Monday, October 21, 2019

License Plate Love

One of my very favorite things to talk about on my blog is personalized license plates. And I haven't done it for a LONG TIME!! Turns out I've been saving some license plate pictures for the moment I finally realized this.

For those who are new to my blog, I love personalized license plates because I'm a people watcher, and personalized plates are a peek into the life of the car owner. It gives us a glimpse of who they are, and to a part of their life that is important to them. Half the fun is figuring out what it's supposed to say. The rest of the fun is in the stories you make up to explain why that’s important to them.

And as a writer, I think it's a fun way to build characterization. Do you know what your character would choose for personalized plates? If not, play the game!! It's so fun to find out.


Without further ado, on to the pictures!

Up first: MONAMIE


Perhaps many people would be confused by this license plate, but I happen to speak French, so I happen to know that this awesome license plate says Mon Amie! or My friend!

My guess would be that this is a very friendly French speaker, or more likely a French expatriate now living in Utah. But funny thing, I actually got caught taking this picture by the owner of the car! She WAS very friendly, and she was, indeed from France. I did have to explain myself, but she didn't mind my interest, and was happy to meet a French speaker. :)

Up next:  YRUHERE



This license plate cracked me up. I caught this picture while stopped at a light. Why ARE you here??! I was there on my way to a school visit, so a question I would soon be answering for hundreds of kids. As for this car owner, I would guess they have a wry sense of humor and mean to tell people to back off a little, OR they have strong religious beliefs and are asking the GREAT EXISTENTIAL question. Or perhaps it's both!!

Next on the list: HRLYQUN



We have a Batman fan on our hands here, who apparently has a thing for Harley Quinn. Maybe they have a thing for the Joker. Maybe they identify with her hopeless love and tragic treatment by the man. But I like to think this is meant to be more light-hearted, and they just love the character and comic.

Next: LVTOFLY


This one is a little less clear. LOVE to fly??? or LIVE to fly??? Or perhaps they liked that ambiguity because it's both. The two do go together pretty well. I am guessing this is a pilot. ✈ It could be a professional career pilot, but I'm going on a limb and saying that they fly more for fun than for a job. Small planes. Maybe owns their own? Or perhaps I'm completely wrong, and they just love to drive fast. 🚥😊

Finally! My own: PBNJ


 Yes, yes I did. My husband was really, really excited about the idea, and encouraged this. Of course, symbols are not allowed, so no ampersand (&), but I think this worked out pretty well. People who know me have no doubt why I did this, and people who don't know chuckle and comment: "You must really like PB&Js!"

Yes. Yes I do. In fact, I wrote  a whole book about it! 😂

But I must confess, PB&Js really are a huge part of my life, and they have shaped a lot of who I've become. Especially as an adult. And though it may be cliché, and though I will have more books published in the future, THE LAST GREAT ADVENTURE OF THE PB&J SOCIETY will always be my first. The one that sent me down the wonderful path of author-dom.

I want to know! What would be your personalized license plate? (7 letters max!)


Monday, October 14, 2019

Reading Books We Love

Reading books is so much a part of my life and my kids' lives, I sometimes forget that not everyone feels the same way about books. And don't worry, we can still be friends even if you don't love books the way we do!

In light of this excellent post by Liesl Shurtliff, I wanted to share some stories about my son:

My son in kindergarten

My oldest son has not always loved books. I read to him as a kid (like, A LOT), I had a home full of books, I modeled reading for fun (confession, maybe too much!), and HERE is proof positive I took him to the library even when it was tough! But still, my son didn't care for them. In fact, he disliked books and reading so much that his second grade teacher reached out to inform me that he was so far behind on his reading levels, that if something didn't change, and fast, he was not going to move up a grade with his peers.

I was horrified! There I was, a bona fide book lover, hoping to be an author someday, yet I couldn't even get my own son to read.

I was lucky. I had resources. My mom was an elementary school principal at the time and had been a reading teacher before that. I asked for advice, and here is what she told me.

Image result for image maze of bones"First and most important, find a book that he wants to read. That is very important! It must be his choice." . . . So turns out, this was harder than I expected. It took a lot of trips to the library. A lot of trial and error, because he didn't know what interested him. All books were the same to him at that point, and in his mind ALL BOOKS were boring. I grabbed lots of different types of books and I started reading to him.

We didn't finish many of the books we started, but I didn't give up. After a lot of searching, we landed on the first book in a brand new series: MAZE OF BONES by Rick Riordan.

"Second," my mom told me, "once you have a book he loves, read it together. You read it out loud, but follow along with your finger and have him follow along as well." We read the whole book that way, and moved on to book 2. I was still the one reading, but his attitude was changing. He was more excited about reading time. We kept at it through book 2 and moved on to book 3. That was when everything changed.

My son got tired of waiting for me. He was anxious to know what would happen. And he began sneaking the book and reading it on his own. Slowly, slowly, slowly. And sometimes he would ask for help. But that book forever changed his reading life, and I will always be grateful for both my mom's advice, and for The 39 Clues series that kept books coming out in such rapid succession.

From there he moved on to comics. He particularly loved the Star Wars comics. And I was so grateful to see him reading! To see him excited to read.

His reading interests grew, and he began to read Rick Riordan's other books. That led him to read everything he could find about mythology. That led him to studying ancient cultures. That led him to start learning Hebrew and Greek on his own. That led him to study Inca and Mayan cultures. The kid loves to learn!

Image result for star wars comics coverImage result for lightning thief cover

Those early books that some people would call junk books and a waste of time saved my son's reading career (and yes, helped him pass the second grade). Those comics gave him confidence. Led him to understand the possibilities that can come with reading. 

Please. Get kids excited about reading. Let them read books for the joy of it. Books that speak to their heart. And please, to all you graphic novel creators: KEEP THOSE BOOKS COMING!

What book first made you excited to read?

Monday, October 7, 2019

Picture Book Review: Railway Jack


One of the most important parts of writing is reading. Read as many books as you can in the genre you want to write in. So as you can imagine, I have been reading a lot of picture books lately. I love hearing about good books from others, so I'm going to share some of my favorites. I'll focus on picture book reviews, but since I love middle grade books, I'll probably throw in a few of those too.

My reviews will also be posted on Goodreads where I review other books as well. Feel free to follow me on Goodreads, if you like. Please note that I'll only be reviewing books I love, so if it's on my blog, I give it five stars (Goodreads' system).
First up is RAILWAY JACK written by KT Johnston, and illustrated by César Samaniego.

Image may contain: one or more people

I'm going to confess that while I do love a good non-fiction picture book, my heart is with fiction. Given that, I might have been a little hesitant to pick this up. But boy am I ever glad that I gave this one a chance!


What an amazing story! This book is about an amazing duo: Jim Wide, and his service baboon, Jack. Jim had lost both of his legs in a rail accident and struggled to do his job at the railway until he found Jack. I was fascinated by Jim's foresight to recognize the potential of what Jack could do to help him. I was amazed by all the skills that Jack was able to learn, and it gave me a greater appreciation for baboons and service animals in general.

The author's research on the topic was impressive, and I especially appreciated the photos at the end of the book. I'd never heard of a baboon being used as a service animal, and I found the author's note about the history of service animals to be interesting and very informative. I have no doubt kids would be fascinated, and the discussion questions at the end would lead to great discussions.


My favorite part was when the heads of the railway came down on Jim for allowing a baboon to do  the work of a human. I don't want to give any spoilers, so I won't tell you what happens, but when you read it, you will know why this is my favorite. (I know, I'm totally the worst! But read it! You won't be disappointed.)

I can't end without mentioning the art. The illustrator did a beautiful job on the pictures. They really brought the story to life. I loved the style, and felt it was a great fit for the story. And after seeing the old photographs at the back, it was fun to look back through the book and note the great attention to detail that Mr. Samaniego paid to his work. 

This is a wonderful story that I highly recommend!

Note: I received an e-ARC of this book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.



KT Johnston found history a boring subject in school—but now it's the passion of her writing. She earned a degree in biology and conducted wildlife behavior studies before switching to a corporate career. After raising two children and several litter sof curly-coated retrievers, KT began writing, spotlighting special animals who had affected the lives of everyday people. She and her husband live in Minneapolis, where the four-legged members of her family have always been special. KT hopes to inspire others to be curious about our world as well, one true story at a time.

You can follow her on Twitter, and learn more about her at her website.


César Samaniego was born in Barcelona, Spain, in 1975. He grew up with an artist father, smelling his father's oils, reading his comic books, and trying to pain over his father's illustrations! He attended Llotja Arts and Crafts School and graduated with honors in 2010. Since then he has published many books and provided art for apps, textbooks, and animations. César lives in Canet de Mar, a small coastal town near Barcelona, with his wife, daughter, five cats, and a crazy dog.

You can find more of his amazing art here.

RAILWAY JACK is on Goodreads, and is available for pre-order!