As the NBA finals get underway, I am digging out my copy of my favorite basketball book!

The Crossover by Kwame Alexander

This book is a perfect mix of basketball and just plain life. Twin boys are stars of their middle school basketball team, mentored by their father, a former professional basketball player. When one of the boys falls for his first girlfriend, spending more time with her and less time with his brother, the relationship between the twins becomes strained as the other twin struggles to find his place in the new configuration of relationships.

The plot kept me interested from beginning to end. But it is the writing that is one-of-a-kind. The author had me hooked from the very beginning all the way through. Written like a long poem, the word choices are delicious. And the rhythms add a musical quality that intensified my experience of the narrative. Listen to this: “My shot is FLOWING, Flying, fLuTtErInG OHHHHHHHH, the chains are JINGALING ringaling and SWINGALING Swish.”

I am not the only one who loves this book. The Crossover won top honors: the Newbery Award and the Coretta Scott King Award. A great read.

Pegged for grades 6-12.

In Memoriam

Memorial Day can be loads of fun with barbecues and parties and celebrating the return of summer (plus an extra day off from work or school!) It is also an opportunity to reflect on the men and women who have sacrificed their lives for us. Here’s a great book to read and discuss with your young child.

The Wall by Eve Bunting

A quiet book that conveys the mood invoked by the Vietnam Memorial in Washington D.C. A little boy and his dad visit the Wall to honor his grandfather who died in Vietnam. As they search for the grandfather’s name, the little boy observes the color and texture of the Wall. He reflects on the various objects that have been left at the Wall by other visitors. And he asks questions, good questions, about the conundrum of how we, the living, should think about the soldier’s act of giving up his or her life for our country.

A good conversation-starter for you and your child this Memorial Day weekend.

Pegged for ages 4-7.

Children of Courage

Children of Courage
May 12, 2017

Earlier this week I blogged about what I call “ordinary courage.” But there’s also extraordinary courage out there in the world. And knowing about it, stopping a moment to acknowledge and honor it, can inspire us to be our best, most courageous selves. This applies to all of us. Grownups. And kids.

So check out The World of Children that scours the nation and, each year, gives awards recognizing heroes helping children. There are awards for outstanding work in the fields of education, health, social services, and child protection. There is also an award that goes to a youth (under age 21) for having the courage and determination to do something extraordinary to support other children.

Meet some of the winners:

At Nicholas Lowinger’s school, he noticed a couple of kids – a boy and a girl – who took turns going to school. Why? Because they had to share a pair of shoes. And the shoes were pink and sparkly. It was hard not to notice the boy walking through the halls in pink shoes. Some kids might have laughed or teased, others might have felt awkward or a pang of sadness. Nicholas felt the need to make things better for this boy. One possibility would be for Nick to give the boy an old pair of his own shoes. Better than pink but not the same as every other boy was lucky enough to have. So Nick got up his courage, bought a new pair of basketball shoes, and handed them to the boy. Since then, Nicholas has raised money and donated NEW footwear to over 42,000 children around the United States.

Claudia Gonzales Moreno was a 19-year-old engineering student in Mexico. As she traveled the streets of La Paz she could not help but notice the many homeless children living I parks, graveyards, and sewers. She wanted to help. But the children were skeptical and frightened. Claudia had the courage to be patient, to earn their trust, and then to help them. Using her own money, Claudia rented a house big enough to shelter 40 children. Together, they chose to name the house ‘Alalay’ which means “I feel cold” – never forgetting where they had been and the grace of Claudia’s courage to provide shelter.

Jaylen Arnold had to face his own little life with courage. At age 2 he was diagnosed with OCD, Aspbergers, and Tourettes. By the time he went to school, Jaylen was a target for bullies. Jaylen chose to fight back, but not with fists. He started a program that he has taken to over 100,000 other children, summoning the courage to share his own story – with the bullies and the bullied – exposing the excruciating hurt that bullying causes.

Check out more at The World of Children.

Share your stories about courageous children!

Ordinary Courage

So you want to talk to your kid about courage? Or maybe your kid comes to you and asks what courage means. Either way, here’s a book that is rich with food for thought and conversation.

Courage by Bernard Waber

This is not a storybook. It’s a book that explores many different ways to have courage – from the tall to the small. Like when it’s your turn to check on the night noises in the house, or to make sure nobody picks on your little brother, or when you’re trying to get up the spunk to sign your real name on a valentine to your secret crush. Courage is not just for famous heroes. It’s for ordinary people. It’s for you and me.

Pegged for ages 4-8.

Profiles in Courage

Today Barack Obama received a Profiles in Courage Award. In his speech he talked about what courage means. He talked about representatives to Congress who voted to protect health care even though they knew it might cost them their jobs. They made a decision that doing what they knew in their hearts was right for the world was more important than doing what was safe for themselves.

Courage comes from the Latin word for heart. Action on the conviction in your heart is not a choice confined only to those who govern. Or to those in power. Every individual – grownups, teenagers, and children can act with courage.

Lately, in the face of many new dangers – the unrelenting violence in city, suburb, and small town; the loss of jobs and not knowing where the next meal is coming from; families being ripped apart as parents are deported away from their children; the rise of oceans with accompanying hurricanes and droughts; the bullying at school –we can get caught up in protecting our own little worlds, feeling powerless to help others being swept away in the tide.

I encourage you to listen to Obama’s speech. If you have school-age children or teenagers, fix some hot chocolate or a couple of ice cream sundaes, pull up your chairs around a computer and listen together. Then talk about it. About what it means to have courage. Courage to tackle big challenges. Courage to listen to one another, even when you disagree. Courage to stand up to hate. What it takes to build character. To play your part in the destiny of the world.

John F. Kennedy put out the call: “Ask not what your country can do for you — ask what you can do for your country.” Extend this. Not just to your country but to your neighbor, your co-worker, your schoolmate. To your parent. To your child.

Share your favorite stories of courage.

Skin Deep Beauty

Tis graduation season. Time for young people across the country to shine. Girls in party dresses, sparkly shoes, glamour makeup. Looking their best. Feeling their best.

A few years ago I was asked to be a graduation speaker and, in preparing, I took a look online at some other, more famous speakers, for inspiration. Since then, I take time, every year, to listen to a few speeches given by people who interest and inspire me.

This year I found a speech given in 2015 to Wellesley graduates by the fabulous writer, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. I am not going to summarize her speech here. But I mention it because the opening of her speech was about makeup. And that got me thinking.

Makeup hides flaws. Is this a good thing or a bad thing?

Adichie didn’t wear makeup in her teens. But in her young adulthood, she found herself in a professional situation where her contribution to the conversation was dismissed by the men around the table. She decided to start wearing lipstick to give her the appearance of being more experienced, older. Maybe, she thought, her co-workers would treat her with more respect.

Like Adichie, I was not a makeup-wearer. In fact, I resisted makeup except on the very most special occasions until I was in my 40s. And, whereas Adichie put on lipstick to appear older, there came a point when I looked in the mirror and decided concealer was needed to make me look younger.

So, what are the pluses and the pitfalls?

On the positive side, makeup can make you feel better about yourself – in all sorts of ways. For a young Adichie, it gave her more confidence among intimidating and dismissive businessmen. For an older me, it staves off being dismissed as “over-the-hill” and irrelevant. For teens who feel like one big pimple, it can give confidence in social interactions.

But are there downsides related to these same concerns? Men don’t wear makeup. Should women develop confidence in other ways rather than giving in to unequal standards?

I think it all comes down to this: Does wearing makeup make you feel better about yourself INSIDE? When you wear makeup, do you feel your inner self shine as much as your outer self? Or does makeup make you feel more like an object? Or, along with hiding your physical flaws, does makeup cover up your inner being? Teens are especially vulnerable to this pitfall as they struggle to establish their identities.

Bottom line: To wear or not to wear. Only if it enhances how YOU feel about yourself.

Share your makeup pros and cons.


Earth Day 2017 has come and gone. Trees and grass are greening up. The soil is coming to life after spending the last few months in a frozen state. Before we know it, we’ll be seeing what I call summer critters. Here’s a book to get your little ones excited!

The Worm by Elise Gravel

Ladies and gentlemen I present to you “The Worm.” “Enchante” says the worm. And so begins this appealing book that answers all your questions about worms. With warmth and humor. What kinds of worms are there? What body parts does a worm have? Where do worms live? (Eek! Some live inside people!)

Have some fun learning the facts….then get out there and meet yourself a worm. Enchante!

Pegged for ages 6-9.