Wednesday, December 25, 2019


Every year at holiday time I get out our collection of creches, or nativity scenes, that we have accumulated over the years.  They come from all over the world and often have memories of travels associated with them. This year we have a new nativity to add to our collection, charming tiny ceramic figures made by Thun, in Borzano, Italy. It was brought to us by a friend from Italy and is a reminder of two special trips we made to Italy in the past year. 
I am looking forward to celebrating the holidays with family and friends. With very best wishes to you for a

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

40th FOCAL AWARD LUNCHEON, honoring the book Chef Roy Choi and the Street Food Remix

Illustrator Man One, and authors Jacqueline Briggs Martin and June Jo Lee of Chef Roy Choi and the Street Food Remix, winner of the 2019 FOCAL Award
Saturday, December 14th was the 40th FOCAL award luncheon, a gala event which, each year, honors a children’s book celebrating California. FOCAL (Friends of Children and Literature) is the support group of the Los Angeles Public Library Children’s Book Department. I enjoy attending every year and this was no exception.
Caroline Gill, President of FOCAL
The 2019 FOCAL award went to the wonderful picture book Chef Roy Choi and the Street Food Remix, written by Jacqueline Briggs Martin and June Jo Lee and illustrated by Man One. Both authors and the illustrator came to the luncheon and told how they worked together to create the book in an entertaining and informative presentation. It was great to see how they had captured the look and feel of LA’s diverse communities and the life and personality of Chef Roy Choi.
Art teacher Ray Moszkowics and his students from Noble Middle School
The luncheon was held at the Border Grill in downtown Los Angeles, a restaurant conveniently located just one block from the Central Library. Tables were decorated with creative centerpieces made the students of art teacher Ray Moszkowicz at Nobel Middle School. They depicted tiny replicas of Roy Choi’s famous food trucks amid the towering skyscrapers of Los Angeles.
Essay winner Elizabeth Bijleveld and one of the centerpieces
Also on display were the puppets made by Jesse Kingsley and Moira Lael Macdonald. This year there were four puppets–one each for the authors and illustrator, and another for the library collection. During the beginning of the luncheon a review of all the previous FOCAL winners and accompanying puppets played on a screen behind the podium.
Jesse Kingsley, creator of the Chef Roy Choi puppets
Highlights of the program included the welcome by FOCAL President Caroline Gill, the election of new officers, recognition of three founding members of FOCAL, Sandy Schuckett, Lara Clardy and Renny Day, who are still actively involved in the FOCAL programs, a delicious lunch, the reading of the essays by contest winners Antonio Chow, Elizabeth M.C. Bijleveld and Ariana Perez, the introduction of the award winning authors and illustrator by Meredith McGowan, the FOCAL Award Committee chair, the puppet presentation, and of course the presentations by Jacqueline Briggs Martin, June Jo Lee and Man One.
Student essay winners Ariana Perez, grade 8, Elizabeth Bijleveld, grade 5, and Antonio Chow, grade 4
Unfortunately, the restaurant was unusually busy and noisy, which often made it difficult to hear, especially when the contest winners were reading their essays. The essays will be published in the next issue of FOCAL Points, providing another chance to appreciate the excellent work done by the students and their teachers.
June Jo Lee
In order to be awarded the FOCAL book award, the book must be of the highest literary and artistic quality, and must have California content. I know how hard it is to choose a winner–I served on the committee for four years. This year’s choice is excellent and a fitting book to celebrate FOCAL’s 40th anniversary.
Founding FOCAL members Renny Day, Lara Clardy and Sandy Schuckett

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

THE GOLDEN GATE BRIDGE: Where Do Book Ideas Come From?

I never know where the idea for my next book is going to come from. In this case, it was a chance encounter as I browsed a volume of my encyclopedia.

I saw the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco for the first time more than fifty years ago, when I helped my parents move from their home in Minneapolis to Marin County in Northern California. The bridge's enormous orange towers and soaring cables suspended over the deep water of the channel below made a big impression on me–it was both a thing of beauty and a triumph of engineering. My fascination with the bridge grew as I made regular visits to my parents.
In 1985, nearly twenty-five years after my first acquaintance with the bridge I was at home in Los Angeles working on a new book. While I was looking up a fact for that book in the “G” volume of the encyclopedia, I happened upon an article about the Golden Gate Bridge. I started reading and discovered that the construction of the bridge had been completed in 1937. I realized that in two years the bridge would be turning fifty, and most likely there would be a big celebration. It was the perfect time to write a book about the bridge. So I did. That book, THE GOLDEN GATE BRIDGE, was published by Franklin Watts in 1986, just in time to go into school and public libraries so kids could learn about the famous bridge that connects San Francisco to Marin County and northern California.The book is now long out of print, but may be in some libraries.

The Golden Gate Bridge celebrated another milestone, its 75th birthday, in 2012. You can read about it at my travel blog, The Intrepid Tourist. In just eighteen more years, the bridge will be 100!

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

TRAPPED IN TAR: Fossils from the Ice Age–the Perfect Holiday Gift for Your Young Fossil Lover

Ice Age fossils of mammoths, sabertooth cats, dire wolves and more, discovered in the La Brea Tar Pits in Los Angeles and displayed in the George C. Page Museum of La Brea Discoveries. TRAPPED IN TAR: Fossils from the Ice Age tells the story behind the fossils and about life in the Ice Age when these animals were alive and examines the work of the paleontologists who excavate and study them. During the Ice Age, over 400 different kinds of animals lived on the grassy plain that is now Los Angeles. Then, as now, pools of tar sometimes seeped to the surface of the earth. Unwary animals stepped into the sticky tar and were trapped. There they died. Gradually their bones sank to the bottom of the tar seep. In time, the tar penetrated the bones and preserved them. This book tells the story of the Rancho La Brea fossils and examines the work of the paleontologists who excavate and study them at the George C. Page Museum in Los Angeles, California.

TRAPPED IN TAR is available at Amazon for $9.95 (paperback.) It is the perfect introduction to a trip to the La Brea Tar Pits or as a vicarious visit from afar. It is also available as an e-book.