A few Mac Barnett favorites that aren’t pictured here: SAM AND DAVE DIG A BIG HOLE, MUSTACHE, OH NO!, OH NO! NOT AGAIN!, GUESS AGAIN, and EXTRA YARN

If you get the opportunity to meet Mac Barnett, read Battle Bunny first.  Take it from me. I blew it. When Barnett visited  the Red Balloon bookstore in my neighborhood I hadn’t read it yet. MacBarnett Sept2014MacBarnettSept2014KEM friend, Elise, even pulled the  book out of a Barnes and Noble book shelf and told me I’d like it. But  I figured I’d look at it later.

Now I’m thinking the only thing I would have liked better is an autographed copy of Battle Bunny and a chance to gush about it. Dang it.

BATTLEBUNNYBOOKThe strange-looking treasure is two books in one.



It began as Birthday Bunny, written by Jon Scieszka and Mac Barnett in the style of a syrupy, grandma-friendly Golden Book.

Then it was given to  protagonist Alex (Scieszka and Barnett’s alter ego) by who else, but his doting Gran Gran. “Alex”  transforms it into a disturbingly entertaining, testosterone-ridden, hare-raising tale of doom and destruction.  (Alex’s artistic side comes compliments of Matthew Myers).

ToAlexanderLook closely.
The raw beauty of this book lurks in the details.  For instance, check out Gran Gran’s sentiments.


This note looks so real, I first assumed the library had a used book on their shelves. I can picture Alex gagging, choking, then gritting his teeth in response to his grandma’s  saccharine birthday endearments.

I’d type excerpts, but half the brilliance comes from “Alex’s” illustrations.AlexCredits



BackCoverBattleBunnyOur son wrote and drew BATTLE  stories in grade school. We know this because of the calls to the principal’s office.
CRACKLINOATBRANDThe principal would run his hand over his face and  suggest Ritalin. We’d try to look concerned, then save the confiscated manuscripts in scrapbooks.

Luckily, Josh had a revolutionary teacher with revolutionary ideas about letting kids be kids.

THE BEST STORY OF HANSEL AND GRETTEL Personally, I think the wrong family member creates children’s books.


Text and spelling copyright 1991, Joshua Honeyman,
5th grade

T’was a time when sheep smoked cigars and elephants had cars and there lived a gangster group called the devils. In that group was two of the baddest, the leader Hansel and his evil side kick Grettel. Hansel and Grettel went into the woods in their nuclear tank while they redecorated it with spray paint. When they were nearly done they saw a house full of candy. They spray painted it with black, green, and purple paint. Then they knocked it down with a silver battle axe. hen I glanced at brats wrecking her  house, I got out my ninja stuff. Sharp like a knife I knocked the axes out of there hands. Suddenly Hansel kicked me into the microwave. I kicked the door down.


“Except us,” chuckled Gretel.

“HI-YA!” I yelled while kicking Gretel to the ground. Hansel took a missile lancher from the tank so I threw a sword it nocked it away from him.

“DIE DANDREFF DOG!” I yelled kicking them both to the TV set. I chained them to the couch and switched the channel to PBS.

“NO!” yelled Hansel and Gretel. Mr. Rogers was on. “AAAAAAAAAAHHH!!!!!”

(Incidentally, this valiant superhero is now an Army Captain.)

BattleDuckiesWhile reading Battle Bunny to children, one must read it first as originally written, then reread it Alex’s way. Our grandkids’ faces light up as they notice each detail and witness the unleashing of an imagination (Technically, three imaginations: Scieszka, Barnett, and Myer’s).

During a recent overnight stay, our youngest granddaughter forced me (Okay, she said, “Please.”)  BattleDuckiesIIto read Battle Bunny to her twice–which, technically, means four times. The next morning she asked if she could play with the bath toys. I thought her request was unusual, because A.) she wasn’t taking a bath, and B.) we have way cooler toys than bath toys. Later, as I cooked breakfast, I overheard her, deeply immersed in her play world. “Take that! Evil Battle Bunny! You’re no match for my Superhero Duckies!”

When I looked under the coffee table, her request made perfect sense. A rebel  squeeze toy rabbit peered through his transparent plastic cup prison at an intimidating fleet of rubber ducky wardens.

I never thought I’d say this, but I’m so proud of my bunny-trapping granddaughter. (Sheer genius, like her Gretel-kicking uncle.)

Gran Grans, Nanas, Grandmas–whatever you call yourself–UNITE! We owe it to our grandkids to supply each one of them with a copy of Battle Bunny (for inspiration), a box of markers,  and a mushy Golden Book with a title page note from us urging them to go wild and re-create.

I do hope their parents (and their school principals) will forgive us.BATTLEBUNNYMEETSBATTLEDUCKIES

I shouldn’t complain, but . . .

MinnesotaIceSculptureIt’s another subzero morning in Minnesota (-16 degrees), and my pen is on strike. The ink won’t to come out–and I don’t blame it. I prefer to stay inside this time of year, too.

Knowing that writers in other states are struggling, too, might make me feel better.

  1. Do Florida iPads ever shut down from too much sand?
  2. Californians–is that pesky sunshine making that laptop too hot to hold on your sunburned legs?
  3. Hawaiians–do you have circular indentations covering the backs of your notebooks, curse jars full of quarters, and trash bins full of dead pens from too much orchid pollen?

For those of you feeling a ting of guilt as you bask on the beach, here are some great good-will ideas for the needy. (I’m talking about us cranky Vitamin D deprived writers and illustrators from up north):

  • fingerless-glovespencils with refillable lead
  • fingerless gloves
  • space heaters
  • hot beverages
  • airline tickets to any southern destination

Okay, I’m warmer, now that I vented.

A gift idea for the KEMs (besides the aforementioned) is to join us February 15 for our Barbara Park tribute post about KEM GEM, MICK HARTE WAS HERE. We’re eager to know your opinion about the middle grade novel and we look forward to seeing you there.

Also, it’s never too late to comment on our first KEM GEM recommendation: Sara Pennypacker and Marla Frazee’s chapter book, CLEMENTINE.

Seasonal Danger-The Tootsie Pop

We Minnesotans consider ourselves a hardy bunch. That girl on the ski slope in the bikini–that guy ice fishing using his big toe for bait–that family waiting out the snow storm in the outdoor hot tub–they’re probably from Minnesota.

I’ve survived a 270 degree spinning “cookie” in my compact car on Interstate 494 during an ice storm in heavy traffic after dark. Lights blinded me as a ginormous grill  careened toward my driver’s side windows. Thankfully, it stopped just in time to slow other traffic, allowing me to maneuver my vehicle back into the flow. It’s hard to drive when every cell in your body is shaking.

Another time, I shivered in the frigid air over an hour, waiting for a wrecking truck to arrive and pull my smoldering car off of springs that had coiled up in the undercarriage.  Someone lost a twin mattress in the middle of my 55 mph lane after dark. I found it.

My dad said the challenges of life make us stronger. He needed to explain why Grandpa homesteaded in North Dakota.

Yes, living in these Arctic states, we’re proud of our storm-weathering resilience. But experience should also give us a healthy fear of sub-zero temperatures and icy roads. This brings me to the one other thing I now fear. It may seem esoteric, but, in my opinion, the third most dangerous winter season threat in Minnesota is the Tootsie Pop Lollipop.

Seasonal Minnesota hazard-The Tootsie Pop Lollipop

Seasonal Minnesota hazard-The Tootsie Pop Lollipop

During a recent visit to babysit my grandchildren, I was met at the door with the usual, “Gramma, Gramma, look-what-I-can-do/look-what-I-made/look-at-my-bleeding-gums-where-my-tooph-used-to-be” chaos.

I marveled at all of the wondrous sights. Before I could shut my gaping mouth, five-year-old “Sadie” swabbed my tongue and tonsils with her lollipop. She had the finesse of an ER nurse, only she was much more cheery. “Taste this, Gwamma! It’s fwuity!”

“Yummmm!” I said. “It is fruity. Is that mango or is it just sweet because it’s yours?”

She didn’t hear my question. Instead she coughed into her hand and twirled, “Goodness! I’ve just been coughing and sneezing all day!” as if she was experiencing something new and wonderful.

My daughter snickered apologetically.

“Don’t worry,” I said. “I’m immune. I never get sick.”

It’s now 5:05 a.m. and I’m in the bathroom writing this blog in long hand so I won’t awaken my husband. Seems I’ve acquired this exasperating tickle in my throat and no amount of coughing, sneezing, hacking, lozenge sucking, tea sipping, broth slurping, moist air snorting, honey, lemon juice, salt, turmeric, cinnamon, Vapor Rubbing, deep breathing, symptom ignoring, and blind optimism will make it go away.

Every time I go back to bed I fall into another coughing spell. I’ve sucked so many cough drops, they’ve carved a menthol trench to my throat. My ears itch so intensely, I’m contemplating affixing a Q-tip to my husband’s Black & Decker drill. To trick myself back to sleep, I’ve even tried pretending I’m a concentration camp escapee hiding in a culvert. If I cough, the Gestapo will find me and all of the others (including children). I inhale slowly, counting “one-two-three-four-five”, while pretend footsteps crunch snow on the ground above our heads. I inhale for the third time and–I start convulsing like a cat trapped in a paper bag. My husband rolls over and pulls the blankets over his head. Our cover is blown. We’re dead.

The worst part of this is that Sadie has been out-of-sorts–complaining about hot flashes, her aching back, and not enough fiber. (Okay, I made that part up.) In reality, Sadie is now wearing a cast–and she’s super excited because she’s the first member in her family to break a bone. I’m just happy broken bones aren’t contagious, since Sadie loves to spread her joy.

The point is–if you want to survive winter in Minnesota, drive carefully, stay out of the cold, and share the love, not the saliva, no matter how sweet it is.

If you love funny, feisty girls like Sadie, read CLEMENTINE with us and post your thoughts in the Comment Section January 15 or after.

I See Dead People

The last two weeks might have made a good movie. I celebrated two graduations, a wedding, a funeral, a birthday party, and Memorial Day. You’d think a title like FOUR WEDDINGS AND A FUNERAL would have come to mind, but instead, I found myself stuck in THE SIXTH SENSE movie, brooding, “I see dead people.”

What gives?

I See Dead People - THE SIXTH SENSE

I guess I need to cut myself some slack.  I’d hit a physical brick wall, driving 2,670 miles in ten days through Minnesota rain, South Dakota hail, Wyoming wind, and Montana snow — then back again. That coupled with the emotional fatigue of saying “good-bye” (for now) to my sister made me see the world temporarily shadowed by the dark cloud of negativity inside me.  I was hypersensitive to:

  • flat-emotioned parents watching their kids at the motel swimming pool,
  • zombie-looking youth shuffling down the sidewalk,
  • cranky waitresses watching the clock.

I wanted to shake these dead people to say, “Wake up!”, but I didn’t have the strength.

Behind this urge, I really wanted to shake my sister.  I wanted her to wake up.

As I analyze this cloud, I can shoo it away and recognize the dead person in the mirror — nose out of joint from that brick wall — too fatigued to interact — too jet lagged or self-absorbed to really “be there”.  Without the despair and self-pity of my dark cloud, I have the wherewithal to look outside of myself.  When I move my gaze from self to others, I see how positive conversation, a smile, or a big tip can bring the dead to life – in the giver and the receiver.

I can also reflect upon and appreciate the hospitality, love, and humor of my family and others.  There were so many shining examples of life lived well during this adventure:

  • My niece, “the cheerleader”, shared grief, love,and loss with me and her siblings over the telephone. Then she urged us to move forward and celebrate each other. Ta-Wanda!
  • A graduate’s father’s blue eyes twinkled in response to a compliment. “Clean livin’ — that’s why I look so good. Clean livin’.” Liars can be so charming.
  • A mourning Coast Guard master chief stepped out of his comfort zone to memorialize his mother/my deceased sister with the bronze star of motherhood. Aww. How she must cherish the honor.

In the sunshine of hope, I can hold to the promise of life after death.  My sister doesn’t need to be shook out of that urn full of dust.  She’s awake and more alive and beautiful than ever.

FishingWhen I lower memory’s gaze I see life lived extravagantly — in the joy, abandon, love, curiosity, and hope of children.  They’ve mastered the present — in freely given smiles, all-out tackling welcomes, birthday candles, garden tractor rides, messy bowls of salsa, and red fishing poles.

WaterslideIn the shiny, tan walls of a fiberglass water slide my own life-filled reflection pleasantly startled me — urged up winding stairs by the exuberant, shorter reflection of my grandson.  He showed me I could love better with green chlorine hair. The pleasure of holding him  close through the twists and turns of each exhilarating  plunge far overshadowed my anxiety over racoon/mascara eyes.

This is why I find so much satisfaction in writing and reading children’s books. The characters teach us how to look outside of ourselves and live.

If you see dead people today; give them your smile, an all-out tackling welcome, or a big tip. If those methods don’t bring life to them and you — I know of an invigorating water slide…

Meaty Girl

The cheery chiropractor chattered ceaselessly while kneading the muscles by my spine.  He rarely demanded a reply, so I serenely streamed in and out of consciousness — until I heard the words: “meaty girl.”

My head shot up like he’d dropped a popsicle on a backside crevice.  He gently pushed my head back into the breathing hole in the table. “My, but you got tense all of a sudden.  Relax.”

Too late.  There would be no more relaxing.  I rattled my brain to recall how he used the words in his sentence:

  • “You don’t sweat bad for a meaty girl.” ?
  • “Meaty girl, remind me to put ham and Pillsbury dough on my grocery list.” ?
  • “I need a meaty girl like you on my bowling/mud wrestling team.” ?

Here’s the problem: I’m the opposite of an anorexic.  Instead of being a skinny girl who thinks she’s meaty.  I’m a meaty girl who thinks I’m skinny.  No, I don’t have bigorexia, where I obsess about being small.  Instead, I buy sweaters that fit me twenty pounds ago; then when I see myself on a video, I say, “Hey, that meaty girl has a pink sweater just like mine!”

It’s a denial thing.

My illusion could be caused by the full length mirror in our bedroom.  It’s tipped back so I look two feet taller.  Also, whenever I sit, I strategically fold my arms or a place a child on my lap, to hide the blubber cascading over the waistband of my pants.

I try to work out three and a half minutes every day, but my husband rarely sees the evidence.  One day, between bites of Doritos, he said, “I bet you could run all of the way to the mailbox and back.”

I smiled, thinking, “You condescending so-and-so.  You must think I’m an out-of-shape meaty girl.”

So, the next day I ran to the mailbox.  I only walked part of the way back.  Then I paced around in the garage awhile to get my breathing under control.

I’m going to blame this extra padding on eleven months of Minnesota winter, then do what I do every year during my 30 days of get-in-shape weather.  For one whole Saturday morning I’ll morph into a Flashdance maniac, (the Chris Farley version), exercising every muscle known to womankind.

The remainder of the month, I’ll baby my shocked body parts and announce, “I’d lift weights, but they’re so heavy.”

Mother’s Day weekend brings the city-wide garage sales. My mission: Find a $2.50 undersized sweater — purple this time — for the all-beef, especially saucy,  girl with the cellulite buns — you know — the meaty girl in the video.



Fleetwood Mac – John McVie, Mick Fleetwood, Stevie Nicks, and Lindsey Buckingham

Fleetwood Mac, thanks for last night’s extraordinary concert. I can’t get anything done for the reminiscing. During my clinging-to-the-experience Internet surfing, I stumbled upon a couple of mean-old-nasty reviews from our two metropolitan newspapers. I’m embarrassed and sorry. I don’t know what concert those grouchy reporters attended. They don’t speak for the gushing Twin Cities fans who left the Xcel Center  All my husband and I can say is “WOW! WE LOVE YOU!”

You still have “it” — and more.

Mick Fleetwood: How do you maintain your energy and stamina? You’re the only tall, gray-haired, bearded man who can pull off the knickers/red shoes combo. Your drumming evokes a collective awe that synchronizes with the thumping of our hearts.  You lift the emotions of your audience like the wind blowing a leaf through a quiet forest into a roaring stampede, then under a soothing waterfall through a tunnel of silence into a raging thunder-storm–even non-menopausal people. Only a master percussionist can do that. I’d bet against any 20-year-old who dares to arm wrestle you.

John McVie: I want to eat what you eat for breakfast. I envy your humility and soothing persona. You’re the wind beneath your band’s wings; hidden, yet so powerful — the Big Mac in Fleetwood Mac.  You command no limelight, but steer the group with your vision and your brilliant bass.  Thanks for just being you.

Lindsey Buckingham:  Holy cow!  You blew us away.  Who plays guitar like you — using fingernail tops with Tasmanian Devil drive?  With so much passion firing out of you, it’s no wonder you’re still so fit. We felt exhausted, but inspired, just watching you.

Stevie Nicks:  You’re the secret ingredient to Fleetwood Mac’s there’s-no-other-band-like-this-in-the-world sound. Lucky for Fleetwood Mac, and the world, Lindsey Buckingham showed up at his guitarist audition with a vocally gifted girlfriend and a both-or-none stipulation.  At last night’s concert, a male groupie yelled, “You’re still hot!”  So sweet — and so true.

Christine McVie: We missed you, but we thank you for the many years of joy you’ve given.

My husband and I reminisced about dancing to “Dreams” and “Landslide“.  Thirty-seven years ago, a lighted floor illuminated colorful designs under our feet and a mirrored disco ball glistened overhead–but we barely noticed.  If the nightclub was still there, we’d go give it another spin.

This year I’ll be eligible for the senior citizen discount at certain eating establishments.  My husband, eligible for a year now, refuses to ask for this perk, but on my birthday I’m driving to a drive-thru window with “Tusk” cranked on my woofers and tweeters (if I have those).  I plan to take the discount and relish the moment.

Flashback Video: Fleetwood Mac "Tusk" original footage with the USC marching band.

Click the photo for a Flashback Video that works on all devices: Fleetwood Mac “Tusk” original footage with the USC marching band. 

John, Mick, Stevie, and Lindsey, thanks for giving such hope to us aged.  We can’t wait to attend your concert in 2023!

Gangstas In the Hood

Click to play Mippey 5, livin’ on the edge with “Temporary Tattoos” parody of “Snapbacks & Tattoos” (by Driicky Graham).

I probably shouldn’t admit this, but I’m a Mippey 5 fan.  Luke Thompson, the gangly Minnesota YouTube sensation, makes beverages come out of my nose kind of like “Weird Al” Yankovic did when I was — um — two.

“Weird Al” Yankovic with a “White & Nerdy” cameo by Donny Osmond. Click on this parody of “Ridin’ Dirty” (by Chamillionaire featuring Krayzie Bone).

Thompson’s probably never even heard of Yankovic, but they are like-minded, creative masters of self and pop culture-deprecation with lots of time on their hands. Yet, Mippey 5 can crank out a music video in the time it takes me to make a blog entry.  Impressive.

Recently the Mippey 5 gangstahs caused quite a scandal in the hood while taping the Harlem Shake.

Those Fridley kids are so wild.

“Welcome to My Hood” DJ Khaled parody of 2011. Okay, so why does this suburban humor strike me so funny?

Anyway, I have a request concerning Adele’s “Rumour Has It”.  I know — it’s an overplayed tune and there’s no rapping.  But envision a parody called “Lederhosen“.  You could start a new trend, Luke.  And, seems to me “lederhosen” offers just the right amount of syllables, some great video possibilities, and plenty of room for Minnesota cheese.