OCO-2: Quick Facts from @IamOCO2, @NASASocial, @NASAJPL

Quick facts about the Orbiting Carbon Observatory:images-7


Length: 6.96 ft (2.12 meters) — approximately the same as the typical wing span of the American Bald Eagle 1.8 -2.3 meters (5.9 – 7.5 ft).

Width (stowed): 3.08 ft (0.94 meters) — a little wider than the girth of the typical American refrigerator.

Weight (spacecraft and science instrument): 499.5 killer rabbits — or 454 kilograms (999 pounds).

Power: 815 watts — runs a small waffle iron, coffee maker, or toaster, but not enough to run a hair dryer, vacuum cleaner or air conditioner — in other words, you could make breakfast, but not look very good while doing it.

Primary science instrument: three-channel grating spectrometer. Don’t ask me what that is. ¬†I have no idea. But maybe it has something to do with the solar panel-looking arms sticking out from it.

Instrument Dimensions: 5.3 feet by 1.3 feet by 2 feet (1.6 meters by 0.4 meters by 0.6 meters) — hey, that’s an exact description of me in my golf shoes! Yikes!!! In case of malfunction…

Instrument Weight: One Indo-Pacific humpbacked dolphin, or two gorillas — 288 pounds (131 kilograms). Whew! Not a description of me, not even close.


Launch: No earlier than July 1, 2014, at 2:56:44 a.m. PDT (5:56:44 a.m. EDT) — and no later than 2:57:14 a.m. PDT (5:57:14 a.m. EDT) — from Launch Complex 2 West (SLC-2W), Vandenberg Air Force Base, California.

Launch Window: 30 seconds daily — this means that if they miss the 30-second window, they must wait for the same 30 seconds the next day to attempt it again. This is because the OCO-2 has a precise place along the “A-train” of 17 satellites passing a certain point of the earth at an exact time each day. This is not a random firing, people! This is 30 seconds of man’s highest intelligence and the poetry of the universe coming together.


Launch Vehicle: United Launch Alliance Delta II 7320-10.CONE

Primary Mission: Two years Orbit Path: Near-polar, sun-synchronous, 438 miles (705 kilometers), orbiting Earth once every 98.8 minutes and repeating the same ground track every 16 days.

Orbital Inclination: 98.2 degrees — don’t ask. I don’t know what this means.

NASA Investment: $467.7 million (design, development, launch and operations) — the same price as the Paris Marriott Hotel Champs-Elysees, which a Chinese investor recently agreed to buy for 344.5 million euros ($648 million).

Wow. That’s a lot of money.

If I had $648 million, I would . . .

Well, I wouldn’t be leaving my house at 3:45 a.m. tomorrow morning to sit in coach class without any food for six hours on a commercial flight to California, that’s for sure! I’d blast off in my own private Delta II rocket!!!

See you at the launch ūüôā !!!






OCO-2: Watching Earth Breathe

In three days I will be at the Vandenberg Air Force Base in Southern California to watch NASA launch the Orbiting Carbon Observatory satellite!!!!


I was chosen as one of seventy social media users (and one of only two children’s authors) to attend the event and to blog, tweet, post photos, etc., about it. The other children’s author is Robin Dobson, who writes non-fiction. We’ll be meeting with scientists and NASA officials and getting a grand tour of the facilities on Monday, June 30. Then BLAST OFF! on July 1 at 2:56 a.m.!!!

Here’s what the Delta II rocket launcher looks like:¬†CONE

The mission of the OCO-2 is “watching the planet breathe,” from space. Carbon dioxide (CO2), as everyone knows, traps gases in our atmosphere and prevents the earth from breathing properly, which deprives our plants, and ultimately ourselves, of vital nutrients. The OCO-2 will be able to tell us where the earth is breathing, and where its suffocating.

It’s like I learned in yoga — breath is all you have.

Here’s a peek at the OCO-2:

I welcome questions from my readers — if there’s anything you’d like me to ask the scientists and NASA officials, please send it as a comment below!

Stay tuned for posts/tweets from the Vandenberg Air Force Base! I’m SOOOO EXCITED!!!!!


The Denise McCoy Legacy Award

ALBANY, NY — I won an AWARD!!!IMG_9063The Denise McCoy Legacy Award for humorous children’s literature was given to Alvin Ho Allergic to Dead Bodies, Funerals and Other Fatal Circumstances. Woohoo!!! Yay!!! Hooray!!!

That’s the good news.

The bad news is that I’ve struggled for more than a month to tell you about it.

Worse, I’m still struggling.

How hard could it be to tell you about winning an award?

Not hard at all, I thought. It’s the first award I’d ever won in which I was invited to a special dinner, signed a sqillion books, sat on a stage while someone made a speech about my work, got a super-duper trophy plus a huge check!

It’s very author’s dream come true!

So why couldn’t I just come out with it?

Was I dazed? A deer caught in the flashbulbs?

Yes and no. To tell you the details of what happened would have been no problem. The problem is not the accounting of facts, but the rendering of something that cannot easily be explained, or fully known.

So let me start with the facts, the easy part.

Denise McCoy, who spelled her name with a little d, was a bookseller in Albany. She sold many books. She especially sold many children’s books. If you had a homework assignment and didn’t know which book to use, she could tell you exactly what you needed. Her favorite books were the funny ones which made you laugh. She herself liked to laugh and to make people laugh. She was little and fat. She could ride a horse, no problem. Once she slipped a little and rode a horse upside-down and laughed as though that were the normal way of riding a horse. Her friends are still laughing about it. That’s only one of many funny stories about denise. Her biggest talent was making friends. Very, very good friends.

Denise died in 2003. But her friends are still her friends, and they are friends with one another. Every year for the past nine years they’ve gotten together and continued denise’s work. They read a bunch of children’s books and they pick the funniest one and give it the Denise McCoy Legacy Award (formerly the Little d Award). They invite the author to dinner. They present the award at a ceremony. They arrange for the author to visit an inner city school. They give away hundreds of autographed copies of the winning book to young readers throughout the capitol city.

Denise’s oldest very, very good friend friend is Lynn Derry, from first grade. Lynn picked me up from my hotel and brought me to dinner at a very nice Italian restaurant. The room was filled with denise’s closest friends and relatives.

This is where it gets hard.

I don’t have a photo of Lynn, but here is a photo of her husband, George Chelius:IMG_9048George said he was “accidentally in the restaurant,” as he greeted the ladies around the table. When he got to me, he started to read from this letter that he wrote to the Boston Red Sox outfielder, Jim Rice.IMG_9052In it, he says that he is sending Rice a silver dollar that he always keeps in his pocket. He is continuing his father’s tradition of giving it to a stranger having a special occasion. He says that not only will the silver dollar bring him luck, but it will assure him induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame the following year.

And presto! Rice is inducted into the Hall of Fame the next year (2009), and sends autographed balls and a photo to George;IMG_9053With that, George reached into his pocket and presents me with a silver dollar!

I’m struck speechless.

Then he reaches into a bag and gives me something else —

His own treasured baseball — signed by Bill “Spaceman” Lee.

Just because he knew I’m a Red Sox fan (see Alvin books!).

Something inside me explodes, like a little cup unable to hold the sun.

How else do you describe the transformation that happens when you receive such unselfish kindness and generosity from a complete stranger? All I could think of was the scene in Victor’s Hugo’s Les Miserable where the monsignor gives Jean Valjean the silver candlesticks that he had intended to steal. It changes Valjean forever. I felt like that. Changed.

Here I am holding my newly bestowed treasures:IMG_9050¬†Thank you, George!!! You didn’t stay for dinner, but your gesture was repeated over and over again that evening.

As I sat at the table with denise’s friends, the room filled with kind words. Memories. Funny stories. Laughter. Their long-treasured friendships surrounded me on all sides and pressed me in.

I marveled. I wondered.

Were it not for denise, none of us would have been there. Her friends would be going home from their jobs. George would have kept his silver dollar in his pocket and his baseball in a safe place.

And the next day I would not have gone to the Griffen School in downtown Albany, where Ms. Derry presented me with the award and I gave an author presentation. The young authors at the school would not have had a yummy pizza lunch while I held a writers’ workshop.IMG_9061I never would have met Shareem, who was filled with all sorts of wonderful ideas for his writing:IMG_9058And wonderful ideas for his pizza too!!!

I wouldn’t have signed a sqillion books for Shareem’s school:IMG_9043¬†Or signed a sqillion more for the young readers and their families who came to the annual book giveaway at the offices of 15Love, started by the tennis great Arthur Ashe, which teaches life skills to youths through tennis and educational programs.¬†IMG_9076Nor¬†would I have this beautiful trophy:IMG_9083¬†Do you see the word, “legacy” above? It means a gift from the past — in this case, a gift of friendship that continues to inspire, to be life-giving, and life-changing.

Thank you, denise.

And many thanks to her friends and family at the dinner who shared with me a side of life that is so hard to describe because it is both poetic and sacred:  Lynn Derry, Gail Donovan, Joann Hoose, Eleanor McCoy, Katherine McCoy, Mary Williams, Allyson Shea and Amber Marino. It was a real honor to sit among you.

And a special thank you to Tom O’Brien, denise’s brother, who first notified me of their award.

And thank you again to George, whose lucky silver dollar I carry with me everywhere.

Past recipients of the Little d:

Bruce Hale Murder, My Tweet
Christopher Paul Curtis, Mr. Chickee’s Funny Money
Sara Pennypacker, Clementine
Jeff Kinney, Diary of a Wimpy Kid
Lois Lowry, The Willoughbys
Jarrett J. Krosoczka, Lunch Lady and the Cyborg Substitute
Tom Angleberger, The Strange Case for Origami Yoda
Tommy Greenwald, Charlie Joe Jackson’s Guide to Not Reading





Countryside and Barbara B. Rose Schools

BARRINGTON, IL — My visits to Countryside School and Barbara B. Rose School in late April started nearly four years ago when this kid named Alvin, I mean Aidan:Aidan & Alvinwrote me this awesome letter:

"Alvin Ho is scared in the dark."

“Alvin Ho is scared in the dark.”

Then his younger sister, Joelle, wrote to me in 2012:IMG_9109Followed by his little brother, Brennan, who not only sent this beautiful card last year, but included a jaw-dropping CD of himself reading BRUSH OF THE GODS:IMG_9108Aren’t they marvelous?!!!

Additionally, when I first put up this blog, Aidan saw it and immediately (it was that bad) volunteered his dad’s services to make it look better. The next day his dad, Bill, had given this blog a complete makeover, and he’s been my blog’s unpaid administrator ever since! There but for the kindness of strangers go I! Thanks, Aidan and Bill!!!

So when their librarians invited me to visit their schools in a northwest suburb of Chicago, what could I say?

YESSSS!!!! Of course!

So on the evening of Wednesday, April 23, Aidan, Joey, Brennan, their amazing mom, Sidney, and their super-duper dad, Bill, became strangers no more:DSC_6923DSC_6924After they picked me up from my hotel, they whisked me out for —DSC_6930¬†Chicago-styled pizza!!!

You can’t eat it like regular pizza.DSC_6937You have to use a fork!

It was SOOO good, I can’t even tell you.

After dinner we went to a fancy gourmet chocolate shop where everything was the color of chocolate, even the couch: DSC_6947We ate up our chocolates faster than we could drool, but we got to sit around the fireplace anyway :).

After that they took me to their house so that I could see where they lived.DSC_6957Brennan, who is an author, shared his book with me.

And I shared mine with him.DSC_6963I was remiss in bringing my reading glasses, so had to use a magnifying glass. DSC_6965It was such great fun! I felt like I was visiting Alvin, Calvin and Anibelly!

The next day, I went to Countryside School, where Brennan is a kindergartener. IMG_8925This is Valerie Baartz, my amazing librarian-host at Countryside.

Countryside began offering a Chinese-immersion program last year where you can opt to have a half-day of instruction entirely in Mandarin, five days a week, starting in kindergarten. Imagine learning how to count — in Chinese and on an abacus! It’s a good thing I’ve been going to Chinese school! ¬†Here I am giving my first Mandarin presentation and showing off my Chinese practice book to the kindergarteners and first-graders:DSC_7089It was great!

Until I used up my entire Chinese vocabulary.

And there were forty minutes left to my presentation.


Lucky for me, I could count up to 9,999 in Chinese and knew the Chinese words for the Great Wall, Forbidden City and several other tourist attractions to keep things going for a while . . .¬†DSC_7082Plus,¬†I had a few old tricks up my sleeve, like the original egg from POLKA DOT PENGUIN POTTERY, which is usually good at producing some oohs and aahs . . . DSC_7095My audience was suitably impressed, I assure you! Painted eggs, as everyone knows, speak a universal language that everyone understands. (Don’t be fooled by the photo bomb in the lower right-hand corner above.)

After my day of presentations and book signing was over at Countryside, Ms. Baartz rolled the “goods” out the door . . .¬†IMG_8991¬†and¬†drove me to a parking lot somewhere outside of Chicago, where we met a squirmy, bespectacled, lead-footed, brake-squealing character, and some nefarious transactions took place from the back of her car:IMG_8995Sometimes when you’re an author, it’s best to stand there like an idiot and keep your mouth shut, especially so close to the Windy City. You know why they call it that, don’t you? Well, lemme just say this wasn’t the first time questionable stuff happened from the back of a car, in broad daylight, near Chicago . . .

Or the first time that someone who writes for a living gets pushed into a booth in a dark restaurant with a strange name, Claims  . . . something, afterwards.


But the food was good! And the company, fascinating. There are no photos, however, on account of we had to eat in a hurry. They do things swiftly around here, not like in New York, where people sit around all night taking pictures of their food.

Anyway, they must have drugged me or something because I went willingly back to Countryside School where the Student Art Fair was in full swing:DSC_7107And Firecracker Man was bursting around the place:¬†DSC_7144And I willingly and happily read excerpts from my forthcoming Alvin Ho book . . .¬†DSC_7116to a new audience every¬†10-minutes from 6:30 to 8 o’clock.

But that was not all . . .

Many books were waiting to be cooked, I mean inked, in my dimly lit hotel room that night, or else!  IMG_8999Or else I would be cooking, I mean signing late into the night the next day and miss my flight!

How I ever got up the next morning and made it to the Barbara B. Rose School, I’ll never know.DSC_7146But here I am — vertical — with happy young friends and with that slippery, bespectacled, rubber-burning, back-of-the-car wheeler-dealer creature from yesterday. Her name is Pam Meiser, and she’s actually the pencil-bunned, cart-swivelling, encyclopedia-brained, super-nova librarian who had orchestrated my visit to the two schools. Thank you, Pam!!!

Inside, I was greeted by this fantastic banner:DSC_7147In Chinese it says, “Welcome! We love your books!” and “Happy!” Then¬†two Indian brothers greeted me in fluent Chinese and explained that their triplet brother was at home sick, but had made me a special poster, displayed next to the happy yellow banner:IMG_9016Thank you, Milan!

The Rose School was the first school in the district to offer a half-day Chinese-immersion program, so the students here are older and more advanced than Countryside’s. In fact, many students greeted me in Mandarin and continued to converse in Chinese with me as though it were normal to be conversing in Chinese everyday. Because it was!


I was in trouble now. How was I ever going to fake another presentation in Mandarin without being found out???!!!

How to Give a 60-minute Speech in Mandarin When You Know Only Five-minutes Worth:

1. Smile. (5 min.)DSC_7154

2. Wave. (5 min.)DSC_7155

3. Embarrass someone. (10 min.)DSC_7157

4. Wear a dress that makes you look sexy. (Strut: 10 min.)DSC_7166

5. Ask some questions. (5 min.)DSC_7172

6. Do NOT sing along when the Chinese class sings to you in Chinese. (3 min.)DSC_7206Do not even THINK of it. (2 nanosec.)

8. Do NOT sing along when the younger Chinese class sings to you in Chinese. (3 min.)DSC_7197They are super-duper adorable. But you are not. You’re not even close.

8. Teach them Shakespearean insults. (10 min.)DSC_7182In English.

9. Pit them one against another. (10 min.)DSC_7186

10. Cross your fingers and hope to die if all that fake Elizabethan English doesn’t wreck havoc on their pitch-perfect Mandarin tones. (30 sec.)DSC_7194

11. When all else fails, de-mic! De-mic! (normally 4 sec., but due to hair-detangling: 4 min.)DSC_7208

12. RUN!!! (30 sec.)

13. But don’t run into the Chinese classroom . . .¬†IMG_9018Oops!

Or you’ll have to show them what you really know.

Then have a face-to-face with Wei Laoshi . . . IMG_9025and use up your entire vocabulary all over again.

THANK YOU, Countryside and Rose School PTOs, for making my visit possible. THANK YOU, Pam and Valerie, for the tremendous amount of work that you did to make my visit simply PERFECT. THANK YOU, Moy Family, for all your kindness as strangers, and now as friends.DSC_7143¬†THANK YOU, Sidney, for taking all these marvelous pictures.¬†DSC_7242And THANK YOU, Aidan, for starting it all.¬†DSC_7190You’re the dude, man. You ROCK!!!








Riverview School

DENVILLE, NJ — I have some catching up to do with posting school visits.¬†I was at the lovely Riverview School in Morris County, in March.¬†IMG_8739It was a busy place. As soon as I arrived, which was before the start of the school day, students were already at work on their Rube Goldberg devices:IMG_8741IMG_8743IMG_8744These projects were being constructed in a room adjoining the library.

And this is Linda Breder, my librarian-host:IMG_8748Ms. Breder was the children’s librarian at the Randolph Public Library, where I used to ¬† bring my girls for story hour when they were little. She’s known me for a LONG time. In fact, she knew me before I had my first book published. She was always very supportive of my career and made sure that her library carried my books. And now that she’s in a school, she’s making sure that her students are READING my books. The halls were decorated with book projects for my visit:IMG_8758IMG_8760IMG_8765What colorful PDKs and Polka Dot Penguin eggs!

And cookies and cupcakes were decorated for my lunch:IMG_8752Yum!!!

After my presentations, young authors joined me for a writer’s workshop and pizza:IMG_8755And we were all still smiling and having great fun at the end of it!¬†But what a mess we left for Ms. Breder to clean up!

Then I had to get to work signing lots of books. No more fooling around! IMG_8749Thank you, Riverview PTO for sponsoring my visit! I really enjoyed visiting with some of the moms as I signed, and I had such a fantastic day at your school. Thank you, Riverview young readers, for reading my books and for all your enthusiasm and energy! And thank you, Ms. Breder, for your wonderful support through the years. I appreciate you more than you know!

Ten Random Things You Should Know About Me

This post is for David, who is working on a book project on Alvin Ho and couldn’t find anything about the author.

1. Writing is really hard for me.

2. But if I don’t write, I would shrivel and die.

3. My favorite opera is Tosca.

4. My favorite color is split-pea-soup green.

5. My favorite food is PIZZA!!!!

6. My favorite book is TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD.

7. I’ve never owned a TV.

8. I have super-duper bad eyes anyway.

9. My biggest fear is spiders.

10. I love museums.


Here’s a bonus list for you, though you didn’t ask —


1. I nearly flunked kindergarten.

2. I’ve been living by the seat of my pants ever since.

3. I drove a very powerful car down the highway between 90 and100 mph recently.

4. I didn’t get caught.

5. I would do it again.

6. I’ve eaten insects, caterpillars and snake.

7. I would NOT do it again.

8. I know some really fantastic secret kung fu moves.

9. If I show them to you, I’d have to kill you.

10. With a single touch.

Well, there you have it. I hope this helps. You won’t find this information anywhere else on the Internet, that’s for sure. Good luck, David, with your poster board! You’d better get an A+++++, or else!!!! Can’t wait to get a photo of you to add here :).

UPDATE: Here are photos of David, who is a seventh-grader at Highland in Apple Valley, MN:¬†IMG_76141IMG_76091IMG_76161Isn’t he fantastic?!!!

And here’s his list of Ten Things You Should Know About Him:

1. God is #1 in my life and my family
2. I love sports they are my world. I can play just about anything.
3. I like to read funny books, one of the reason why I loved the Alvin Ho collection.
4. I wish sometimes I could talk less but I just can’t stop =)
5. If I won a million dollars one day I would help my mom create a Center to help kids in our community that come from broken homes.
6. I would love to move down south somewhere warm all year
7. That is why I plan to go to college in the south =)
8. I would like to have a sister someday
9. I really like going to camp with my church we have so much fun
10. I want to be a volunteer in a Children’s hospital when I am old enough too do it

Thank you, David, for doing your communications project on Alvin Ho!!!

Alvin Publishes in China!

The ALVIN HO series is coming out in China!!!!! Published by Shanghai Gaotan, here’s the first cover!¬†?????1?2Isn’t it awesome??? I just LOVE it!!!

Hey wait, where’s my name? My Chinese name is nowhere on the cover! Nor my English name. Hey, what’s going on here?

Tucson Festival of Books

Dear Reader,

I just had the most incredible weekend.

I went to the Tucson Festival of Books (a k a @TFOB).

When you’re an author, you must go to this. Here are the reasons why:

1. You get to walk a red carpet.¬†IMG_8652This was my wonderful welcome host, Emily Morrison. She and her husband Ted gave me a ride from my hotel to the University of Arizona campus where the event took place. I sat in the backseat of their car between Jacquelyn Mitchard and Christina Baker Kline. In case you don’t know (and I didn’t), it was for Jackie’s book, The Deep End of the Ocean, that Oprah started her book club. And Christina’s book,¬†Orphan Train, has been on the New York Times bestseller list for the past seven weeks. I had no idea. I asked them dumb questions like, “Did you say your name is Pritchard?” And “What’s your favorite book that you’ve written?”

2. You get treated to a fancy dinner.¬†IMG_8656Your book is the table’s centerpiece, and they make a little place card just for you. The other author at my table was D.J. MacHale. He’s a dashing dude, but I was too shy to say hello. As for his book, well . . . you don’t see it do you? I wonder what happened to his book . . . ??? (Shhh, when you’re vegetarian, many things are edible!)

3. You meet Kathy and Jerry Short.¬†IMG_8659Here’s Kathy holding the beautiful service award she won from the Arizona Daily Star.¬†Kathy is the founder and director of the Worlds of Words library at the College of Education at the University of Arizona. It contains the largest collection of children’s books in North America., around 40,000 titles. This is what it looks like:IMG_8694photo 3IMG_8698There are beautiful murals by David Christiana that invite you into another dimension:photo 2Like this:IMG_8707Aren’t they fantastic?!!!

Back inside, there’s an artist’s studio where illustrators are invited to come and work on their books:IMG_8693And a classroom for graduate students:IMG_8692And a large collection of signed first-edition books and a collection of signed original artwork, including these from Grace Lin:IMG_8697And friendly, helpful gatekeepers at the front desk:IMG_8699Dr. Short¬†donated much of the books from her own collection from her travels around the world. She is also a professor of Language, Reading and Culture, the President-elect of the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE), and is responsible for inviting the children’s and young adult authors and illustrators to the festival and determining the format of their presentations. She was also a member of last year’s Caldecott committee. In other words, she’s a super-duper VIP in the world of children’s lit. So you can imagine my surprise to find myself seated at her table. And you can imagine my further surprise when the MC mentioned my name as an example of the authors Kathy brought to this year’s festival. Really? Me?

Oh, I should have fixed myself up after getting off the plane!

4. You get to hear Rebecca Eaton, the executive producer of Masterpiece Theater, give the keynote speech. She’s the executive producer of Downton Abbey. I LOVE Downton Abbey! And she’s speaking and coughing into the same microphone in which my name was just spoken. Just when you think you’ve died and gone to book festival heaven . . . .

5. You get to appear on a panel discussion with God.¬†IMG_8684Lois Lowry, two-time Newbery winner, and the winner of the international Hans Christian Anderson Award and everything else. You can’t stand any closer to the epicenter of children’s lit than this. Wow. I’m only cosmic dust in her orbit, but here I was in her orbit nonetheless! Orbiting on the other side is¬†Patrick Jennings, author of the Guinea Dog series and other funny books. God even wanted a selfie with us!

6. After you’ve touched divinity, other authors start orbiting around you.IMG_8703Who are these guys anyway???

They were sticking to me like cosmic dust or something.IMG_8705They are none other than the award-winning illustrators and authors, James Ransome and Jarrett Krosoczka, my co-conspirators in crime, I mean creation. We had a gut-busting, butt-kicking good time in our session on our journeys as authors, moderated by the great Marney Weimers, ringmaster extraordinaire. Our wild, crazy circus swung between the Lunch Lady’s robot socks:IMG_8700And The Rope taking a million selfies for his Facebook page!

What a quick fall from divinity to photo bomb.

I rush for the shuttle to take me to the Phoenix airport.

7. Back in the real world, no one cares that you’ve had drinks and dinner with God. You’re not cosmic dust. You’re not even a photo bomb. Your name is not on the passenger manifest for the shuttle because your publicist did not make a reservation for you because you’re a nobody. The driver looks at you contemptuously and flicks you on the sidewalk like a cigarette butt.

Your plane leaves in three hours and you are two hours away from the airport.

You cannot miss your flight because you need to be at a school visit within 48 hours.

Your superpower is not IT (Instantaneous Transport).

8. But Jerry Short’s is. He owns this awesome car:IMG_8714It’s a Shelby GT500. It has a 6th gear that will take you up to 185 mph at 2000 rpm. The engine looks like this:IMG_8717It is a BEAST, and a menace:IMG_8715See the cobra? If you see it in your rearview mirror, it means you better get out of the way!

Whoa, baby.

Without hesitation, my gracious host who had taken me to the shuttle stop and insisted on staying until I got on the shuttle, throws my bags back into the Shelby and I tuck into shotgun, and off we roar, spinning the yellow Tucson dust behind us.¬†IMG_8710I’ve never been in a faster car in my life! Yikes!!!

To take my mind off ID (Instantaneous Death), I ask him lots of questions about his car. I learn all about the rare, expensive Shelby. It’s FAST. It’s DANGEROUS. It can go from 0 to 60 in 4.4 seconds, and eat 1/4 mile in just 12.5 seconds at 119 mph. It is BADASS.

Jerry handled The Beast really well. I began to relax.

Then about halfway, we made a pit stop. We needed the restrooms and a soda.

Coming out of the convenience store, Jerry asked,¬†“Wanna drive it?”

That was what he said. But what I heard was, “I dare you to drive it.”

I stopped dead in my tracks.

“Me, drive it?” I squeaked.

“You’ll have a lot of fun,” he said.¬†We were walking towards the car, and somehow I was on the driver’s side and he was on the passenger’s side. When I looked down, the keys were in my hand. Wait a minute. How did that happen???!!!

“I’d love to drive it, but I think you’re much better at it, so I better not,” I sputtered nervously. You’d sputter too if you’re facing Certain Death just minutes away!

“Press the unlock button,” Jerry said.

Before I knew it, I was pressing the button to buzz the driver’s seat forward so that my foot could reach the clutch.IMG_8723¬†I adjusted the mirrors. I grabbed the stick shift. I don’t think I said my prayers though. It was too late for that. As soon as you turn the ignition on The Beast, you’ve sold your soul.

I rolled gently out of the parking lot, getting a feel for it like one would gently feel a cobra before jumping on it’s back and riding it. Oh, I was SOOOO scared!!!!!!

Then the on-ramp. I know what to do on on-ramps. You accelerate. You get up to speed with the traffic on the highway. You merge. Your life is NOT supposed to flash before your eyes. You are NOT supposed to be thinking of how you’re a few feet away from dying without a will. Intestate they call it. Intestate. Intestate. Intestate. Intestate on the interstate. Gulp. I never imagined that my final moments on earth would be filled with this single word. It doesn’t even sound nice. It sounds like something I will not mention.

Still rolling on the on-ramp, I was no longer waking a cobra, but I was driving like an old lady behind a walker. I heard Jerry say, “Get on it. Get on it.”

Huh? Then before I knew it, I got on it. VAROOOOOOM!!!! 

I peeled the asphalt right off the road.

I shifted into 6th gear and hit 90 mph. Maybe even 100, when I wasn’t looking.

I passed cars on the right and left.IMG_8734“Get on it,” Jerry said again.

I passed 16-wheelers.

I flew past a couple of cop cars waiting by the side of the road. Oops!

I sweated a little. I slowed down a LOT.

Then I went back to dodging drivers who tailed me, pushing the atomic batteries to power, turbines to speed!

I passed the Arizona Shuttle that had left me on the sidewalk :).

I owned Route 10, honey.

I zoomed all the way to the Phoenix airport, just like that. Here I am at the end of my ride:IMG_8737Badass.

THANK YOU, Jerry and Kathy Short for everything!!! You guys really ROCK!!!!

Brush of the Gods – ML wants to meet the author and illustrator

What is ML Reading?


We‚Äôve received bookmarks, posters and advanced copies from some authors and illustrators.¬† Also, we‚Äôve met authors and illustrators at our local bookstore.¬† Apparently, ML thinks I have an in with all authors and illustrators.¬† Last night after reading Brush of the Gods by Lenore Look and illustrated by Meilo So, ML said, ‚ÄúI love this book.¬† I want to meet the author and illustrator.‚ÄĚ

Lenore Look lives in New Jersey.  Meilo So lives in the Shetland Isles, a subarctic archipelago of Scotland.  If either visits Quail Ridge Books, we will be there.  If someone wants to fund a visit to Scotland, ML and I will be happy to visit Meilo So on her small island.

Brush of the Gods highlights the life of Wu Daozi;  considered a master painter during the T’ang Dynasty in the seventh century.  According to the author’s note, “He introduced the concept…

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Valentines from Canada!!!

Valentines Day.

Breathe in.

Breathe out.

When I was little, it was a holiday I dreaded. I loved addressing all my cards and having little candies ready to give away.

But horrible thoughts loomed.

“What if I don’t get back as many Valentines as I give away?”

Or worse . . . “What if I don’t get any???”

It was a possibility. This was in the bad old days before the invention of class lists and valentines for all. With my very own eyes I’d seen classmates collapse in tears because their VRR (Valentine Receiving Receptacle), carefully made with construction paper as a class activity and taped over the edge of their desk (like a Christmas stocking hung by the chimney with care, only heart-shaped), was cruelly EMPTY at the end of the day.

It’s not something you forget.

So I still dread Valentine’s Day.

Horrible thoughts loom.

Lucky for me, last week ended well. Fourth graders at the Whitney Junior Public School in Toronto, Ontario,IMG-20140207-03154IMG-20140207-03155where snow days for inclement weather have not yet been invented, sent me the sweetest letters:scan0001

So this week, with no Valentines flooding my Valentine Receiving Receptacle, and with the hope of receiving any rapidly diminishing, I dashed off an email to their teacher, “Do you think your students would mind if I post their letters on Valentine’s Day and pass them off as Valentines? ¬†. . . Do you think one of your students would mind drawing me colorful artwork to go with the letters? Maybe a Valentine, even?” It was as utterly desperate as it sounds. Believe me.

His reply: “We never had this whole Valentine’s Day thing in the Netherlands where I grew up, maybe that’s why according to UNICEF the children in the Netherlands are the happiest in the world.”

Then I received not one piece of artwork.

But a trove of them:Valentines

They made Valentines for the characters in ALVIN HO!!!



And here’s a little interview with their teacher, Mr. Bert van Hoeijen, who is from the Netherlands and can read in Dutch to his students whenever he feels like it:

How did you come across Alvin Ho? And why did you choose to read him to your class?
Ms. Soares, a colleague from another school introduced me to Alvin. I thought the book was humorous and would interest many students so they would start reading more themselves. There are also many things in your books we can talk about in class. Just like good readers make connections, visualise, infer, etc. while they are reading we talk about your stories in class while I’m reading them.

Did you do a book project or activities with Alvin?
We made organised lists and PDKs in class. We also made Valentine cards today for our favourite Alvin Ho character.

Is your school a Dutch school? (You had mentioned reading books in Dutch.)
I teach in a Canadian Anglophone school. I read a book to the class that was written in Dutch, but when I read it out loud, I tell the story in English or none of the students would understand me ūüôā

What languages are your students learning at school?√ā
In grade four we learn English and we start learning French.

What languages do they speak at home?
Most speak English at home but we have some who know gibberish, French, Tagalog (nannies helped), Farsi, Hebrew, Japanese, Korean, Manderin, Italian, and Spanish at different levels.
How did you end up teaching in Canada?
I visited Canada a few times during my last year of university and I fell in love with it so I moved here and started teaching a year later.
How is this school different from the school you attended in the Netherlands?
I love teaching here. I have very talented and kind students in my class. I do think students have to do more tests and homework than we had.
Happy Valentine’s Day EVERYONE!!!