Some thoughts about books and book stores

Hi everyone,

Yesterday we learned that the 2020 International Literacy Association conference, set for October in Columbus, Ohio, has been cancelled. I had been looking forward to being with and presenting with friends and colleagues while also continuing the effort to help establish AFTER DARK, my February 2020 release. I, along with thousands of others, are disappointed to see yet another large gathering of people get crossed off for this year.

This morning I noticed this brief article in the New York Times:

“Independent bookstores were having such a good run: Customers flocked to them not just for reading ideas, but as neighborhood gathering spots. Now the virus is threatening their very existence, Alexandra Alter reports.

If you want to make sure your local store survives the pandemic, you can help by buying your next book online — directly from a local store. Find the store’s website, or search for it through this database. (You can also find stores on, but stores with their own websites keep more of the money.)”/h5>

The book industry is suffering from the pandemic along with nearly everyone else but Alter’s words remind us that all who value books — to write, to publish, to sell, to read — have a stake in helping where we can. My initial hope was that while people have had to stay home there would be a rush on buying and reading books, particularly to children. Maybe that’s true. The article doesn’t reference that kind of information, but while folks can’t get to their library or book store, Amazon and other online stores may be seeing a spike in their book sales.

That leads to two thoughts.

During the health crisis, authors, illustrators, and publishers who depend on promoting their latest releases have lost most of their traditional opportunities. No conferences. No store signings. No school visits. No library programs. More than ever, book lovers have had to shop online among several million choices of titles old and new. While browsing through selections, prospective buyers may scan what industry reviewers have to say about the book and then they may check out comments left by previous readers. Everything else being equal, titles with more reader reviews have a better chance of being chosen over those with fewer. After working its way through the 4- to 5-year process from author’s brain to market, it seems safe to say that during the pandemic, more than ever, the chance for a new book to succeed online can be seriously impacted by the good will of readers who take the time to post reviews of books they have enjoyed and recommend to friends. As online shopping replaces more and more traditional retail stores, anyone with a product to sell must learn how today’s shoppers think and what effects their choices.

The second thought goes back to the article in the New York Times. If and as online book buying seems like the buyer’s best choice, I hope people will remember to buy through their local book stores. When I go into the Barnes & Noble a few blocks from our house, I see the coffee shop filled with people, some reading newspapers or scanning books, college students doing homework, small groups holding meetings, and that’s before I walk up and down the aisles admiring the brainchildren of thousands of men and women who have given large portions of their lives to create books. You can’t have that experience online. You have to be there. But if you can’t be there now, let’s do all we can to make sure the experience of going to a book store will be there waiting for us when we can return.

A wonderful surprise in the new issue of Missouri Reader

Hi everyone,

Today I express my gratitude to Sam Bommarito and Glenda Nugent, co-editors of Missouri Literacy Association’s journal, MISSOURI READER, for featuring me in the new issue that comes out this weekend. Sam is also going into the second year of his two-year term as Chairman of the MLA. For some reason the national organization, International Literacy Association, has decided the heads of state chapters should now be called chairmen instead of president.

Last year I celebrated the 50th year since my first book for children was published. Sam and Glenda honor me for that and more so I hope you will enjoy their article and of course the entire issue. Here’s the link.

If you would like to become a member of MLA and/or contribute to the organization, you can do it online at State Reading associations are in need of support for the invaluable work they do in supporting teachers and their efforts to help their students develop literacy skills that lead to a fuller life.

The Poet and the Poem

Hi everyone,

My thanks to friend Matt Forrest Esenwine for pointing out to me that a short article I sent to SCBWI came out in this fall’s SCBWI Bulletin on pages 12-13. I hadn’t heard about it until Matt mentioned it so I’ve now found it and enjoyed looking at the layout. Those of you who subscribe may have already read “The Poet and the Poem” but, if not, it’s there if you are interested. In it I post one of my poems from CONNECTING DOTS and describe my writing process from concept to finished poem.

I was tickled to see on page 5, an example of Jane Yolen matching one of her poems to something I posted here. Thanks, Jane!

This is the first time I’ve submitted anything to SCBWI. Let’s hope it won’t be the last.

New article in Children’s Book Insider

Hi everyone,

I heard yesterday from Kimberly M. Hutmacher that her new article, “Poetry Anthologies: Bringing Big Ideas and Big Conversations to Young Audiences,” has just come out in CHILDREN’S BOOK INSIDER, published in Ft. Collins, Colorado by Laura Backes.

To write the article, Kimberly interviewed four of us, Heidi Roemer, Sylvia Vardell, Janet Wong, and me. She included poems we selected asked us to discuss briefly our thoughts about the poems and why they are relevant for young readers.

My thanks to Laura Backes, Kimberly, and to my fellow poetry lovers in the article. CHILDREN’S BOOK INSIDER is a subscription publication and well worth adding to your reading library.

Playing with poetry

Hi everyone,

Mary Jo Fresch, my friend, co-presenter, and writing partner on several educational books, recently republished an article called “Playing with Poetry to Develop Phonemic Awareness” on Research Gate: This originally appeared on ILA e-ssentials and included some of the work we used when we wrote a five book set on this subject for Teacher Created Materials. I admit that Mary Jo wrote nearly all of this article but I “hepped” some.

The article has already been read more than 400 times, 23 in the last week. Way to go Mary Jo!