Ada-TitlePage2Welcome and thanks for stopping by. Visiting today is debut author and friend, Laurie Wallmark. Accompanying her – at least in spirit – is the brilliant young scientist, Ada Byron Lovelace.

Ada Byron Lovelace and the Thinking Machine is a picture-book biography of the world’s first computer programmer. Ada was born two hundred years ago, long before the invention of the modern electronic computer. At a time when girls and women had few options outside the home, Ada followed her dreams and studied mathematics. This book, by Laurie Wallmark and April Chu, tells the story of a remarkable woman and her work. Kirkus Reviews describes the book as a “splendidly inspiring introduction to an unjustly overlooked woman.” [starred review]

Laurie’s blog tour hosts had some options in our presentations, so I offered some interview questions that will hopefully show us a different side of Ada. I’ve also included some of the book’s stunning artwork by April Chu.

Still A Dreamer: Having read as much as you have about Ada, what do you imagine Ada would make of social media? If alive today, would she tweet? Have a blog? Be on Facebook? How would she use them?

Laurie: Ada would most definitely use social media as a method of communication with her fellow scientists and mathematicians. She often attended evening salons at Charles Babbage’s house to connect and exchange information. Social media would have allowed her to do this more easily and frequently. Through Facebook and Twitter, she could hear about the many marvels of the Industrial Revolution without waiting for them to be published in scientific journals. With a blog, she could share her many scientific theories and receive feedback from her peers.


SAD: Although Ada might have laughed at the term, she was a visionary. There have been so many technological discoveries since her own, what advances/inventions might Ada make use of were she alive today? How would she have used them to advance her own knowledge?

L: The greatest technological boon to Ada’s studies would be, without doubt, the Internet. As discussed above, social media could provide her with a wealth of information. More than that, websites of organizations like the Royal Society (the UK national academy of science) and individuals like the polymath Mary Somerville would be invaluable. Even seemingly minor inventions, like e-readers, would be useful since Ada was so often ill and confined to bed. With an e-reader, she could easily keep up with her studies.

SAD: Lord Byron the poet was Ada’s father, but had little to do with her upbringing, correct? At any point, to your knowledge, did either acknowledge/praise the wonderful accomplishments of the other?

L: Ada’s mother separated her from Lord Byron when Ada was only one month old. She was never allowed to see or interact with her father after that. Lord Byron, though, lovingly wrote of Ada in his poem, Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage:

Is thy face like thy mother’s, my fair child!
Ada! sole daughter of my house and heart?
When last I saw thy young blue eyes they smiled,
And then we parted—not as now we part—
But with a hope—*

He died when Ada was only nine years old.


SAD: The $54,000 question – How can Ada’s work, which began as a child, reach girls today, (other than buying your book, of course), and inspire them?

L: Several organizations have used Ada’s name as a rallying point for their cause. The Ada Initiative (recently shut down) supported women in open-source technology and culture. One of their major achievements was to formulate a code of conduct signed by most major tech companies for appropriate behavior at technical conferences,. And of course there’s Ada Lovelace Day, a celebration of the achievements of women in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math). On this day, people throughout the world blog about girls and women involved in technical activities. In 2015, October 13 is Ada Lovelace Day. Not coincidentally, this is also the release date of Ada Byron Lovelace and the Thinking Machine.

Join Laurie as she travels from blog to blog to introduce her debut picture book, Ada Byron Lovelace and the Thinking Machine. All stops are listed at: http://lauriewallmark.com/blogtour.php.

Laurie writes exclusively for children of all ages and has a lifetime love of, and involvement in, math and science as well. Learn more about Laurie at her
Website –  http://www.lauriewallmark.com,
on Facebook –  https://www.facebook.com/lauriewallmarkauthor
on Twitter – https://twitter.com/lauriewallmark

Better yet, come meet Laurie in person at her book launch on Sunday, Oct. 25th from 1 to 4 p.m. at The Book Garden in Frenchtown, NJ!

AbsolutelyTrueDiary-SAlexie2I’m always glad to see that more and more publicity is given to banned books. Why? Because to me, banning books is the same as infringing on the right to free speech, except in print. Simple, right? Maybe even obvious.

I’ve pictured here the cover of number one of the ten top most frequently challenged YA (young adult) books in America, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie. It’s a YA novel about a boy on the Spokane reservation who starts going to an all-white farm-oriented high school. (I apologize for the blandness and brevity of that description, but I’m not going for a book review in this post, so please do read more about it.) However, this novel also tops the list of ALL of the top ten banned or challenged books of 2014.

Why is it challenged/banned? The ALA, (American Library Association) provides the following reasons:”anti-family, cultural insensitivity, drugs/alcohol/smoking, gambling, offensive language, sex education, sexually explicit, unsuited for age group, violence. Additional reasons: “depictions of bullying”.

Hmmmm  – everything teenagers are facing in everyday life nowadays.

But don’t take my word for it – please read more on the ALA’s page on banned and challenged books, how they come up with their determinations, and many more links, including the top hundred most challenged book by decade. This is fascinating reading to me because I am always amazed that in a country which so strongly defends freedom of speech, we want to burn those words when they’re written down.

Cover-Ada-4Blog2What I’ve learned from my friends who’ve been published is that there is no end to the things one can – and sometimes must – do to promote one’s own books. What I learned of not too long ago is what’s called a blog tour. My friend Laurie – or perhaps her main character, Ada – is on one now, and next week, I’ll be a stop on the tour. Who knew?

Laurie Wallmark‘s debut picture book, Ada Byron Lovelace and the Thinking Machine is set for release October 13th, but her blog tour began on September 12th and continues through early November. Each week Laurie does interviews, writes about her book, writing in general, and more. It’s a job in and of itself!

She and Ada will be stopping by Still A Dreamer on Friday, October 2nd, so I hope you’ll pop in for a very interesting interview, and some additional information about this fascinating young woman who created the first computer program.

Artwork for the picture book was done by the very talented April Chu, and is phenomenal. I might be able to give you a peek at that, too.

See you soon!

It’s so easy to do … losing the magic. But because it’s so easy is exactly why it’s so important that we hold on to it.


I walked into my living room late yesterday afternoon, and there in one corner was this amazing scatter of brilliant little lights. White, yellow, blue. They were enchanting. Magical. For a moment I allowed myself to believe I was visited by fairies.

Now those of you grounded in reality can quickly surmise where those little lights came from, as I soon figured out myself, but for that one moment, I saw magic.

Our lives are too often so crazy-busy that we can let that sense of magic, our sense of wonder, slip through our hands if we’re not careful. No matter how much we love what we do, and are happy with much in our lives, there is still – for just about everyone I know, unfortunately – a boatload of stress. Magic is a wonderful antidote.

Look for a little in your life. I’m sure it’s there.

A Little Ray of Hope

For anyone – and everyone – who’s had a rough day …


And if you’re a woman who’s ever doubted her beauty, take a toddle over to my blogging buddy, 47whitebuffalo’s blog, and enjoy a wonderful listening experience with Aldrey’s “Mirate” (Look at Yourself.)

I could use a vacation about now. How about you? I don’t see one on the horizon for awhile, so I guess I’ll be content with the occasional day trip and travels with authors who take me places I’ve never been and/or long to be.



The Outermost House is a narrative about the year Henry Beston spent on Cape Cod in 1925. His intention was to spend two weeks, but “The fortnight ending, I lingered on, and as the year lengthened into autumn, the beauty and mystery of this earth and outer sea so possessed and held me that I could not go.”

OutermostHouse-HBeston2I visited Cape Cod several times when I was younger, and I loved it. Even though I grew up with fairly easy access to the many beautiful shore spots in New Jersey, there was something different about Cape Cod … even the air. A vacation for me could easily be living near the ocean, sitting peacefully, maybe reading, maybe just watching the tides. The ocean is immensely restorative – her rhythms, her colors, her moods. Nothing really needs to be said when you sit by her side. But I would like the option to enjoy this as a relatively solitary activity most of the time, i.e., not accompanied by the noise, activity and intrusion of beachgoers. And so I will be turning back the clock and enjoying the unspoiled magnificence of nature in this spot on Cape Cod.


Henry Beston and The Outermost House actually came to my attention at least 15 years ago through a magnificent quote from his book:

“We need another and a wiser and perhaps a more mystical concept of animals. Remote from universal nature and living by complicated artifice, man in civilization surveys the creature through the glass of his knowledge and sees thereby a feather magnified and the whole image in distortion. We patronize them for their incompleteness, for their tragic fate for having taken form so far below ourselves. And therein do we err. For the animal shall not be measured by man. In a world older and more complete than ours, they move finished and complete, gifted with the extension of the senses we have lost or never attained, living by voices we shall never hear. They are not brethren, they are not underlings: they are other nations, caught with ourselves in the net of life and time, fellow prisoners of the splendour and travail of the earth.”

And that’s another reason I’m joining Henry in Cape Cod.


Today is World Elephant Day, and I wanted to share with you two things – a wonderful video of a baby elephant in a protected nature preserve for rescued elephants in Thailand;  she finds a long piece of ribbon and plays with it. It’s enchanting – she’s just like any other little kid, (she’s 5 years old), with a new toy …

And the rescue of a humpback whale who was saved by a group of researchers out on their boat. They came across her so entangled by discarded fishing net that she is slowly drowning. One of the men swims out to her to let her know that they’re there to help. Ultimately, when she seems to know they are freeing her, she patiently stays alongside their boat as they cut her free, and then she shows them what freedom really is.

There is much sadness in the world as to how man treats his animal brethren, but it is always so wonderful to watch him rise above. Thanks to the people who take such good care of these elephants and the individuals who freed this magnificent creature and saved her life.


Top on my list today? Jersey tomatoes!


Slice into one of these ruby red gems and it’s pure heaven. What’s for lunch? A Skellig sweet cheddar from Ireland, Vegenaise and organic sprouted grain toast – yum!

And I don’t care what anyone says – I’ve had tomatoes from other places and they just don’t measure up to real Jersey tomatoes. They don’t call us the Garden State for nothing!


And the best part? In my part of the state there are farmstands and farmers’ markets dotting the back roads and main roads, so you never have to go too far to be absolutely delighted with these sweet, juicy, delicious tomatoes. (Corn, too!) Gratitude for little things comes easy out this way in summer.

Summer Reading

Summer’s a great time to read – it doesn’t matter if you’re on the front porch or in the A/C, if it’s in the cool morning or squeezing it in for a half-hour before you turn out the light – it just seems that time must be made to read. So what are you reading? And how do you decide what to read?

OneCrazySummer-RWGarcia2I find that friends often have great suggestions, especially if they’re involved in children’s books, too. One friend, getting her MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults, comes up with great suggestions because she’s reading like a fiend while getting her degree, as does another who does constant research for her own writing in picture books. Of course, I always come across fabulous finds at our huge annual county book sale, but let’s not forget one other source …

Our humble librarians. The local librarian in my little town is a wealth of information, and by now, she also knows me well enough to make some wonderful suggestions as well, especially in KidLit. Awhile back, she had mentioned how much she enjoyed the first middle-grade book of a trilogy by Rita Williams-Garcia, One Crazy Summer. It’s about 3 girls who live in Brooklyn traveling out to Oakland, CA to meet their mother who left them 7 years earlier. I hadn’t realized initially that this is historical fiction, and the story takes place when the p.s.BeEleven-RGWilliams2Black Panthers were active in CA, as was their mother. It’s a fascinating tale that takes place when I was well aware of all the goings-on at that time, the assassination of President Kennedy, Martin Luther King, Jr, Bobby Kennedy, the Vietnam war, etc. But what really brought the story to life is Garcia’s three main characters, Delphine, Vonetta and Fern. They are so real; it’s no wonder Ms. Garcia-Williams won so many awards, including a Newbery Honor Award.

So endearing and engrossing are these sisters, that I brought back the first book, and walked right out with the second, p.s. Be Eleven, advice given to Delphine by her mother at the end of each letter she sends her, (Delphine being the oldest.) The author doesn’t shy away from big topics and now the girls, back in Brooklyn, are trying to understand what’s happened to Uncle Darnell who’s returned from Vietnam, not the Uncle D. they knew just 15 months ago. Family plays a big part in these stories and Big Ma, raised in the South, has her own ideas about raising the girls, as does Pa, but then the girls must also deal with him introducing a new lady friend and getting married. It’s real life, and all shared through the eyes of these three wonderfully drawn young  girls.

I’ve just put in a request to get the third book in the trilogy, Gone Crazy in Alabama, through inter-library loan, but meanwhile, have jumped into an adult novel, recommended by yet another friend and avid reader, Defending Jacob.

It’s summer – are you reading?




I have a love/hate relationship with the marketing world. I am so, so weary of having a zillion products and services pushed at me relentlessly in every media avenue I could possibly be in touch with. It’s annoying and sometimes exhausting, and, I suspect, touches your life as well.

But then … I come across a commercial which is absolutely brilliant, moving, and says something so important in a way that I could never imagine. At first, this short, wordless commercial shows us a touching relationship between man and his best friend, the steadfast devotion dogs have for us. But that’s just a part of the message. What’s ultimately being said is so unexpected and so beautifully said — take a look.

IndianRunnerDucks2I am a big believer in synchronicity. To some of us that means that there are no coincidences. That we are sometimes/often given little signs that what we are doing is right, what we are thinking is on the mark, that others are thinking of us, and so on. (How about when you are thinking of a friend, you go to pick up the phone and it rings, and your friend is on the line?) Not everyone believes in synchronicity and these individuals attribute such things to luck, to chance. I am not one of these individuals.

Here’s another example. When I lived in Brooklyn, I lived on Union St.  As I searched for the right place to move in New Jersey, the perfect apartment opened up – in the town I wanted, on Union St.! When I was planning to move out to the western side of the state, the perfect house turned out to be in Union Township. That’s what I’m talking about!

So how about the small and happy synchronicity? At the upper left, you see carvings of two Indian Runner Ducks*. They were in a local import store, Two Buttons, and I was just entranced by them. They were not outlandishly expensive so I decided to treat myself to these two, chosen from a nice selection of different positions and attitudes. They are carved from the roots of palm trees by Balinese, (I believe), artists, and they’ve been gracing my living room for several years now.

IndianRunnerDucksBaby2Not long ago, I received some birthday goodies from two people very dear to me, and what do you think was inside? A baby runner duck! It was the wife of the couple who spotted the young duck with the polka-dot rain boots, and they both thought it would be perfect for me. Little did they know …

So the duckling, whose name is Hattie according to her name tag, has now rounded out the little family quite nicely. I am also finding inspiration for a possible children’s book, but that’s another story.

Is this synchronicity? Methinks yes … a small and happy one, that tells me that two people dear to me, even though they live at quite a distance and were unaware of my two ducks, are in tune and knew exactly what would be perfect for me. Pretty cool!

Is there synchronicity in your life? Of course there is! Keep an eye out and you’ll be amazed at what you can find.

* p.s. Indian Runner Ducks are a domestic breed of duck that stand upright on their legs, just as you see these carvings, and walk and run, rather than waddle.

For those of you who enjoyed the art of Seward Johnson in a previous post, I am sharing a bit more of the sculptures (mostly) inside the gallery. It seems almost everyone is familiar with the iconic figure of Marilyn Monroe taken over the air blast from a sewer grate. Johnson has done a fine job of Marilyn in this lovely tableau …


but many more people are actually familiar with his outdoor version of Marilyn …



And back to the gallery … perhaps one of the reasons I am drawn to Seward Johnson’s work is that we share something in common – our love of the Impressionist period of painting. Many of his sculptures based on famous paintings are inspired by artists of that time.



Johnson’s study above is based on “La Japonaise”, a painting by Monet, the model being Monet’s first wife.


He was also inspired by Mary Cassatt, an American-born artist, (Pennsylvania to be exact), who spent most of her adult life in France, where she soon befriended Edgar Dégas and exhibited with the Impressionists. Cassatt’s painting is “Young Girl at Window.”

Manet is another favorite of Seward Johnson, and there are tableaux of Manet’s paintings throughout the Grounds for Sculpture. Below is a small part of the installation based on Manet’s “Olympia.” My crop reflects what the entirety of Manet’s painting looked like.


 But Johnson took it one (huge) step further …


He created an entire room that one can walk into, such as he imagined this woman might have as her boudoir, historically correct to every detail, as are all the items she wears, right down to her shoes.

The last installation I’m featuring, which was actually the first room you walked into, was deeply touching to me, but I didn’t even realize its significance until I got home and looked at the photos I had taken.


There was a figure in the room just to the right of the sculpture, looking at it. As is often the case, we wondered if he was “real.” It soon became apparent he was not. Then we wondered about another figure a bit further away, who sat motionless on a museum bench. He was so still that it wasn’t until he flicked his finger to scroll down on his iPad that we realized he was not a part of the installation. Distracted by this, I somehow thought that this was a memorial to a soldier.


When I looked at my photos at home, I had no idea how I could have missed that this was a tribute to those who died on 9/11. It is a deeply moving piece, with the helmets of firemen, police and EMS workers, the fire hose, the flowers done in bronze and cement, the figure’s head bowed behind two plaques above and below our flag. The marble plaque below says “Im memory of all those who lost their lives.” The piece above, looking as if it were written on paper, has scrawled on it, “In memory of those who gave their lives to try and save so many.”

And then I saw the two shafts of light in the background where our twin towers once stood, and was overwhelmed with sadness yet again. Thank you for this piece, Mr. Johnson.


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