Monday, July 25, 2011

Fido and Friend in Five: Marilyn Singer and Oggi!

Marilyn and Oggi
When I first met Marilyn Singer last month at ALA in New Orleans, the first thing I noticed was that gorgeous head of hair, followed by an electric smile. She was surrounded by other folks who were just basking in that smile and her energy. We had exchanged a few emails earlier in the month. I'd contacted her after I read her new picture book, What is Your Dog Doing? to, of course, see if she and her most handsome poodle, Oggi, would visit Fido and Friend in Five. Then we both discovered we were going to be at ALA doing signings. I popped by her booth to say hi, but held back rather shyly until the crowd cleared. I mean, this is a writer I've admired and followed for years! I figured I'd do a quick introduction and scuttle on my way. But she embraced me as if we had known each other forever. Dog people are like that, and I think Marilyn is especially that way. She draws you into her energy and makes you feel like the most important person in her world.

Poetry by Marilyn
Her books are like that too: full of energy, humor, and beauty. Marilyn has written over 90 books for kids and teens. And let me tell you, she writes everything! Picture books, nonfiction, poetry, novels for kids, and novels for teens--you name it, she does it. She is a force of nature. Several of her books feature dogs--What is Your Dog Doing?, Chester the Out of Work Dog, Where There's a Will, There's a Wag--so I wanted to meet her dog, Oggi, who is her inspiration these days.

Oggi's Pack
1.  How did you and Oggi find each other?  I've had quite a few dogs in my life, many of them strays I took in. But my husband, Steve Aronson, and I got Oggi from a great breeder. He's the second standard poodle we've owned. We love the breed! Poodles are very smart and funny, as well as beautiful. Oggi is a wonderful ambassador for the breed and the well-trained dog. He tells everyone that being a good canine citizen is important. He's happy to show off tricks I taught him and make everyone smile. As a writer, I'm appreciative of making folks smile!

2. What makes Oggi's tail wag?  Me. And even better is me and Steve. Oggi really likes the whole pack to be together. And he's more than happy to add to the pack. One of his favorite past times is sitting on our stoop in Brooklyn and urging folks to hang out with us. He also loves playing fetch and will do so until he's wiped out (or we are).

Let's go, Mom!
3. What's your all-time favorite dog story?  I have several shelves of non-fiction books about dogs I've used for research because I've written dog books myself, including A Dog's Gotta Do What a Dog's Gotta Do about the work dogs do, and my latest picture book, What is Your Dog Doing? They're all interesting, but I have to say among other dog works, I love Joyce Sidman's poetry book, The World According to Dog. She's an amazing poet, and really captures canines.

4. If Oggi could change just one thing about you, what would it be?  He would ask me to take him everywhere I go. And I wish I could!

5. In five words, tell us what Oggi means to you:  The better part of myself.
Marilyn & Oggi, BFFs!

I couldn't have said it better. Many thanks to Marilyn and Oggi for visiting Fido and Friend in Five! To find out more about Marilyn and her many, many books, and to see more photos of the handsome Oggi, visit her website

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Hope for the Future, Hope for the Animals

As some of you know, this past Saturday was my birthday (and no, I will not tell you which one), and I spent it at a really fun event up here called "Bark in the Park." It's a fundraiser for the animal rescue organization, Friends of Animals Utah, I volunteer for. Everyone had a wonderful time--young and not-so-young, human and four-footed. My best bud, Charlene Brewster, was the chair and driving force behind "Bark in the Park." She recently wrote this wonderful piece below about what animal rescue is all about. I wanted to share part of it with you on my blog:

Coda and Mystery
There were several moments in all of the hustle and bustle that made me stop for a moment an wipe a tear from my eye - Dodger the blind dog valiantly running in the dog derbies, the crippled Rottie bravely hobbling around the Course A'Lure track to name a few.  I have to admit that most of the time there are tears in my eyes it is because of a very happy or very sad thing having to do with animals.
What really caused me to catch my breath was a very small child who handed me a large manila envelope with $55 in mostly coins and $1 bills.  Coda Spier, age 6, decided on Friday that he wanted to walk in the 1K with his dog Mystery and get one of the cool backpacks.  Now I know for a fact that his folks could have paid $30 for him to do this, but instead, they took an opportunity to teach several important life lessons - working for what you want, telling others about something that is important to you and compassion for animals.  Coda walked door to door in his SLC neighborhood and collected money to help the animals.  I know it is something that he will not forget.  Looking down into his eyes as he handed me that envelope yesterday is certainly something I will never forget. 
Coda lives in a house with his Mom and Dad, little brother Bodhi, two rescue dogs, two rescue cats and then there is the feral cat colony in the backyard that his Mom, Susan, cares for with the help of the family.  At the ripe old age of six, he knows that he should always ask before petting someone's dog.  He knows that dogs and cats should be spayed and neutered.  
Kids like Coda give me hope for the future of animal rescue and our society in general.  I fully recognize that this amazing organization and movement we have created called Friends of Animals Utah and its influence on this tiny part of the universe is something that will go on long after we are gone.  Those that we teach and nurture will carry on our vision and work for the time when there are no more homeless pets and animals being killed because there are just too many of them.  I get up every day hoping this is an attainable goal.  Kids like Coda Spier make me believe it.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Fido and Friend in Five: Pete Hautman and Jacques

Pete & his NBA
If you looked on the first page of my website and looked under the heading My Favorite Things, you'd see a list of my all-time favorite authors and books. Now, being a passionate reader and librarian (and writer) that was a tough list for me to come up with! So the authors listed on there are very important to me. If you look at that list, you'll see Godless, by Pete Hautman, about half way down. This was truly a book that marked a turning point for me as a librarian and reader. It made me see the strength, humor, complexity, compassion, and amazing writing that is the hallmark of the best fiction for teens. In short, it made my jaw drop. More importantly, Godless converted me to a passionate reader and advocate of fiction for teens. Not that I don't love Pete's other books--I do. But Godless will always hold a very special place in my heart. It's a book I still recommend to readers constantly.Obviously I'm not the only one who felt so strongly about Godless. It one the National Book Award!

Like the other author on my website list I was lucky enough to have on Fido and Friend-Gary Schmidt-Pete's books deal with tough issues-bullying, racism, among others-with humor and sensitivity. When Pete and I talked on email about his Fido and Friend spotlight, he sent me the link to this wonderful YouTube video he did on bullying with, yes, his dogs. It's trademark Hautman. Take a look:

Rene and Jacques
So let's meet Pete and the dogs featured in his video and in this week's Fido and Friend in Five!

1. How did you and Jacques and Rene find each other?  One day I came home and Jacques was there. Mary Logue had decided our older poodle, Rene, needed a friend. (Rene died in May at the age of seventeen).

2. What makes Jacque's tail wag?  Absolutely everything.

Jacques the Terminator
3. What your all-time favorite dog story?  White Fang, by Jack London. Jacques is exactly like White Fang. Except he's black. And a lot smaller. And kind of cowardly. And he doesn't run with wolves.

4. If Jacques could change just one thing about you, what would it be?  I just asked him. He wagged his tail.
Jacques and Pete

5. In five words, tell us what Jacques means to you:  He helps keep me honest.

I am beyond honored to have Pete and Jacques (and Rene, bless his heart) on my blog. Be sure to check out Pete's latest book, THE BIG CRUNCH. Pete describes this as "a year-long romance without vampires, dragons, secret societies, mysterious grandparents, unexplained deaths, violent psychopaths, hard-core drug addicts, or elves." My kind of book. To find out more about Pete and his books, visit his website

Monday, July 11, 2011

Fido and Friend in Five: Monica Kulling, Roxy and Charly!

Monica & Girls (Nancy Ennis)
What is it about Canadians that makes them just so darn nice? I've had the pleasure now to have several Canadian authors on this blog and they are a pure joy to get to know. Of course, that's almost always true of dog people! I first "met" today's author, Monica Kulling, on Facebook. I knew she was a busy and popular author--we have many of her books in our library system--but then I learned she's also a proud mom of two dogs. And then her new picture book, Merci Mister Dash!, came out about an adorable mutt and I just knew I had to get her in the Fido and Friend spotlight. Like many of the authors who've been featured on this blog, Monica writes all kinds of books for kids: biographies, collections of poetry, and picture books. Her latest book, Merci Mister Dash, cracked me up when we finally got our copy in the library and I had a chance to read it. Poor Mister Dash is a very dignified, well-mannered, meticulously dressed mutt plagued every Sunday by Madame Croissant's red-headed, hooligan niece. You just gotta feel for the little guy while at the same time laughing at the niece's antics. I wondered if Monica's own dogs were as refined as our hero, Mister Dash.

1. How did you and your dogs find each other?  We met Charly, our Golden Retriever, in Stratford, Ontario. Well, we met puppies from the same breeder, For Knox, and they were so calm and sweet we put our name down for one. Fort Knox's "Sweet Charlotte" came to live with us seven years ago and she's been a bundle of non-stop energy, enthusiasm, and no-holds-barred high jinx. Charly is slowing down somewhat, as she nears her July birthday and the ripe old age of eight. But she'll always be a fun-loving girl, totally in love with life and everyone in it.
Roxy and Charly ready to go!
Good buddies!
     Our second dog is five years old and the product of a backyard breeder who was looking for homes for the pups his two dogs gave birth to. We met Roxy while walking Charly in our neighborhood park. Roxy was five months old and came with her name. She is a black lab/golden retriever/German Shepherd mix. She's all German Shepherd in the park, where she chases squirrels and bullies puppies, or at home as she herds us out the door for her walks. I think Roxy'd like hourly walks so she can keep tabs on the neighborhood, making sure everything's the way it was the last time she was out! Roxy is smart and definitely more serious than Charly, but they are such good buddies!

2. What makes Roxy and Charly's tails wag?  Our dogs love attention, of course. Speak to them, look  them in the eye, and say all those loving words and you've got the tail wagging! There's also much tail wagging around trigger words, spoken in jus the right intonation--words such as "Supper!", "Treeeeats!"
"Walkies!" "Let's go in the car!" "Charly, you're awesome! Roxy, you're the best dog in the whole wide world!" There they go again. Thump! Thump! Thump!
Roxy and Love that Dog

3. What's your all-time favorite dog story?  Beverly Cleary was the first author I read from cover to cover. I loved Henry and Ribsy and Ribsy.  I've also enjoyed Because of Winn Dixie, by Kate Dicamillo and Shiloh, by Phyllis Naylor.

4. If your dogs could change just one thing about you, what would it be?  I think they'd like me to have an outdoor job, like riding the range or planting trees. These two, especially Roxy, love the great outdoors.

5. In five words, tell us what Charly and Roxy mean to you:  Joyful, devoted friendship without criticism.

Isn't that what we all treasure so much about our dogs? Thanks so much to Monica and her girls for taking time out from walkies and writing to be in the Fido and Friend spotlight! To find out more about Monica and her books, visit her website

Friday, July 8, 2011

A Fan Letter for THE RING!

Some of you may not know that I have a book that came out before A Dog's Way Home! The Ring came out in the fall of 2009 and was my "first born." It's contemporary teen fiction about a 15-year-old girl (getting into LOTS of 15-year-old girl trouble) who learns to believe in herself through boxing. It's also about bullying and the pitfalls of stereotyping peple. My lovely editor, Evely Fazio, at WestSide Books (the publisher of The Ring) recently sent me this email from a prospective author. I got tears in my eyes when I read it: it reminded me of all the reasons I'm damn proud of that book! I will admit to being a bit neglectful of my "first born" ever since the "new baby" (A Dog's Way Home) arrived in March. So step out of the shadows, First Born, and shine!

What I liked most about the book is it felt so darn real. Mrs. Pyron doesn’t skate around issues that real teens deal with. Drugs. Sex. Fights. Homophobia. You name it. Mardie didn’t always make the right choices. She stole, outed her brother in a mean way, and got mixed up with the wrong people. But what kid do you know that always does the right thing? That would be boring to read the perfect kid. Her flaws didn’t stop me from rooting for her. In fact, it made me root harder.

I also like how the other characters weren’t cliché. I was so suspecting Mardie’s stepmom to be a bitch. But she was relatively nice. Most stepmoms are, but for reason are rarely portrayed that way in stories. Good job there. I’m a boxing fan and liked how she learned the sport from the ground up. It helped me to learn some things. The boxing action was very realistic. I could totally visualize it. And I loved Kitty! She definitely had a positive impact on Mardie’s life. So did boxing. She learned how to manage her life and difficult situations. I like how she ended things with Eric. And I liked how she didn’t win at the end. But in a way she did win. I felt satisfied. Completely.

Thanks for publishing a great read. This deserves the spot on the Barnes and Noble shelf I grabbed it from. I’m going to give the book to my niece to read. When my daughters are old enough, I’m sure they’ll enjoy a book like this. One that teaches girls that yes they can chase and achieve their dreams. That teaches them to never give up. For me, I got a look into the mind of a fifteen-year-old girl and saw how difficult life can be. Maybe that’ll make me be a little easier on my girls when they’re that age. Maybe.
Thanks so much to Steve for taking the time to not only read my book, but to also get in touch with my editor about it! This is a man with sensitivity. I'll bet he's a heck of a dad!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Fido and Friend in Five: Cynthia DeFelice and Josie!

I've been a big fan of author Cynthia DeFelice for a long time, and she's a perennial favorite with readers in any library I've ever worked in. Cynthia's one of those versatile authors who writes both novels (sixteen to date!) and many picture books. Every time I've done a Halloween storytime, I've used her picture book, Dancing Skeleton. Her middle grade novels range from historical fiction to ghost stories to contemporary novels. So I was excited to read that her new book, Wildlife, is about a dog and his boy. I was even more excited when I saw the gorgeous jacket cover featuring a dignified German Shorthair Pointer. Had I spotted another dog mom? I went to her website to sniff it out. Sure enough, there was Cynthia with a beautiful German Shorthair Pointer named Josie. So, of course, I had to email her. And like so many authors/dog lovers, she welcomed the opportunity to talk about Josie.

Baby Josie!
1. How did you and Josie find each other?  My husband and I saw Josie's mother at a dog show and thought she was gorgeous, and truly special. We asked the owner to call us if they ever bred her. When he did, we went to look at the puppies. They were adorable, of course, but there was no question in our minds that Josie was the one we wanted. Every morning, I tell her the story of how we picked her out from all her littermates.

2. What makes Josie's tail wag?! Also, she's a bird dog, so she'll sniff out any bird that's around. She also loves to go fishing with us, and never takes her eyes off the water. She has faith in us, even when we don't. Basically, she's up for any outside activity.

3. What's your all-time favorite dog story?  Recently, Sight Hound, by Pam Houston.

4. If Josie could change just one thing about you, what would it be?  She'd want me out the door faster every morning when we go for a run. She waits patiently while I drink my coffee, stretch, find my sneakers and search for my socks. Then she follows me as I head for the door, realize I forgot my sunglasses, go back, head for the door again, realize I forgot her treats, go back, head for the door, realize I forgot my sweatshirt, go back again, head for the door, get in the car, realize I forgot the letter I wanted to's enough to drive a dog crazy!
Let's go. Oops! Forgot something!

5. In five words, tell us what Josie means to you:  Makes me laugh every day.

Cynthia and her husband share their home in Geneva, New York with Josie. Be sure to check out Cynthia's new book, Wildlife. It's a wonderfully written coming of age story, dog story, and packed with lots of action! And visit her at to find out more about her and her books.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

A Big Time in the Big Easy!

The Quarter and Cathedral
As some of you know, I went to the American Library Association's annual conference in New Orleans last week. My husband Todd and my youngest step-boy, Brian, came along so we could make a family trip out of it. I hadn't been to New Orleans since I was in high school (and no, I won't tell you how long ago it was!) but was eager to spend time in this unique city again--especially post Katrina. So we packed up our bags and books and flew to Louisiana a couple of days ahead of the start of ALA.
Todd & Brian, French Market

Our hotel (which thankfully had a pool) wasn't far from the French Quarter. Much to Brian's dismay, we walked every square inch of The Quarter! Of course, our first morning (Thursday) we had to get up early and walk along the Mighty Mississippi to Cafe Dumond for their famous beignets. Oh what a wonderfully sinful, warm confection of hot, puffy dough and powdered sugar! Then we spent the rest of the day exploring The Quarter and French Market, visiting various museums and just absorbing (with the help of the heat and humidity) the unique gumbo of smells, sounds, and people that are N'Orlins.
Into the Swamp!

Friday, we loaded on a van with a bunch of other curious folks and headed about 45 minutes out of the city for a swamp tour! I will admit, as much time as I've spent living in the south, I've never been in a real swamp. We learned all about the unique ecosystem, the various birds and critters, and the plants (such as wild rice) folks who used to live off the swamp depended on. And then there was the gators! Even my unimpressionable 13-year-old boy got wide-eyed over all the different sized gators we saw. One was the large and lovely Cindy.

Signing at WestSide booth
L-R, Evelyn, Stewart, Selene, Ed, Me
Starting early Saturday morning, I put on my author's hat and got to work. I was invited to a lovely breakfast hosted by HarperCollins where I got to visit with lots of other librarians. Then it was over to the Convention Center for a book signing at the HarperCollins Children's booth to sign A Dog's Way Home. It was great! I loved hearing the dog stories everyone who bought a book and had me sign told me. I even had a little bit of a line, but unfortunately, no photos. After that signing, I made my way over to the WestSide booth to sign the newly released paperback version of The Ring. Boy, did I have a great turnout! I signed books for people from all over the world. Really! That night, the WestSide gang had dinner together. I'm fortunate to be with such a great group!

Sunday bright and early, I was part of a rather bizarre but fun "speed dating" event featuring young adult authors! We went from table to table pimping our books and ourselves to a table full of librarians in four minutes. Then the whistle would blow and off you dashed to the next table! I think I had a little bit of an edge because I was able to open my spiel with, "The first thing I want you to know about me is I'm a librarian." That really got their attention! By the time it was over, I'd chatted with seven (or was it eight?) tables and my voice was gone. But what fun! After that, it was off to The Quarter again to have a late breakfast with my ever-lovely editor, Molly O'Neill.

We arrived back in Utah very, very late Sunday night to three ecstatic dogs, two cats eager to go outside and cool air and no humidity. It was good to be back, but boy did we have fun.