Used Books and a Touch of the Divine

Recently while visiting another town to do some storytelling work, I found myself with a few hours to kill in between performances. I decided to pass the time by ambling up and down the streets, visiting the local farmer’s market, and peeking in the unique shops. Eventually I found myself being drawn into an old house with a sign out front that said “Moving Sale – All Books 30% Off.” I stepped inside the house and saw that every room of the first floor was covered floor to ceiling with a wide array of used books. The proprietor of the shop, an older lady with curly white hair and large glasses, asked me if I was looking for anything in particular, and when I told her “folktales,” she led me to the appropriate corner.

I perused the books and found about six which I decided would make good additions to my collection. When I went to check out, the lady said, “All the books are 30% off, but if you get ten books, I can give you 40% off.” I decided that adding four more books couldn’t hurt, especially since the lady was trying to get rid of everything after the death of her husband. I went back to work looking for more, and she began to help me. As I told her my interests, she continuously pulled out one interesting title after another.

“Oh, this one was one of my daughter’s favorites when she was little. . .” The paperback cover had a clothed donkey standing on two legs. I have a special love for donkeys! That book got added to my pile.

“Oh, and you have one Dr. Seuss book in your pile, but have you ever heard of ‘The Sneetches?’ That’s one of Seuss’ less well-known books, but it’s my favorite.” Then, like a child who can’t wait to share a good secret, she flipped through the pages and began to read the text to me in the sweetest of voices. And she was right — it was good stuff. Another addition to the pile.

Well, it went on like this for awhile – with her finding great selections for me as I too continued to peruse the shelves. In no time, an hour or more had easily passed, and I was forced to make my final selections and move on to set up my show. In the end, I think I must have ended up with closer to fifteen books all for a price of less than $35.

“Thank you so much,” said the lady as she rang up the sale. “You’re my first sale of the day!” (It was already approaching 6:00pm.)

As I shuffled out the door with my brown paper bag filled with treasures, my heart felt full in a way it never feels after buying a book on Amazon or at the local Books-A-Million. Don’t get me wrong – I appreciate the ease with which I can order a book with a few simple key strokes whenever I need it. However, I can’t help but feel sad when I think of what we have lost.

Gone are the days when the person on the other side of the counter could spend hours helping you find the books you didn’t even know you were looking for. Gone are the days of the personal touch – the mother in her coming out to tell me what her children loved about the book. The teacher in her coming out to tell me how she’d read it to her students. And those are just the things that sold me on half of my purchases – the fact that those very books had meant something special to someone else.

In a world that seems to be becoming increasingly “functional” in its approach to every thing, receiving a personal touch these days is akin to a touch of the divine.


5 Helpful Books for Children’s Writers

Do you want to write for children? Develop your own library of how-to books for both instruction and encouragement. Here’s a list of five titles I like to recommend.

1. Children’s Writer’s Word Book by Alijander Mogilner and Tayopa Mogilner. Arranged like a dictionary by grade level, this one can help when just the right word is eluding you or when you wonder if children will understand a word you want to use. Especially helpful if you write for educational magazines or publishers.

2. You CAN Write Children’s Books by Tracey Dils. Covers picture books, easy readers, chapter books, nonfiction, middle grade, and young adult, plus publishing how-to. Get the workbook too.

3. The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Publishing Children’s Books by Harold Underdown. Focuses on  understanding the publishing world and process plus approaching your writing as a business. Get the third edition. Underdown has a wonderful website for children’s writers too, the Purple Crayon.

4. Writing Picture Books by Ann Whitford Paul. You’ll develop step-by-step understanding of the picture book genre and work on your own manuscripts with this book as your guide.

5. Writing It Right! by Sandy Asher. Teaches you how to revise your manuscripts by taking you through the real revisions of published works.

Do you have other favorite writing resource books? Add them to my list by leaving a comment!


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© 2012, Diane Stortz




Ice cream portion size: Are you a “super scooper?”

Ice cream is a perfect summertime treat, isn’t it? Sweet, creamy and oh- so-yummy! And it’s fun, because kids can scoop it out of the container themselves.

But we had a problem with ice cream at our house: it was disappearing almost as fast as I bought it. That’s because when it came to ice cream, my teenage boys were “super scoopers.”

Let’s say the ice cream had 170 calories and 10 grams of fat per serving. The heaping mound in one of their bowls was actually about four servings. So … that super-sized bowl of ice cream contained 680 calories and 40 grams of fat. Whoa!

Next time you have ice cream at your house, notice the serving sizes. Is there a “super scooper” in your family, too?

A normal serving size for ice cream is about a half cup or 4 ounces. To help your children visualize the amount, you can fill a ½ cup measure with ice cream and plop it into a dessert bowl. It looks about the size of a tennis ball. To make a bigger treat full of antioxidants, top your ice cream with fresh fruit and garnish with a pretzel or two.

Happy scooping!

Beth Bence Reinke,MS, RD


Raising Spiritually Strong Toddlers

There are scads of articles on children’s ministry, but most of them deal with preschool or school-aged children. Are toddlers too young to learn about God? No, no, no!

Most toddlers are eager learners. The whole world is their classroom and they’re excited to be in it. Everything is new and fresh. How can you capture this wonder and harness it for God? Can toddlers have a vital faith? I believe they can. Here are five of God’s titles your little one will easily understand.

  1. God the Creator. At every turn, you have opportunities to remind your toddler who made the world.When they bend to sniff a flower, when they see a bug, or the sky blazes with sunset. When birds chirp or dogs bark or the sun shines in their eyes, you can say, “Who made the _______?” They’ll have fun replying, “God did!” You can even follow up with the question, “Why?” and they can answer, “Because He loves me.”
  2. God the Healer. Toddlers regularly fall or bump and get boo-boos. That’s the perfect time to teach them about God’s healing power. Sure, Mommy’s kisses are good, too, but only God can really heal. Make sure they know that His power trumps Mommy’s! Take a moment after applying a Band-Aid to say a quick prayer with your child asking God to please heal their hurt. When you see the injury looking better, remember to point it out to your little one by saying something like, “Look! God’s healing your boo-boo!”
  3. God the Provider. Children often want things they can’t have immediately. That’s especially hard for a toddler since they don’t understand the concept of time yet. When you have to say “not now,” let them ask God for what they want. Tell your child God loves them and will give them only what’s best for them.  When the time comes that you can say yes to their request, help them remember to say thank you to God.
  4. God the Family Man. Children, even very young ones, understand families. Make God and His Son, Jesus part of your family. Set a place at the table for them. When a child is sad, talk to them about how God is like a nice daddy who holds them and lets them cry when they need to. Jesus is like a big brother, always there for them, loving them and protecting them.
  5. God the Author. Teach your child that the Bible is God’s Word. It is more special than any other book, so we must treat it with extra care. Let children hold your Bible or buy them their own toddler Bible. Praise them for how gentle they are with it. Open it up and let them “love” the pages by rubbing their hands over them. Tell them God’s Word is always right and true. We want to do what it says because that makes God happy…and it’s the best way for us to be happy, too!

You can reinforce these ideas with songs that are easy for toddlers to learn. The first song my children could sing along with was “Jesus Loves the Little Ones Like Me, Me, Me!” You can hear it at: Other easy songs are:

  • Jesus Loves Me
  • This Little Light of Mine
  • O Be Careful
  • Awesome God

You can find the lyrics and hear the tunes for these songs and more at

There are also lots of great books to help grow your toddler’s faith, some of them written by authors on this blog! Just click on the “authors” tab and see the wonderful books that are represented!

It’s never too early to teach your children about God. Start today!

How have you started teaching your little ones about God? 

Grieving the loss of a furry family member

June 18, 2012 was a very sad day for me and my family.  We had to make a hard decision regarding our dogs, Carley & Cassie.  They were 15 years old and pretty ill.  My husband and I knew that it was time to say our goodbyes to our sweet, loving, and precious doggies.  I truly believe my dogs knew in their heart that it was their time to go and be at rest.  They were very quiet and sleepy all day, so we all got on the bed and cuddled up together and hugged and loved on the girls, knowing that this would be our last time to do this.  Needless to say, there were a lot of tears shed on this very sad day.

I am proud of our son, Caleb for handling this loss as well as he has for a 6 year old.  He just had a birthday on July 3rd!  For my husband and me…it has been a lot harder because we’ve loved Carley & Cassie for 15 years. Our puppies were our babies long before Caleb came into the picture.  We used to say that our dogs were little people with fur.

I know that things will get better with time, and one day we will be able to share without crying, all the fun and wonderful times we had with our furry family members.  But for right now, we are trying really hard to deal with the pain as best we can.  We still cry a lot because it’s very lonely around the house, and very quiet.  It feels very strange at times.  So…

In the meantime, I was looking through my Bible for verses that might help us with our grief. The Bible does not speak specifically of the destiny of animals, but there is a promise in the letter to the Ephesians which surely must include them. Ephesians 1:10: “Everything that exists in heaven or earth shall find its perfection and fulfillment in Christ.”

Isaiah 41:10 (One of my favorite verses) – So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

This verse is here to remind us as Christians, that God is to be the source of our strength, and only He can fully support us. It also reminds me as a pet owner that there is nothing to fear, not even death, and that we will get through this intense feeling of loss. Prayer is a great way to work through the sharp sadness of the first few days or weeks without your beloved companion (s).

Luke 12:6Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God.

This verse directly speaks about God’s love for His creation, even the small and inexpensive birds sold for pennies in the ancient markets. God cares about the suffering and life of every animal in his creation, and also loves the pet’s owner. It’s comforting to know that God remembers each moment of a pet’s life, and delights in the beauty of each part of his created world, no matter how small. This is one of the most comforting Bible verses when a pet dies.

Thank you for stopping by today.  I hope and pray that I was able to help someone else who is grieving the loss of a dear pet (s).

God bless you,

Melissa ~

Author of – I Love You to the Moon