A Virtual Summer Book Party!



Earlier this month I was invited to join a blog tour with a group of talented authors…

The baton has been passed among many writers, but a few leaps back was Eileen Beha, the author of Tango: The Tale of an Island Dog. An animal story set on Prince Edward Island, this one has been popular with Inly’s dog-loving students. Her new book, The Secrets of Eastcliff-by-the-Sea, has the greatest cover:


A book about a sock monkey named Throckmorton S. Monkey seals the deal. It will be added to our school library.


The next person in the chain was Loretta Ellsworth, the author of In Search of Mockingbird, the story of a young girl who goes in search of Harper Lee, her mother’s favorite author. I have recommended this book to middle school students after we read To Kill a Mockingbird.  With all of the attention on Marja Mills’ book, The Mockingbird Next Door, about her real-life experience as Harper Lee’s neighbor, Loretta’s book might be fun to read right now.

 Here’s a link to Loretta’s website:



After Eileen and Loretta wrote, Mary Losure added her entry. I was especially excited to see Mary’s name because I read The Fairy Ring last year and put it on this summer’s school reading list. Mary’s book is the true story of two English girls who started a “fairy hoax” which fooled lots of people, including Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.


Next, the baton was passed to Gwenyth Swain, the author of Hopes and Tears: Ellis Island Voices. Inly has two copies of her extraordinary book about the immigrant experience. When our 4th, 5th and 6th grade groups begin their study of immigration, Swain’s is the first book I give to the teachers.

The link to Gwenyth’s blog:




On to the questions….

What am I currently working on?

 My story is a bit different from the talented writers in this blog hop. I enjoyed writing the two biographies – I learned so much, worked with dedicated editors and was happy to send the stories of two inspiring figures out into the world. That being said, while working on both projects, I missed reading. I remember reading books about Hank Greenberg and enjoying them – but was also aware of my nightstand table filled with books I really wanted to read. I love to read and share my favorite books with others. I especially enjoy reviewing middle grade fiction for School Library Journal, writing my blog posts, and recommending books to kids and adults which, luckily, I have many opportunities to do.  It was a special pleasure when Hammerin’ Hank Greenberg won a 2012 Sydney Taylor Honor Award from the Association of Jewish Libraries. Greenberg deserves more recognition for what he achieved both on and off the field, and the award ensured that more kids would hear his story. But when that book was published – and I had a renewed sense of appreciation for the work that goes into good nonfiction for kids – I returned to reading and recommending.

 Why do I write what I write?

 Both of my books came from a personal connection with the subjects. My first biography for young readers, John F. Kennedy: His Life and Legacy, was a direct result of my 15-year career at the John F. Kennedy Library and Museum in Boston. Because of my work there, I was already immersed in Kennedy’s life and the goal of my book was to share his inspiring story with young people. Hammerin’ Hank Greenberg: Baseball Pioneer, my second book, was a very different experience. While I knew a lot about President Kennedy and my goal was to share his story with young people, I knew very little (initially) about Hank Greenberg. But my son played a lot of baseball when he was young and, along with that, he read books about baseball. I began to notice the name Hank Greenberg in several of his books about famous players and soon discovered that Greenberg, a first baseman for the Detroit Tigers, had an amazing story which was not as well known as it should be. He was the first Jewish baseball star – in fact, he almost broke Babe Ruth’s home run record in 1938. After a visit to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown to learn more, I had my new subject.

How does my writing process work?

 I like to spread out: colored note cards, lots of paper, post-it notes, books, and copies of old newspaper articles. My process reflects my hyper-organized approach to most of my work.


One of the best things about participating in this blog hop is the chance to introduce my readers to Larry Dane Brimner, the author of Birmingham Sunday and Black & White: The Confrontation Between Reverend Fred L. Shuttlesworth and Eugene “Bull” Connor.  In her review of Birmingham Sunday (for Booklist) Hazel Rochman wrote: “This moving photo-essay covers much more than just an account of the Birmingham, Alabama, Baptist Church bombing that killed four young girls in 1963. The detailed text, illustrated with black-and-white photos on every spacious double-page spread, sets the shocking assassination of the children within a general overview of both the racist segregation of the times and the struggle against it….” When Inly’s middle school students study the Civil Rights Movement, Larry’s books are in the classroom.


 Larry’s new book, Strike!: The Farm Workers’ Fight for Their Rights, will be published in October. I just got a copy and am looking forward to reading it, but until then, here’s an excerpt from the School Library Journal review:

 “Brimner’s comprehensive history of the United Farm Workers (UFW) begins not with Cesar Chavez but with the action of a group of Filipino farm workers who walked off the California fields in 1965. He combines the little-known story of the Filipino workers, a significant segment of migrant farm workers, with that of Chavez and the Hispanic workers, whose actions have received far more attention…He is objective about Chavez, providing both praise and criticism of his role as union and civil rights leader. One of the book’s strongest points is a discussion of how Hispanic organizers Chavez and Deloris Huerta and their Filipino counterpart Larry Itliong worked to overcome grower-exploited cultural differences between the two groups and persuade them to trust and work together. The text is supplemented with well-chosen primary source quotes, large period photos and political cartoons, and sidebars….Brimner’s inclusion of information about the Filipino workers who began the movement, quotes and balanced discussion of Chavez’s strengths and weaknesses provides a fresh perspective on the movement, making this book a first-purchase choice for middle-level researchers.

Check Larry’s blog  in the next few days where he will answer the same questions about his work.


A note about the picture at the top of the post….

This is Jeff Koons’ piece – Split Rocker – which is half toy pony and half toy dinosaur!  At over 37-feet-high and covered with flowers, it’s the festive centerpiece of Rockefeller Square this summer.