Archive for January 30, 2017

The People Who Voted for Donald Trump and “The Bridge On the River Kwai”

The_Bridge_on_the_River_Kwai_posterI keep thinking about the 1957 film, “The Bridge On the River Kwai,” directed by David Lean. Each day I flash on a particular scene — what’s known as the “What have I done?” scene — the blistering moment of epiphany when Lieutenant Colonel Nicholson realizes that he’s become a collaborator with the sadistic commandant, the enemy, Colonel Saito.

You can go here for a full background on the plot, or watch the movie yourself. Here’s a quick synopsis: During World War II, British soldiers in a Japanese prison camp are tasked with the construction of a railway bridge over the River Kwai. The soldiers work poorly and sabotage the job until the well-intentioned Nicholson, played by Alec Guinness, intervenes. He believes that the honorable thing to do is to demonstrate their British work ethic and ingenuity. To, in effect, build the best bridge possible, despite its military value to the enemy.

trump-bannonMeanwhile, there’s a plot underway for a commando mission to destroy the bridge before it’s completed — for obvious tactical reasons. So these two forces, purportedly on the same side, work at cross-purposes. One to build the bridge, the other to destroy it. In the end, at the revelatory moment before his death, Colonel Nicholson realizes what he’s done. That he’s been a fool, a dupe, tricked into working against the best interests of his own country.

And that’s when I think of all those people who voted for Donald Trump. Or who smugly sat out the election, casting away their ballot on the mirage of a 3rd party “protest vote.” Who thought maybe the country needed a new voice. That change might be good. Or that it didn’t matter.


I wonder if one day some portion of those seemingly well-intentioned citizens will lean over the bridge to spy the exposed wires. If their eyes in awakening horror will register the reality of the wires that run to the explosives placed under the bridge. If they will follow those wires hidden under the water into the brush, to discover the detonator. To finally understand.

If they will realize the role they’ve played in the undermining of great American core values. If in that moment of incipient awareness they will see — eyes now wide open — that they participated in a war on free speech, a war on equal rights, a war on decency and morality and American ideals. That they’ve participated in giving the voice of hatred and bigotry and abject corruption a seat on the National Security Council. That they have collaborated with the enemy.

If they will ever wonder, in their cold beds, “My God, what have I done?”







NEW COVER: This “Jigsaw Jones” Comeback Is Getting Real

Wow, look at this . . .



This cover is not absolutely final, but it’s getting there.

After being out of print and largely unavailable for several years, four titles come roaring back — led by a brand new story, The Case from Outer Space.

Look for them this August, brought to you by the good folks at Feiwel and Friends, an imprint of Macmillan.

I’m especially grateful to the classroom teachers and school librarians who have kept these books alive and in the hands of young readers for the past 20 years.

I can’t wait to visit elementary schools and talk Jigsaw, and mysteries, and the love of reading with the early chapter book crowd.


Make Digital Photos Look Old in 5 Seconds Flat

NOTE: I originally posted about this website back in 2011 and am delighted to report that it still exists. This is an updated version of that old post.

For a quick, easy way to make your new digital photos look brand old, check out this Japanese website.

All you do is upload your photo and in about five seconds, the site spits back an aged-looking version which you can download. It’s insanely easy. Clearly, some shots lend themselves better to this treatment than others, but it’s fun experimenting with it to find out. I’d bet a baby picture might turn out especially swell, or a new photo of an old house.

For example, I got this from an image I found a few days ago . . .


oldphoto (2)

I like what it does with a landscape, which is already timeless . . .

Or this, from my daughter’s regatta up in Saratoga . . .


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And it’s also a neat way to salvage a great but poorly lit moment . . .

GOOD NEWS: “The Fall” listed as a Quick Pick for Reluctant Young Adult Readers at the ALA Midwinter Meeting



Yesterday YALSA — the Young Adult Library Services Association — presented a list at the ALA Midwinter Meeting of “quick picks” that their committee believes hold special appeal for reluctant readers. I was heartened and encouraged to see The Fall make that list. Though my book is intended for middle schoolers and above, and is not strictly categorized as Young Adult, the book’s short chapters, serious subject matter, and accessible format make it suitable for Young Adult readership.

According to the YALSA website:

The Quick Picks for Reluctant Young Adult Readers list identifies titles aimed at encouraging reading among teens who dislike to read for any reason. 

“Our committee is very happy with the titles we selected this year,” said Chair, Dorcas Wong. “Reluctant readers will be treated to a diverse selection of intriguing nonfiction, wild adventures, twisty mysteries, and thoughtful realistic stories. We look forward to sharing these books with teens.”

I’m grateful to the committee for the honor, and for their efforts in trying to get good books into the hands of the hard-to-reach reader. Happy to play a small supporting role in that good cause. Thank you.

Click here to see the full list of books and authors.

I’m so glad to be invited to the party.

Um . . .

There’s going to be a party, right?


Sign of the Times: A Favorite from the Women’s March