Virus Vocabulary Adds To Our Shared Experiences by Marilyn Ostermiller.

“Social” and “distancing” weren’t usually found in the same sentence before the Covid-19 pandemic struck. Now “social distancing” is “short hand” for leaving plenty of space between you and everyone else.


Quaranteen (note the spelling) is also part of the virus vocabulary. It refers to the socializing restrictions that have hit teens especially hard, especially high school seniors who are missing proms, varsity sports, and graduation ceremonies.

Vernacular English are the words we use to describe common experiences. Say “9/11”, and everyone will know you’re talking about the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks that killed nearly 3,000 people and destroyed the World Trade Center.

Most words coined to describe what’s happening in our society aren’t somber, but they can confuse. And, sometimes the meaning changes with the times.

For example, these days moonshot is a technical term to describe an ambitious or groundbreaking project. Its origin was the challenge President Kennedy issued in September 1962 to America’s scientific community: Get a man on the moon within the decade. That challenge was accomplished July, 1969 when Neil Armstrong took a “giant leap for mankind.”

Meltdown is another term with a varied history. It was used as early as 1922, according to, as a process for melting metal. In 1956, it was updated to describe the accidental  melting of the core of a nuclear reactor. Since about 1979, it’s come to describe lack of self-control. Go figure.

The Roaring Twenties gave birth to lots of colorful expressions. Someone extraordinary in those days was the “Bee’s Knees” or the “Cat’s Pajamas.”

The thing with slang is that words come in and out of fashion and it’s difficult to keep current. One of the books that provides an overview is “A Very Modern Dictionary: 400 new words, phrases acronyms and slang to keep your culture game on fleek,” by Tobias Anthony, published in 2017.

What are some of your favorite additions to our collective vernacular? We’d love to hear from you.

Marilyn OstermillerMarilyn Ostermiller is a long-time journalist who enjoys writing about children’s literature, cooking and the English language.


Teresa Robeson Presents: Two Bicycles In Beijing + a Give-away.

Today I am so excited to feature my author friend TERESA ROBESON who will tell us something about her new PB Two Bicycles In Beijing (Albert Whitman & Company 2020). Here’s Teresa:

bicycles in beijing cover


There are times when a happy confluence of somewhat random thoughts and ideas in my brain end up creating something wonderful. Two Bicycles In Beijing was the end result of one of those circumstances.

My father took my family on a trip to China back in 2013. It was something my parents had wanted to do for a while since the last time we went was in 1987 before I was married with kids of my own. They were eager to visit our ancestral homeland again with our expanded family to share our heritage with my kids who are half-Chinese, and my white American husband who had never been.

Sadly, my mom passed away before we could take this trip, but we still had a memorable time. We toured four cities—Shanghai, Beijing, Xi’an, and Hong Kong. Each of those places had their own unique character and attractions. Perhaps it was because we spent the most time in Beijing, and because it’s the capital of modern China, but my mind kept going back to our time there after our vacation. So that is the first random reoccurring thought.

Great Wall

Another involves one of my favorite photos that I took in Beijing. It features a row of bicycles parked outside of a building, and flanked by colorful flowers and lanterns. I love it so much, I used it online as a header on social media for a while. 


At some point, I had also come across an article about all the bicycles that are in China, in particular Beijing. It really stuck with me as I think about environmental issues a lot with my husband being a climatologist who studies pollution and climate change.

With all these things flitting through my mind, it was only natural that a story involving bikes, and set in Beijing, would suggest itself. I wanted it to be a friendship story because that is a common theme in books, especially kids’ books, and I still, at the age of 55, wrestle with the concept of friendship. I think I had imagined the main characters to be human with bikes being involved, but somewhere along the way, I decided that it would be fun to have bikes take the center stage since they are so important in China.

With China being such a huge country, going from one city to another requires transportation with mechanical power. But within cities and towns, bicycles are the perfect way to travel: they don’t cost much, and you don’t need to rely on someone else’s schedule, like you would with buses or trains. Yet, despite their simple design and inexpensiveness, bikes can help you traverse distances faster and with less effort than on foot. With the addition of a basket or an attached seat, you can also carry cargo that you might not otherwise be able to on foot. It’s no wonder that bicycles are so popular and important in Beijing: what else can give you such speed and independence so inexpensively?  Passenger bike

And when you’re that reliant on your bike, you might start to see it as more than a useful tool…perhaps you might even see it as a friend? *smile*


Here is Darlene’s review of this unique story:

A lovely tale of friendship between two bicycles made together in a factory, side-by-side in a store until one day when they are separated. Each is bought by someone different. Will the red bicycle find her yellow friend? The story take us on a ride to the sites and sounds of the bustling city of Beijing past all the yellow that brightens the countryside. The soft and joyful illustrations are the perfect accompaniment to this story. Told from the point of view of Lunzi…the yellow bicycle who goes out in search of her red friend Huangche…this tale will delight anyone who’s ever loved a bicycle.

Darlene will be giving away a copy of this book to one lucky winner drawn at random. To enter, leave a comment about your favorite bicycle experience. If you share this post on social media, she will give you a second chance to win. The winner will be announced on this blog sometime in May.

TeresaRobeson photo

TERESA ROBESON was born in Hong Kong, raised in Canada, and now writes and creates from her mini-homestead in southern Indiana, where she lives with her scientist husband. Visit her online at:

Hello from Renn Lake: by Michele Weber Hurwitz…Just in Time For Earth Day + Give-away.

Today it is my pleasure to feature middle grade author Michele Weber Hurwitz, with her new book HELLO FROM RENN LAKE. I am really excited about this book since it is centered around a cause I’m passionate about: Environmental activism.

 Welcome to RENN LAKE:

Hello From Renn Lake cover

Twelve-year old Annalise Oliver, who was abandoned as a baby in a small Wisconsin town, has a unique bond with Renn Lake because of events that occurred the night she was left. When a small patch of algae quickly becomes a harmful bloom and the lake is closed, Annalise and her friends take a risk to save their beloved lake and the town that depends on it. But this means Annalise must confront her deepest fears and most troubling questions. There are secrets about the night she was left, and the lake was the only witness.  

Three things about Annalise

  • Annalise is grappling with her unknown origins but instead of searching for where she came from, she makes a decision to put down roots in the place she was found. Roots are also part of the possible solution that may help Renn Lake recover. So, both literally and figuratively, roots play a role in the story’s theme.


  • Annalise becomes a determined activist in her small town, convincing others to join her crusade to save the lake after authorities take a “wait and see” approach. When she was three, Annalise first discovered she could sense what Renn Lake was thinking and feeling. Renn has always been a source of comfort and calm, so when the lake is covered with the algal bloom and goes silent, Annalise is devastated. Michele said that while she was writing, she kept thinking about the phrase “body of water” – that lakes, rivers, and oceans are living beings as much as plants and animals.


  • When Annalise meets Zach, who’s visiting for the summer and staying with his dad in the cabins near the lake, they help each other work through not only their own issues but also the environmental crisis. One aspect Michele loves about this book is while there’s certainly normal tension between Annalise, her friend Maya, her little sister Jess, and Zach, the four kids support and accept each other. There’s no mean girl or backstabbing. And no one is left out.


Three things about Renn Lake

  • Renn narrates part of the story. Michele didn’t have the lake as a narrator in her first draft, but as she wrote, she said she realized that the only way to fully tell this story was to include the lake’s perspective. She loved how Ivan narrated in The One and Only Ivan, but wasn’t sure if an element of nature could do the same. But the idea took hold and wouldn’t let go, so she said she took a leap of faith. Once Michele gave Renn a voice, the story flowed (pun intended) from there. She thinks it deepened the narrative to understand how a lake would feel if it was covered with toxic algae and couldn’t breathe.


  • Renn is centuries old and has seen many people come and go. Only a few have had the special ability to sense the lake like Annalise can. People have always gravitated to and lived near water – it’s an essential element of life. In this story, readers will really get the sense of the importance of water and how our actions are negatively affecting its viability.


  • Renn’s connection with its cousin, the river Tru, is an essential part of the plot. Their relationship is as tender, complex, and believable as any human characters. While they have different personalities and outlooks, their support of each other is strong and enduring.

Michele is the author of four other middle grade novels, from Penguin Random House and Simon & Schuster – Calli Be Gold, The Summer I Saved the World in 65 Days, Ethan Marcus Stands Up, and Ethan Marcus Makes His Mark. Her books have been on several state reading award lists, received starred reviews, and have been published in other countries. She lives in the Chicago area and often spends time at nearby lakes. Also, she loves ice cream.    Michele Weber Hurwitz author

Here is a pre-order link on Indie Bound

Here is a quote from Kirkus Reviews

“An earnest and disarming tale of human and environmental caring.”


Michele is happy to do a giveaway for readers . Please leave a comment and share some small thing you do to care for the Earth  and reduce your carbon footprint. Names will be entered into a hat and one winner will be drawn at random and announced on this blog.




WAY PAST HAPPY To Announce the Winner of a Swag Package For WAY PAST MAD!

It gives me great pleasure to announce the winner of a swag package for the book WAY PAST MAD, by Hallee Adelman

way past mad pic

Congratulations to WENDY GREENLEY. Please send me you address so I can let Halle know.

Thanks to all who shared their comments about how to get Way Past Mad.

Celebrating World Read-Aloud Day…All Month Long.

While World Read-Aloud Day (WRAD) is officially Wednesday, 2-5-20, I will be featuring authors who write for children with their current books throughout the month of February. The first post will feature non-fiction PB author LAURIE WALLMARK on 2-6.  Other posts will highlight new MG, YA, and a debut PB. It will end with a SNEAK PEEK at my own MG: WISHES, DARES, AND HOW TO STAND UP TO A BULLY, as I set out on a blog tour to promote the book.

I’ve enjoyed every book featured and have posted reviews for all of them. I hope you’ll be encouraged to read them and post reviews of your own.

Easy Holiday Paper Crafts For Kids.

I am in love with the RED TED website! If you haven’t discovered this gem, head on over. There are so many great crafts for kids and adults and many come with step-by-step videos to show you how to make each project. Using any kind of materials imaginable, you and your kids can create so many wonderful gifts to decorate your home or give to family and friends for the holidays.

If you plan of giving some books as gifts this Christmas, why not add a homemade bookmark?  You and the kids can make them following the tutorials on the site.  It’s a simple way for kids to give a gift to classmates,  or as a Scout or Sunday School Project. Here is the link to some of the awesome BOOKMARK PAPER CRAFTS  with a holiday theme:

*Christmas Paper Crafts for Kids*. Everyone has paper, right? Combine paper with basic stationery items such as scissors, pens and glue and you have a fantastic list of fabulous Christmas Crafts and Christmas DIYs for kids and grown ups. Love how versatile Paper Crafts. CUTE Christmas Paper Crafts. #PaperCrafts #PaperChristmasCrafts #Christmascrafts #ChristmasPaperCrafts #Christmas #Christmascraftsforkids #papercraftsforkids

For more ideas on Do-it-yourself projects, check out the book BE A MAKER, by Katey Howes.

Happy crafting!

Need Good Books For Holiday Gifts? Check Out The KidLit Authors’ Club.

The authors of KidLit Authors’ Club have a variety of books for kids of all ages. Picture books, middle grade, YA, non-fiction and more. Check out the titles and award-winning authors. Give the gift of reading to a child and create a life-long learner.

17th Annual Collingswood Book Festival…Another Great Year!

On Saturday, October 5, 2019, I had the pleasure of attending the COLLINGSWOOD BOOK FESTIVAL, in downtown Collingswood, NJ.

It’s the festival’s 17th year and I am proud to have been a presenting author for the fifth year. There was a lot of excitement and enthusiasm for all things to do with reading and books. And, each year, I get to talk about books and hang out with fellow authors from all over NJ and beyond. The organizers and volunteers behind the scenes always make members of the KidLIt Authors Club feel welcome.

Here are some of this year’s highlights in photos:


PB Authors Robin Newman and Jodi Moore. 


“Twinning” with fellow MG author and Kid Lit Author’s Club member, Charlotte Bennardo.    


Members of the KidLit Author’s Club: Jeffry Johnston, me, Charlotte Bennardo, David Neilsen, Jennifer Barr, Kell Andrews, Rob in  Newman, (front:) Jodi Moore, Hallee Adelman


Middle Grade Panel: What Do Middle Grade Readers Want and Need?



YA Author Jeffry W Johnston




Kid Lit Author Theresa Julian Walks Into a Bar…and Tells Us How to Write Humor. There will be a give-away!

The Joke Machine: A Creative Writing Tool That’s Disguised as a Joke Book by Theresa Julian

So, two guys walk into a bar…

Wait, that’s not how I meant to start. I meant to start by telling you that I’m the author of The Joke Machine, a new non-fiction book that teaches middle graders how to create their own jokes and become funnier. I’m nervous because my spellcheck mysteriously switched into Hungarian and I can’t tell if words are misspelled.

The Joke Machine: Create Your Own Jokes and Become Instantly Funny! by [Julian, Theresa]

Spelling words wrong is something I do knot want to do. I know the importance of proper spelling, it’s something my feather taught me. If I mix up even two letters, this whole post is urined.

Now you’re probably wondering, is she kidding about the spellchecker? The urined post? And most importantly, what happened to the guys who walked into a bar? Well, the answers are yes, yes, and two guys walked into a bar – the third one ducked.

Apologies for a long introduction, I just wanted to make you laugh.

Making someone laugh is one of the best feelings in the world. Growing up as a shy child, I always wished I was funny. As an adult, I started wondering if being funny is something you’re born with, or if it’s something you can learn. I started doing research and concluded it’s something you can learn, and I was going to learn it!

I figured out that the basis of humor is surprise. It’s leading a thought one way, and then turning it in an unexpected direction. It’s the quick twist that surprises us and makes us laugh.

I worked with that concept and came up with a few lines that – remarkably – were funny! Encouraged, I started studying humorous lines. I tried to figure out what made each one funny, and being a word-loving nerd, I put the quotes into categories such as ones that use contrast, comparison, exaggeration, etc. I started seeing patterns and my book, The Joke Machine, was born!

One of the things I’m proudest of is that the book teaches a difficult, almost mysterious subject using basic tenets of English, such as contrast, comparison, literalness, etc. It teaches in a fun, funny, kid-friendly way, that keeps kids laughing and turning the pages.

Now I’m going to tell you a secret. Lean in, because I’m going to whisper this so kids don’t hear. Though The Joke Machine explains how kids can become funnier, it’s also a book that teaches them how to express themselves more creatively and how to become better, more confident writers.

The Joke Machine teaches basics, such as using similes, metaphors, homonyms, homophones, etc., to punch up sentences, but the real message is deeper. The real message is reaching past the plain “vanilla” and expressing yourself more creatively, confidently, and humorously.

For example, The Joke Machine teaches middle graders to create humor by comparing two things that don’t ordinarily go together, by using irony to call out an unusual situation, and by using literalness to respond to someone’s actual words instead of their meaning.

The book explains how to fancy-schmancy it up by using specific details, too. It shows how to change “my shoes smell bad” into “my shoes that smell like they’ve been in my gym locker since second grade”. The book encourages kids to play with words, punch up puns, twist common catchphrases, exaggerate and understate facts, and even invent words that their friends will understand just by their sound.

Finally, The Joke Machine teaches middle graders to be more confident writers because being funny is about teasing out your message, having the courage to say something and then pull it back. It’s presenting a thought, then twisting, bending and reversing it. It’s like starting with “two guys walk into a bar” and then admitting that’s not what you want to talk about – but now that I have your attention, stick with me. It’s about thinking outside of the box, playing with a message, and holding your reader’s attention, all the way down to the very last line.


Theresa Julian writes humorous children’s fiction, nonfiction, screenplays and teleplays. In addition to The Joke Machine, Theresa has sold dozens of humorous stories to Amazon Rapids which have been consistently listed on the Popular and Funny rows on the Amazon app. She is also the author of a humorous ‘tween TV pilot and two screenplays that have all won or placed in multiple national writing competitions. Theresa is a graduate of Boston College and has a Master of Arts in Corporate Communications. When she’s not writing, Theresa likes to run, eat chocolate, and lip sync to her favorite songs even though she never knows the lyrics. She always wished she had a superpower, but makes a really mean eggplant parmigiana so…maybe that counts?


Theresa will give a signed copy of her book to one lucky winner. Share your favorite one- liner joke and Darlene will put your name in a hat for the drawing. Share this post on Twitter, or FB and receive a second entry. The winner will be announced on this blog. Good Luck!