Archive for the ‘Friends and Family’ Category

That time of year again

September 5th, 2011

First day of first grade








I believe this was my first day of first grade (yes, I was and am tall). I think my mom is actually applauding the fact that my sister Janet and I are going back to school with our nifty new shoes, socks, and lunchboxes.

I mostly took the summer off from blogging – but definitely not from writing. I actually got a lot of that done. Now it’s back to school again and back to blogging for me. I will soon be visiting schools in L.A., San Francisco, Minneapolis and Chicago on a book tour sponsored by Humphrey’s publisher, Penguin. I have other dates coming up here in Los Angeles throughout the fall.

If you teachers, students and parents are having trouble transitioning back to school, check out Humphrey’s latest adventure: School Days According to Humphrey. Our hamster hero, Humphrey, is SHOCKED-SHOCKED-SHOCKED at the changes he finds in Room 26 as a new school year begins.

School Days cover


 9p Pooh Corner Shop Betty2  Continuing our trip to the real Pooh Corner, my friend Min and I started out at the Pooh Corner Shop in Hartfield – the door is a little on the low side.  After dropping a few pounds and pence at the shop, we headed out for the Ashdown Forest. In the books, it’s referred to as The Hundred Acre Wood. But it’s actually locally known as the Five Hundred Acre Wood.

It wasn’t difficult to see that we’d come to the right spot. 9t Pooh Corner Car Park

It’s about a mile and a third walk through the forest to the Poohsticks Bridge. To be honest, the bridge has been redone but it’s the same spot where Pooh and his friends, played the game of Poohsticks.  Like many children’s games, it began as an accidental observation as Pooh threw a fir-cone over the bridge. (He later switched to sticks, which were easier to mark.)

That’s funny,” said Pooh. “I dropped it on the other side and it came out on this side! I wonder if it would do it again?” House at Pooh Corner

9w Poohsticks Bridge Ashdown Forest  One of the delights of the day was the fact that Min and I were the only people around – anywhere! It was just as it might have been when A.A. Milne took his son, Christopher Robin, for a walk. Min and I were anxious to play Poohsticks but the sign said you couldn’t take twigs off the trees and had to bring your own sticks. Luckily, some kind soul had  left a whole pile of sticks on the ground, all of a uniform size and shaved at the ends. (Or was that kind soul a mild-mannered bear?)

“Then he dropped two in at once, and leant over the bridge to see which of them would come out first; and one of them did ….” House at Pooh Corner

 9ww Min with Poohstick Min ready to throw her first Poohstick.

I always thought it was such a silly little game. Each player throws a stick over the bridge on one side. Then players rush to the other side and watch as the sticks emerge from under the bridge and try to determine which stick wins. Well, it turns out not to be so silly at all. There’s a nice current there and we were as excited as any children as we hurried from one side to the next to watch the sticks float out from under the bridge. Only downside: Min always seemed to win! I think she’d been studying the currents.

“I expect my stick’s stuck,” said Roo. “Rabbit, my stick’s stuck. Is your stick stuck, Piglet?” House at Pooh Corner.

9y Pooh Bridge with poohsticks floating  There’s a big pile of stuck sticks. But our sticks always managed to float right past the clump of stuck sticks and on down the stream.

All good things must come to an end and Min and I headed back to the car park. We hadn’t noticed that the walk to the bridge was all downhill. We managed to huff and puff our way uphill back to the car, still giggling over our woodland adventure.

For more about the Ashdown Forest:   Click on Panorama of the Forest for a very good view of the area

Welcome to Pooh Corner Pooh Corner friends … and me (pregnant)!

It’s still strange to me to think of how much of my life has been intertwined with Winnie the Pooh. While I always had an awareness of Pooh, I don’t recall reading the books when I was a child. By the time the Disney films (and the first ones were charming) came out, I was way too old for them.

Still, why was the first book I wrote at age seven called “Teddy Bear in the Woods?” And the sequel, “Teddy Bear and Tallulah?”I was inspired to write the books on my own, gave them to my parents and told them “I’m going to be a writer.” 

I didn’t think about Pooh or bears for many years … until I was working at the Disney Studios in advertising. There was something new going on at the studio back then:  a little thing called The Disney Channel. I had moved from Disneyland to L.A. with the thought that I might like writing for TV. And I knew the people involved with developing shows for the channel.  I had been mentored by a much older, experienced writer/director/producer named Frank Brandt, who was freelancing at Disney. He managed to get the job of producing the first children’s show on The Disney Channel: Welcome to Pooh Corner. Not only did I know Frank, I knew the executive developing the show because we were both in a yoga class together on the lot.  So when Frank ran my name by her as a potential writer for the series, she was open to it, even though I had no credit I wrote some sample scripts. They were fun … and they were well-received.  Voila, I ended up writing 90 episodes, was associate producer, and my TV career was launched. Thanks to Frank Brandt and Caroline Hay!

After that, I wrote over 200 episodes of children’s TV shows and won a bunch of awards, including an Emmy.  And I also wrote books about Winnie the Pooh for Western Publishing. Three different series!

Pooh 3

When I was planning my trip to see friends in Caterham (Surrey) after World Book Day, I was pretty excited when Min suggested an outing to the original Pooh Corner. Pooh Corner? That’s where it all started for me! And so on a sunny March morning, we set out for Hartfield, Sussex and the beautiful Ashdown Forest.  TO BE CONTINUED ….

Harry Potter and me

September 16th, 2010

Jacobite Steam Train 1I’m going to take a detour away from blogging about my favorite children’s books – and I apologize for my absence!

I was invited to speak at the Edinburgh BookFest, which is part of the famed Edinburgh Festival. Who could pass that up? So my husband and I spent 2 1/2 weeks in Scotland. The BookFest was AMAZING and I’m grateful to my enthusiastic Scottish fans who showed up for my events.  Among the authors who were there the two days I was there were: Antonia Fraser, Frederick Forsythe, Joyce Carol Oates and a very charming Alexander McCall Smith. Oh, and Humphrey, too.

Then Frank and I went on a 10 day trip through the Scottish Highlands by rail (okay taxis and a ferry,too). It was beyond perfection, especially since the weather and the famed midges (little biting insects like gnats) behaved perfectly. Sunshine every day except the first and last (an unprecedented run of sun) and no midges. What can I say? The scenery was unparalleled. The hospitality at each stop was the warmest. The beauty – indescribable.

Briefly, we traveled from Edinburgh to Glasgow. Glasgow to Spean Bridge, where we stayed at Old Pines, a lovely spot with a great view of Ben Nevis (the highest mountain in UK – not that high but beautiful). We took a very long ramble followed by one of the best meals of my life in their all-organic restaurant. The next morning, after a “ham and haddie” breakfast, we went to Fort William where we boarded the famed Jacobite Steam Train, still in operation.

This is the train used in the Harry Potter films. It was quite an event, as crowds gathered to see the train and take photos. Before the trip, the crew was so friendly – inviting us to come in and watch them shovel coal into the fire. They very showily – and loudly – blew off steam. We were in first class, which meant we had a table with brocade upholstered chairs and a little lamp, and were served tea in china cups and scones. All along the route, people were lined up to take photos of the train and wave. Lovely memory: a young mother and her toddler in arms, standing in the doorway of their house, waving. It’s another world.

An amazing landscape – green grass, tons of sheep and the Rannoch moors – forbidding, desolate, beautiful. We ended up at Mallaich, a charming little port city, where we had lunch andJacobite Steam Train Betty and Frank boarded the ferry for the Isle of Skye. A little more about Scotland and then I’ll be back with children’s books.

Just saying Isle of Skye makes me relax!

Summer Reading

July 1st, 2010

BookmobileThe arrival of summer brings back so many wonderful childhood memories: long days of playing in the yard with friends,  playing games inside the house with friends, swimming, roller skating, jump rope, hopscotch,  jacks,walking to the movies, and reading! I read all year, but there was even more time for books in the summer. My whole family read in our respective beds every night – I remember calling out to my parents’ bedroom and spelling a word so they would tell me what it was.

When I was very young, there was no library in Affton, then a relatively young suburb of St. Louis, Missouri. My parents took my sister Janet and me into the city to libraries to check out as many books as we could. My sister recalls that there was a limit and since she was an ardent reader, my parents had to take her to more than one branch to get enough books to last the week. I really wasn’t reading then, but I do remember the books I checked out, many of them time and time again.

But by the time I was in full reading mode, a miracle occurred. Every two weeks, the Bookmobile chugged down Gravois Road in Affton, where I lived, parked next to Affton Drugs and opened its doors! The photos above are exactly the bookmobile I remember. I can still hear the thump of my feet on the wooden steps. In the summer, Janet and I would walk to the bookmobile, arms filled with books both coming and going. It was a long walk by today’s standards but well worthwhile. (We walked everywhere back then by ourselves.)

Oh, what delicious books there were! And the librarians did a good job of stocking the books. So if I read and loved a Little House or Betsy-Tacy or Dr. Doolittle book, another one would appear in a few weeks and a librarian would nudge me in its direction. I took it for granted back then but I now I am so grateful to those angels of the library, looking out for two book-loving girls.

I’m mentioning this for two reasons. One, I believe about 100 librarians were laid off in the Los Angeles Public Library system today (despite a last minute effort at a reprieve), which is a tragedy. The hours are being cut as well. When I go to my local Studio City branch at opening time, there’s always a line of people waiting for the doors to open. Unfortunately, I don’t believe the City Council or Mayor ever go to the library as ordinary citizens to see what really goes on there.

Secondly, I’m going to attempt to go back to my childhood (the 1950s-1960s) and blog about my favorite books from those days, especially those which had a great influence on me as a person and a writer. I’ve not been blogging for a while for several reasons, but I’m going to give it a go … so if you are reading the blog, please take a moment to post a comment! bookmobile int