Saturday, March 21, 2015


     I was able to request a copy of The Pink Maple House through interlibrary loan. It was the book both my mother and I had read during my childhood. I had hated it, she had liked it, and I wanted to see if I still felt the same way.

    The Pink Maple House was published in 1950. It is very dated. My guess is I read it in 1961. I think it was dated even then. It tells the story of Polly Trent, who moves to the "beautiful  beautiful"pink maple house with her family.

     Sadly, Polly moves away from her best friend, Jenny Spears. She starts a new school But not to worry, Jenny often comes to visit, and the two families spend both Thanksgiving and Christmas together.

     First of all, Polly and Jenny are terrible snobs. If I were Mrs. Trent, I would be concerned that Polly makes no new friends at the new school, and has to rely so heavily on Jenny coming over. The only girl she starts to know is Tilly Jenkins, but she and Jenny act very superior to Tilly. Tilly has a ramshackle house and her mother yells and hits. And of course, she is jealous of Polly's "perfect" life, so is portrayed as poor Tilly. She's described as fat, "the fat little girl", which really bothered me.

     I also couldn't stand the portrayal of the servants, the Trent's housekeeper, Delsey, and the Spears' man, Robert. Although they act like they have warm admiration for Delsey and her good cooking, she has to work on Christmas Day! They only had two guests for dinner, so why couldn't spoiled Mrs. Trent handle it? And whoop-de-doo, they give Delsey a whopping $5 and a new pocketbook for her Christmas gift. Come on! That was cheap even in 1950! She's treated as badly as Bob Crachit was by Scrooge, in my opinion.

    So verdict. I was a wise little girl. I didn't care for The Pink Maple House then and I still don't like it now. Reading it made me realize why a tumultuous decade like the sixties followed the 1950s. I can't help wondering - if there really was a Polly Trent, did she decide to "tune in, turn on and drop out" during the late 1960s? As for Tilly Jenkins, I hope she received a full scholarship to college, worked hard, and became the glamorous CEO of her own international firm!



Thursday, March 5, 2015


     I am pleased to announce that I am now offering a critique service for picture book manuscripts. For the past year I have been a volunteer judge at Rate Your Story, critiquing three or four picture book manuscripts per month, using their rating system. Of course there is usually so much more I would like to tell the writers, but I'm limited to the Rate Your Story system. With my professional critiques I'll be able to give a much more detailed response.

     My second gig, as a children's librarian, is also helpful in giving critiques. I have read literally thousands of children's books and keep up with the current titles. Reading is second only to writing daily as a necessity for a writer. Sadly, it's often obvious when reading a manuscript that the writer really has no understanding of children's picture books, probably because they haven't read enough. So in some cases I'll be recommending a reading list too.

     If you're interested, you can read more about it at my website,
     Click on Critique Service on the left hand side.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015


      In my last blog, I wrote about a picky eater. Today I'll write about another of my characters, Dorcas Cummings, who longs for "something good to eat". The only child of brilliant inventors, Mr. and Mrs. Cummings are more interested in their fleet of robots than they are in Dorcas. They feed her health foods, green milkshakes, kale, sardines and soybeans. But sometimes children ought to have a cookie!

      Like my picky eater, Dorcas is another side of the same coin, that is, food obsession.

      Is it any wonder I am food obsessed? It seems most people who live in the San Francisco Bay Area are. New fantastic restaurants open in San Francisco on a weekly basis. All types of ethic cuisines are represented. Every town has a farmer's market, food trucks and specialty food shops. Add to that list artisan chocolates, coffee, craft beers and cocktails. Like tech, food is a part of the culture around here.

      Actually it didn't just start there for me. My grandmother was a fabulous cook. She was "old country", none of her recipes were written down, she had learned to cook by watching her mother. Grandma made so many wonderful desserts, cakes, cookies, strudels, homemade noodles, wonderful soups and chicken. She loved to invite the entire extended family over for a feast and would give everyone a "care" package to take home, enough food for dinner the next day.

     When my daughters were small, serving nutritious food seemed like a large part of the job of "mom" to me. They liked to pretend that our kitchen was a restaurant called The Sunshine Cafe.I had a chalkboard on the wall where they would write out each night's dinner menu. They are both excellent cooks now.

     Of course food has always been important in children's books. As a child, I remember longing to taste the foods the characters in books I read were eating. Treacle and toffee in British children's books sounded particularly enticing. I wanted to know how hardtack and salt pork tasted. Food is not only taste of course, it's smell and texture, all those sensory details which make writing, like one's palate, come alive.

     You are what you eat, which seems especially true when creating a character.