Prints in the Sand: My Journey with Nanea

Published in 2016; author Erin Falligant with Denise Lewis Patrick; illustrators Julie Kolesova and Michael Dwornik; author photos by Reverie Photography and Fran Balter Photography

"My Journey" books

These are choose-your-own adventure books written from a first person perspective. Just for ease, I'm going to always pick the first option when I come them, but I'll try to mention the other possible endings. Since the reader is meant to insert herself into the story, the main character (a modern-day pre-teen) isn't named. Since it would sound to weird to me to summarize the story as, "and then (Historical Characters) and I saw a..." I've been using the author's first name, in this case, Erin.



Erin is feeling lonely. Six months ago, her family moved to the island of Oahu when her father was stationed at a military base near Honolulu. And now he’s deployed to Iraq. Despite the beauty of the island and the fun things to do there, Erin can’t help but miss her friends back in California—and she guesses that as soon as she makes new friends here, her father will PCS to another duty stationary n far away.

A barking dog distracts her, and Erin gives chase. She loves dogs, but her family can’t  have one right now. She can see that the dog has an owner, but figures she can at least pet it. While following th dog, she happens upon a puka  necklace, and realizes that putting it on transports her to 1942, taking it off returns her to the present, with no time lost. She puts on the necklace. In 1942, Erin sees another dog running into the Royal Hawaiian Hotel (which rally is very close to the swimming area of Waikiki Beach). She learns that the dog, Mele, belongs to a girl her age named Nanea. Nanea invites Erin to watch her and Mele hula, or come a meeting of the Honolulu Helpers Club.

First choice: hula or helpers

Erin isn’t comfortable dancing herself, but she enjoys the performance Nanea and her sister-and dog!- put on. Afterward, Nanea invites Erin over. Erin steps out to pretend to ask permission from her sitter, who she explains is on the beach (true...in the present day). Erin has some trouble wrapping her head around how great a time she has with Nanea while there are so many signs of World War II—not just the Honolulu Helpers, but rationing, blackouts, curfews, and Nanea’s own brother having just joined the Army. After breakfast the next morning, Nanea suggests she could teach Erin to hula, or they could work in the victory garden.

Next choice: hula lessons or gardening

Erin is game for learning new things. Nanea asks whether they should hula about Pele or make up their own story,

Next choice: Pele or a new story

While discussing Pele, Erin mentions she’s never seen a volcano (that she realizes—you can see some extinct ones from Waikiki Beach). So Nanea, Lily, and Lily’s dad take her on a hike up Punchbowl, another extinct volcano. After the hike and learning more about the legend of Pele, Erin receives hula lessons from Nanea’s grandmother. Feeling so welcomed by Nanea and her family and friends opens Erin up to the idea of settling in more in her new home. And hearing how Nanea and Lily miss Donna inspires Erin to write to her friend Kayla.

It’s about this time Erin realizes she has to get back to the present. She says goodbye to her new friends, knowing they’ll assume she was suddenly shipped away like Donna. Back in the present, Erin talks with her Hawaiian sitter, ready to accept her welcoming spirit. They make plans to hike one of the extinction volcanoes soon.


Dedicated to “Tera, Stacey, and Shelley—my own ‘three kittens’ who ha e been with me every step of the way.”

Erin has a watch, which seems unusual for a preteeen these days. But I understand it would be hard for her to explain a cell phone in 1942.

Erin wishes she could adopt a dog. When I lived in Hawaii, I’d visit the Honolulu Humane Society to pet cats and walk dogs. Our apartment didn’t allow pets, so I got my fix that way. Most of the dogs were chihuahua mixes or pit bull mixes, and if I understood correctly, some military housing didn’t allow the latter. But every time I walked a dog, it would be adopted the next time I went in.

Other possible endings: going to the Honolulu Helpers meeting can lead to spending the night with Nanea at Lily’s and then babysitting kids while their moms take a first aid class which is interrupted by an air raid, all of which helps Erin understand why her family couldn’t go with her dad when he went to Iraq; babysitting can also make Erin miss her younger twin brothers and return she home ready to carpe diem; helping with a book drive can lead to finding a picture of a little girl with her dad with Anzu Sato, a Japanese name, in the back, which uncovers the secret that a girl in the Honolulu Helpers calling herself Audrey is actually Japanese and her father is in an internment camp, so Erin, Nanea, and Lily help Audrey/Anzu make him a care package; staying a second night in 1942 and seeing a Sherlock Holmes movie, then finding origami’s cranes with secret messages can end with Erin and Nanea thinking a visiting soldier is a spy (he’s not, just has trouble sleeping; the cranes are from Lily), or learning how to make origami, both options teaching Erin not to make assumptions and not to be scared of people different from her.


Hula for the Home Front

Published 2017, author Kirby Larson, illustrators David Roth and Julie Kolesova

School is finally back in session, almost two full months after the Pearl Harbor attacks. Nanea is looking forward to doing something normal, but class is held in a different room because of fire damage, and Donna isn't there. In her place is Dixie, a new student who just moved from Maui after her father was sent to work at an airfield on Oahu. Although Dixie doesn't mean to, she gets on Nanea's nerves. She's sitting in Donna's chair, being picked for class jobs that would normally be Nanea's, and making posters (to advertise buying war stamps) like she's the new class artist--Lily's unofficial title. Nanea tries to help Dixie feel welcome, but she's too irrationally angry at Dixie, who represents all the change that's happened since the war started. Nanea vents her frustrations to her grandmother while working her Saturday shift at her grandparents' store (one of her Christmas gifts was a store apron, because she was finally old enough to help). Her grandmother reminds Nanea that everyone has a story, and if she learns Dixie's, maybe she can get to know her and get along with her. At school on Monday, Nanea and Lily invite Dixie to sit with them. They learn that she's trying to be grateful to her aunt for letting her and her dad stay with her family despite the cramped quarters with her rambunctious cousins, and that her mother got an acting opportunity when Dixie was five,  moved to Hollywood, and Dixie hasn't seen her since. Nanea and Lily endeavor to help Dixie feel welcome, in school, around the neighborhood, and in their newly-formed Honolulu Helpers club, dedicated to the war effort.
Back home, Papa is around more, mostly working only his usual graveyard shift instead of multiple shifts. Davis continues volunteering, and mentions wanting to enlist when he turns 18 in June (his twenty-first birthday will be the day before D-Day). And when he invites a lieutenant to dinner, the military officer sees how Nanea's trained Mele to dance and brings up the topic of Dogs for Defense, a program through which people more or less enlist their dogs (one of Nanea's classmates recently volunteered his dog for the program). David and Mele, both in the military? The war is getting too close to home...and it was already nearly on her doorstep.

Although Nanea doesn't want her brother or dog in the military, she's happy to help the soldiers and sailors when she can. Her Honolulu Helpers club make sure Valentine cards for the young men so far from home, and puts on a party for St. Patrick's Day. It's there that she sees a solider she's met before at a USO event, nicknamed Tennessee. He mentions how fun it was to see Mele then, when the dog snuck in, and says he wishes Nanea had been able to bring him. That gives Nanea and her grandmother an idea: at the next USO event later that month, Nanea debuts Mele’s hula skills. The service members love it, and line up to pet Mele after the show, most of them missing their own dogs back home. Just after Nanea's birthday (starting with a treasure hunt and ending with a picnic on the beach), she gets a letter from Tennessee, who's shipping out. He thanks her for letting him see Mele, and mentions how much the dog boosted his spirits. Nanea is inspired to find a way to get Mele to see more service members and help them, too. After all, if her class won the war stamp drive, there's got to be a way do it.
Nanea gets her chance at David's birthday luau, which Lt. Gregory attends. He acknowledges that he is a strong supporter of Dogs for Defense, but the decision has to be Nanea's, not his. Plus, Mele has been wonderful entertaining people at USO events. When Nanea brings up her idea--that she could arrange times to bring Mele to the hospital but stay outside with him--Lt. Gregory agrees it sounds brilliant, and promises to ask about it.

The very next day at breakfast, just after news of victory at the Battle of Midway, David announces that he's enlisted and will ship out in three weeks. Mom and Papa are scared for him, but also proud, and Mary Lou tries to be brave. But Nanea is furious that her brother would put himself in harm'sway. A good talk and a good cry with her grandmothers calms her down. Three weeks later, Nanea and her family see David off, sailing to the mainland for boot camp in Mississippi. Nanea makes him  a lei to throw overboard.

Once the ship is out of sight, Nanea, Lily, and Dixie give Mele a good scrub, and then get dressed for a hula performance: Lt. Gregory has secured a spot in the hospital for them to show off the Hula Dog and let the wounded play with Mele. Nanea is grateful for the distraction.

Inside Nanea's World

After the Battle of Midway, the threat of attack was lessened in Hawaii, but martial law remained in effect. Hawaii's record-setting volunteer effort did too: the island terry raised more funds for war bonds (in part through war stamp programs) than any of the states. When the military lifted its ban on people of Japanese descent enlist, it hoped for at least 1,500 recruits. It got almost 10,000.


For "Ryan, the fifth blossom in my grandma lei."

Donna sends (and receives) several letters of the course of the book. One mentions that two friends at her new school age no longer there...because they'd been sent to a Japanese internment camp.

Lily's older brother Gene tries to enlist, but isn't allowed due to his Japanese heritage. He joins the Varsity Victory Volunteers, a real group of young college students who wanted to help any way they could. They built roads, hauled stones, and did other manual labor for the war effort.

Lily's father, a fisherman, has his boat confiscated by the government, effectively putting him out of work. Her mother is able to get a job through a neighbor.

David's birthday luau includes salmon. When I lived in Hawaii, it was just about impossible to find salmon that wasn't farm-raised, and even that was rare. I must have been looking in the wrong stores. Or the wrong decade.

At one point, Honolulu's Roosevelt High School is bombed. I used to live less than a mile from there; my oldest attended the elementary school across the street.

Speaking of Japanese bombs, Papa's family is in Oregon. Japan firebombed parts of the Pacific Northwest during Wold War II. Most of it was too damp for the boys to do much damage, but one landed near a picnicking family, killing them.

By the end of the book, Dixie and her father have been invited to stay with Donna's father in they home. Donna will be able to get more done without her little cousins keeping her up late and getting into her school things, and Donna's dad won't be so lonely (Nanea's family has him come to dinner every Thursday, but he still has to go home to an empty house).


Growing up with Aloha

Published 2017, author Kirby Larson, illustrators David Roth and Julie Kolesova

Nearly-ten-year-old Alice Nanea Mitchell lives in Honolulu with her older siblings, fifteen-year-old Mary Lou and seventeen-year-old David, and their parents Mom and Papa. Like the children, Mom I was born and raised on the island of Oahu. She's Hawaiian. Papa is of European descent and originally from Beaverton, OR. Nanea loves living at such a crossroads of cultures, fully embracing all th influences that have come to the Hawaiian islands.

One day in November, Nanea and her two best friends Lily and Donna notice a contest: complete four tasks by December 15 to be entered to win a new bike. The tasks are turn tragedy into triumph, make a difference in the community, do a good deed for a stranger, and show appreciation for family. Nanea wants to win--not only would she love the bike, winning it by helping people would show her family she's growing up, despite being the youngest. Throughout November, she finishes the third and fourth tasks, but learns she needs to plan a better so she's not going one step forward and two steps back, like when she was working on something to help her dad not miss his family in Oregon...but forgot to feed her dog Mele, and Mele ate the Thanksgiving turkey.

Soon it's December. Of 1941. Sunday, December 7--a day that will live in infamy.

Nanea had gotten up early to make her family a special breakfast, to make up for the turkey. But any reader who knows this part of history knows her family won't be noticing the food. She hears a plane, and is confused to see that it's flying so low she can make out the Japanese flag on the tail. Her family wakes up, and Papa switches on the radio. There's a call for all military personnel to report to their
posts. Papa's not military, but he is a civilian contractor so he rushes to the shipyard. As he leaves, the radio announcer confirms that this is no drill. This is an enemy attack.

David leaves too, for the VFW hall, as his Boy Scout leader had instructed the scouts to do in emergencies. Nanea, Mom, and Mary Lou listen tensely to the radio, until it cuts out. Static on every channel. Gradually, they learn what's happening, as the attack ends and people come out of their homes (although David doesn't come back until the next night, and only to sleep, since the hospital needs help; and Papa hasn't been heard from at all). Japanese war planes bombed Pearl Harbor, a military target due to the battleships docked there, and also attacked some of the surrounding area. Nanea's school is partially destroyed, and neighbors have bullet holes in their homes and cars. (This was something that radially struck me when I visited Pearl Harbor in 2015: of the 2,403 casualties, 49 were civilians. Two were infants.)

As if the terror of the attacks and the dread of future aggression wasn't enough, many Japanese people are suddenly detained on suspicion of helping coordinate the attack, including Lily's father. Martial law is declared, and everyone of Japanese descent gets the short end of the stick: earlier curfew, no radios, arrests of adult men--regardless of whether they're US citizens, like Lily's father. Lily tries to carry on as normal, and helps Nanea look for Mele, who has been missing since the attack. But she's hurting at the injustice.

As the week goes on, Nanea keeps busy making food for the aid workers, worrying about Lily, andlooking for Mele. Finally, after a week, Papa comes home (I was wondering if he'd be a casualty, but I guess that would have been potentially disrespectful to the actual people who died, and too dark--although he does allude to the men trapped on the sunken Arizona who died). He's only home for some sleep though, and soon has to head back out. Mary Lou and Mom are busy volunteering, so it falls to Nanea to help her grandparents inventory their store--a grown up thing to do, but this isn't the way Nanea wanted to show she was mature. It does give her an idea of how to show Lily that she cares, though. She'll make cookies Lily can bring to her father. On the way to Lily's, Nanea is distracted by Mele! He's trapped in a hole, and by the time she gets him out, fed, and clean, she's two hours late to see Lily. Lily is angry, and Nanea leaves without explaining. But a neighbor helps Nanea see that it's best to fix a problem right away, and when Nanea returns to Lily's with Mele, Loy understands. Donna shows up with food too, and Lily says that she appreciates knowing her friends care about her.

On Christmas Day, there are few decorations, due to the blackout rules and the shipment of Christmas trees being sent back to the mainland. Nanea has the bright idea to paint thumbtacks and decorate them with a lei to make a little tree. Her father and brother are able to join the celebration as well. A week later, Nanea and Mary Lou dance in a hula recital for the USO. Mele manages to sneak out and follow Nanea, but her embarrassment quickly fades when she sees how happy the soldiers and sailors are to do something so normal as petting a dog.

A few days later, Donna has bad news: all nonessential civilians are being sent away, back to San Francisco. It will be easier to keep the permanent residents, military personnel, and contractors safe and fed with fewer people on the islands. Nanea tries to think of ways to show that Donna is essential, even giving up the first day Papa has off in three weeks to work with Donna and some other friends to help with childcare during a Frist Aid training. Nanea comes up with other ways to hav Donna help, including a bottle drive (they can be  sterilized to hold donated blood) that gets a newspaper write up. But it's not enough, and Donna and her mother are sent back to San Francisco in late January. As her boat departs, Donna tosses the lei Nanea and Lily made her into the ocean. Legend says that if your lei makes it back to the island's shore, you will too.

Inside Nanea's World

The historical section talks about the restrictive curfew enforced in Hawaii following the Pearl Harbor attacks, and he life changed for the islands' residents. But it didn't charge their willingness to help in whatever way they could.


Dedicated to "Clio, my mo'opuna wahine, with much aloha."

Nanea and Mary Lou practice a song with kala'au and pu'ili sticks--my oldest went to school in Honolulu when we lived there, and she used the same sticks at the end of the school year recital.

Nanea's siblings have Hawaiian middle names like she does (Noelani and Kekoa). Their grandmother tends to use the, especially during hula lessons. Speaking of hula lessons, David works at the Royal Hawaiian Hotel, which has free hula lessons on a weekly basis. My older two kids took them sometimes (the third wasn't born then).

Matson, the shipping company that was supposed to bring Christmas trees, is still around. We used to get our things to and from Hawaii when we moved there temporarily.

Nanea's mom commments that she's glad David is too young to enlist. However, he's 17, and the war won't be over until 1945. And there's a draft coming.

Possible connections to Molly, the original World War II representative: Donna and Linda share some letters, Lily is what Susan means (it's for the Hebrew name Susana), and Mary Lou and her friends knit socks for the military personnel.


Summer Camp, Friends for Life

Released to Amazon Prime in 2017

Z is attending a summer STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math) camp In California with Paz, but they are confused by the head counselor's insistence that they not be allowed the use of any technology until they get in touch with nature and each other. Another girl, Drew, is completely on board with the idea, but Z is more skeptical--and Paz outright hates it.

A younger counselor, Jordan, encourages them to look to nature for inspiration. After all, watching birds inspired people to build planes. Jordan is amazing, but the head counselor denies there's any worker by that name. When Z and Paz look at the picture Jordan took of the three of them together using a camp computer, Jordan's not in the picture...but Drew photobombed them. The person they talked to wasn't there, but someone else was and they never heard or saw her?

When the two friends are trying to find a rational explanation, they're startled by a sound which turns out Jordan's unique charm bracelet hanging on their door and blowing in the wind. They also run in Drew, and realize that she wants to be friends. They put the search for Jordan on hold to start again on the right foot with Drew, and then the trio investigate the mystery.

They find a flip book, presumably from Jordan, filled with cryptic drawings. But because of each girl's talents and interests, they can each interepret parts, and together they can decipher it. They end following glowing footprints into the forest, where the charm bracelet alerts them to a set of keys, which unlocks a gate leading to Jordan, and her cabin full of STEAM wonders. It turns out that Jordan is the goddaughter of the head counselor, whose mother founded the camp and died last year. Jordan didn't think she could take on her godmother's mother's role, so she didn't come back to camp. Except that it called her, and she couldn't resist checking things out. Z and Paz stood out to her as people she should reach out to, so she created a mystery to show them how their talents don't rely on technology. The three girls convince Jordan to come to camp for real, telling her she’ll be able to honor the legacy of the camp founder easily. The movie ends with the campers blending nature and technology to learn more about the world.


One girl smashes a HUGE bug in the opening scene. She pulls away what looks like a wad of chewing gum after she slaps what sounded like a mosquito. Ew.

 Speaking of bugs, how did Z find fireflies in California? They don't live on that side of the Rockies.

There's some really nice animation in parts, like Z's flip book movie.

The captions spell Paz as Paws.

A quote is displayed just before the end credits: "Don't let anyone rob you of your imagination, your creativity, or your curiosity. It's your place in the world; it's your life. Go on and do all you can with it, and make it the life you want to live." Dr. Mae Jamison, NASA

Z: Zoe Manarel
Paz: Alison Fernandez
Drew: Lauren Lindsey Donzis
Rae: Camryn Manheim
Jordan: Monique Green
Camper 1: Chloe Beth Jones
Camper 2: Mia Moore


Contemporary Character 2017: Z on Location

Published 2017, author J. J. Howard, book design by Suzanne LaGage, photos by April Messinger Photography and Michael Frost


Z is excited for summer: her favorite vlogger, Winter Costello, has issued a challenge for her followers to to post about their summer adventures. And does Z ever have an adventure! She’s going to VidCon in San Francisco, where she’ll meet some of her far-flung friends, and on the way...Her mom is traveling to some locations in Washington and California to interview different people in the tech business to find out how they’re integrating new technologies into people’s everyday lives (e.g.; an AI robot to help people with autism learn about social interaction, and a company make smart device that connect to each other). She’s letting Z come to help film the interviews!

The first interview is fantastic. Z’s stoked for the next one, but gets distracted by her phone alerts. Her mom tries to get through to her to live in the moment rather than just thinking of what wil make a good post, but it’s hard for Z to not be connected to the internet. As the interviews progress, Z gets more and more distracted until her mom finally calls in one of her students to meet them and take over. Z wants to prove herself, but screws up even worse: she sends a picture from a pen interview with a virtual reality company to her friends back in Seattle...who post the proprietary information on social media. The company finds out and ban them from coming back and revokes permission for the interview to be shown. Z feels awful, and knows she has to regain her mom’s trust. Acting on the student’s advice, she starts small, taking care of tasks she knows she can do, even it’s just something simple like making breakfast. She helps with the interviews rather than trying to make them flashier for posting. She also only uses her phone when strictly necessary, like arranging when to meet her friends (part of this was being grounded from the phone, but Z is prepared to restrict herself on her own). By the time they reach VidCon, Z’s mom is impressed with her efforts and gives her another chance when the student comes down with food poisoning. Specifically, Z gets to film the interview with Winter Costello! Winter offers to grant Z a short interview for her vlog but Z has to decline—just before meeting with her, Z ran into some fans who asked her for an interview, and staying any longer would mean missing that and letting her fans down. Z wants to stay true to her word.

Sticking with the original plan was definitely the right choice. Her fans bring some more fans along, and Z’s friends are there. It’s amazing for Z to see how many people enjoy her work. Even better, Winter shows up and features Z on her vlog! Doing something because it was the right thing rather it being the cool thing led to something even better.


The author dedicates the book to her mother.

I love that Z sends her videos to her parents for approval before posting them online. It’s a good idea for kids the ages of this book’s target audience. (She still uses her full name though, which I wouldn’t be comfortable letting my kids do).

Good research, author! Z’s friends at home send her pictures of a wallaroo at Seattle’s Woodland Park Zoo. It does indeed have wallaroos.


Contemporary Character 2017: The Real Z

Published: 2017. Author: Jen Calonita, book design Susanne Lagasa Photos by April Mersinger Photography, Michael Frost for Scholastic, Eric Isselee/Shutterstock, Inc.


Pacific Northwest resident Suzanne "Z" Yang loves making movies. Her mother teaches film at a nearby university and her dad's a computer expert, so she has great resources to help her with planning, shooting, and editing movies. She does a lot of stop-motion animation with her American Girl dolls and posts the videos online; they're very popular. So while she's excited, it's a not a huge surprise that she's selected to make a documentary about her city for a film festival in Seattle (it's called "CloudSong" but the timing and setup of it...it's SIFF, the Seattle Independent Film Festival). She has six weeks and a nice chunk of change from the festival to film. She shares the news with her friends right away, and they brainstorm ideas about how to make her film stand out.

Z jumps right into shooting different scenes. One of her friends is part of a band, and they agree to cover "Singing in the Rain" for it. Her other friends are on board to help her, too. But Z is so focused on the contest that she lets a few other things slide, like the school project she's working on with her best friend, Lauren (group projects SUCK). Lauren and some of Z's other friends feel pushed to the side, and until Z realizes that she can't just live in one aspect of her life and apologizes, they're annoyed with her. Z finds a way to balance all of her interests with the contest, and is able to put together a rough shoot of what she has. She invites her friends, online and in Seattle, to watch it together.

Z's friends agree that it's very well-shot, but there's something off about most of the footage. It feels more like a commercial for Seattle. It doesn't feel like it has Z's touch on it. Some of the scenes, like of her friend's band performing in the rain, do feel authentic and unique though. Z accepts the constructive criticism well, and thinks about how she can improve her film. She wants to tell not just A story, but HER story. Z re-edits what she's filmed and gets some more footage, changing her focus to being more "a day in the life" from her perspective. When she's satisfied with her film, she submits Zeattle and waits for the results of the contest.

A short time later, Z gets the news that she won second place! (First went to someone who did a documentary focusing on the Seattle Underground.) Her film will be shown at the film festival! It's not first place so it doesn't have the prize money she was hoping to donate to her school's AV club, but she's going to have her work shown in a real film festival! When the big day arrives, Z even gets interviewed on the red carpet. With this under her belt, Z can hardly wait to see what happens next.


Dedicated to Keiran Cook, "a true American Girl and an excellent first reader."

This book is very fast-paced. Z and her friends are all very energetic and seem to be doing everything at top speed. Makes it a very fast and engaging read.

A lot of the mentions of Seattle fit pretty well with the city. The only thing that really stood out to me as not Seattle was how many people were using umbrellas. Most of us in the greater Seattle area have sort of given up on umbrellas and don't bother unless it's really pouring or we're dressed up for something; it's usually people from out-of-town with umbrellas. Since the rain we usually have is fairly light drizzle and it's often breezy, umbrellas aren't as common as you might expect. So while it makes sense for Z to have rain gear for her camera equipment, people carrying them is a bit odder.

Z has a dalmatian named Popcorn.

Z's mom probably teaches at Seattle Pacific University. They live on Queen Anne hill and her university is close to their house--SPU's on Queen Anne.

Z's friends are a fairly diverse group; she's Korean, one friend is Hispanic, one lives in London (online friend), one uses a wheelchair (also an online friend; they all met at a con). But it's not shoved in your face, and just comes up naturally. Plus the characters are all well-rounded. For example, one girl isn't just the girl in the wheelchair; she's the girl who loves to make online videos and plays basketball too.

An Asian character in Seattle makes a lot of sense: being closer to Asia than the East Coast, there are a lot of people here of Asian descent. Just in my family, I have three aunts, an uncle, three first cousins, a brother-in-law, two nieces, a nephew, and four first cousins once removed who are all or part Korean, Vietnamese, or Filipino. Some were actually born in Asia, some have been here their whole lives.

Z's best friend plays soccer and her favorite soccer ball is bright green. It should have been a Sounders ball; Seattle's pro soccer team colors are "rave green" (a sort of kelly green), "Sounder blue" (a sort of slightly greyish royal blue), and "Cascade shale" (dark grey, almost black).

It's so weird to read about American Girl dolls in an American Girl book.

There are a lot of videos in the style of Z's on the American Girl Youtube channel here.


Contemporary Character 2017: A Song for the Season

Published: 2017. Author: Kellen Hertz. Cover design Angela Jun.


Following an exhilarating performance at Belle Starr’s final stop in her world tour, Tenney and Logan find themselves gaining more and more internet fame—enough to justify their own, much smaller tour. They’ll play five locations around Nashville the week before Christmas, returning home Christmas Eve. Tenney is excited, but sad she’ll be missing out on some of her holiday traditions and time with her friends, mom, and siblings (her dad is coming, as is their manager). Logan is more reserved, worried about Jude. But they set out optimistic.

The first performance is a nightmare. The sound system goes haywire, and by the time it’s fixed, half their allotted time is gone and much of the audience has left. Tenneyand Logan power through, bringing back some viewers, but are understandably disappointed with how things went. The next performance has a hitch as well: they’re double-booked with a children’s choir. They work out singing some songs with them, which delights both the younger children and a set of sisters who drove a long way to see them. Zane gives the sisters tickets to their next performance, which will be in a proper concert hall, unlike the two previous bookings. That one goes well, aside from Logan slipping up a few times. Well, and Tenney snapping at him on stage about it (away from the microphone, fortunately).

Logan’s been so tense and withdrawn during the trip, no matter what Tenney does to draw him out of his shell (maybe leave him alone for half a second?). And one evening Tenney overhears her dad and her manager discussing how if Tenney and Logan don’t stop getting on each other’s nerves, maybe they’re not ready to record an album. Tenney tries to find a time to talk to Logan, but it never seems right. Finally, on the way to their last venue Christmas Eve, she gets her chance...when the van gets stranded in a snowstorm (her dad walks to get help while their manager tries to flag down a passing car). Logan reveals that he’s upset not just because of his brother, but because he figured his dad had so much fun touring that he rarely visits, but seeing how much of it is draining and grueling makes him wonder how his dad can choose that over his family.

By the time the group gets towed into town, Tenney and Logan have made up. But while the fix is relatively simple, the shop is backed up and the snow has closed a main road. They’re stranded until at least the morning. The group checks into a hotel, worried about how they’ll spend Christmas. Tenney decides to make the best of things, and with the okay of the hotel owners, her dad, the manager, and Logan, she and Logan put on a performance right in the lobby for other stranded travelers.

The morning greets the group with a working car and clear roads. They’re all able to make it back in time to spend at least most of Christmas with their loved ones.


Dedicated to Mikayla, Kaiya, Owen, and Kieran.

Aubrey wants to learn to play another instrument, because she only knows accordion. I understand wanting to expand her repertoire, but accordion is hard! If she’s good enough to say “only accordion” shoe must be really good.

One concert is in Franklin, TN. I have a fridge magnet from there, with (fake) ladybugs on it.

We stayed in a hotel last Christmas Eve, and in 2014 (planned). Both times the hotels had festive decorations, not dusty relics like in this book, and last year the staff put a stocking on everyone’s room with some treat so inside. We use that stocking for our pets now. That hotel was in Washington, the 2014 one in Texas.


Contemporary Character 2017: Tenney Shares the Stage

Published: 2017. Author: Kellen Hertz. Cover illustration: Juliana Kolesova and Sonya Sones


Tenney and Logan are starting to mesh well as a duo finally--not perfectly, but with help from Portia and encouragement from Zane, they're able to bring out each other's good qualities rather than antagonize each other. They're meeting more often, despite Logan's odd insistence on not being able to work certain days or times. The turning point seems to be when Tenney writes out some frustrated lyrics to go with a song Logan wrote...not very vaguely describing how he annoys her. Logan responds with a second verse about how Tenney annoys Logan. The song's really good though, and they have fun playing it together. It ends up showing them how to work together.

But just when things are going so right, Logan fails to show up to a meeting with Zane and Portia to perform their new song. He's not just late, he never comes. Tenney is surprised to find herself wanting to defend Logan and explain his absence, insistently reminding the adults how much Logan loves music. Soon the reason for Logan's disappearance is revealed: he was arrested for shoplifting.

Tenney and Portia go to Logan's house (Tenney and her father had given Logan a ride home a few days before). Logan's not there, but his mother and younger brother are. Logan's mother explains: Logan's brother had had an asthma attack, and when Logan went to pick up his new inhaler at the pharmacy, he'd forgotten his wallet. He intended to pay the pharmacist back later, and thought he had an understanding with her, but when he took the medicine another worker saw and reported it as theft. It turns out that Logan's dad has been on a music tour for months, and might not be back for another few months. Even worse, he won't be paid until the end of the tour. Logan's been trying to help by watching his younger brother and even working as a janitor at his mom's hospital (his mom is a nurse; she's been picking up extra shifts). Tenney tries to be understanding but does an imperfect job of it, and Logan's embarrassed of his circumstances. He ends up quitting the duo.

Tenney is more upset than she expected she'd be. It was only recently that she never wanted to see Logan again, but now that she knows him better and sees how well they work together, she can't imagine performing without him. Her parents and Zane tell her to move on, because Logan either can't or won't focus enough on his music, and will hold Tenney back. But Tenney just has to try once more. Her older brother Mason understands, and drives Tenney around to look for Logan. She finds him at the hospital where he works, and just before his shift is over she meets a young girl with a chronic condition (it's not specified what she has). Logan's told the girl, Alice, about Tenney because Alice is one of Tenney's biggest fans. Meeting Alice gives Tenney an idea for fixing everything.

With Mason's help, Tenney gets permission from the hospital to put on an acoustic session for the sick children there. Logan is happy to agree. Tenney doesn't tell him that she's inviting her parents, Logan's mom, Zane, Portia, and just for good measure, Belle Starr (she's probably too busy, plus Logan's quitting meant cancelling a schedule gig opening for one of Starr's private shows in Nashville). Of course, she doesn't tell anyone besides Mason that Logan's going to be there. They're all peeved when they find out, but it's too late to cancel with all the hopeful children waiting for there performance. After it's over, everyone agrees that with a little help (for example, Logan's brother can come to the Grants' music store for rehearsals and play with Aubrey so that Logan doesn't need to baby-sit) Tenney and Logan are back together.


Dedicated to "John--I love sharing our song with you."

The Southern (or "Southun" as my Georgia-born granny would say) really shows up a lot in this book. Lots of y'all and Southern foods are mentioned, more so than in the previous two books.

Another thing that shows up more in this book is Tenney's habit of assuming she knows what people are thinking and forging ahead with those assumptions, which are often wrong. As in, "Logan must be upset because of X; I'll try to reassure him about X without asking if that's actually the problem."

To her credit, Tenney does realize that she has a pretty privileged life: a loving, supportive, and stable family, and the money and opportunity to foster her natural talent.

Tenney's younger sister Aubrey plays accordion for one of the songs during the acoustic performance. I can't quite imagine how accordion would sound with guitar, but I'm not very musical. The audience loves it, and Aubrey is apparently very good at accordion.