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Be Like A Tree

BLOOD MOUNTAIN: Selected as One of 10 Books to Georgia’s “Tome It List” for 2020-21 Middle Schoolers

This is an honor. I just got word that Blood Mountain was featured on the “Tome It List” for the 2020-21 school year. They only pick ten books for middle school, so that’s awfully lucky.

Here’s the list, and below that, some impressive information about the fast-growing “Tome” organization. 




Junior Tome It List 2020-2021 (Middle School)

  1. Blood Mountain, James Preller
  2. Each Tiny Spark, Pablo Cartaya
  3. Fire & Heist, Sarah Beth Durst
  4. Sweep: The Story of a Girl and Her Monster, Jonathan Auxier
  5. The Door to the Lost, Jaleigh Johnson
  6. The Memory Keeper, Jennifer Camiccia
  7. The Revenge of Magic, James Riley
  8. The Season of Styx Malone, Kekla Magoon
  9. The Storm Runner, JC Cervantes
  10. Words on Fire, Jennifer Nielsen


Tome Student Literacy Society is a grassroots student club envisioned in 2012 by two sisters — Jennifer Parker and Rebecca Hamby — both Media Specialists in Georgia, at the time. As sponsors of their school book clubs they saw a need for an active student community promoting literacy that went beyond informal book discussions. Thus, on a trip to an educational technology conference in 2012 the idea for Tome was born. Very soon after Tome’s birth, Shelby Day, another Georgia Media Specialist and Ashley Walden, a classroom teacher, joined the founding leadership team and the four have worked diligently to make Tome an excellent resource for students and teachers across the state.

In April of 2014 Tome hosted its 1st Annual Conference with approximately 90 students and advisers present. It was a very successful capstone on Tome’s first year of operation.  Tome held its 2nd Conference in May 2015 and almost doubled the attendance from the first year.

In 2016, the official Tome Society annual conference was re-born under the moniker, TomeCon. TomeCon 2016 was held on the Gainesville campus of The University of North Georgia and had over 400 people in attendance. Author Jaleigh Johnson was the keynote speaker. ​TomeCon 2017 hosted over 750 people, and guest authors Dianne Salerni and Jackson Pearce provided Keynote Addresses. 2018 was a year of explosive growth for Tome Society and over 1,400 people attended TomeCon 2018 with over 60 authors and speakers from across the country leading teacher sessions throughout the day. The conference grew again in 2019, with over 2,200 students, teachers, and parents attending TomeCon 2019.

Tome Society currently has over 200 registered chapters across the state of Georgia and is growing exponentially each year. These chapters include public, private, and home schools, as well as public libraries. We are excited to see the number of Tome chapters and people attending TomeCon growing exponentially each year!

Back When Dad Used to Give All 7 Kids Haircuts in Front of the Fish Tank

When I was speaking on the phone recently with my son, Nick, we joked about how people were going to emerge from their cocoons after this either in incredible shape or having gained an extra 50 pounds. He said, “And a lot of people are going to need haircuts.”

This triggered a childhood memory: my father used to give us all haircuts. No, he wasn’t an artist; he was an insurance man, running his own business, trying to raise and feed seven children. He cut corners where he could. And he did it with all the grace and delicacy of a sheep shearing.

As the youngest, I was spared much of that trauma, though I do vividly recall getting plopped in a chair in front of the fish tank. It was bewildering to witness the passionate reactions of my older siblings. You’d think it was the end of the world. For my part, I still have an almost atavistic fondness for the feeling of an electric trimmer going up the sides and back of my head. The whirr and warmth of it. When I get a haircut today, a part of me returns to that time and it’s a comforting memory. But I recall how much my brothers, older and more self-aware, hated those sessions. It was rough stuff.

Dad had a kit that I remember. It was a red and white box that he kept in a closet. I did a search for vintage hair kits, and this image closely resembles the box I recall:

I asked my brother Al about it, and he wrote: “He didn’t finesse it whatsoever. I disliked hair cuts in general because of how you looked afterward. Kind of shorn looking. His haircuts were pretty crude. He would also hold the top of your head with one hand and use the other to guide the clipper. The top hand would wrench your head around when he wanted to get to a hard to reach area. I suspect I cried.”

Our beloved barber: “It’s five o’clock somewhere.” Not to give the wrong impression!

Al remembers the haircuts taking place outside our kitchen door during the summer. Barbara says they happened by the swingset in the backyard. Hair everywhere (and image I also recall). She wasn’t sure if Bill or John hated them the most, though probably both. As the best looking boys, they had the most to lose.

Well, what goes around, comes around. I’m sure we’ll be seeing the victims of a lot more home haircuts in the future. Good luck, all. And remember, it’ll grow back!


BLOOD MOUNTAIN Selected to Maine Student Book Award Reading List

I’m happy to see Blood Mountain listed in the Maine Student Book Award Reading List for grades 4-8.

Lists such as this bring together recommended titles, published in 2019, for students to read and evaluate. Ultimately, the readers vote to select a winner. The reality is that every book on the list gets a tremendous boost; very simply, it helps readers find them, and for a book, that’s only everything. 

Thank you, Maine Library Association and the Maine Association of School Libraries. I’m honored and grateful. Let the reading begin! 

And note: I am available and eager for school visits!


Allen, Kate. The Line Tender.

Andrews, Ryan. This Was Our Pact.

Athaide, Tina. Orange for the Sunsets.

Bacon, Lee. The Last Human.

Barnett, Mac and Jacoby, Sarah. The Important Thing About Margaret Wise Brown.

Beccia, Carlyn. Monstrous.

Bragg, Georgia. Caught!: Nabbing History’s Most Wanted.

Brown, India Hill. The Forgotten Girl.

Bunker, Lisa. Zenobia July.

Craft, Jerry. New Kid.

de Fombelle, Timothee. Captain Rosalie.

Dee, Barbara. Maybe He Just Likes You.

Gemeinhart, Dan. The Remarkable Journey of Coyote Sunrise.

Gibbs, Stuart. Charlie Thorne and the Last Equation.

Heidicker, Christian McKay. Scary Stories for Young Foxes.

Horwitz, Sarah Jean. The Dark Lord Clementine.

Illustratus. Ghost: Thirteen Haunting Tales to Tell.

Johnson, Terry Lynn. Dog Driven.

Kukkonen, Janne. Lily the Thief.

McAnulty, Stacy. The World Ends in April.

McMahon, Serah-Marie and David, Allison Matthews. Killer Style.

Munda, Rosaria. Fireborne.

Nagai, Mariko. Under the Broken Sky.

Nobel, Julia. The Mystery of Black Hollow Lane.

O’Donnell, Tom. Homerooms & Hallpasses.

Pancholy, Maulick. The Best at It.

Petro-Roy, Jen. Good Enough.

Philbrick, Rodman. Wildfire.

Poliquin, Rachel. Beastly Puzzles.

Preller, James. Blood Mountain.

Roberts, Barbara Carroll. Nikki on the Line.

Rodkey, Geoff. We’re Not From Here.

Ritter, William. Oddmire: The Changeling.

Sloan, Holly Goldberg & Wolitzer, Meg. To Night Owl From Dogfish.

Sorosiak, Carlie. I, Cosmo.

Sumner, Jamie. Roll With It.

Venkatraman, Padma. The Bridge Home.

Warga, Jasmine. Other Words for Home.

White, Kiersten. The Guinevere Deception.

Williams, Alicia D. Genesis Begins Again.

Poem: “Written at Four A.M.”

I don’t usually post my poems on this blog, but wrote this one last night, as the title suggests, and felt I might as well put it out there. I am quite sure that not everyone understands, or even considers, the terrible stress and anxiety that our healthcare workers are under. There are heroes among us, and they don’t wear capes.



Written at Four A.M.

– for Lisa, 3/29/20


My wife cannot sleep these nights.

She lies blanketed in worry,

rueing her sleeplessness and tasks

undone, so much still to be done,

and afraid of what’s to come:

hospital beds in cluttered corridors,

patients sharing ventilators, alone

and clawing for air and surcease;

the fear in everyone’s eyes; the nurse’s

front desk, so often a font of crude

jokes and late-night laughter, now

red-rimmed and fraught. Awakened,

I rouse and speak: it only annoys her,

so I rub Lisa’s back in night’s full dark,

resort to an old trick, and pick up

a bedside book of poems, Philip Larkin’s

The Less Deceived, to read aloud.

It never fails. My good wife listens and

only half-hears, the words washing over

her in waves, undulant images, a mind

open like a drawer of knives, a hometown

recalled, a horse troubled by flies. Finally

I reach the last poem, read it twice

as I often do. Lay down the book,

the reading glasses, fumble with

the light. It rains outside our window,

a soft pattering urgency, dawn’s chorus

still two hours from us, if it comes

at all. But listen: at last she sleeps. I yawn,

thinking of poems and hospital beds,

and cough.



My wife, Lisa, is a midwife at Albany Obstetrics & Gynecology. Her work often finds her in the maternity ward of St. Peter’s Hospital. She’s also recently created a Facebook page, Reproductive Health at Home, which you can follow in these days when access to healthcare is challenging. These are hard times, and very scary for many. I write children’s books, a far less perilous venture. In support of teachers and parents as they scramble to provide online learning for young readers, I’ve created a variety of free videos for ages 3-14. You may access them at my Youtube channel. Just stomp on this link and it’ll bring you there.

Be smart, stay home, protect the vulnerable.