Thursday, December 8, 2011

Holding Up the Sky

We know Aesop’s fabled tortoise won the race, but what if hare and turtle were to take to the sea? The sea turtle would be my odds-on favorite. Sea turtles can cross oceans and swim in bursts of up to 30 mph when evading predators. Sea turtles are one of the few species so ancient that they watched the dinosaurs evolve and become extinct.

Sea turtles have survived for 150 million years. Now we are stewards of the Earth. Sea turtles have become endangered due to climate change, poaching, development, and pollution. If they go extinct, who will hold up the Sky?

My wish is that parents, librarians, and teachers use the novel Yuri’s Brush with Magic by Maureen Wartski in book clubs and middle-school classrooms to open discussion about these ancient sea creatures and how kids can help protect our environment.

Would you like to...

"Adopt" a sea turtle and track its progress on the computer? Click here:

Visit a sea turtle in person? Start here:
North Carolina Aquariums
Karen Beasley Sea Turtle Rehab. Center

Spend summer at a Sea Turtle Camp?
Check this out:

Find a great holiday gift for your tween? Order a copy of Yuri’s Brush with Magic here: For bulk orders, please contact; (919) 724-0250

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“Anytime you see a turtle up on top of a fence post, you know he had some help.” -- Alex Haley

(Photo credit: Joe Tansey)

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Love the ones you're with

Yesterday was Respect for the Aged Day in Japan. People bring meals to the elderly; everyone has the day off, presumably to celebrate and help the elder citizens of their communities.

It got me thinking about my grandparents. I never knew my maternal grandfather, Al Smith. He died shortly after my parents were married. But his memory loomed large and he was a good friend and advocate for my mother. My paternal grandfather was a big personality – fun, smart, playful and loving. I would give anything to spend one more day on his front porch looking out at the mountains with his arm around me. There are some things that are indelible to the memory – like the feel of shirt fabric on a young arm or the gnarled thumbnail of a man who retired but never quit working.

My message to kids – to ANYONE who has a grandparent on this Earth: Be kind to them. Listen to them. Sit close to them. Rub their feet (if they like that). Give them as many hugs as you can. Tell them that you love them. Write them letters. (Especially thank you notes.) Believe me, you will miss them when they are gone.

Monday, July 4, 2011

The Freedom to Learn

Happy 4th of July!

Maureen Crane Wartski, author of Yuri's Brush with Magic, shared her thoughts about the gift of freedom. You can follow her blog at: Enjoy!

The Freedom to Learn by Maureen Crane Wartski

This past week our grandson, Ben, graduated from Durant Middle School. Sitting amongst the crowd of proud parents, grandparents, relatives and friends, I watched as row after row of children from 6th to 8th grades rose to claim certificates and trophies: honors, high honors, awards of distinction. This beautiful grouping of young people made me think of one of our most precious freedoms: the freedom to learn.

At this time of year we are likely to think of Freedom, its implications, its precious legacy. Still, beyond those that are outlined in the constitution, beyond even the sacrifices that are made by dedicated men and women in the defense of our country, there are other freedoms which we as a democratic people too often take for granted. Education is one of them.

All right, I can hear the younger generation stirring. I can hear muttered protests that Grammy must finally have lost it. Since when has school equaled freedom? But though nowadays it is taken for granted, education wasn’t always available for all. Who can forget that in the poisonous days of slavery those in bondage were forbidden to learn to read or write? Or the ‘separate but equal’ laws or the shameful, segregated schools?

In the world today there are many impoverished communities where education is an unaffordable luxury and other lands where girls are not allowed to go to school because men fear that knowledge will empower them. There are totalitarian regimes that only allow their twisted version of the truth to be taught and which ruthlessly suppress and punish any who think otherwise. Yet even in those repressive places there are groups of young women who teach other women no matter what the consequences, and there are educators who speak out, students who dare to question, even though they lose their freedom…or worse. The thirst for knowledge is so strong, the need to learn so great, that it will not be denied.

Ben’s classmates wear their Freedom with ease. Why not? It is their birthright, after all. Theirs is a society in which all citizens are guaranteed the right to go to school. Granted, there have been agonizing cuts in education and the system of allocating schools is hardly perfect, but this is still a far cry from countries where the nearest school … if there is a school at all… is a five or ten mile walk away or where youngsters drop out of school at age nine to help support their families. All that is asked of our children is that they learn. And learn they do, these beautiful young people, discovering facts that my generation could only imagine. At their fingertips lie worlds of knowledge yet undreamed, and from them one day will come amazing new achievements.

They come, smartly dressed

Hair combed, shirts pressed, bright-eyed…

Sunny day in June.

Not so long ago, many women, forbidden to become doctors, endured slights, insults and countless difficulties to become healers. Now, there are women in every field: medicine, engineering, the arts, the sciences, education, politics… the list goes on and on. Not very long ago enslaved African Americans secretly learned their letters. They braved brutal punishment in doing so because they knew that without learning there was no understanding and without understanding there could be no hope for dreams.

And the freedom to dream— the knowledge that any one of us can make those dreams a reality— has to be one of the sweetest gifts of freedom.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011


Serendipity |ˌserənˈdipitē|
the occurrence and development of events by chance in a happy or beneficial way : a fortunate stroke of serendipity | a series of small serendipities.

I had a wonderful interview with Frank Stasio on The State of Things program on WUNCFM 91.5 on Monday. We talked about Sleepy Hollow Books and my family’s history of promoting literacy and a love of books among young readers.

Click the link to hear the program.

Yuri's Brush with Magic is available from these fine booksellers... I hope you will patronize them.

Regulator Bookshop, The Gothic Bookshop, Flyleaf Books, Purple Crow Books, and Quail Ridge Books and Music
Also available on

Have a serendipitous day!


Monday, January 3, 2011

Happy New Year! あけましておめでとうございます

I hope the new year finds you and your family well and happy!

To celebrate the end of 2010, I attended the year-end Mochi-Tsuki (rice cake pounding) event hosted by the Nippon Club of the Triangle.

Boiled sticky rice (餅米 mochigome) is put into a shallow stone bowl and patted with water and then pounded with a large wooden mallet. Mashing the rice, it forms a sticky white dumpling -- and can be eaten with all sorts of delicious toppings.

Mochi is also made into a New Year's decoration called kagami mochi (鏡餅), formed from two round cakes of mochi with a bitter orange (橙 daidai) placed on top. The name daidai is supposed to be auspicious since it means "several generations."

To write "Happy New Year" in Japanese: あけましておめでとうございます

To say "Happy New Year" in Japanese: Akemashite omedeto gozaimasu