Monday
May252015

Mysteries Solved

For the multitude of readers (all right, it was just one) who wanted me to post the end of the Mother’s Day mysteries, here you go. “In the previous episode,” as they say, a package of “Dutch bulbs” arrived four days early with a happy Mother’s Day greeting, but no signature, creating the mysteries of what kind of bulbs came and from which one of the children.

The daffodils turned out to be a profusion of delicate yellow buttercups and did, indeed, come from the AZ son who first claimed them. They had popped up by Mother's Day and were beginning to bloom.

On Mother’s Day, the TX daughter sent an email that read, “You didn't get a card yesterday in the mail because all the cards were stupid . . . and I checked several places. You will be getting a different kind of card in the mail but I'm just not sure when as it relies on another entity. You'll like it though.” This was an added and unexpected mystery since she normally is right on time. I did understand the card dilemma. We skip over the cards with the sweetness of maple syrup as well as the x-rated ones and look for funny ones that recall family jokes. Clean funny cards are becoming quite scarce.

The following Wednesday, after Mother’s Day, I got another Jackson and Perkins delivery just like the first with a card that said, “From MARK AND KELLY and a bunch of kids.” (That would be five.) MD little brother – now 6’3” – followed in the footsteps of AZ big brother – now 5’9” – as he did in their younger days. That didn’t turn out quite like MD son planned since he paid extra for Saturday delivery to back up his claim for having sent them and to assure that I had matching pots for either side of the fireplace. You can see the first daffodils are ahead and the second ones trying to catch up, much like younger brothers do with older brothers.

The TX daughter’s mystery card came late in the week from The University of Southern Mississippi Foundation. It said, “We are pleased to share that a donation was made in honor of Virginia McGee Butler on Mother’s Day on Thursday, May 07, 2015 by Anna Lane  . . . to the de Grummond Children’s Literature  Collection Endowment at the University of Southern Mississippi Foundation.” I think that makes her on time, as she usually is, since the delay was for USM’s paperwork. And she was right. I did like it.

Do I lobby for normal Mother’s Day celebrations with on time conventional gifts? Nah – too predictable, over too soon.

Besides, somebody might ask, “Who raised these crazy people?”

Friday
May222015

Got Caught - Too Late

Sarcasm sometimes reigns in the comment, “Oh, he just wanted to get caught.” And there is the two-year-old who can’t stay hidden long enough to be found in hide-and-seek, or the second grader who commits a blatant minor infraction so he will be kept in for recess out of the Mississippi heat. Or there is me, trying very hard for notice in this “Get Caught Reading Month.” Getting caught sometimes has its perks. The “too late” part? Not so much.

I must admit to an ulterior motive as I worked on this post. I found out about this special month from the Eerdman’s Books for Young Readers blog with their book people getting caught reading some interesting books. My motive is their offer for those who post about this celebration on social media to enter into a drawing for eight (8!) books. Mister H, Just for Today, Red, Roger Is Reading a Book, Edgar Wants to Be Alone, Animal Supermarket, The Yes, and The Amazing Age of John Roy Lynch.

All eight books appeared to be good reads and would look fine on my bookshelf after I finished reading. A couple in particular intrigued me. The copy of The Amazing Age of John Roy Lynch signed by both author and illustrator, which I’m reading in the picture, will remain with me only until it becomes a gift for a couple of red-headed brothers. That surely calls for a copy of my own to replace it. Then there is the intriguing resemblance on the cover of Roger Is Reading a Book to Roger Sutton, editor in chief of The Horn Book Magazine. Hmmmm.

The “Too Late” part comes with a moral for this story which I found as I looked for the website to include for my blog readers. Not paying close enough attention to the instructions can be the end of hope for contest winners as well as writers. You can see the instructions (and my mistake) yourself by clicking on the picture of the stack of books, along with some of the “caught reading” pictures, at www.eerdlings.com.

Since this is the month for being caught reading, my assumption that it ran to the end of the month would have been better served by reading all the information carefully – like the one that says the contest closes at midnight on May 20. Why do I feel a bit like a hare who took a little snooze unaware that a tortoise was passing him by?

Monday
May182015

Crystal Kite Award

Only on a special occasion do I blog about the same book twice, and seldom am I later than early morning doing my post. This is a special occasion, and I had to wait for the press release before I could tell! I first blogged about Hurricane Boy by Laura Roach Dragon on March 10, 2014 when it had its debut.

Now it has won the Crystal Kite Award. These awards come from members of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (the longest name of any organization to which I belong and lovingly called SCBWI for short). Normally, one award is given in each of fifteen regions, but in this case, there will be two since there was a tie in the final vote from Mid-South Region.

Books published in 2014 by a list of recognized children’s and young adult publishers are eligible. Voting is done by members of the organization so the award is given by one’s peers, much like the Oscars. Authors are prohibited from active campaigning although they are allowed to remind their friends to vote. Anything resembling spamming disqualifies the author and book. Since the Mid-South region covers Kansas, Arkansas, Tennessee, Kentucky, Missouri, Mississippi, and Louisiana, the original list was long. (I know – Kansas and Missouri in the Mid-South? All I can say is, I did not make the divisions. But it’s no worse than football’s new configuration of the Southeast Conference.)

What does Laura get for this? A big round of applause and several hugs at the announcement during our local meeting last Saturday when we were sworn to secrecy, an engraved Crystal Kite Award (some hinted that it had only been handled with white gloves to prevent any tarnishing of its beauty), and a silver sticker for her winning book.

And why am I blogging about this book a second time? Not because her autograph in my copy ends with “ . . . I couldn’t have done it without you.” I wouldn’t want to seem proud. Okay, so I am proud, but I’m also giving you a heads up on an award winning book in time for you to read it on the tenth anniversary of Katrina on August 29 – the storm that started the story in Laura’s head.

Friday
May152015

Gone, but Not Forgotten

My first knowledge of today’s birthday boy came when my father returned from preaching at a country church “in view of a call” as they used to say. In his description of the prospective church, he returned several times to the young man who played the piano. The church called and Daddy accepted, but it would be a few months before the family moved so I could finish my last year of high school without a change. On successive trips, Daddy’s reports often returned to the young piano player, also a senior in high school. One weekend, a family visit to the new church brought us to Mr. Butler’s country store where he introduced us to “his baby boy” – the piano player. Mr. Butler died unexpectedly that spring before we made the move.

Daddy always got edgy at this point when he heard me tell this story. He said I made it sound like an arranged marriage. It wasn’t. I had a mind of my own that Daddy had always encouraged me to use. I could hear Allen’s piano and see his dark wavy hair. The red and white Buick hardtop convertible he drove didn’t hurt anything either.

While Daddy never objected in principle to my good taste, he did become worried about the speed at which I took a liking to his musician. He made a statement in my hearing to someone else – obviously for my benefit – that none of his girls had better think about marriage before they were eighteen. Little did he know he was giving permission for the plan Allen and I had already hatched that would allow me to finish junior college before the wedding.

When I stuck my hand under his nose to show the engagement ring not long before that sophomore Christmas and said, “Daddy, I’m eighteen,” he replied, “Yes, you are.”

The dark wavy hair and the Buick are long gone but not forgotten, and the piano fingers aren’t quite as quick and sure when they tickle the ivories these days. But we’ve had more adventures than either of us would ever have expected, many because of the “Greetings” sent by Uncle Sam on another birthday. (Really, how can a draft notice be timed for your birthday!) And three children, their spouses, and ten grandchildren have added many more.

His piano-playing fingers have taken a liking to baking cakes himself so I’ve skipped that and made a reasonable facsimile of his mother’s chocolate pie for the occasion. Happy birthday, Allen! And, thanks, Daddy, for pointing him out, though I probably would have found him all by myself.

Monday
May112015

The Sound of Glass

The prologue of the advance reading copy of The Sound of Glass by Karen White (release date – May 12) sets Edith in Beaufort, South Carolina – July 1955, “An unholy terror rippling through the sticky night air alerted Edith Heyward that something wasn’t right.” She pictures her hand-made blue and green glass wind chimes shivering like a hanged man from a noose.

Chapter 1 sets Merritt in Beaufort South Carolina – May 2014, “Fires can be stopped in three different ways: exhausting the fuel source, taking away the source, or starving the fire of oxygen.” Merritt knows her fire-fighter husband Cal’s death, as he walked into the burning building, was no accident.  

So begins a Southern tale told in alternating chapters between the two women. Inexplicably, Merritt inherits her husband’s family home two years after his death. Her stepmother, too close to her own age, and her ten-year-old stepbrother show up on her doorstep before she can dispose of the house. Edith’s story and Merritt’s weave toward each other to the background music of the chimes.

Getting rid of the chimes becomes an early goal, a concrete thing Merritt can do while she unearths the mystery surrounding the unexpected inheritance and figures out what she is going to do with the other legacy of the stepmother and half brother. The reader knows quickly there will be more to this than the couple of days she mentally allots them until they can find a place, just as she (he) senses that the chimes are staying.

For those who like “beach reads,” this would qualify. I’d recommend instead a tall pitcher of iced tea and a porch swing with a full afternoon ahead to enjoy meeting the well drawn characters that will have you thinking of them even after the last page is finished.