Wicked Wednesday – Favorite Children’s Book

Wicked Wednesday again, and we’re continuing our “What else do we read besides mystery fiction” series. Today we’re talking children’s books – maybe we don’t read them all the time, but we all must have a couple that stand out that we’d gift to the young people in our lives. So Wickeds, which book would you pick?

Liz: I’ve gotta go back to Dr. Seuss for this one – Oh, The Places You’ll Go! It’s so simple but inspirational and you can go back at any age for a pep talk! My favorite quote: “You have brains in your head you have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose.”

Jessie: I love books by Roald Dahl. The Twits is one that I love, as is Esio Trot.  I also adore books by Lloyd Alexander. His Prydain Chronicles books  are amongst my favorites. I also adored his West Mark trilogy. For budding mystery lovers of the right age, it’s hard to beat The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin.

Edith: I am going to chime in with a couple of middle-grade books by Elizabeth Atkinson.Island-high-res She had a tough time as a tween, and writes books to help other kids in that situation get through a difficult age. I, Emma Freake is a wonderful, engaging story about a girl who feels like a misfit – until she goes alone to meet her father’s quirky family for the first time, and they’re all tall redheads like her. Atkinson’s latest, The Island of Beyond, is her first story featuring a boy. I highly recommend all Elizabeth’s books – and she lives down the road from Stephen King in Maine (he jogs by her house in the mornings), so you know she’s absorbing super-creative energies in addition to her own.

Sherry: I’ve probably said this a million times here, but I love the Betsy-Tacy books by Maud Hart Lovelace. They are based on Maud’s life growing up in Mankato, Minnesota. They start when Betsy is five and first meets Tacy who moves in across the street. They continue through the last book Betsy’s Wedding. As Betsy grows up the reading level increases. They are wonderful, warm books. I still read them.

smile for auntieBarb: One of the wonderful things about being a grandparent is that you get to revisit your children’s favorite books, and sometimes even your own favorite books from childhood. Some of those are classics like The Cat in the Hat, and some are eccentric books that just tickled your family for whatever reason. One of my kids’ favorites, and now Viola’s, was Smile for Auntie, in which a babushka-wearing aunt tortures a baby with tickles and silly faces, trying to get him to smile, and he does–the moment she goes away. (This book was given to my son Robert when he was an infant, by his aunt, who thought it was hilarious.)

Julie: Too many to name! I love Robert McCloskey books–Make Way For Duckings was a favorite. I also loved Harriet the Spy, and (natch) Nancy Drew.

Readers: What are your favorite children’s books (and remember, twelve-year-olds are still children)?




Wicked Wednesday — Favorite Love Story or Couple in a Book

we-love-our-readersfebruary-giveaway-1We will have a “We Love Our Readers” giveaway every Wednesday in February. Leave a comment for a chance to win no later than midnight the Thursday after the post. This week one reader has a chance to win a book from Julie and Barb.

Love must be in the air: last week our guest Carol J. Perry talked about famous mystery couples in books. The topic had been on our minds, too. There are a lot of great love stories out there. Do you have a favorite story? Or a favorite couple in a book?

Liz: I really love Clare and Russ in Julia Spencer-Fleming’s Clare Fergusson and Russ Van Alstyne Mysteries. While the mysteries themselves are great, it’s that relationship that keeps me coming back to these books. She does a great job of setting up the tension between the two of them and carrying it from book to book, and all the problems they encounter on their journey makes them even harder to put down.


Annie and Richard a few years after they met.

Edith: Liz scooped me for a couple in books! Instead, here’s a story most won’t know. A woman in her sixties named Annie was leading a tour of Russia’s spiritual sites. A charmer her age was on the tour with his sister and cousins to recover from his divorce. Richard fell in love with Annie and she reciprocated. Tour over, he went home to Indiana, she to Massachusetts. After a few weeks of phone calls, he declared his intention to make a new life with her. These dear Quaker friends of mine were blissfully married for two and a half happy decades until Richard passed away – a year ago Monday.

Barb: Favorite couple? Duncan Kincaid and Gemma James from Deborah Crombie’s series. Also, Dennis Lehane’s Patrick Kenzie and Angela Gennaro. I also love mixed gender sleuths with platonic partnerships, Elizabeth George’s Chief Inspector Thomas Lynley and Detective Sergeant Barbara Havers, and on television, Elementary’s Sherlock Holmes and Joan Watson.

IMG_2836Sherry: I have to go with Joe and Betsy in the Betsy-Tacy books by Maud Hart Lovelace. I know I tend to bring this series up a lot — the favorite from my childhood, but they are amazing. Joe and Betsy meeting in high school but not everything goes smoothly for them. One of the things I love about the series is that it follows Betsy from the time she is five until her wedding. I read a biography a number of years ago about Clark Gable and Carole Lombard. They were a fascinating real life couple and I’ve never forgotten their tragic story.

Jessie: I think my literary favorite is found in the Lucia books by E.F.Benson. Lucia and her dear friend Georgie are such a fascinating pair to watch over the course of the series. They start out as friends, are occassionally on the outs and then end up married, in the most platonic marriage I’ve ever read. And yet, through it all, they are perfect for each other and a complete delight to spy upon through the pages of the books.

Julie: I love Amelia Peabody and Emerson in Elizabeth Peters wonderful series. I’ve read Crocodile on the Sandbank  several times first as a reader, now as a writer. Even though she got them together at the beginning of the series, she keeps the romance and the adventure fresh. What a wonderful writer.

Readers: Do you have a favorite love story? Or a favorite couple in a book?




By Sherry Harris

IMG_3578As I was trying to think of a topic to write about my eyes landed on two books in our family room The Riverside Shakespeare and British Literature Volume B — not that I think my writing is anywhere close  or influential as Shakespeare, Keats or Barrett-Browning. Both books are from my college days but I still pull them out to read. It made me reflect on other influences that have shaped my reading and writing life.




It started with fairy tales and went on through the Bobbsey Twins and Nancy Drew. I devoted a whole blog post to my favorite childhood author, Maud Hart Lovelace. When I was young I wanted to be Pippi Longstockings — strong, brave and adventurous — and maybe a dose of Pippi creeps into my protagonist Sarah Winston.


IMG_3585I was lucky to grow up in a houseful of readers and books. Our bookshelves were full of everything from the classics to current literature. Also I had wonderful teachers like my third grade teacher, Mrs. Kibby, who noticed I was falling behind in my reading skills and worked with me and my family. I think she instilled my deep love of reading. My senior year of high school I was editor-in-chief of my high school yearbook and wrote a lot of the copy. Mr. Stedwell, the young journalism teacher, was patient and managed us, but he didn’t micro-manage us. I probably learned more through that experience than almost any other in high school.

IMG_3671In college I took as many lit classes as I could — thirty hours — a lot considering the college I attended didn’t have a literature major. But I loved every minute of them. A whole class on Mark Twain — the first time I read Tom Sawyer was when we were visiting family friends in Hannibal, Missouri. We visited the fence, island, and cave Twain wrote about. I did an independent study on women authors — Willa Cather, Flannery O’Connor, Edith Wharton and so many more. And of course my class on Shakespeare — one of my proudest college moments was getting an A on my paper about Queen Gertrude.

My outside reading consisted of Phyllis Whitney, Victoria Holt, and Mary Stewart among others. Then I discovered Sue Grafton, Janet Evanovich, and Sara Paretsky. I’ve been lucky enough to meet all three of them. I know reading them has influenced my writing and reaffirmed my love for mysteries.

Readers: who are your writing and reading influences?

On Writing or Thank You Maud Hart Lovelace

By Sherry Harris writing on a windy day

IMG_2836As a published author I’ve been asked more often why I write, so I’ve thought about it a lot. I can draw a direct line from my favorite childhood series, The Betsy-Tacy books by Maud Hart Lovelace, to my desire to write.

First a bit about the books — the series is based on Maud Hart Lovelace’s life growing up in Mankato, Minnesota which she calls Deep Valley in the books. When we first meet Betsy she is five and the reading level is suitable for that age group. But as Betsy ages so does the age level of the books. We follow Betsy from the first book, Betsy-Tacy, to the last in the series, Betsy’s Wedding.

IMG_2838Betsy wanted to be a writer from the time she was a little girl until she became one as an adult. And since I wanted to be Betsy, I wanted to be a writer too. The books start in the late 1800’s and follow through to the Great War.  We go with Betsy on her first ride in a horseless carriage, feel her first heartbreak, sneak off with her to the store to buy dime novels. When her mother finds the dime novels, Betsy gets a library card and is allowed to go alone. The characters are wonderfully drawn but face issues that are relatable today.

IMG_2839I’ve read these books over and over. Even as an adult, I still love to read them. Betsy has an older sister, Julia and I have one, Janet. Both are great piano players. My sister and I used to argue about who was Betsy and who was Julia. (Obviously, I’m Betsy!) Betsy’s full name is Elizabeth Warrington Ray. In fifth grade I decided if I ever had a daughter I’d name her Elizabeth Rae. And yes, my daughter is named Elizabeth Rae. Betsy’s family supports her writing, as does mine.

IMG_2843The Unofficial Book Reviewer says this about Betsy: Generations of literary-minded girls have found a soul mate in Betsy Ray, who blushes too easily, wobbles on ice skates, and nearly flunks algebra. That line could have been written about me.

The books were mentioned in the movie You’ve Got Mail. Anna Quindlen mentions the series in one of her books. I was surprised by the number of authors who related to the books I loved so much. You can read their thoughts at the Betsy-Tacy Society.

So thank you Maud Hart Lovelace for writing such wonderful books and for inspiring me.

Readers: Who inspired you when you were young?