Tag Archives | Nikki Grimes

Bedtime for Sweet Creatures

Bedtime for Sweet CreaturesSuch a charm­ing book! From Nik­ki Grimes, we hear the sto­ry of a young boy stalling his bed­time, all the while col­lect­ing a menagerie of imag­i­nary crea­tures. This is a child who has well-prac­ticed ploys for avoid­ing bed­time. His par­ents respond with play­ful­ness and good humor. Mom and dad are patient but, final­ly, the child is too sleepy to stay awake.

Eliz­a­beth Zunon’s imag­i­na­tion-fueled crea­tures are vivid­ly pat­terned, cre­at­ing cap­ti­vat­ing images of a lion, a bear, a snake, an owl … just right for nam­ing out loud.

Nikki Grimes' Bedtime for Sweet Creatures

The blend of Grimes’ smile-induc­ing accu­ra­cy about bed­time rit­u­als and Zunon’s exu­ber­ant ani­mals cre­ates a book that par­ent and child will glad­ly read each night. It’s fun!

Bed­time for Sweet Crea­tures
writ­ten by Nik­ki Grimes
illus­trat­ed by Eliz­a­beth Zunon
Source­books Jab­ber­wocky, 2020
ISBN 978 – 1492638322


Poetry Books That Celebrate
African American History and Culture

Poet­ry and the spo­ken word have promi­nent places in African Amer­i­can cul­ture, due at least in part to a strong oral tra­di­tion that has been passed down through gen­er­a­tions. Con­sid­er includ­ing poems from the books below in your read-alouds this month, and the year ahead, as a way to high­light the con­tri­bu­tions of African Amer­i­cans to our nation’s his­to­ry and cul­ture. These pic­ture books offer options for intro­duc­ing your audi­ences (of any age) to the works of some out­stand­ing African Amer­i­can writ­ers and illus­tra­tors.

Brothers & Sisters Family Poems  

Broth­ers and Sis­ters: Fam­i­ly Poems
Writ­ten by Eloise Green­field
Illus­trat­ed by Jan Spivey Gilchrist
Harper­Collins Children’s Books, 2009

This book cel­e­brates the uni­ver­sal joys and chal­lenges of being a part of a fam­i­ly, includ­ing thoughts on rec­on­cil­ing griev­ances, get­ting along with old­er, younger, or step sib­lings, and being a twin. Just about every­one who has a broth­er or sis­ter can prob­a­bly find some­thing that res­onates with them among the poems in this book.

Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Black Boy  

Thir­teen Ways of Look­ing at a Black Boy
Writ­ten by Tony Med­i­na
Illus­trat­ed by 13 dif­fer­ent artists
Pen­ny Can­dy Books, 2018

Tony Med­i­na wrote the poems in this book in tan­ka form, a kind of Japan­ese poem that starts out like haiku (three lines with five, sev­en, and five syl­la­bles respec­tive­ly) but then adds two more lines with sev­en syl­la­bles each. Kids will find many of the poems relat­able, with top­ics such as miss­ing the bus (“Athlete’s Broke Bus Blues”) and want­i­ng to be a rap star (“Givin’ Back to the Com­mu­ni­ty”).

Pass It On  

Pass It On: African Amer­i­can Poet­ry for Chil­dren
Select­ed by Wade Hud­son
Illus­trat­ed by Floyd Coop­er
Scholas­tic Inc., 1993

This col­lec­tion includes beau­ti­ful­ly illus­trat­ed works by pro­lif­ic poets such as Langston Hugh­es, Gwen­dolyn Brooks, Nik­ki Gio­van­ni, Eloise Green­field, and Nik­ki Grimes. A theme of deter­mi­na­tion emerges from a num­ber of the selec­tions includ­ing: “I Can,” “Mid­way,” “The Dream Keep­er,” and “Lis­ten Chil­dren.”

Poems in the Attic


Poems in the Attic
Writ­ten by Nik­ki Grimes
Illus­trat­ed by Eliz­a­beth Zunon

For this book, Grimes drew on her own expe­ri­ence mov­ing fre­quent­ly as a child and rely­ing on writ­ing to help her cope. The book is a fic­tion­al account of a child who grew up with par­ents serv­ing in the U.S. mil­i­tary. Her poems in this pic­ture book remind us that although we can’t often choose our cir­cum­stances we can choose how we respond to them.

Seeing into Tomorrow  

See­ing into Tomor­row: Haiku by Richard Wright
Biog­ra­phy and illus­tra­tions by Nina Crews
Mill­brook Press, 2018

Select­ed from the thou­sands of haiku that Richard Wright wrote in his last years, these poems have uni­ver­sal appeal. Each is paired with a pho­to col­lage that helps read­ers visu­al­ize Wright’s mem­o­ries of grow­ing up in the rur­al South.

Words with Wings  

Words with Wings:
A Trea­sury of African-Amer­i­can Poet­ry and Art
Select­ed by Belin­da Rochelle
Harper­Collins Pub­lish­ers, 2001

This stel­lar col­lec­tion con­tains twen­ty poems by well-known poets, each paired with a bold, endur­ing work by a visu­al artist. The poet­ry and art inspire the imag­i­na­tion as they cap­ture a vari­ety of expe­ri­ences shared by all peo­ple and allow the read­er to look at the world through the eyes of a num­ber of dif­fer­ent artists. Poems by a num­ber of children’s authors are fea­tured in this book as well as ones by authors such as Maya Angelou and Alice Walk­er.




Pippi LongstockingAt Bookol­o­gy, we believe the adage about “the right book for the right read­er.” Those are not nec­es­sar­i­ly the books that we see in adver­tise­ments, in the blog­gers’ buzz, or on award lists. Only by lis­ten­ing to each oth­er, and espe­cial­ly to kids, talk about books do we find those gems our hearts were look­ing for but didn’t know exist­ed.

When you think about your favorite books, what’s your per­spec­tive? Do you remem­ber the sto­ry first? The char­ac­ters? The cov­er? The illus­tra­tions?

For many of us, it’s the book cov­er. Yes­ter­day, I was look­ing for books about cats. I want­ed to rec­om­mend some clas­sics. I remem­ber a book from the 1960s that had a boy and a cat on the cov­er. Both of them were fac­ing away from me, look­ing at a neigh­bor­hood. I remem­ber that the cov­er is yel­low. Do you know the book I’m talk­ing about? I asked Steve, because he fre­quent­ly talks about this book. When I described the cov­er, he knew right away: It’s Like This, Cat by Emi­ly Cheney Neville. (I’m not pub­lish­ing the cov­er here because I don’t want to give it away. Take a look at the bot­tom of this arti­cle.)

Often it’s the illus­tra­tions. Who can for­get the thick black out­lines of My Friend Rab­bit? Or the clear, bright col­ors of My Heart is Like a Zoo? Or the pen and ink draw­ings of Lois Lens­ki?


Some­times it’s the char­ac­ters. The book with the spi­der and the pig. That one with the adven­tur­ous red-haired girl with pig­tails. That book where the high-school kids share their poet­ry in class. That auto­bi­og­ra­phy of the author grow­ing up in Cuba and the USA. Those char­ac­ters are so mem­o­rable that, once read, we can’t for­get them. (The book cov­ers are post­ed at the end of this arti­cle.)

When we’re meet­ing with the Chap­ter & Verse book club each month, the last half-hour is a time to rec­om­mend books we’ve enjoyed. I always add to my read­ing list. Do you have an inten­tion­al, set-aside time for talk­ing with oth­er adults about the children’s books they’re read­ing and are thrilled to rec­om­mend? I par­tic­u­lar­ly love it when they’re books that aren’t on the buzzers’ radar. I feel as though we’ve shared a secret.

Chapter & Verse Book Club, Redbery Books, Cable, Wisconsin

Chap­ter & Verse Book Club, Red­bery Books, Cable, Wis­con­sin

I also hunt through the state lists. These are books that edu­ca­tors and librar­i­ans are choos­ing because they know they have kid appeal. So often, these are not books that have been on award lists … but they’re passed along, buzzed about among child read­ers, rec­om­mend­ed by the adults in their lives.

State Choice Awards

Not all books need to be new. There are fab­u­lous books hid­ing on the library shelves and in used book­stores. Do a sub­ject search. It’s amaz­ing what you can find by look­ing at a library cat­a­log or doing an online search.

Everyone’s pub­lish­ing book­lists these days. How do you know which ones to fol­low? Do the titles res­onate with you? Do you find your­self eager­ly adding their sug­ges­tions to your TBR pile? Then book­mark those lists! Vis­it them fre­quent­ly or sign up to receive noti­fi­ca­tions when they pub­lish their next list.

The award books and books with stars are one way to find good books but don’t rely sole­ly on those sources. Don’t for­get the wealth of fab­u­lous books that fly under the radar.

Talk to each oth­er. Adult to adult. Child to adult. Child to child. Adult to child. Old or new. Hid­den trea­sure or best­seller. We learn about the best books when we hear rec­om­men­da­tions from anoth­er read­er, anoth­er per­spec­tive.

books described in the article


From the Editor

by Mar­sha Qua­ley

Wel­come to Bookol­o­gy.

Thank you for com­ing back, or check­ing us out for a first look, or for paus­ing if you land­ed here by acci­dent.

Chasing FreedomReturn­ing read­ers know that each month much of our con­tent is con­nect­ed to the magazine’s month­ly cen­ter­piece: the Book­storm™, a bib­li­og­ra­phy of books and web­sites com­piled and writ­ten by our chief Bookol­o­gist, Vic­ki Palmquist, which has at its start­ing point a sin­gle book. This month that book is Chas­ing Free­dom by Nik­ki Grimes, in which the author imag­ines a con­ver­sa­tion that might have occurred had Susan B. Antho­ny and Har­ri­et Tub­man sat down for tea. Susan B. Antho­ny and Har­ri­et Tubman’s “paths fre­quent­ly crossed one anoth­er’s,” Grimes says in our inter­view with her, but she could find no doc­u­men­ta­tion of an actu­al shared tea.  Still, “[t]he fact that these his­tor­i­cal pow­er­hous­es knew one anoth­er was excit­ing.”

The Sep­tem­ber Book­storm™ focus­es on the 19th cen­tu­ry and the ear­ly 20th cen­tu­ry and the polit­i­cal and social envi­ron­ments and insti­tu­tions in which Susan B. Antho­ny and Har­ri­et Tub­man lived and worked: slav­ery, war, Recon­struc­tion, the advent and dawn of Jim Crow, the new cen­tu­ry.  If you don’t have time now to look over the bib­li­og­ra­phy, our Bul­let Point Book Talks offers a quick look at some of the books in the ‘storm.

On the lighter side, today we also cel­e­brate the back-to-school sea­son with a Quirky Book List of books involv­ing class­room pets. Cau­tion­ary read­ing for our teacher friends? Per­haps.

Catch You Later, TraitorDon’t for­get to return after today, because, as usu­al, through­out the month you can join us for some skin­ny dip­ping and read what our reg­u­lar book-lov­ing con­trib­u­tors have to say about their lat­est for­ays into children’s lit­er­a­ture. Want to be alert­ed to Bookol­o­gy updates? Please sub­scribe.

And final­ly: We have a win­ner. Last month we encour­aged our read­ers to com­ment on our arti­cles, and we offered a signed copy of that month’s Book­storm™ book, Catch You Lat­er, Trai­tor by Avi as the prize for a draw­ing for which all com­menters would be eli­gi­ble. Lin­da B. from Col­orado took a moment to com­ment on our August Lit­er­ary Madeleine, and it was her name we pulled out of the Bookol­o­gist Hat. Con­grats to Lin­da, and thank you to all who com­ment­ed.

That’s enough. Time to explore Bookol­o­gy. Thanks for stop­ping.


Nikki Grimes: Researching and Writing Chasing Freedom

Inter­view by Vic­ki Palmquist

Chasing FreedomChas­ing Free­dom
writ­ten by Nik­ki Grimes
illus­trat­ed by Michelle Wood
Orchard Books, 2014

Did you know more about one of your two char­ac­ters when you con­ceived of the book?

 Yes. I knew a fair amount about Har­ri­et Tub­man. Hers was one of the few sto­ries about African Amer­i­cans brought out every year dur­ing what, in my youth, was called Negro His­to­ry Month. I was far less famil­iar with the details of the life of Susan B. Antho­ny, though I cer­tain­ly had a pass­ing knowl­edge of her place in his­to­ry.

How did you decide there was a sto­ry to be told about these two women? Togeth­er?

 In 1988, I was asked to devel­op dra­mat­ic mono­logues on an assort­ment of his­tor­i­cal fig­ures for a stage pro­duc­tion to be done in Chi­na lat­er that year. I chose Har­ri­et Tub­man, Susan B. Antho­ny, and Fred­er­ick Dou­glass as my sub­jects. In the process of research­ing them indi­vid­u­al­ly, I learned that they were all con­tem­po­raries, and that their paths fre­quent­ly crossed one anoth­er’s. The fact that these his­tor­i­cal pow­er­hous­es knew one anoth­er was excit­ing, and led me to believe that many new sto­ries were pos­si­ble, but espe­cial­ly between these two women.

You wrote Chas­ing Free­dom in prose rather than verse, as a fic­tion­al sto­ry, rather than non­fic­tion. What led you in those direc­tions for this nar­ra­tive?

ph_Grimes_3The idea for this book began with the quin­tes­sen­tial lit­er­ary ques­tion “What if?” In this case, the ques­tion was, “What if Har­ri­et Tub­man and Susan B. Antho­ny sat down togeth­er for a long con­ver­sa­tion? What would that con­ver­sa­tion be like?” The germ of the idea was based on some­thing that, to my knowl­edge, nev­er actu­al­ly occurred, so while his­tor­i­cal facts shape the bulk of the nar­ra­tive, the fic­tion­al aspect of the con­ver­sa­tion itself dic­tat­ed that this sto­ry would be a work of his­tor­i­cal fic­tion. As for the choice of prose, that was dic­tat­ed by the over­whelm­ing amount of his­tor­i­cal mate­r­i­al and detail I wished to include in the piece. Poet­ry would not have giv­en me the room I need­ed, nor would it have allowed me to work in as many quotes from the sub­jects, them­selves. As it is, the brevi­ty of the pic­ture book for­mat, itself, required a con­stant par­ing down of the man­u­script. Oh, the sto­ries left untold for lack of space!

When you were col­lect­ing quotes from the two women, how did you record them? (e.g., on paper, in the com­put­er, on note cards) What type of nota­tion did you make? How did you orga­nize the quotes so you could find them again?

I made the bulk of my nota­tions on yel­low lined pads, in spi­ral note­books, and in assort­ed jour­nals. For the record, I always write in long­hand, whether the work is his­tor­i­cal­ly based or not. In any case, I did not keep quo­ta­tions sep­a­rate from oth­er notes. When I was ready to move from research to writ­ing, I read back through my notes, and marked quo­ta­tions with col­ored post-it notes so that I could find them as I need­ed to.


 Did you include trav­el in your research? Which sites did you find most use­ful?

 The sto­ry is set against the back­drop of the Under­ground Rail­road, the Civ­il War, and the ear­ly suf­frage move­ment. As such, I began research with a trip to Cincin­nati, Ohio to explore the Nation­al Under­ground Rail­road Free­dom Cen­ter, there. I also spent time in Cincin­nati’s main library, which hous­es one of the best col­lec­tions of lit­er­a­ture relat­ed to the Under­ground Rail­road, as well as sub­stan­tial mate­r­i­al by and about Susan B. Antho­ny. After­wards, I vis­it­ed Rip­ley, OH where sev­er­al homes on the Under­ground Rail­road have been pre­served. The library in Rip­ley was a worth­while stop, as well.  I devel­oped my list of ref­er­ence mate­ri­als as a result of vis­it­ing these sites, but more than that, they put me in the frame of mind to dig deep­er into the life sto­ries of these two women.

Are you able to soak up “the vibes” of a vis­it­ed site in a way that informs your writ­ing?

Always. In this case, the expe­ri­ences with the great­est impact were two. First, step­ping into the recon­struct­ed slave pen, shack­les in full view, at the Nation­al Under­ground Rail­road Free­dom Cen­ter. Sec­ond, a few days lat­er, descend­ing into a root cel­lar at The Rankin House, one of the sta­tions of the Under­ground Rail­road in Rip­ley, where run­away slaves were fre­quent­ly hid­den. Had I been alive in the 1800’s, I could have been one of those slaves, the real­iza­tion of which was enough to make me shud­der in that moment, and even now. I drew on those vis­cer­al feel­ings as I wrote the sto­ries of Har­ri­et’s har­row­ing jour­neys to and from the South to res­cue slaves des­per­ate for free­dom. As an African Amer­i­can author, these sto­ries are close to the bone.


Did you have any­thing to say about the choice of illus­tra­tor?

Yes. I felt strong­ly that, as this was a book about women, writ­ten by a woman, a female artist should be tapped for the illus­tra­tions. Michele Wood was first on my list, specif­i­cal­ly for her atten­tion to his­tor­i­cal detail. I con­veyed my thoughts to my edi­tor, who took them into account. Nei­ther of us was dis­ap­point­ed with the final choice, or the stun­ning work that result­ed.

What type of input did you have on the illus­tra­tions or the design of the book?

In this book, I had very lit­tle to do with either, although I occa­sion­al­ly com­ment­ed on some­thing in the sketch­es, which were sent to me ear­ly on.

Do you write the back mat­ter or does the pub­lish­er have some­one to do this?

I research and write all of my own back mat­ter.

If you write the back mat­ter, are you tak­ing notes for this as you do your research or how do you pre­pare for this part of the book?

I planned to pre­pare sub­stan­tial back mat­ter for this book from the very begin­ning, though I did not assem­ble this infor­ma­tion until the very end. As I went along, I made nota­tions about his­tor­i­cal fig­ures or impor­tant his­tor­i­cal events, or leg­is­la­tion that I might want to include in the back mat­ter. Fur­ther research into those sub­jects came at the end of the project when I was ready to draft that sec­tion of the book.

Are there any ques­tions I did­n’t ask that you wish I had asked you?

 How long did it take me to cre­ate this book? The idea first came to me in 1988. I took my ini­tial research trip in ear­ly 2008. Chas­ing Free­dom was final­ly pub­lished in 2015. My point? It’s impor­tant to remem­ber that some books take time!








Bookstorm™: Chasing Freedom

Bookstorm Chasing FreedomIn this Bookstorm™:

Chasing FreedomChasing Freedom

The Life Jour­neys of Har­ri­et Tub­man and Susan B. Antho­ny, Inspired by His­tor­i­cal Facts
writ­ten by Nik­ki Grimes
illus­trat­ed by Michele Wood
Orchard Books, 2015

As Nik­ki Grimes writes in her author’s note for this book, “His­to­ry is often taught in bits and pieces, and stu­dents rarely get the notion that these bits and pieces are con­nect­ed.” Bookol­o­gy want­ed to look at this book for a num­ber of rea­sons. We hope that you will con­sid­er the remark­able sto­ries of free­dom fight­ers Har­ri­et Tub­man and Susan B. Antho­ny and the moments in his­to­ry that the author reveals. We hope that you will study the illus­tra­tions by Michele Wood and dis­cuss how each spread in the book makes you feel, how African motifs and quilt pat­terns are made an inte­gral part of the book’s design, and how the col­or palette brings strength to the con­ver­sa­tion between these two women. 

This con­ver­sa­tion between these two women nev­er took place. The sub­ti­tle reads “inspired by his­tor­i­cal facts.” Nik­ki Grimes imag­ines a con­ver­sa­tion that could have tak­en place between these two women, solid­ly drawn from the facts of their lives. Is this a new form of fic­tion? Non­fic­tion? You’ll have a mean­ing­ful dis­cus­sion about the dif­fer­ences between fact, fic­tion, infor­ma­tion text, non­fic­tion, and sto­ry­telling when you dis­cuss this with your class­room or book club.

In each Book­storm™, we offer a bib­li­og­ra­phy of books that have close ties to the the fea­tured book. For Chas­ing Free­dom, you’ll find books for a vari­ety of tastes, inter­ests, and read­ing abil­i­ties. The book will be com­fort­ably read by ages 7 through 12. We’ve includ­ed pic­ture books, non­fic­tion, videos, web­sites, and des­ti­na­tions for the pletho­ra of pur­pos­es you might have. There are many fine books that fall out­side of these para­me­ters, but we chose to nar­row the selec­tion of books this time to those that fol­lowed the fight for wom­en’s right to vote from the 1840s to 1920 and those that fol­lowed slav­ery in Amer­i­ca until the Eman­ci­pa­tion Procla­ma­tion and a few years beyond. These are the major con­cerns behind the work of Har­ri­et Tub­man and Susan B. Antho­ny.


Cel­e­brat­ing Free­dom. Two recent books are includ­ed, one deal­ing with the Eman­ci­pa­tion Procla­ma­tion and the oth­er with how freed peo­ple lived in New York City in Seneca Vil­lage, which would even­tu­al­ly become Cen­tral Park.

Har­ri­et Tub­man. We’ve cho­sen a few of the many good books about this free­dom fight­er, trail blaz­er, and spir­i­tu­al­ly moti­vat­ed woman.

His­to­ry. From Book­er T. Wash­ing­ton’s auto­bi­o­graph­i­cal Up from Slav­ery to Julius Lester’s To Be a Slave through to Kadir Nel­son’s Heart and Soul: the Sto­ry of Amer­i­ca and African Amer­i­cans, you’ll find a num­ber of books that will fas­ci­nate your stu­dents and make fine choic­es for book club dis­cus­sions.

Under­ground Rail­road. One of our tru­ly hero­ic move­ments in Amer­i­can his­to­ry, we’ve select­ed books that chron­i­cle the work, the dan­ger, and the vic­to­ries of these free­dom fight­ers, of which Har­ri­et Tub­man was a strong, ded­i­cat­ed mem­ber. 


Susan B. Antho­ny. Often writ­ten about, we’ve select­ed just a few of the many books about this woman who under­stood the hard­ships women faced and the neces­si­ty for them to be able to vote, to have a voice in gov­ern­ment.

More Suf­frag­ists. Many women around the globe fought for their right to vote and the fight con­tin­ues in many coun­tries. We’ve select­ed sev­er­al books that fall with­in our time frame.

Let us know how you are mak­ing use of this Book­storm™. Share your dis­cus­sions, class­room inclu­sion, or send us a pho­to of your library dis­play.

(Thanks to Mar­sha Qua­ley and Claire Rudolf Mur­phy for shar­ing their con­sid­er­able knowl­edge and insight about books for this Book­storm™.)



Skinny Dip with Nikki Grimes

bk_chasingfreedom_140What keeps you up at night?

My brain! I can’t shut it off. I’m con­stant­ly bom­bard­ed with thoughts about what’s on my to-do list (I live or die by the list), what arrange­ments I need to make for the next con­fer­ence, book fes­ti­val, or school vis­it; what work I need to do to ele­vate the rela­tion­ships of my char­ac­ters or ways to make them more authen­tic; what man­u­script I need to con­cen­trate on next (I’m always jug­gling three or four at one time). When those things aren’t keep­ing me up, it’s one of my mouthy char­ac­ters, decid­ing he or she has some­thing to say that just can’t wait until morn­ing!

What is your proud­est career moment?

Enter­ing the White House as a guest for the first time, on the invi­ta­tion of First Lady Lau­ra Bush, as part of the Nation­al Book Fes­ti­val in 2003, with my sis­ter — my old­est fan — on my arm, beam­ing! Win­ning the Coret­ta Scott King Award for Bronx Mas­quer­ade is what got me there.

bk_bronx140In what Olympic sport would you like to win a gold medal?

Ice-skat­ing! I have absolute­ly no tal­ent in this area, but ice-skat­ing is the one Olympic sport that keeps me glued to the tele­vi­sion screen. That com­bi­na­tion of lyri­cal move­ment and tech­ni­cal skill fas­ci­nates me. I espe­cial­ly love those moments of spon­tane­ity when each ath­lete’s per­son­al­i­ty shines through. The pro­grams are planned and chore­o­graphed, but the per­for­mances are very much in the moment. Any­thing can hap­pen, and I love that! I feel that way when I’m writ­ing a sto­ry. Any­thing is pos­si­ble. Any­thing can hap­pen! I put in the work, I lay in the struc­ture, set my char­ac­ter’s back-sto­ries, and then, some­where along the way, I get into the zone, and — boom! Mag­ic hap­pens, and I score tens across the board — in my mind, at least! Yeah. Ice-skat­ing.

What’s the bravest thing you’ve ever done?

Face down an armed rob­ber, high on drugs, in a Swedish bou­tique I man­aged in Stock­holm. I was work­ing behind the counter when this guy came into the store and con­front­ed me, his hand in his pock­et point­ing a gun in my direc­tion. He demand­ed the mon­ey in the reg­is­ter and, when I did not com­ply, he bared a mouth­ful of yel­lowed teeth.

I will blow you straight to hell,” he told me.

No,” I said. “You’ll blow me straight to heav­en.”

That got him off his game, I think. He took a step back from the counter and gave me a long, hard look.

What? What did you say?” he asked.

I, calm as the prover­bial cucum­ber, explained to him that, as a Chris­t­ian, when I died, I was going to heav­en, not to hell. Then, blan­ket­ed in the per­fect peace of God, I pro­ceed­ed to share with him the gospel of Christ, and invit­ed him to accept Jesus.

Now, mind you, this was an out-of-body expe­ri­ence, because part of me was stand­ing back, watch­ing, ask­ing myself, “Are you crazy?! This man’s got a gun!” But, some­how, in that moment, by God’s grace, I felt no fear.

I talked with him qui­et­ly, slow­ly as if I had all the time in the world.

He asked me a few hon­est ques­tions about faith and for­give­ness, which I answered. As the scene played out, his pos­ture changed. His shoul­ders soft­ened, his head began to bow, the hand in his pock­et relaxed and he let the gun drop.  Even­tu­al­ly, with both hands at his side, he shuf­fled out of the store, whis­per­ing a string of apolo­gies. 

Once he was gone, I returned to my body and trem­bled from head to foot, like a nor­mal per­son! It was an extra­or­di­nary moment that taught me the real­i­ty of the pow­er of God and the per­fect peace he can offer in any cir­cum­stance. Okay, so maybe this is as much a sto­ry about faith as it is about brav­ery. Any­way, there you have it.

What TV show can’t you turn off?

There are a few, but the one that most sur­pris­es me is Shark Tank!

There is some­thing riv­et­ing about a per­son bar­ing his heart in pur­suit of a dream, and fight­ing for that dream in a do-or-die moment, when self-con­fi­dence is the key to suc­cess. I have wres­tled in pur­suit of my dreams my entire life. Maybe that’s why this show res­onates with me.



Peace is elu­sive. It is a goal of some peo­ple at some time in some parts of the world. As John Lennon wrote: “Imag­ine no pos­ses­sions / I won­der if you can / No need for greed or hunger / A broth­er­hood of man / Imag­ine all the peo­ple shar­ing all the world …” Is peace pos­si­ble?… more

Summer isn’t over yet …

There’s still more sum­mer read­ing time, whether relax­ing in your favorite lawn chair, next to a bur­bling creek, sit­ting in the mid­dle of your gar­den, or soak­ing in a wad­ing pool. When do I read? I always read before going to sleep. I read when I first get up in the morn­ing — it’s a great way to greet the day.… more

Shoe books

No, not the books by Noël Streat­field, but slice-of-life books that I think of as “walk­ing in some­one else’s shoes” books. They’re writ­ten in a con­vinc­ing, ready to assume the loafers or ten­nis shoes or flip-flops man­ner that allows me to become the main char­ac­ter from the front cov­er to the back cov­er … and savor my new under­stand­ing of, or my empa­thy for, some­one else’s life.… more

Bank Street’s 2010 Choices

We eager­ly await the annu­al list of books cho­sen by the Bank Street Col­lege of Edu­ca­tion as books that work well with chil­dren from birth to age 14. Each year, the Chil­dren’s Book Com­mit­tee reviews over 6000 titles each year for accu­ra­cy and lit­er­ary qual­i­ty and con­sid­ers their emo­tion­al impact on chil­dren. It choos­es the best 600 books, both fic­tion and non­fic­tion, which it lists accord­ing to age and cat­e­go­ry.… more