Middle Grade Read-A-Thon

This week, I knew I’d have a hard time committing to reading during the transition back to school. Plus, I had a National Board meeting on Saturday, which rendered me so exhausted I basically spent the entire weekend sleeping.

So I agreed to join the Marvelous Middle Grade Read-A-Thon. Although the challenge ends at midnight, I’m just going to post now, as I imagine I will fall asleep as I attempt to read this evening. Here’s what I accomplished:

I.M. Pei: Architect of Time, Place, and Purpose, by Jill Rubalcaba. This book has been sitting on my kitchen floor for weeks. I avoided it because I thought it’d be overly specific and boring. Nope. I may have a biased opinion, though, because I’ve had a chance to see almost every building featured in this book.


The Voyages of Dr. Dolittle, by Hugh Lofting. As of this writing, I’m not quite done with Dr. DoLittle, but unless the book ends on a huge letdown, I doubt my views of it will change. The pacing of the book is swift, and I’m loving it. I’ve been thinking A LOT about the fact that the library copy I digitally checked out is the “censored” version. I’m perplexed by how much I like an edited edition… the out-of-date language wouldn’t make me NOT want to read the book, but I have found that I’m not as distracted by cringe-worthy language, and I stay more in the story. WAT DO?

The Luck of the Buttons, by Anne Ylvisaker. Betsy Bird said fans of historical fiction would like this book, but at first I violently disagreed with her. What the heck, I groused, all these characters are dopey and have no clue what’s going on around them. Then I settled down and things picked back up.  Final thoughts: It’s a good read, but when you ask me about it in five years, I probably won’t be head over heels in love with it.



11 Birthdays, by Wendy Mass. Our class voted for this book as our next read-aloud. It’s PERFECT for our new unit focusing on how characters change throughout a book. I’d read it last year when it was announced as a Battle of the Books title, but it seems a ton funnier this time around.




Huzzah! What fun! Now, I must head offline to finish answering Letters to Ms. Houghton!

A Tale of Two Articles

Ever since I learned that you could make your living as a nonfiction writer, I wanted to be a newspaper reporter.

I had a few plum internships, my final one sending me to the Florida Times-Union. The job was stressful and enjoyable, but two main articles stick in my mind seven years later.

The first is essentially the reason I left journalism.

Cause of death released for pair.

My metro editor deserves mad props for giving this story to a metro intern rather than one of the other three cops and courts reporters. Except that I didn’t really want to call a family to tell them their parents were buried alive. At all. Ever. Calling them was the biggest regret I have in my reporting career. My and my editor’s choices were questioned by the alternate weekly, and even by our conservative editorial board. As a human, I do not regret my choices. I can see how a journalist might disagree with me.

Earlier that month, I called L. Patrick Gray’s son to add to the AP’s obituary. L. Patrick Gray was in charge of the FBI during the Deep Throat scandal in 1972-73. Ed Gray called me back as I was leaving the Jacksonville Police Department, where I had just finished sifting through the police reports for the day. I sat in the lobby, a bit unprepared for his call. I asked him all the questions I usually asked for obituary stories, about his life, about their last times together, etc. I figured the AP would have all the Watergate and Deep Throat details. Plus, my knowledge of post-1920 history was woefully minimal (nice work, Stevenson High School), and I didn’t want to look like an idiot.

As our interview reached its end, I thanked Ed for his time and expressed my sympathies. Ed cleared his throat; he’d ostensibly been talking to reporters for the bulk of the day. “Thank you,” he said. “You know, you’re the first reporter I’ve talked to all day who has actually asked me about my father.”


I’m glad I’m no longer a reporter, but I still love nonfiction. I hope you join me in 2012 for the Sibert Challenge. More information to come.