Nurturing a love of reading

Darsa Morrow, fellow Betsy-Tacy fan and fellow mother of boys, has a thoughtful and impassioned blog post today on the vital spark that reading aloud ignites in our children, ensuring a life-long love of reading.  (Click here to read it.)

Good stuff, Darsa.  Certainly proved true in our house — and I have the picture to prove it!

My husband reading to our younger son -- check out that '80s hair!

Happy Birthday to “Pies & Prejudice”!


The fourth book in my Mother-Daughter Book Club series officially hits the shelves today in bookstores and libraries around the country!   WOOHOO!  ::happydancefeet::  Hope y’all run, don’t walk, to get your hot-off-the-press copy…

Festivities will kick off in a few weeks at the Wordstock Festival here in Portland, Oregon.  Time, date, and location of that and other upcoming appearances soon to be announced!

Pie-of-the-month-club – Susan Fletcher

As part of an ongoing celebration for a pair of pie-related books that I have coming out this month and next (“Babyberry Pie” and “Pies & Prejudice” – learn more here), I started a pie-of-the-month club to showcase new books by friends and colleagues.

On the menu today — my good friend and fellow Oregonian Susan Fletcher, who stopped by to whet our appetites for her new book.  Oh, and to dish about pie, too, of course!

Susan Fletcher

What have you been cooking up for readers, Susan?  Can you tell us a bit about your new book, and how it came about?

Um, it was actually lizard spit that got me going again with dragons.  Perhaps this requires an explanation.

For years, I’d toyed with the idea of a near-future sequel for my Dragon Chronicles series.  But nothing really popped until my daughter, Kelly, a microbiologist/environmental engineer, told me about a rare lizard whose saliva has microbes that might be able to degrade environmental toxins into compounds that are completely safe.  Lizard spit!  That was it, for me: a way to return to my Dragon Chronicles and re-explore, through dragons, what we may lose when a species disappears.

So Ancient, Strange, and Lovely (Atheneum) tales place in a near-future, slightly dystopian world.  I have to say, I had so much fun writing this book!  Partly because I got to hang out with those baby dragons again  — draclings — inspired by our dear old cat Nimbus.  (They thrum in their throats and knead you with their little talons.)  And also partly because in Ancient, Strange, and Lovely the age-old folklore of dragons bumps right up against modern culture and technology: biopiracy, Elvis species, petrified dinosaur eggs, remote webcams, deformed crocodiles, solar-powered socks, invasive ladybugs, two CNN anchors, and a YouTube lawn dwarf vid gone viral

In anticipation of Ancient, Strange, and Lovely, Atheneum also rereleased the other Dragon Chronicles, giving them gorgeous new covers.

How about your favorite pie-in-the-sky moment as a writer?  Have you had one of those “I never dreamed it would really happen to me” moments that was special to you?

My novel Shadow Spinner was translated into Farsi by a well-known Iranian translator.  He invited me to a conference in Tehran.  The visa arrived too late, so at the last minute I had to tell him I wouldn’t be there.  But I later found out that, after the translator spoke about my book, there was a run on copies of Shadow Spinner at the conference.  They sold out all the copies at the event, and people went out to bookstores all over Tehran searching for the book.  A group of children at the conference had already read Shadow Spinner and had been looking forward to meeting me and talking about the book.

I was astonished.  Iranian kids reading my book!  You just never know where your books are going to go and who they’re going to touch.

Has there ever been a moment in your career when you had to eat humble pie?  (I did, big-time, that time I showed up at a major chain bookstore for what I thought was just a signing and found to my chagrin was educator night – dozens of shining faces looking at me expectantly, and I hadn’t prepared a talk…)

Maybe the silliest one was when a group of children’s writers (including a three-time Newbery Honor winner) were invited to read from our work and answer questions at a large literary festival.  Apparently there were more writers than space available; we children’s writers were assigned to the ladies’ lounge.  It was a large and luxurious lounge to be sure, but every time someone emerged from the adjacent room, the sound of flushing toilets nearly drowned us out.

Now let’s REALLY talk pie.  What’s your favorite kind?  Do you have a favorite pie memory?  How about the recipe you’re sharing – can you give us a little background on it?

Unfortunately, my most vivid pie memories involve trauma and humiliation.  I have spent many a day-before-Thanksgiving trying to wrestle a pie crust into submission.  Just never got the hang of it.  I know that some people can roll out a nice, flaky crust in the time it takes to say “Yum!”

I hate those people.

My crusts morph into weird, lopsided configurations; they crack in half; they spring leaks. Fortunately, I have discovered crisps, which are actually healthier and, in my opinion, just as tasty.  I hope you will accept crisps as a subset of pies!  This one is delicious.  I found it in Cooking Light magazine, and it’s never failed to please.

Blueberry Crisp a la Mode

6 cups blueberries

2 T. brown sugar

1 T. all-purpose flour

1 T. fresh lemon juice

2/3 cup all-purpose flour

½ cup packed brown sugar

½ cup regular oats

¾ tsp. ground cinnamon

4 ½ T. chilled butter, cut into small pieces

2 cups vanilla low-fat frozen yogurt

1.  Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

2.  Combine first 4 ingredients in a medium bowl, spoon into an 11 x 7-inch baking dish.  Lightly spoon flour into a dry measuring cup, and level with a knife.

3.  Combine 2/3 cup flour, ½ cup brown sugar, oats, and cinnamon, and cut in the butter with a pastry blender or 2 knives until the mixture resembles coarse meal.  Sprinkle over the blueberry mixture.  Bake at 375 for 30 minutes or until bubbly.  Top each serving with ¼ cup frozen yogurt.  Yield: 8 servings.

To read other selections on the “pie-of-the-month club” menu, check out my interviews with Jane Kurtz, Toni Buzzeo, Lisa Schroeder, Jennifer Ward, Susan Blackaby, Jennifer Jacobson, Frederic HunterKimberley Griffiths Little, Stephanie Burgis, and Andrea Beaty.  Be sure and drop by again soon, because throughout 2010 I’ll be serving up more stellar books by some of my favorite authors and illustrators.

Oh, and pie is on the menu, too, of course.   Pie is ALWAYS on the menu here on my blog.  Enjoy!

Be still, my pie-loving heart

Sunday afternoons chez Frederick means two things — reading the Sunday paper over lunch, and later, at some point, a nap.

I haven’t gotten to the nap part yet, but I just finished the Sunday paper, and in case you missed this week’s Parade magazine, here’s a link to a fun article for fellow pie-lovers by Jane and Michael Stern, two of my favorite foodies.  What’s not to love about a couple who met a Yale, and have spent the last 25 years driving around America in search of good food?  Someday, I want to go on a road trip with those two.  Preferably next time they decide to head off and sniff out more of America’s greatest pies…

Pie chart, anyone?