U.S.A. vs Colombia at 6:00 pm Eastern and 3:00 Pacific!

August 9, 2016

During so many events at the Olympic games, the local crowds have tended to cheer against the U.S.  But will they feel the same about the women’s soccer team? We’ll see. One fan thinks that Tobin Heath is secretly Brazilian.  And there are rivalries in South America. My Peruvian sister-in-law is always happy to cheer against Brazil.

For me August 9th is a day of undiluted soccer happiness. My 2004 novel about an American girl playing on an Italian boys’ soccer team is being released as an e-book.  B&N has an excerpt.

Defending Irene was Released as an E-book Today

August 9, 2016

My soccer novel about an American girl playing on an Italian boys’ team in Italy was released as an e-book today. Since DEFENDING IRENE originally came out in 2004, a few sections will undoubtedly read more like historical fiction. But so many things hold up. Italian women and girls are making slow but serious headway against the perception that they shouldn’t be involved in such a violent, brutal sport. In fact, they just missed qualifying for the Euro Cup this year. Barnes and Noble has an excerpt of the first few chapters of DEFENDING IRENE on its site at the bottom of this page.  Amazon customers can go here, but there’s no excerpt so far.


Italy vs. German: Euro Cup 2016

July 1, 2016

My name and heritage might be German, but I’ll be cheering for the Azzurri this Saturday, July 2, at 3:00 Eastern time and noon Pacific time on ESPN 2 when the Italians take on Germany in the Euro quarterfinal match. After all, once upon a time, my American son dreamed of playing for the Italian World Cup team.  He’d lived in Italy from pre-school through second grade and attended the local schools.  The whole idea of citizenship thing wasn’t quite clicking for him, and he’d once mistaken a dollar bill for a Deutchmark.

While we lived in Italy, I had the opportunity to watch a local Italian-speaking team play against a local German-speaking team while doing the research for my soccer novel, Defending Irene. So I know some of what will be shouted from both sidelines.

“Schnell! Schnell! Schnell!” from the Germans.  (Fast, fast, fast.)

Dai!, Dai! Dai!” from the Italians. It sounds like “Die! Die! Die!” which might have been a bit unsettling to English players even though they undoubtedly expected it. I don’t have a really good translation for dai, but it’s similar to “Come on!”  I’ve heard “Ma dai!” used as a protest.

If you’re curious about just how passionate Italians are about soccer, consider checking Defending Irene out of your local library. It’s also available in hardcover at Amazon.  The Kindle edition, while available for pre-order now, will be released on August 9th. I’ll include an excerpt from the first chapter in the coming days.

A Few International Reads

December 11, 2015

On my bookshelf, I have all sorts of outdated Rick Steves guidebooks from the days my husband I roamed around Europe with our kids. Product Details In one of his books, he recommended that parents have their kids watch movies to help get them excited about different locations before they arrived.  I remember picking up the Italian-dubbed version of Anastasia at the library in Merano where we lived.  My Saving the Griffin could be a good choice for kids visiting Tuscany. While most of the book is set at a villa there, several chapters take place in Siena.


Here are a few titles that really brought me back to France and Italy after I returned to the U.S.:




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A Cabinet of Earths by Anne Nesbet (Paris)
A Box of Gargoyles by Anne Nesbet  (Paris) Previous book’s sequel


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Black Radishes
by Susan Lynn Meyer (Opens in Paris)





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The Thief Lord (Venice)

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Bloomability by Sharon Creech (Much takes place just north of Italy, but there’s a trip to the Dolomites)


Regional Reads for Christmas

December 9, 2015

How do you pick out a Christmas present or birthday gift for a young reader?  There are all sorts of ways to choose, but sometimes I like to pick out a book set in a place where those readers live or featuring characters from the same locality. Readers have enjoyed recognizing places from Suspect, my mystery set in Missouri with scenes that take place in St. Louis and Augusta. Defending Irene might be set in the Italian Alps, but it features a young American soccer player from the St. Louis area. Saving the Griffin is set in Tuscany, but it features characters from Minnesota.

What are some other fun regional reads?  Here’s a mix new releases and old favorites that I could think of off the top of my head during the busy holiday season. Feel free to share your favorites in the comments. I’ll be adding, updating and annotating as time allows even after the 2015 holiday season wraps up.


Not in the Script by Amy Finnegan (YA)


One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams Garcia (Oakland)
Quad by C.G. Watson
Millicent Min: Girl Genius by Lisa Yee
Book Scavenger by Jennifer Chambliss Bertman (San Francisco)
One Day and One Amazing Morning on Orange Street by Joanne Rocklin
Mountain Dog by Margarita Engle  (A boy whose mother has been arrested for dog fighting goes to live with his great-uncle, who is a forest ranger and has a wilderness search and rescue dog.)


Katerina’s Wish by Jeannie Mobley
Searching for Silverheels by Jeannie Mobley


The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin
A Long Way from Chicago by Richard Peck


Cynthia’s Attic by Mary Cunningham (Southern Indiana)


Do You Know the Monkey Man by Dori Hillestad Butler



A Voice for Kanzas by Debra McArthur (Lawrence)



Harvest Moon by Tonya Coffey (recommended by the author, a former student, which is always fun)



Another Kind of Hurricane by Tamara Ellis Smith



Sanctuary by Jennifer McKissack
Handful of Stars by Cynthia Lord
Kiki and Jacques by Susan Ross


The Dirt Diaries by Anna Staniszewski



Ellie McDoodle: Have Pen, Will Travel by Ruth McNally Barshaw
Copper Magic by Julia Mary Gibson (Fictional town on Lake Michigan)
Bud, not Buddy by Christopher Paul Curtis


Ghosts I Have Been by Richard Peck
Suspect by Kristin Wolden Nitz  (St. Louis and Augusta)


Hattie Big Sky by Kirby Larson



Sky Jumpers by Peggy Eddleman


New Hampshire

Any Way You Slice It by Kristine Carlson Asselin



Screaming at the Ump by Audrey Vernick

New Mexico 

Dirt Bikes, Drones and Other Ways to Fly by Conrad Wesselhoeft (YA)

New York

All Four Stars by Tara Dairman
Eighth-Grade Super Zero by Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich
Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson


Pucker Up by Rachele Alpine  (Lakewood, a place near Cleveland)



The Caged Grave by Dianne Marenco Salerni (In 1867, a girl returns to her hometown and discovers her mother and aunt are buried in caged graves.)

The Eighth Day by Dianne Marenco Salerni (A boy discovers a secret day of the week hidden between Wednesday and Thursday.)

South Carolina

Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson


Palace Beautiful by Sarah Deford Williams (Salt Lake City)



Another Kind of Hurricane by Tamara Ellis Smith
Golden Girl by Mari Mancusi (A snowboarding prodigy tries to reclaim her standing as the “Golden Girl” at her elite winter sports academy. )



Abby Spencer Goes to Bollywood by Varsha Bajaj



Adios, Nirvana by Conrad Wesselhoeft (YA) Seattle



Finders Keepers by Shelley Tougas


Faithful by Janet Fox (YA) Set in and around Yellowstone



League of Extraordinary Writers

December 9, 2015

I’ll be leading a workshop at the Powell’s in Beaverton, Oregon at 2:00 PM on the relation of conflict and character to story.

League of Extraordinary Writers

League of Extraordinary Writers

A Book for Girls Who Love Soccer

December 10, 2014

Do you have a fifth, sixth or seventh grade girl in your life who likes soccer? Well, here’s a spot of shameless self-promotion.  I’m going to share a few reasons why you might consider getting  a copy of DEFENDING IRENE as a Christmas present for a girl who loves to play soccer.

Let me start with a short summary:

A thirteen-year-old American girl plays on a fiercely competitive boy’s soccer team during the year her family spends in Italy and experiences culture clashes both on and off the field.
A girl who plays soccer in Italy is regarded in much the same way as a girl who plays football  in America.  So Irene faces opposition from players, coaches, and even her Italian grandmother.
Here are some reviews:
 What keeps this tale from being just another soccer story with play-by-play action is the unique setting; the inventiveness of the chapter headings, which consist of Italian words, pronunciations, and definitions; and Irene’s determination.” —School Library Journal

“Soccer fans, especially girls, will appreciate the well-drawn action sequences and Irene’s feisty spirit.” —Horn Book Guide
The March, 2008 of Library Sparks included this novel in their round-up of soccer picks as did School Library Journal in their Extra Helping series.  It was also listed in Nancy Keane’s The Big Book of Teen Reading Lists in the Girls in Sports category for younger teens.

You typically won’t find this book at a bookstore–it was published a long time ago–so you’d probably have to order it  by clicking on one of this link to  Amazon.   But if you think DEFENDING IRENE might interest a young soccer-playing friend,  another very good option would be to check it out at your local library or talk to your children’s librarian about ordering a copy.

Paired Texts

December 10, 2014

My friend and fellow writer Stephanie Bearce wrote in her blog about how she’s a fan of pairing fiction and nonfiction in the classroom:

“It’s a great way to get students to try new genres of books.  Those who believe nonfiction is “so boring” can learn just how exciting facts can be.  And those children who don’t like “make believe stories” can learn how much research actually goes into writing a fiction book.  Plus it makes for great discussion, stimulates student inquiry, and covers a multitude of common core requirements.  It’s a win all around.”

She used the 2015 NSTA/CBC Best Science Tradebooks List.  I was pleased and happy when she paired my Saving the Griffin with Marc Aronson’s The Griffin and the Dinosaur.   In her blog, Stephanie highlights great nonfiction and gives suggestions for lesson plans that grew out of her time in the classroom.



Griffins and Dinosaurs

October 21, 2014

My librarian friend Sondy Eklund wrote a review for THE GRIFFIN AND THE DINOSAUR. Looks fascinating!

Doing the YA Cha-Cha

October 15, 2014

I’ve been neglecting this blog.  I think one of the reasons for this is that I’ve moved twice in the past two and a half years. But more than that, I’ve been busy doing the YA Cha-Cha. What’s that? Well, the astonishing Conrad Wesselhoeft, author of DIRT BIKES, DRONES AND OTHER WAYS TO FLY and ADIOS, NIRVANA  explains that in a song that he wrote for Erin Murphy’s Dog when we were live in Vermont.    It can feel like you’re going two steps forward and three steps back.