you someday be on that stage, but not in a boxing ring on it!”









Between a Rock and a Hard Place

testudinal – adjective

[te-stood-n-l, –styood-]

  1. pertaining to or resembling a tortoise or tortoise shell.


crevice – noun


  1.   a narrow opening or crack in a hard surface and especially in rock


“I feel so naked without it,” Terrence said to his best friend Trent.

“You look fine without it,” said Trent.

“But I need it, it protects me. You wouldn’t go anywhere without yours and you know it.”

Trent kicked the ground, shuffling his feet. “You’re right, I wouldn’t.”

Terrence covered himself with large leaves he found.

Trent laughed. “You look better without the leaves.”

Terrence squinched his eyes and curled his mouth. “Fine.” He dropped the leaves.

“We need to retrace your footsteps,” Trent said. “Start from the beginning.”

Terrence led Trent back to his home under the mud bog. Trent scratched around the mud. Terrence breezed through the brush. “Not here,” he called out.

A shadow passed above them. Chills crept over Terrence.

They traipsed to the rock quarry next. Terrence kicked rocks out of his way while Trent noses around the big rock. “Not here,” he said.

Sweat dripped off of Terrence, his skin becoming pinkish.

“We have to find your shell fast. You’re going to fry right up and the buzzards will eat you all gone.”

Terrence trembled at the thought. He led Trent to the other side of the rock quarry where the sun was almost hiding.

A testudinal object poked out from the crevice in the quarry.

“Look Terrence!” Trent pointed.

CRAW! CRAW! A shadow circled above them, then disappeared.

“Run!” Trent called.

Terrence used all of his might pushing his stubby legs as fast as they could go.

The shadow became two.

Terrence pushed on.


Terrence ducked. “Almost there,” he chanted over and over.

Trent chucked a rock at the buzzards.


He ducked into his shell as the buzzards dove toward him.

Swooosh! Miss.

Trent peeked out from his shell, fearful for his friend.

Terrence lunged forward.

The testudinal object was indeed his shell. He pulled and prodded. Swoooosh! and pulled some more. The shell flew into the air…kerplunk… hit a buzzard and landed perfectly on Terrence, covering his body once more.

CRAW! CRAW! Screamed the buzzards, one rubbing it’s head.

Terrence ducked into his shell and hid in the crevice between a rock and a hard place, known as the quarry.

When the buzzards bagged out, Terrence ambled over to his friend.

“Good thing they’re gone, they almost had themselves fried tortoise for lunch.”

“And chicken soup if they had caught me,” Trent said as he shivered.

“You were brave Trent, not a chicken,” said Terrence.

“I guess so. But you’re the one who gave one buzzard a goose egg.”

Terrence laughed. “Yeah. Buzzards love to eat tortoise eggs so I bet they love goose eggs too!”

Together they laughed and laughed all the way to the mud bog where they filled up on leaves for lunch and nestled into the mud for a nap.




When Opposites Don’t Attract- (a penguin story)

(All photos in this story/blog were taken by Kevin Bold and Traci Bold and are copyrighted.)


ossify – verb


  1.   used with object: to convert into or cause to harden like bone.
  2.    used without object: to become bone or harden like bone.
  3.   used without object: to become rigid or inflexible in habits, attitudes, opinions, etc.

gallant – adjective, noun, verb

[adjective galuh nt for 1, 3, 4; guhlant, –lahnt, galuh nt for 2, 5; noun guhlant, –lahnt, galuh nt; verbguhlant, –lahnt]


  1.   showing courage : very brave
  2.   large and impressive
  3.   having or showing politeness and respect for women
  4.   showy, colorful, or stylish, as in dress; magnificent


5.   a brave, noble-minded, or chivalrous man.

6.   a man exceptionally attentive to women

7.   a stylish and dashing man.

8.   a suitor or lover.

9.   a paramour.


10.   used with object: to court or act as a lover

11.   used with object: to escort

12.   used without object: to attend or pay court as a gallant


In the animal kingdom, solitude is for very few animals. Most, like the solidarity of being together. This means that most species do not like to be alone but rather live in harmony with many.

“Shhh. No texting back there, the movie is about ready to start.” says the head emporer penguin. Harris and Jude turned the other way. They did not want to see ‘Madagascar’ again.


But next door, at the Humboldt neighborhood, the penguins are each doing their own thing. Like this one. This is Jonas soothing a sore muscle from moving stones onto the grates.


He is not happy. “If I have to move one more stone, I’ll be ossified just like one.” he says.


“Please can you move just one more?” Perdy asks. “You are the most gallant penguin I know.”


Jonas turns his head. “No, I won’t do it.”


“Please,” Perdy begs. “I saved a fish just for you. I will bring it down.”

“Fine. If it means you are safe, I’ll go move more.” Jonas says. He waddles back to the grate.


“Last one. I’ve conquered them all.” he says holding the last one in place.


“Good work Jonas,” Perdy says behind him. “My turn to be conquerer of the rocks. Can you please get down now?”


“Girls!” Jonas says trudging away.  “I’m going to find new friends to hang out with.”IMG_2047

And so he joined his emporer friends in their neighborhood for the showing of ‘Madagascar’.

The end.











The Brave or the Wretched

aeonian – adjective

[ee-oh-nee-uh n]

  1.   eternal; everlasting.

wretched – adjective


1.   very unfortunate in condition or circumstances; miserable; pitiable.

2.   characterized by or attended with misery and sorrow

3.   despicable, contemptible, or mean:

4.   poor, sorry, or pitiful; worthless:



This was a wretched day to be outside for all of the animals, even humans. Squirrels snuggled up tight in their nests; bunnies burrowed under snow forts made by garden leftovers; wooly bear caterpillars were cocooned up in their thick winter proof coats041

and every stray cat, fox  or mouse hunted for a not so cold  place to rest and sleep. The wind was whipping icy pelts of snow so fast it was hard to see much of anything and the air was so cold, breath froze instantly as it left warm mouths.

It was just such a day that Jasper’s owner dropped him off in the woods and left him.

That day when his owner put him in the truck, Jasper thought he was going to the farm again. His owner took him there every spring to be a farm cat, and in the fall Jasper came back home and was a city kitty again until the cycle repeated. His preference for his aeonian home would have been the farm as he was happiest there. On the farm, he hunted mice, shrews and rats and the humans there gave him cream as a reward, but he did look forward to being an inside city kitty in front of the warm fireplace during the coldest months too.

Instead, his owner took Jasper’s collar off, grabbed him and carried him into the woods. winter woody road He then set Jasper down, threw some fresh fish down and waited. This was a rare treat for Jasper so he peacefully ate the fish. When he finished, he licked his paws then looked up; his owner and the truck were gone. He did not know this place at all. He prowled the area but it was frozen with snow and the wind was howling. Soon so was Jasper.

That was weeks ago.

Today was Jasper’s lucky day.

Across the field he spotted a wide open garage door. He watched it for several minutes. He saw no humans come out or go in. As fast as his white and gray spotted legs could go, he ran toward it. wretched snowy day

Midway across, he halted;  a human walked out of the garage toward the road.

Jasper crouched down low following the human with his blue eyes. The human walked to a skinny pole by the road, opened a square box, took something out of it then closed it again. The box looked too small to sleep in though.

The human walked back in the garage and disappeared. Jasper watched a few seconds longer then sprung into action. He knew in this cold, the human would be putting down that door quickly.

Just as Jasper reached the skinny pole box by the road, the garage door started closing.

Click clack whir. Click clack whir.

He ran faster but not fast enough; the door banged shut against the frozen concrete.

“So close,” he meowed.

He prowled around the house staying close to it out of the wicked wind and icy, pelting snow. He crept around the corner, keeping his head low as the wind was now straight at him again. Jasper saw nothing behind the house but a small shed that was closed but he braved the wind and continued creeping around to the other side. Again, a small shed.

Click clack whir. Click clack whir. Click clack whir.

Jasper slunk closer to the house, rounded the corner and saw the garage door going up again. He waited, mostly hidden behind a snowy shrub. A truck backed out and down the frozen concrete. Not waiting this time, Jasper raced into the garage and hid. The garage door click clacked and whirred it’s way down again.

Happy to be out of the wind and icy snow, he nestled into a fuzzy roll tucked under a boat that he discovered.

A short time later, Jasper heard the garage door open, he stayed hidden until the door went back down. His tummy growled. Feet were moving away from him. He hadn’t eaten in a few days so he took a chance and softly meowed.

The feet stopped.


The feet moved toward his hiding place. He stepped out gingerly. Quickly four more smaller feet raced toward him and stopped. Jasper

The big human with the fuzzy hat held out her fuzzy covered hand. “Poor thing. You look hungry. How about you come inside?” The human held the door open, the little humans walked inside and Jasper followed.


Jasper is allowed to go outside in his yard only when the weather is not wretched and he is on his leash. He plays, cuddles, snuggles and sleeps with his family who took him in years ago and  knows he is with his aeonian family. Also, he never has to go for a ride because the big human is a veterinarian.

The End