Saturday, June 27, 2015

Books by Oklahoma Authors - Some of the Best Around!

For those of you who haven't been exposed to children's literature in a while, you are truly missing out.  I may be biased, but I think it is some of the best literature around.  All genres of children's literature have come so far since I was a kid.  

Being a member of SCBWI (Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators) for the past few years has taught me so much as a writer.  I have learned a wealth of information about the craft through the conferences, speakers and connections I have made.   

But the even better part about it is the friendships I have formed with some of these  authors.   Here are some examples of great picture books by these very talented writers.  Don't miss them!

Tumbleweed Baby by Anna Myers
    illustrated by Charles Vess

    Anna Myers has become a friend of mine and I am so blessed to glean from her knowledge of children's literature.  She has written 19 books prior to Tumbleweed Baby.  These were all middle grade historical fiction novels.  This is her first picture book.
     Tumbleweed Baby is about an already large family during the Dust Bowl days.  The family finds a "tumbleweed baby" near their home. The book goes on to show how the family decides whether this  "wild-all-over baby" will fit in, or won't.  Some of the siblings are accepting, but one is not so much.
     Anna's unique and talented voice blends with the illustrations by Charles Vess to create a "tall-tale" of sorts about her own family.  This is a great story for all ages!

 Ginny Louise and the School Showdown
    by Tammi Sauer, Illustrated by Lynn Munsinger

      What can I say about Ginny Louise?  I love this book!  Tammi Sauer is one of our most talented authors.  Chances are great that you have heard of her or her work.  Her picture books are the best blend of wit, story, and sass. 
     Ginny Louise is the new hedgehog in school.  When she encounters the school's three bullies, she meets their meanness with her cheerfulness, and in the end good wins out!  Tammi and Lynn Munsinger have done a great job of tackling a big problem without it being a "lesson heavy" story. 
     Tammi has won awards for her books, and I fully expect to see this one with an award on it very soon.
     Tammi will also soon be recognized by the city of Edmond on the first, official "Tammi Sauer Day" on July 9th.  On that very day she will also be signing her book at Best of Books in Edmond, so put that on your calendar!
     After you put that down on your calendar, run out and get Ginny Louise and the School Showdown


                                                                Grrr...Night!  by Susan York Meyers and Marla F. Jones

     Woolsey the little monster isn't ready to go to nightmare land when his Granny tucks him in.  This is a story every child can relate to, but told in such a cute and unique way.  The words are inviting and the pictures superb.  Get this one for your little one's new bedtime story!

    These two are also friends of mine and very talented!  I look forward to more wonderful books coming from both of them.



Una Belle Townsend has written several great books  set in Oklahoma.  Her newest one is The Great Elephant Escape, illustrated by Janice Hechter.

In 1975, two baby elephants escape from the circus.  The authorities searched for 18 days before they found them!  These two clever elephants were great at playing hide and seek throughout Oklahoma.  Such a fun book!  Kids will love how clever the elephants are while enjoying our wonderful scenery and learning a little more about what makes this a great state!



Last, but certainly not least,  is Extraordinary Jane by Hannah Harrison.

Jane is an ordinary dog in the world of the extraordinary.  Her family are all circus dogs, but all her attempts to be extraordinary fail miserably.

Finally, through much trying, she discovers that is more than enough just to be herself, and that friendship is the most extraordinary thing of all. 

Hannah is a very talented storyteller and illustrator.  She won the 2015 Oklahoma Book Award for the category of Design/Illustration/Photography for Extraordinary Jane!


I would recommend all of these books for kids of all ages, from 0-99.  Read them for yourself, to your kids, or grandkids.  And, if all else fails, I'm sure you have friends who would loan you their kids for a few days while you read all of these great books to them!  :-)

Have a great weekend!



Friday, June 19, 2015

Who Could Resist a Road Trip Like This?! - Day 3

     I'll get back to reviewing books in my next post, but I had to finish sharing about our great Southwest road trip.
     In my last post, I shared about the amazing day we had at the Grand Canyon.  
     We headed out of Flagstaff early and took off northeast toward the Four Corners area.  Our goals were Four Corners and mostly, Mesa Verde.  We were staying that night in Durango.  Ahhh.....
     We weren't long out of Flagstaff before the topography changed drastically.  Still lots of mountains, but the trees were gone.  Just like that.  Vamoose!  It was also pretty sparse as far as towns and people go.  That part of the state is on the Navajo reservation.  

      We discovered that my tail light was out when we made a pit stop, so we went to the next town (quite far down the road) because we had seen a billboard for a NAPA auto parts store.  We finally found the store and got the bulb.  This was in Kayenta, Arizona, which is at the base of Monument Valley.  We could see some of the rock formations but, because of that stinkin' tiny light bulb, we didn't have time to drive out there.  We still had several miles before Four Corners and Mesa Verde.


 I'm not sure what I had expected Four Corners to be, but it is in the middle of nowhere.  That still
doesn't take away from the fact that it was totally cool to be in four states at once!  

We got in line to take our pictures on the monument, then shopped at all the little stalls.  They were on all four sides, so you were shopping in each state.  We shopped in four states in about 30 minutes!  That's not something you do every day!  Or ever!
     We used the facilities, aka outhouse, lol, and headed on our way.

     Next stop, Mesa Verde.  
     Unbelievably gorgeous.  
     Denice looks so cute and I look like a dork.
     I don't think I was ready when our guest photographer took the picture.  But, oh well, right?


     We stopped at the visitor center and got the scoop on a self guided tour.  It was already late afternoon and we didn't want to miss seeing the Spruce House, so that was our plan.

  It's quite a drive on a twisty mountain road from the Visitor's Center up to the pueblos, but it was worth it.  

 I know, right?

  We made it!  

The last known date that these dwellings were inhabited was the 1300's.
              If walls could talk.

      It was inhabited by the Ancestral Pueblo people.  They lived in the dwellings for over 700 years.  To say it is amazing is an understatement.

      We tore ourselves away from there to make it to our stop for the night...Durango, Colorado.

     It really is colorful!  I've been all over Colorado, but had never been to Durango.  Let's just say, we would have been happy to stay there for a while!  
     As we were coming into town, gawking at the breathtaking scenery, a bear crossed the road.  Right in front of us!
     We had now seen elk, deer, squirrels, and a big black bear!  He was heading across that road on a mission...and made a beeline right to a house by the road.  He probably was a regular "visitor" there and knew where their trashcans were.
     We were so surprised that we didn't get a picture!  Such disappointment, because it isn't every day you see a bear cross the road right in front of your car.  But the next morning, as we were heading out of town, we found his portrait!

                                          So we were happy!  :-)
     The rest of the trip was uneventful, comparatively speaking.  But it was a trip of memories and beauty and wonder.  I'll forever be thankful that Denice and I got to see all of it.  And we both added two states to our list, and two National Parks.  
     Thanks you so much for reading about our great Southwest road trip!

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Who Could Resist a Road Trip Like This?! Day 2

    Day 2 of our fabulous Southwest road trip - was the Grand Canyon!  We got up at our comfy hotel in Flagstaff, ate breakfast, and headed out for adventure at the Grand Canyon.  However, silly me.  We got about 50 miles from the Grand Canyon, when I remembered to glance at my gas gauge...and only had about 114 miles to E.  We debated, since neither of us had been there, whether to take a chance on there being a gas station at the Canyon.  Finally decided to backtrack about 15 miles to get the much needed petro, then headed back that way.

     By the way....they have a gas station.  Of course.  But, if you ever need to know that, now you do!

     A mostly cloudy morning was quickly turning in to all clouds, then drizzle, then out and out light rain.  Were we daunted?  No!  I'm not made of sugar, so I was pretty sure I wouldn't melt.  We parked the car, making sure to remember where we were.  (If you know me pretty well, you know that is not always my strength.)  Next, we began the ordeal of boarding shuttle after shuttle to get up to the viewing point.  I know that it is possible to drive your car, but not many do it and I didn't want to mess with that.  The shuttle is free with your entry to the park, so we rode it...along with about a zillion people. 

     Still not to be daunted, despite lots of people and rain!  If you enjoy people watching, it's a great place to do it.  And we heard so many different languages being spoken! 

     Finally we get to the first stop where you can get off the shuttle, look as long as you want, and get back on another shuttle that comes along.
     Drumroll......I mean we are at the Grand Canyon, right?  And here's what we saw.

     Breathtaking, right?  WRONG!  Our hearts sank down to our hiking shoes.  Denice and I both kept squinting, trying to make ourselves think we were seeing shapes of rock and the canyon.  But nothing.  We were literally "in a fog"!
     We stood there until the next shuttle came along, and hopped back on.  Still we weren't going to let our adventure be ruined!  We went to the next stop, and it was the same.  So we stayed on the shuttle for a couple of stops, then finally decided to get out, catch the return shuttle, go down and eat, and regroup. 
     While we were waiting for the return shuttle, in the pouring rain, we did get to chat with a mom and her two daughters from Nova Scotia!  They had come this whole way, so I began to not feel so pitiful about our situation.
     We went down to the bottom, ate and tried to decide what to do.  After much going back and forth, we finally decided to give it one more try.  After all, we were there, right? 
     On the shuttle back up, we happened to sit behind a man who lives around there and visits often.  He was explaining to another visitor that this happens and that often, if you are patient, the fog will finally lift and the sight is unbelievable.  Restored our hope!  He also explained how the Canyon makes its own weather.  Pretty fascinating.
     We went back through the process of getting on the shuttle that takes you to the red line.  Which means you go on all the stops.  When we finally got out at the first stop, it appeared that things had not improved.  At first.  I'll let the next few pictures tell the story.


 By this time, we are literally jumping up and down.  And squealing.  No one stared at us, though.  :-)

We could actually see the fog lifting.  We hopped back on the shuttle, going from viewpoint to viewpoint.  Here are some more pictures of God's handiwork.

     I will always wonder if we would have appreciated it as much if it had been clear from the beginning.  Needless to say, we both stood there with goosebumps, tears in our eyes, and wonder that anyone could look at this and not believe.
    After a wonderful day of ups and downs, we stopped for our souvenirs and got in the car to head back to Flagstaff. 
     As we are heading out of the park area, we got another treat!

Elk were eating right along the side of the road!  Pretty close.  But wait...there's more!
We got to the heavier traffic area where many vehicles were coming and going.  And this is what greeted us there.

There were two!  And they were prancing around a little as if to say, "Welcome to the Grand Canyon!"  It looked as if they had been hired. 

What a day of adventure!  Coming soon...Day 3!


Sunday, June 14, 2015

Who Could Resist a Road Trip Like This?! Day 1

     Going on a great road trip is one of my favorite things to do.  Don't get me wrong, I love to fly.  If I have a super long distance to go, or don't need a car when I get there, flying is the way to do it.  But, you miss so much!
     Last week, my friend Denice and I set out on a road trip to the Southwest.  Our main goals were to see the Grand Canyon and Mesa Verde, with a stop at Four Corners in between.  Those destinations were incredible...and I will write about them in my next post.
     But, it's sometimes the quirky things you see along the way that really make memories!  
     We spent the night with my parents in the Texas Panhandle and then we headed west.  Our first fun stop was the Cadillac Ranch, just west of Amarillo.
      I had seen the Cadillac Ranch from the highway many times but never stopped.  So glad we did!
      The Cadillac Ranch sits off the highway in a cow pasture owned by the late Stanley Marsh.  He was the sponsor of the project, but it was the brainchild of an group of artists/architects named Ant Farm.  It was established in the 70's as homage to the old style of Cadillac.  The cars were buried nose first to display the fins, which were omitted from the updated models.  They are buried at an angle that corresponds to the Great Pyramids in Egypt.  Who knew?

     What fun!   Spray cans and lids littered the area, but they just kind of fit in with the "decor".

        We got our pics and had to back track to a turnaround to get back on the highway.  That's when this happened.

    Of course we had to take pictures.  But, we didn't go check it out!
I did a little digging after we got back just to see....and it appears that is is just a sign.  Whew!  Some people believe it was placed there by the Cadillac Ranch overseers.  Maybe?  It would definitely fit in with their quirky sense of humor!
    All of this and we were barely on our way!

  Our next big stop was to stand on the corner in Winslow, Arizona.  I mean, if you are a child of the 70's or just an Eagles fan, you can't resist!  Right?  I will admit, the part of town we were in was a little sketchy, but we found Winslow Street, jumped out and got our picture, and headed on!

Our destination for the day was Flagstaff, Arizona.  This was my first time in Arizona, and I loved it!  I don't know about you, but I have kind of always had a "stereotype" image of Arizona...meaning that I guess I just assumed it was all desert and rocks. 
 How wrong I was!  Flagstaff is gorgeous!  Mountains and evergreen trees!  Beautiful blue sky, when the sun was out. 

If you ever go to Flagstaff, you must eat at Black Bart's Steakhouse!  It's a little pricey, but the food is wonderful and the decor is cool in a kitschy sort of way.  But, the big surprise is the entertainment!  

     All the servers sing the entire time you are there.  They switch off and on...someone is always up there singing, either solo or groups.  And, in a place like this you might think they would be singing country or folk  music.  But no!  It's mostly Broadway show tunes.  And they are great!  Probably, most of them are students at Northern Arizona University!

     I think it was a great first day!  More coming soon!