Monday, August 31, 2009

Michigander Monday: John Perry

John Perry has written a dangerous book. As my son said just yesterday, "I don't know how this book got into our house -- but all that matters now is that we not let it eat anyone." Indeed. Thankfully, the book does not eat blogs, so we're safe today having John Perry here for Michigander Monday. Welcome, John!

Debbie: Tell us a little about yourself.

John: First of all, anything I say about myself is wholly speculative, and could change at any moment, for any reason (a siren, someone else's Google query, an insistent bit of song). Here's what I know for sure: I grew up roaming with friends through forests, meadows and swamps (especially swamps--I have the muddy boots and wet cuffs to prove it) somewhere between Lansing and Detroit, back when a cow could still wander up to your office window. These days I live in Ann Arbor with two little girls and a big one, I hardly ever go swampwalking, and I miss boxcar frisbee, perhaps the greatest frisbee game ever invented.

Debbie: And of course, we want to know all about your book!

John: There's another John Perry who's funnier, thinks faster and is more creative than me. I never know when he'll turn up (and I suppose it's possible it isn't really him at all, but some other tricky person like Mike or Millicent or somebody). Anyway, whoever it is showed up one morning while I was still asleep and told me a story that made me laugh until I woke up. That story is The Book That Eats People, more or less. And it's irresponsible, irredeemable, irreverent, unrepentant, toothy and peevish. The trouble with that other John is he doesn't stick around to answer questions, so I had to write The Book That Eats People using just what I remembered. I hope I got it right because I wouldn't want the other John to be upset with me.

Debbie: Other books and projects you (and the other John) have on the horizon?

John: Lately I've been comparing myself to pearl oyster farming (about which I know almost nothing, which keeps things simple). The way I understand it is you start with a bunch of oysters, each with a little piece of grit implanted, and you end up with these valuable accretions of concentric micro-layers... Which is one way of saying I'm working on a score of stories all at once--a fairy story, a musical about gods, a thing about a couple of girls in Illinois, something related to The Book That Eats People, and a dozen other pieces. They're all coming together as the currents come and go. We'll see if anyone likes any of them when they're finished.

Debbie: Any upcoming appearances?

John: I'm excited about the Kerrytown Book Festival coming up in September. I'm supposed to read on Saturday the 13th at 1 p.m. My friend Rich built a metal strongbox for the book, so I'm hoping that'll keep everyone safe. I'll also be reading on Sunday, October 4th in Cleveland at the Great Lakes Independent Booksellers Association jamboree.

Debbie: Your favorite places in Michigan?

John: There's the sentimental favorite, which is my Mom's old farmhouse with the wrap-around porch and all of the land surrounding it; the botanical gardens next to the Red Cedar at MSU; the beaches on Lake Michigan, especially around Sleeping Bear Dunes; the pier at Holland State Park where we fished; the bluff we camped on above the Manistee River; all of the zoos.

Debbie: Favorite Michigan event or happening?

John: I may be the only person who has ever reported on the "Rockstar" games that happen sporadically, where rocky-bottomed rivers empty into any of the Great Lakes. People with goggles, young and old, vie for the title "Rockstar" by searching for the most interesting/beautiful/oddly-shaped/intricately-patterned rocks. Everyone plays arbiter. Everyone wins eventually.

Debbie: A few fun Michigan people we should all know about?

John: Mike Anton who lives in Hazel Park writes Dylanesque-ish songs with surprising, caustic lyrics that make me smile (and cringe). Michael Anne Erlewine is an Ann Arbor artist I haven't seen in too long, whose work is amazing. I hope she'll show more of it, more often.
Rich Cox, my friend who owns Orion Automotive Services in Ann Arbor, has a head full of stories and insight everybody should hear some day.

Debbie: Something you'd like a non-Michigander to know about our state?

John: Look, lots of Michigarblers are going to make up stories about Michigan to try to scare you away. Don't listen to anybody who says the ground in Michigan is randomly electrified, or to the guys on Fox who dreamed up that wild story about "bands of frantic saxophonists" who deafen tourists. None of that nonsense is true.

Debbie: I feel better already. Finally, some residents of Michigan refer to themselves as Michiganders; others Michiganians. For our ongoing vote tally: Are you a "Michigander" or a "Michiganian"?

John: Michiganite?

Debbie: Another new category - love it!

John, thank you for being here with us today. And I'm happy to report that I made it through this entire interview without being eaten by your book.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

The Rosenberg Library

It's been almost a year since the Rosenberg Library in Galveston, Texas was devastated by Hurricane Ike. A surge filled the first floor of the library with 7 feet of water and completely wrecked the children’s department, the auditorium, the meeting room, the circulation department, the technical services office, the operations department, and the Friends sorting room and book shelf. All critical building services (electricity, phone, Internet routing, HVAC, etc.) were heavily damaged, as was the roof.

Phased restoration efforts are continuing, and this summer the library reopened its second floor (the first floor remains closed).

If you're interested in donating to the library's recovery efforts, the Rosenberg Library's home page has a place to make a general donation or to make a donation earmarked for the children's department. By mail, the library's address is 2310 Sealy Ave., Galveston, TX 77550-2220.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Michigander Monday: Shutta Crum Reprise

One of the all-time neatest people in the world of children's books is Shutta Crum. Today for Michigander Monday I thought I'd "re-run" her profile of a year ago. If you didn't catch it then, click here.

Shutta's tenth and newest book, Thunder-Boomer!, just earned another starred review. Starred reviews in the review literature are rare, and garnering more than one happens only in the case of a truly exceptional book. Thunder-Boomer! has so far been starred in Kirkus Reviews, School Library Journal, and Horn Book Magazine; and now, The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books. This is well-deserved praise. Hurrah, Shutta!

Visit Shutta's web site and blog here.

And then go find yourself a copy of Thunder-Boomer!

- - - - - - -

Unrelated to Shutta's book but also along the reprise theme...

Last week I was light on blog postings, and only posted twice other than Michigander Monday. I meant to time the second post, Feeling Kreativ?, to appear later in the week, but hit the wrong button and posted it immediately, right on top of another blog entry I'd just done. So you may not have seen the first blog entry, "This Old House" for Regular People. Thus this little reprise of that post.

Incidentally, I'll probably be light on blog postings again this week. We'll see how the schedule goes. Until then, enjoy a great week!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Feeling Kreativ?

My friend Ann Finkelstein, a wonderful writer and a great blogger, was the recent recipient of a Kreativ Blogger award. I'm honored in her passing-it-along blog post to be one of the bloggers she lists as amongst her favorites, especially as I like her blog so much. But I'll admit, I also reacted by thinking: a) Uh, is this some kind of acts-of-kindness pyramid scheme? (we all know how I feel about those...); and, b) What's up with the kreativ spelling???

So... I called up my good friend Uncle Google and we did a little research.

Mind you, I only spent about 5 minutes on my "research" (it consisted of rather random Googling while eating Scrabble Cheez-Its and folding laundry). But if the search results are to be believed, the award -- originally handmade -- was started in Norway last year by a blogger named Huldas Verden. Click here for the Google translation of the original post and a step-by-step of the award's creation.

Apparently there come responsibilities with the award (of listing a few facts about yourself and then your favorite blogs and why you love 'em). But all this requires more concentration than a Cheez-It fueled brain can currently summon. So look for my list a little later this week.

In the meantime, thanks, Ann!

"This Old House" For Regular People...

Readers of this blog will recall my previous mention of the independent film Craftsman Style: The Movie. Last week, I had the pleasure of attending a screening of the film, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. It's a gem. The film chronicles a home restoration, but it's far more than just a renovation story. The movie weaves together history, craftsmanship, and community in a lighthearted but far-reaching way. By turns humorous, educational, and inspiring, it is at all times authentic. Craftsman Style is a movie well worth watching more than once.

I know Dave Muylle, whose home restoration is the subject of the film. This probably makes me a biased viewer by definition. But I can honestly say that even if I didn't know Dave, I'd still thoroughly enjoy the film. He and filmmaker Shane Hagadorn have created a wonderful movie. I'm very glad I got to see it.

I'll post periodic updates as the film is accepted at various film festivals, in case there's a viewing near you. In the meantime, those of you in the Lansing area have an opportunity to see the film in September. Full disclosure: the September 18 screening is part of a fundraiser for my nonprofit place of employment. But that's not the reason I encourage you to come on out and see the film.

Come see it because you'll be glad you did.

Here's the description of the film, in case you'd like to know more:

Craftsman Style tells the story of Dave Muylle, a veteran contractor turned citizen-filmmaker, and his two-year journey to restore a former drug house into a new home for his family.

Best described as “This Old House” for regular people, this documentary provides a detailed account of the rebuilding work done by Dave and his fellow craftsmen. The film also explores how this type of renovation provides a new model for home construction in urban America, one in which wonderful old houses are not simply torn down and replaced but are restored to their former glory, a practice that saves valuable natural resources while also honoring the past.

While not intended as an indictment of urban sprawl, the film does offer this important insight: “Craftsmanship, restoration, and community—this is true sustainability.”

Monday, August 17, 2009

Michigander Monday: Jacqui Robbins

This week I am pleased to welcome the fabulous Jacqui Robbins to Michigander Monday!

Debbie: Jacqui, tell us a little about yourself.

Jacqui: I have been a resume-filer, grill chef, elementary teacher, and database-manager, and I once drove a truck that could turn into a stage. These days, I’m a writer and a mother and a doughnut-enthusiast. My first book, The New Girl…And Me, came out in 2006 (illus. by Matt Phelan, pub. by Atheneum/Richard Jackson Books). You can find out more about me at my website ( or come over to my blog, Jacqui’s Room (, where the silliness never ends.

Debbie: For the record, I love your blog! I'm over there almost every day, reading your latest post.

But right now, what we'd like to know about is your latest book

Jacqui: Two of a Kind came out this July, also from Atheneum. My favorite quote called it “a sweet, insightful story about the in crowd, the outcasts, and the bravery it takes to be a real, true friend.” Kayla and Melanie are two of a kind and nobody is allowed to play with them. When they invite Anna over she’s thrilled, but then they make fun of her best friend and Anna has to decide where she wants to be.

Matt Phelan did the illustrations. He amazing; he draws the pictures I have in my head when I write. The book has gotten rave reviews and I’m thrilled with how it came out.

Debbie: And I was thrilled to see the book get nice notice in the August Notes from The Horn Book!

Other books, and projects on the horizon?

Jacqui: I have several other picture books in the pipeline. Right now, I’m working on one called Anybody But Arthur. I’m also writing a middle grade mystery, which is really fun, because I can blab for much longer and include things like a serial killer with a fear of corn syrup.

Debbie: Talk about a teaser - can't wait to see how the serial killer and the corn syrup phobia resolve!

Any upcoming appearances?

Jacqui: On September 3 at 7pm, I’ll be at the Ann Arbor District Library. We’re having a back to school party and I’ll be leading activities and reading and signing. Come and bring kids!

Debbie: Your favorite place in Michigan?

Jacqui: I grew up in Florida, right on Tampa Bay, and I miss the water. So my favorite places in Michigan are the places I can jump in a lake and pretend it’s an ocean. One of my favorite memories is hiking for what seemed like forever in the Sleeping Bear Dunes until we made it to the water. Gorgeous.

Debbie: Favorite Michigan event or happening

Jacqui: I love when spring finally comes and everyone peers out from behind our well-insulated doors and pokes a toe into the sunshine. Those first days, it’s never warm, but everyone’s outside, barely dressed, and saying, “Hey! Good to see you again! Nice winter?” like we’ve been out of town instead of just bunkered down in the snow and gray.

Debbie: That's one of my most favorite parts of Michigan, too!

A few fun Michigan people we should all know about?

Jacqui: Michigan writers are the nicest people on Earth. Seriously, they have been so welcoming and supportive. But it’s also a small world, so I’m going to tell you about 826michigan, which is a non-profit in Ann Arbor that is all about making writing fun and accessible for kids. They do tutoring, in-school work, projects at community housing, field trips for classrooms, everything. I’ve led workshops using theater games to teach descriptive language and artifacts from ancient Egypt to help develop characters. It’s all free, and the people are smart and hilarious. Check them out at

Debbie: Something you'd like a non-Michigander to know about our state?

Jacqui: That old stereotype that people from the Midwest are nicer? It’s true. Also, I don’t care how bad you think your weather is; ours is worse.

Debbie: So true! Finally, some residents of Michigan refer to themselves as Michiganders; others Michiganians. For our ongoing vote tally: Are you a "Michigander" or a "Michiganian"?

Jacqui: I like Michiganian, but I’m probably more of a Michigabfest. Michigal? Michigoofball, I think.

Debbie: Michigoofball - a new category for our tally. I love it!

Jacqui, thank you, for being here today. And for all of you reading this interview, you should now depart this blog immediately, and head on over to Jacqui's, which is always entertaining and terrific.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Flooded Library

Periodically on this blog, I pass along information about libraries that are in need or have had major damage or disasters. In case you haven't run across it in the news already, I wanted to share with you information about a library in Kentucky.

Earlier this month, an intense rain in Louisville, Kentucky poured down 7 inches of rain. Almost six inches of that fell in the course of one hour, leading to flash flooding. The Main Library of the Louisville Free Public Library sustained heavy damage.

(For striking images of the flood, click here and here. A photo that helps convey the difficulties of dealing with library flood damage is here.)

If you're interested in making a donation, contributions to the Library's Flood Relief Fund can be sent to the Library Foundation, 301 York Street, Louisville, KY 40203 Attn: Flood Relief.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Poetry Friday

walking by

take a walk in the park on a sunny summer day and you’ll

likely discover several things one of which inevitably is

that it’s warmer than you thought once you get rolling

another one of which is that a sudden breeze is a gift

the last one of which is that no matter how many times

you walk the path no matter how familiar the territory

no matter how much you look around as you go you’ll never

manage to see it all not the hidden life deep in the ground

not the saga high in the treetops not the truth of the tired

woman on the park bench nor the child on the swing nor

the man who walks around the track again and again but

what really is the final thing is that none of it dims the sun

until the clouds come

Wednesday, August 12, 2009


I couldn't help myself: after I learned that today is the inaugural Information Overload Awareness Day, I Googled the phrase. There are (currently) 4,890 links you can click on to learn more!

Monday, August 10, 2009

Michigander Monday: Wong Herbert Yee

I'm pleased to welcome Wong Herbert Yee to Michigander Monday!

Debbie: Tell us a little about yourself.

Herb: I was born in Detroit and still live in the metro area. In grade school, there are usually one or two kids tagged as class artists. I was one of them.

This ability to draw eventually led to studying art at Wayne State University. The interest in children's books came about much later when my daughter was born. Our weekly trips to the library opened my eyes to all the wonderful stories and artwork being created for kids. I myself learned to read with Dick and Jane. See Dick run. See Jane run. See Spot run . . . and so on, nail biting stuff. Now, here I am illustrating and writing picture books myself. My newer releases are early readers like Dick and Jane (more thrilling though, I hope!). Who would have guessed? (Not I for one!)

Debbie: And, of course, we want to know all about your latest book.

Herb: I tend to work slowly (my daughter's term for this is: slacker!) and usually have one book published each year. There are other projects being developed, in various stages. Again, I like to let them stew a bit. My first book EEK! There's a Mouse in the House was published in 1992. A board book version is coming out this fall — YIPPEE! Having your books remain in print is not so easy. Also due for Fall 09 is the next Mouse and Mole adventure titled: Mouse and Mole, Fine Feathered Friends. It is the fourth book of the early reader series begun in 2005. The second book, Abracadabra! Magic with Mouse and Mole recently received the Maryland Blue Crab Early Reader Award. Apparently there are other folks who love Mouse and Mole besides me (thank goodness!).

Debbie: The people of Maryland have good taste!

Other books, and and projects on the horizon?

Herb: On my desk now is Mouse and Mole, A Winter Wonderland. I've just begun the final art. MM5 is scheduled for the fall of 2010. What else is bubbling in the pot? I did a picture book Tracks in the Snow for Christy Ottaviano at Henry Holt. It was followed by the sequel Who Likes Rain? (Spring 07). In the flap copy, Christy referred to the book as the second of a seasonal quartet. Good news for me! The manuscript for Summer Days and Nights has gone through editing; the dummy as well. All that remains is for me to get cranking on the illustrations. It's nice to have another project waiting in the wings. Something I did not consider after my first book was published. Fortunately, I took my editor's advice and didn't quit my day job. I'm also working on another Mouse and Mole tale. The manuscript is completed but not submitted as yet (set dial to simmer).

Debbie: Upcoming appearances?

Herb: The only thing on the calendar write now is Writers on the River in Monroe this November where I happened to be sitting next to one Deborah Diesen last year. (Not pouting at all since her book had sold out!)

Debbie: I'll be there again this year - hope we are seated together again!

How about your favorite place in Michigan?

Herb: Any of the rail to trails conversions crisscrossing Michigan on any one of my bikes.

Debbie: Favorite Michigan event or happening?

Herb: The Michigander bike ride which takes place in July on the Kal-Haven bike trail.

Debbie: A few fun Michigan people we should all know about?

Herb: Tracy Gallup; such talent, such craftsmenship! The Bookbeat; best independent bookstore. Located in Oak Park and owned by Colleen Kammer and Cary Loren. Both big promoters of Michigan writers and artists.

Debbie: Something you'd like a non-Michigander to know about our state?

Herb: Michigan ranks second in the country for rails to trails conversions. (Can you tell I'm batty about bikes?)

Debbie: Bikes are a good thing to be batty about!

Some residents of Michigan refer to themselves as Michiganders; others Michiganians. For our ongoing vote tally: Are you a "Michigander" or a "Michiganian"?

Herb: A Michigander of course! I'm also a birder and a fine feathered friend! For more info visit:

Debbie: Herb, what a pleasure to have you here today. Not only did I thoroughly enjoy learning more about you and your books, you've inspired me to head out for a bikeride!

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

I'll be at the Young Folk BookFest This Saturday at 11a

The Pout-Pout Fish is the featured title for the 2009 Michigan Reads! program, a one-state, one-children's-book program devoted to increasing early childhood literacy.

The official launch for this year's program will be at the Great Lakes Young Folk BookFest on Saturday, Aug. 8, 11:00 a.m. in the BookFest Tent on Abbot Road and Albert Avenue, in East Lansing.

The BookFest has a great line-up throughout the day Saturday and again Sunday.

See you there!

Monday, August 3, 2009

Michigander Monday: Kim Delmar Cory

This week we welcome Kim Delmar Cory to Michigander Monday!

Debbie: Kim, please tell us a little about yourself.

Kim: Well, I grew up in the Detroit area, came to MSU in 1972 (I rhymed!) and stayed in the Lansing area. I’m married to Loren and we have a daughter, Amanda, 26, a son, Justin, 23, two dogs, three cats and no room at the inn. I’ve taught and advised at Lansing Community College part time for 22 years. I teach how to write for children through the Institute of Children’s Literature. I also have a tattoo written in Latin on my ankle: “cacoethes scribendi.” I’ll let you figure it out. :)

Debbie: And tell us about your latest book.

Kim: Tending Ben’s Garden, my 4th mid grade Michigan based historical novel, is due for release some time this year. It’s set in 1931, Grand Rapids, Michigan. It is a work of my heart as it is based upon the closeness of my children to each other. I pondered one day what Amanda would do to bring her little brother home if he was sent away. It’s a story of stubborn sibling love. It was a joy to write as I got to ‘spend time’ with my children when they were young again when writing the book. I refuse to put away the photographs I used from when they were little. They were so cute!

Debbie: Other books, and projects on the horizon?

Kim: My current work in progress is called Angels Grieve. This is based upon a true event of child abuse. The title is derived from St. Thomas Aquinas- “Therefore angels grieve for the ills of those whom they guard.”

It’s one of the most difficult stories I’ve worked on because of the subject matter. It’s set in Northern Michigan, 1966. Much of the story is based upon personal interview. Twelve year old Lucas spends three nights in the woods after running away from an abusive aunt. It’s his rite of passage. It’s dedicated to abused children everywhere: “May their stories be heard and their hearts healed.”

Debbie: What an intense writing experience that must be. Such a difficult topic to take on.

Kim, do you have any upcoming appearances scheduled?

Kim: I will be hosting a table of my books in Author’s Row on August 29th at the First Annual Rockford Reading Festival, Rockford, Michigan. And I love visiting schools and hope to visit many this coming school year.

Debbie: Your favorite place in Michigan?

Kim: Mackinac Island, without a doubt! My third novel, Home to Mackinac, (2006) is set in the late 1800s there. I was commissioned to write it by Mackinac State Historic Parks. We visit my Island several times a year but it is never enough. I’m trying to figure out how I can live there with my own horse. (Don’t have one yet). :)

Debbie: Favorite Michigan events and happenings?

Kim: Lilac Festival on Mackinac Island. 4th of July on Mackinac Island. Autumn on Mackinac Island . Do you sense a theme here? :)

Debbie: I think I know where you spend your free time! Kim, how about a few fun Michigan people we should all know about?

Kim: I don’t get out much- writers rarely do, but I enjoyed being stationed at a table next to author/illustrator Ruth McNally Barshaw at a Monroe Library presentation a year or so ago. She lives in Lansing like me and we had a lot of fun.

Debbie: I second your opinion about Ruth! She's great.

How about something you'd like a non-Michigander to know about our state?

Kim: Not only are we the state with the coolest shape, but Michigan offers an amazingly rich history. Hence my love of writing about Michigan in the ‘olden’ days. (Does this include Angel’s Grieve set in 1966?)

Debbie: Well, 1966 was before I was born, so that can be 'olden' days. But 1967 -- now that's modern!

Finally, some residents of Michigan refer to themselves as Michiganders; others Michiganians. For our ongoing vote tally: Are you a "Michigander" or a "Michiganian"?

Kim: I’m not sure. It’s really never come up in conversation, but I do love the Michigania store which leans towards the second choice. But most likely I’d go with the Michigander, flap my wings and honk.

Debbie: Kim, thanks for being here today!

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Prove It!

My friend Ann Finkelstein has a wonderful ongoing blog feature of overheard quotes.

Though I'm not going to steal her feature, I'm borrowing it on a one time basis, because this overheard quote -- the parting shot of a heated discussion between two young people I happen to know -- amused me:

"Oh yeah? Well then let's get a ton of feathers and a ton of bricks and find out for sure!"