Category Archives: Blog Post

Misc photos & recent reading

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With Lindy Lorenz and Katie Sullivan at the Judson University Literacy in Motion conference. Lindy and Katie gave a presentation on how to use my books in the classroom. It was an AWESOME session–I was so impressed by all the work they do to connect their students to books! Made me wish I was their student… 😉

Lunch yesterday with a very special visitor:

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Salva Dut, back from South Sudan for a visit! Salva is the subject of my book A LONG WALK TO WATER. It was wonderful to catch up with him.

Best fan photo ever?

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This is Smith, age two, who loves the book BEE-BIM BOP! so much that he wouldn’t go to daycare without it! So his mom snapped this pic of him hugging the book while waiting for the subway. (Wow, do I love this photo….)

Recent reading: After a bit of a dry spell (a few books in a row that were kind of meh), I’m on a hot streak now.

–EXTRAORDINARY, by Nancy Werlin. YA fantasy, a modern fairy tale. I loved IMPOSSIBLE, by the same author. To my delight, EXTRAORDINARY is even better.

–PERFECT ONCE REMOVED, by Philip Hoose. Adult memoir. The author was a nine-year-old boy when his cousin Don Larsen pitched the only perfect game in World Series history. A must-read for fans of memoirs and/or baseball.

Currently reading ARISTOTLE AND DANTE DISCOVER THE SECRETS OF THE UNIVERSE, by Benjamin Alire Saenz. YA fiction, contemporary realism. A ‘sigh’ read–which means that I’m sighing every few pages over the pure beauty of the writing and the compassion of the story. Would that many more YA books were this well written….


Off-topic but irresistible

I have two grand-dogs. They belong to my son and daughter-in-law, and several days a week, they come to my house during the day to hang out. Their names are Malcolm and Matilda; they’re half-sibling golden doodles (from http://lakeviewdoodles.com/ ).

Matilda is what’s known as a guardian dog; she returns to the breeder when it’s time to have puppies. She just had her first litter–three puppies! I guess they’re my great-grandpuppies?

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Tilda, counting to make sure everyone’s there. (They’re hers, even if they don’t look like it–the father is a dark red poodle.)

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The biggest puppy, a boy.

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Second biggest, another boy, with his other great-grandma.

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The teeny-tiny girl–my favorite, so she gets another photo:

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Good thing all three of them are already spoken for, or I would have stashed one in my bag….


Judson University: Literacy in Motion conference

Literacy in Motion, literally: Today’s sessions opened with a hiphop routine, complete with rapper!

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(This is not live blogging. This is very slightly tape-delayed blogging.)

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Dr. Steven Layne, conference director, who invited me to speak here.

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Author/illustrator Chris Soentpiet presenting about his many wonderful books.

There’s a great vibe at this conference–everyone seems to be thoroughly engaged and also having fun. Later today, one lucky attendee will win this prize:

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A reading corner for classroom or library: rocking chair and bookshelf, complete with lamp, pillow, cozy throw–and *books*, too cool! (Wonder if I’m eligible for the drawing!?) 😉

I’m up next. Time to start doing a little deep breathing.


My cousin, chef & author

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My cousin Ed Lee has a new book out! (And yes, he’s really truly my first cousin: His mom (hi Auntie Soon Ja!) and my dad are sibs. I can’t wait to get my hands on a copy: food with Southern and Korean roots!? YUM!

Ed’s restaurant, 610magnolia.com/ is in Louisville, Kentucky. These days he’s on a book tour, which last night took him to North Carolina. My lucky parents, brother, and nephew got to eat dishes from Ed’s book, and visit with the author himself!

(Ten years ago, Ed was working in New York at a place called Clay. I ate there with pals Julia Durango and Andrea Beaty. Ed’s food was already really good, but since moving to Kentucky, he’s been truly inspired by the agriculture of the region. It’s driving me crazy that I haven’t gotten to eat his food since then.)

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Chef Ed Lee with his aunt & uncle, aka my parents, who report that the food was terrific. Mom’s favorite dish: the fried chicken.

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Chef Lee with my nephew Craig, newly minted UPenn grad. If Craig is my nephew, and Ed is my cousin, that makes them…um, first cousins once removed. I think.

Thanks to Fred–Craig’s dad, Ed’s cousin, and my brother–for the photos.

And finally, more congrats to Ed and his wife Dianne on the birth of their first child, Arden Rose (*my* first cousin once removed). Wow, what a busy time for the Lees–new book, new baby–hang in there and get some sleep!


Not the first time, and hopefully not the last?

For the past two years or so, I’ve been humbled and honored by the many schools that have chosen to read A LONG WALK TO WATER.

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The students’ response to the story of Salva Dut, one of the so-called ‘Lost Boys’ of Sudan, has exceeded all my expectations. I’d hoped young readers would learn a tiny bit about a little-known part of the world. They’ve gone far beyond that: They’ve come to admire Salva, and to turn inspiration into action.

Here’s just one of many examples–a note I received from librarian Donn Riggi, Alden Middle School in western New York:

“I have an update on last year’s A Long Walk to Water project!

As reported last year, Alden Middle School did a school-wide read of A Long Walk to Water, culminating with a visit from Linda Sue Park in December. Our school decided to devote all fund-raising last year to Water for Sudan, in the hopes of helping to build a well. We were successful in raising over $5000 and sent a check to them at the end of the school year. We just received a letter and photos of the well we helped to build in South Sudan. It is located in the village of Mathel Teng, in Tonj East County. We are thrilled to have been successful in helping this village have access to clean water.

And to think it all started with reading a special book!”

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Villagers with their new well, dedicated in honor of Alden Middle School.

Several dozen of the wells installed by Salva’s organization, Water For South Sudan, were made possible through funds raised by schools whose students read A LONG WALK TO WATER. Young readers inspired to save lives: Does it get any better than that!?


Elkins Park: a special school visit

Last week I was in the Philadelphia area, for a wonderful visit to Elkins Park School. Here’s what the sixth grade does each year:

–selects and reads a book, beginning in January. In this case, A SINGLE SHARD.
–writes song lyrics based on scenes in the book, with help from the Living Bookshelf team of Connie Koppe and Bunny Feingold.
–works with a composer (Chuck Holdeman) to set the lyrics to music.
–designs and paints appropriate backdrops, with the help of art teacher Julie Baines.
–designs and produces clever invitations. Those for this year’s event were modeled on a potter’s wheel, with a wedge cut out of it; you spun the wheel to see the relevant info underneath!
–designs and produces programs…which were shaped like a celadon vase 🙂

On the day of my visit, I gave an all-grade presentation and then led two writing workshops. After that, I got to sit back, relax, and enjoy the performance with the students, teachers, parents, and other guests: Professional singers came to the school and sang the eight songs composed by the students!

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With Roberta Jacoby (left) and Julie Baines.

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With some of the students who painted the backdrops.

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The performance!

Unique. Special. FUN. Many thanks to Roberta Jacoby of Elkins Park, and everyone else who contributed to this amazing day.


Last pics from Peru

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Presenting at Colegio Roosevelt. (photo credit: Tina Raventos)

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Author Julia Durango has a session with the pre-K students.

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Heading out on the trail. My horse was Rayo, with Julia riding Hurricane. Tour by www.cuscoforyou.com; our guide Adriana was terrific.

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We rode a winding mountain trail to the dramatic salt pools, where salt has been harvested by families since pre-Inca times.

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With Bryan and Gabriel, our hosts at the Green House B&B. And Paco, on Gabriel’s lap, and Laika.

Back in Lima, day of departure:

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Our last meal at Las Tejas in Miraflores included famous Peruvian dishes like choclo, giant corn…

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…and anticuchos, beef heart on skewers. One of my favorite dishes on the trip.

One final photo from Machu Picchu (which is now my laptop’s background):

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(with thanks to the anonymous young man from Korea with whom we took turns exchanging cameras and snapping pics. Hurrah for tourism!)


Peru, Part II

The Sacred Valley and Machu Picchu, May 15-19

We took a flight from Lima to Cusco, then a taxi to Huaran, a tiny hamlet in the Sacred Valley. Our accommodations were at the Green House, the best B&B I have ever stayed in. http://www.thegreenhouseperu.com Hosts Bryan (from Liverpool) and Gabriel (Buenos Aires) are funny, friendly, and gracious. Just one of many examples of their helpfulness: For our day trip to Machu Picchu, we had to catch a very early train. No time for breakfast. Bryan was up to see us off–with a bag containing a picnic breakfast of sandwiches, fruit, and cookies for us to eat on the train!

Julia and I are both dog lovers, so we were delighted by the three house dogs Paco (aka Puppy), Yana, and Laika. Laika takes special responsibility for the guests, cuddling whenever invited to, and taking them for a lovely walk to a nearby waterfall.

You can opt to have dinner at the Green House, cooked by Gabriel, and we did this three out of the four nights. Our menus:

Wednesday:
–sweet potato soup
–Green House beef stew over mashed potatoes
–apple crumble with ice cream

Thursday
–individual broccoli quiches
–Green House spinach cannelloni
–chilled lemon mousse

Saturday
–guacamole with tequenos (crisp rolled pastries stuffed with cheese)
–trout over a potato mille-feuille topped with salad
–chocolate brownie and ice cream

Nothing too fancy–home food instead of restaurant food–and every dish was delicious.

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The stunning view from our room at the Green House. Only four rooms total. The village of Huaran consists of a school and three tiny shops. (If you want shopping and night life, this is *definitely* not the place for you.)

Regular visitors to this blog know that I don’t usually spend this much time describing my accommodations. But the Green House is special. I don’t expect I’ll ever stay in a more peaceful and pleasant place anywhere in the world.

Laika leads the way…

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…past the rainbow…

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…to the waterfall…

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Julia gets into the Green House groove.

Friday, May 17: Machu Picchu

Okay, so everyone takes millions of photos at Machu Picchu–you can’t help it. But even the best photos cannot convey the essence of the place. Those below are just to prove that We Were There.

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Except for a few brief breaks in the cloud cover, it rained almost the entire time we were in Machu Picchu. Didn’t matter. In the morning there were a couple thousand other people there. Didn’t matter. The high altitude and hundreds of stairs had me puffing so hard I almost saw stars. None of it mattered: Machu Picchu is truly wondrous in a way that’s impossible to put into words, even for someone like me who likes to put almost everything into words. We stayed until late in the afternoon, when the place emptied out almost completely, and it was even more magical then.

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There’s still more to our trip (including a really fun horseback ride and a perfect final meal in Lima), but enough for now. I’ve been home for twenty-four hours and am still smiling.


More from Peru, Part I

Home after a wonderful trip. Extra special thanks to author Julia Durango, who traveled with me: Julia speaks fluent Spanish, and if it hadn’t been for her, I’d *still* be in the wrong taxi…. Many of the photos below were taken by her (JD).

May 11-14, in Lima:

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At Huanca Pucllana archeological site. (JD)

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In the Pueblo Libre neighborhood at the Museo Larco: saying hello to the resident Peruvian hairless dog amid lush display of bougainvillea. (JD)

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Whenever I’m traveling abroad and staying in hotels, I always have at least one impassioned “wish I had a kitchen!” moment. This was it for me in Peru: The local supermarket sold beautiful small scallops on the half shell with the roe attached. (JD)

At Colegio Roosevelt:

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With John Kurtenbach and Julia. (I think Tina took this photo?–Thanks, Tina!)

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With library assistant Tina Raventos and elementary librarian Michelle Roberts. And Knuffle Bunny.

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With the Simpsons. (Papier mache heads display in the elementary library. Thanks again to Tina for taking the photo.)

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With the students from the Korean club, who helped organize my evening presentation to the school’s Korean community. Two of the students did simultaneous translation of my remarks–not an easy job! (JD)

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Delicious stir-fry of flounder and veg at Chez Wong, a quirky little restaurant in Lima. No menu: First course is flounder ceviche, with or without octopus (we had it with), followed by the flounder stir-fry, and then another flounder stir-fry with homemade black-bean sauce. Very simple food and very delicious.

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At Amaz restaurant, specializing in dishes made with ingredients from the Amazon region, several entrees were wrapped and steamed in bijao leaves. This is my hearts of palm and chicken, which was interesting and tasty; Julia’s fish dish was even better.

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The Dunkin Donuts in Lima airport: a donut called Delirium.

Our wonderful stay in Lima was due to the efforts of John Kurtenbach, Lisa Gore, Michelle Roberts, Tina Raventos, and all the library staff at Colegio Roosevelt. Thanks also to the teachers who used our books with their students, and most of all, to the TERRIFIC STUDENTS who read our books and were such enthusiastic audiences!

Next entry: Part II, the Sacred Valley and Machu Picchu


Peru!

On Tuesday I finished a two-day visit at Colegio Roosevelt, the American international school in Lima. Librarian John Kurtenbach arranged a great schedule for myself and author Julia Durango, who’s traveling with me. Julia saw the pre-K/K classes and did a joint presentation with me to grades 1-2. I saw grades 3-8. Attentive and enthusiastic audiences. A special shout-out to the Grade 6 group (which included a couple classes of 7th graders), all of whom read A LONG WALK TO WATER–they were my final presentation and a terrific finish to my time at the school.

Julia and I had arrived on Friday evening, so we’d had the weekend to explore Lima before starting work on Monday. On Saturday, John took us to two museums, including the beautiful Museo Larco, and introduced us to Pisco, the Peruvian national beverage. Sunday, we shopped the Indian markets and had dinner at Huanca Pucllana, a restaurant that overlooks an archaeological site that’s dramatically lit at night.

I’m awaiting photos from the school; in the meantime, a few photos from our first days:

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Greeting visitors at the Museo Larco: a Peruvian Hairless dog, a native breed. Never seen anything like it!

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The ruins at Huanca Pucllana in Lima.

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At the Huanca Pucllana restaurant, assorted appetizers. In the foreground, chicharrons de cuy. Cuy is one of Peru’s most famous dishes. (Look it up…)

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In the library at Colegio Roosevelt, pointing to the photo of previous visiting author Laurie Halse Anderson.

On the way from the Cusco airport to the Sacred Valley:

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Llama llama woolly mama!

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Julia and baby llamas.

It’s difficult to post photos from here, so I’ll probably wait until I get home to post more. And there *will* be more…. This is truly an amazing place.