Monday, April 30, 2012

Three Minutes with the Inventor of the Wheel

Normanday #26: A round of questioning

Spend three minutes conducting an interview with the inventor of the wheel.

Email what you wrote to woof at bright dot net by the end of the day May 6 (put “Norman is Stylish” in the subject line). I’ll post as many of my favorite entries as I want next Monday. Include your first name (or, even better, use a pen name) and age (unless you’re tortoise-old). If you’re a published children’s or young adult writer, include a biography to be posted with your entry.

Here are the entries from last week when I asked you to…

…spend three minutes writing down everything you hear.


They’ll be the death of me, these clocks. At least of my sanity. The unending tick-tocking, like a bomb counting down to an explosion that never happens—a building of suspense with no release.

A metronome tick-tocks, but it serves a purpose. It helps you keep rhythm for a period. Then you silence it, place it carefully in it’s velvet-lined box and stow it on the top shelf of the linen closet.

There’s no rhythm kept with a dozen clocks each marching to the beat of their own drummer.

Downstairs the grandfather clock bong-bong-bong-bongs, sounding more like a doorbell than a timepiece.

Timepiece. Ha. A timepiece brings no peace. It’s tick-tocking bores into my brain, nestles there to accompany me wherever I go. Standing near a frozen lake on a windless day or lying in a hotel room (a digital clock on the nightstand set to wake me the next morning), the ticking of those clocks echoes in my memory, itches my inner ear like a cricket crawled in there and is rubbing his legs together.

The clock right outside my door is a cuckoo clock. I admit, it might be fun to hear the cuckoo announce the new hour, but that bird hasn’t popped out on its roost in years. I can’t remember what he looks like, but I have a good idea how he got his name.

What I’d rather hear is the sound of those clocks being smashed against the floor. The pendulums clanging, the wood splintering, the gears rolling to a stop down the hall. That bird coo-cooing one last time.

The rest is silence.

Roy Tep

What does wind sound like? It is the sound of air shaking evergreen branches. It flaps broad leaves—like a thousand green flags they snap. It thrums along the side of a building. It squeals with delight as it swoops down the steep roof and turns the weathervane in need of oiling. It rattles the gutters and shimmies the shutters. It twists the clunky wind chime, makes it mimic cow bells and rusted mufflers. It funnels along the curve of my conch-like ear, carrying the sound of the ocean from hundreds of miles away.

Tren Rewy Steb

Howling. More like singing to my way of thinking. A drawn-out note, operatic almost. Then a pause to catch a breath, and back at it again. Starting low and ending on a higher note. An alert.

Rowr rooooooow!

Like morse code, one long, three short. Pause. Begin new word. Spelling out: “Come see the squirrel! It’s a squirrel! I’m not lying about this, there’s really a squirrel out there!”

Softer now, as she moves to another room, another window.

Row, row, row!

“Now he’s over here. Comesee-comesee-comesee!”

More frustrated now. A long howl ending with a huff of exasperation.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

ReRunday: KEEPER (Middle Grade)

Originally posted on August 23, 2010.


The First Meeting of the Cryptid Book Club

Date: Monday, August 23, 2010

Location: Undisclosed

Members substantially present:

Bigfoot, Morzant, Briar, Beverly, Oliver

Member virtually present via video conferencing:

Penny C. Monster

Members absent:

Norman, Lenny, Violet

Meetings minutes taken by:

Penny C. Monster

Snack Master:


Book (selected by Beverly):

KEEPER by Kathi Appelt, with illustrations by August Hall (Atheneum-Simon & Schuster, 2010)


• Meeting called to order by Bigfoot at 9:30 a.m.

• Refreshments taken. Beverly brought Rice Krispies Treats. Bigfoot commented that he likes donuts. Beverly reminded Bigfoot that he is free to bring donuts when it is his turn to be Snack Master. Bigfoot replied that whenever he goes to the donut shop he receives such poor service that he is made to feel like he doesn’t exist. Morzant expressed fascination in the tensile properties of the Rice Krispies Treats and suggested the meeting time be used to perform some experiments. A vote was taken. The result of the vote was 5 to 1 against studying the tensile properties of Rice Krispies Treats.

• No previous meeting minutes to review.

• Members took their seats at the meeting table. There was a loud noise. It soon became apparent that Bigfoot had broken his pledge to not bring whoopee cushions to the book club meetings.

• Beverly requested, “could we please get on with it already?”

Beverly loved the book. She loved how the chapters alternated between the various characters, and how each character’s individual story eventually merged with the others. She loved how the story jumped in time—from recent past to distant past—gradually telling each part of the story in fragments. She loved guessing what had really happened to Keeper’s mother, and the other characters, and wondering how all the past events would come together. She loved the surprising way they did. She did not love when the book ended.

Briar agreed that the author did a wonderful job at revealing the story in mysterious segments, but explained that, as a psychic, it was impossible for her to experience that aspect of the book. Briar had been aware of all the book’s revelations before the author decided to write the book. What she enjoyed most were the chapters told from the points of view of the animals. She appreciated how those characters were as important to the story as the people. She also liked how they were not characterized as less intelligent than the people, but as “believable representatives of their respective species.” Her favorite part was how Keeper called licks from BD (Best Dog) “stealth kisses.”

Bigfoot thought the seagull named Captain was funny.

Oliver liked the adventure that Keeper had when she went out in the boat. He thought it was exciting when she was lost at sea. The meeting was paused while Bigfoot lectured Oliver against ever doing anything like that himself. When the meeting resumed, Oliver told about his favorite part which was when it turned out that the grown-ups still loved Keeper even though she made a mess of everything at the beginning of the book by saving the crabs. He also liked the short chapters and the illustrations—especially the one of BD wearing a life jacket. And now he’d like to learn to play the ukulele.

Morzant focused entirely on the mermaids and mermen, eventually leading the book discussion on a time-consuming tangent. Here is a partial transcription:

MORZANT: I just want to clarify a few things because Bigfoot said the zombies in the last book I read were made up by the author. Now this fictional book has mermaids in it and I don’t know what to think.

PENNY: Mermaids are real.

BRIAR: I have a second cousin who’s a merbeagle.

MORZANT: I see. And trolls?

BEVERLY: What about them?

MORZANT: Do they exist?

BEVERLY: Don’t be ridiculous.

PENNY: No, Morzant, there are no such things as trolls.

MORZANT: Narwhals?

BRIAR: I believe the plural form is narwhal.

BIGFOOT: Actually, I think either narwhals or narwhal is correct when talking about more than one narwhal.

BRIAR: Perhaps you’re right, but I really don’t think—

PENNY: Yes, Morzant. Those whales with the single tusk are real.

MORZANT: Rhinoceri?

BRIAR: It’s rhinoceroses.

BIGFOOT: Are you sure? That doesn’t sound right to me.

PENNY: They’re real, Morzant.

MORZANT: Unicorns?

PENNY: Extinct.

MORZANT: Are leprechauns real?


MORZANT: Fairies?


MORZANT: The Beast of Busco?

BIGFOOT: What’s that?

MORZANT: A giant turtle.

BEVERLY: Could we please get on with it already?!

MORZANT: Just a few more. Komodo dragons, Thunderbirds, and Bunyips?

BIGFOOT: Yes, yes, and yes.

MORZANT: Wolpertingers, Jackalopes, and Skvaders?

BIGFOOT: Hoax, hoax, and hoax.

MORZANT: Dingoneks, Mongolian death worms, Wendigos?

BIGFOOT: Yes, yes, no.

MORZANT: Kelpies, hoop snakes, Goatmen?

BIGFOOT: No, no, yes.


BIGFOOT: You’re kidding, right? Yes, of course Yeti.

MORZANT: Chupacabras?


MORZANT: The Loveland Frog?

BIGFOOT: You tell me.

MORZANT: Very funny. Bears?

BIGFOOT: Grizzly, polar, or Paddington?

MORZANT: Grizzly.

BIGFOOT: Is the Pope Catholic?


BIGFOOT: Do Rice Krispies go “snap, crackle, and pop”?

MORZANT: Paddington.

BIGFOOT: Does a frog have a watertight—

PENNY: Bigfoot!

BIGFOOT: Sorry, Penny. Yes on Paddington.

MORZANT: What’s so funny?

BIGFOOT: Nothing. Any more?

MORZANT: The Dover Demon?

BIGFOOT: Sure, why not?

MORZANT: Mothman?

BIGFOOT: We sometimes team up for bridge.

MORZANT: Furry trout?

BIGFOOT: Furry trout? Um. Not sure. Guys?

PENNY: No clue.

BRIAR: I’ve never seen one. Oliver?

OLIVER: Me neither.


MORZANT: Last one. The Veiled Snapping Reptilia?

BIGFOOT: What’s that?

MORZANT: An irritated half-invisible turtle.

BEVERLY: Real. Very real.

I then gave my opinion of KEEPER. I liked it very much and was impressed with how the author made me feel as though I was really in the ocean (which I actually was at the time I read it, but if I hadn’t been, I would have felt like I was). The description of the waves alone has the power to make a reader feel as though they are being tossed around in that tiny boat along with Keeper and BD.

Wrap up:

• Norman (not present) was assigned to be Snack Master for next meeting.

• Morzant (heaven help us) is to pick the next book. He asked if he could elect instead for the club to conduct a series of experiments on the tensile properties of Rice Krispies Treats. A vote was taken. The result of the vote was 5 to 1 against conducting a series of experiments on the tensile properties of Rice Krispies Treats at the next meeting.

• As Club President, Bigfoot issued a moratorium on Rice Krispies Treats at future meetings.

• Meeting adjourned at 11:15 a.m.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Three Minutes of Listening

Normanday #25: That sounds about right

Spend three minutes writing down everything you hear.

Email what you wrote to woof at bright dot net by the end of the day April 29 (put “Norman is a Good Listener” in the subject line). I’ll post as many of my favorite entries as I want next Monday. Include your first name (or, even better, use a pen name) and age (unless you’re tortoise-old). If you’re a published children’s or young adult writer, include a biography to be posted with your entry.

Here are the entries from last week when I asked you to write for three minutes…

…thanking somebody for something you wish they had done, but didn’t.


Dear Self,

Thank you so much for eating healthy and taking care of me, your body. Thank you for eating all your fruits and vegetables, having the right amount of calcium, consuming only lean proteins, and drinking only milk, water and the occasional green tea. Thank you, too, for not eating too much sugar and processed food. You know how bad that is for your body and you do such a great job of eating lots of whole grains, legumes, and things that are naturally sweet instead.

You have done such a great job of keeping me young and limber. That must be because you do daily yoga and make sure to swim three times a week and take 5 mile walks every day. Being so naturally physical keeps gives me so much energy. And an extra thank you for getting a full eight hours of sleep every night, without any need for medication! I am bright eyed and ready to take on the day every morning at 6 a.m.

Not only does all of this good nutrition and exercise take care of me, it takes care of you too, Self. For you know, being healthy is good for the brain. It gets a good amount of oxygen and isn’t muddied by substances that are bad for us — such as sugar and white flour and fattening foods.

So, thanks, Self, for just being so good to yourself and making your health a priority. You have a good sense of balance and moderation. What a wonderful influence you are on us all.

(Or not.)

With gratitude,

Your body


Please accept my deepest appreciation for the consideration you’ve shown in agreeing to suspend the pranks and jokes you so love to perform at my expense. No longer will I suffer the indignity of being called a frog. I cannot begin to express the relief I’m experiencing at the realization that you will never again disrupt another of my experiments. I won’t dwell on the inaccurate data and innumerable lost discoveries caused by your antics. Today my studies of Earth literature begin anew. Thank you, Norman. This arrangement can only serve to strengthen our friendship and my understanding of your planet.


Thanks for saving me the last piece of cake. I know it must have been hard, the way it was sitting on the counter looking all chocolatey and delicious. But you didn’t give into temptation. And I really appreciate that because I didn’t get to a chance to eat a piece yesterday during the birthday party you threw for me. It was so thoughtful of you to remember that I like surprises. Last year you forgot my birthday altogether, so it was a double surprise when I walked into the living room to find all my friends there. And the presents! Oh, the wonderful presents! So undeserving am I to have a friend like you. One who would save the last piece of my birthday cake for me. I’ll be sure to return the favor on your birthday.

Sunday, April 22, 2012


Originally posted on October 11, 2010.



by David Ezra Stein

Candlewick, 2010

A Book Review by Oliver

(with a little help from Violet)

Hi. I’m Violet. Remember me? I’m going to help Oliver do his first book review since I’ve gotten so good at book reviews and he hasn’t done a book review before. He’s shy. He doesn’t talk much. He’s telepathic so he usually thinks to you instead of talking and it kind of tickles so don’t be surprised when he tells you about the book and your brain tickles. Ready Oliver? Oliver? He’s being shy. It’s okay, Oliver. Tell everybody about INTERRUPTING CHICKEN.

OLIVER: It’s a picture book about—

VIOLET: Hee, hee. Did you feel that? I told you it tickles! I’m sorry Oliver. Go ahead and tell them about how the little red chicken asks Papa to read her a book at bedtime and how before he does he makes the little red chicken promise not to interrupt.

OLIVER: Okay. The first book Papa reads is Hansel and Gretel. I like that story.

VIOLET: Me, too! And in INTERRUPTING CHICKEN we get to see the little red chicken’s Hansel and Gretel book and the pages that Papa reads from. But Papa doesn’t get to read very much because the little red chicken gets so excited and worried about Hansel and Gretel being at the witch’s yummy house that she yells “Don’t go in! She’s a witch!” and warns Hansel and Gretel not to go into the yummy house because the lady in the yummy house is a witch. So the little red chicken changes the story and Hansel and Gretel are safe and the witch is mad because she won’t get to eat Hansel and Gretel. And Papa is a little frustrated because the little red chicken interrupted while he was reading to her and she promised she wouldn’t interrupt.

OLIVER: Uh-huh. Then Papa tries another book.

VIOLET: That’s my favorite one. It’s Little Red Riding Hood and it’s so funny when the little red chicken interrupts to tell Little Red Riding Hood not to talk to the big bad wolf. Wait. That’s not right. The big bad wolf is in The Three Little Pigs. This is just the regular bad wolf. But anyway the little red chicken retells the story so that Little Red Riding Hood doesn’t talk to the bad wolf and that sure makes the story short because then the bad wolf never goes to Grandma’s house to eat her. The baddies in stories sure get hungry, don’t they?

OLIVER: Uh-huh.

VIOLET: Tell them what happens next, Oliver.

OLIVER: The little red chicken asks Papa to read her another book.

OLIVER: Chicken Little! And just at the part when Chicken Little is about to tell everybody that the sky is falling, the little red chicken says “It was just an acorn.” And that’s the end of that story! There’s a funny picture of Papa who looks so frustrated because the little red chicken has interrupted him again. Isn’t that a funny picture, Oliver?

OLIVER: Uh-huh.

VIOLET: And I like the next picture, too, because the little red chicken is hugging Papa and looking worried because Papa has told her that there isn’t anything else to read to her and the little red chicken needs a bedtime story or she won’t be able to fall asleep. But Papa has a good idea and the good idea is for the little red chicken to tell a story to him. He gets under the covers and waits for the story. Tell everybody what happens when the little red chicken tells Papa a story. It’s really funny, isn’t it?

OLIVER: Yes, it’s so funny. Papa falls asleep and—

VIOLET: —when he falls asleep he starts to snore and the snoring interrupts the little red chicken’s story. Get it? The little red chicken kept interrupting when Papa read her a book and then when the little red chicken is telling Papa a story, he interrupts her. So then the little red chicken gets under the covers and falls asleep, too, and it’s such a funny and good and happy ending. Right, Oliver?

OLIVER: Uh-huh.

VIOLET: You did a good book review. Didn’t I tell you it would be easy?