WORDS…With a Dash of SABOR

A Few Words from Lee Bennett Hopkins

LIFE ON THE DECKLE EDGE interviews my good friend, Lee Bennett Hopkins, about his newest book. Read. Enjoy.


Congratulations, Lee. I look forward to reading this one.


The Rain Wizard: The Amazing, Mysterious, True Life of Charles Mallory Hatfield by Larry Dane Brimner, offering a look at the man who in the early 1900s believed he had discovered a secret solution to drought.

The Daily Habit

Saturday morning chores were routine for me. First thing, the lawn needed to be mowed and garden beds weeded and dead-headed. Then the house needed to be cleaned. When I started my writing career, while teaching high school, Saturdays became my day for writing. Sundays were reserved for the yard work and house cleaning. And when I quit teaching to write fulltime, this routine was replaced with another: exercise, then writing, with yard work and house cleaning reserved for later in the day. It served me well through more than 150 books. Recently, however, I’ve lost my routine. Writing more research-intense books and a change in publishing that shifts the mind-deadening details of indexing, flap and catalog copy, and source notes to writers has reduced my output to one title per year–if I’m lucky. Thank you, Lesa Cline-Ransome for reminding me of the value of routines and sticking to them.


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I owe much of my writing career to Saturday mornings that began with frosted flakes cereal and cartoons. My father was a stickler for Saturday morning chores. Chores done promptly after breakfast and thoroughly each and every week. Friends would ring the doorbell or, in my teenage years, call to ask if I was ready to go shopping in downtown Boston. “Not done with my chores yet,” meant they had to wait just a little bit longer.

When the rest of my family grumbled about chores and cleaning, I said very little, preferring the look and feel of swept floors and the smell of Old English furniture polish. This weekly routine continued long after my brother and sister had each left for college and I was the last child left.  I believe it was the simple act of Saturday morning chores that lent itself to an appreciation of routine.


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DUTCH BABY with Lemon Sugar

This is the “Sabor” part of “Words . . . with a Dash of SABOR.” In English, sabor means “taste, flavor” and those who know me best know that my primary hobby is cooking. Herewith is a recipe I modified from epicurious. It’s quick, easy, and–most important of all–tasty.

It makes 4 to 6 servings, although we managed to split it between the two of us. And the picky-eater loved it.


1/4 cup sugar

1 teaspoon grated lemon zest

2 large eggs at room temperature

2/3 cup milk at room temperature

2/3 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon quality vanilla extract

1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg

1/8 teaspoon kosher salt

1/2 stick (or a little less) butter, cut into pieces

What you do.

Heat a 10-inch skillet in a 450-degree oven. While the skillet is heating, stir together sugar and zest in a small bowl. Set aside. Next, beat eggs with an electric mixer at high speed until they’re light and frothy. Then beat in the next six ingredients (through salt) until well blended. The batter will be thin. Retrieve the skillet from the oven. It will be HOT, so take care reaching for the handle. Swirl butter around in the skillet to melt and to coat the bottom and sides of the pan. Immediately add the batter and return the skillet to the oven. Bake about 20 to 25 minutes, until the egg mixture is puffed and golden brown. Top with the lemon sugar and serve immediately for breakfast, brunch, or dessert.

Small Talk–Dialogue in Juvenile Fiction

“An individual’s speech is as unique as his handwriting, his manner of dress, his voice, walk, gestures, his smile and his eyes.” So wrote Anne Chamberlain.

Indeed, nothing reveals so much about a character as what he says, and when and how he says it. Consider what we learn about Bradley in the opening chapter of Louis Sachar’s novel. There’s a Boy in the Girls’ Bathroom:

“Hey, Bradley, wait up!” somebody called after him.

Startled, he turned around.

Jeff, the new kid, hurried alongside him. “Hi,” said Jeff.

Bradley stared at him in amazement.

Jeff smiled. “I don’t mind sitting next to you,” he said. “Really.”

Bradley didn’t know what to say.

“I have been to the White House,” Jeff admitted. “If you want, I’ll tell you about it.”

Bradley thought a moment, then said, “Give me a dollar or I’ll spit on you.”

The author could have told us that Bradley was a disturbed child with a major chip on his shoulder. He didn’t. Instead, he let Bradley himself show us.

In The Bad Dreams of a Good Girl, by Susan Shreve, no one has to tell us that there’s a bit of sibling rivalry in the McDaniel household:

“I plan to eat in my bedroom if we have one more conversation at dinner about exceptional Lotty,” Nicholas said.

“Exceptionally boring Lotty,” Philip said.

“Go to your room,” my father said.

“That will be a pleasure,” Philip said.

The characters tell us themselves. And they do it more effectively and with more spirit–or sizzle, if you will–than if the author had told us that Nicholas and Philip were sick of hearing about Lotty.

Dialogue gives the reader a direct link with the characters in a book. It helps the characters come to life on the page, and the reader is right there to listen in on the conversation.

Condensed from an article written and copyrighted by Larry Dane Brimner.




Something New

Below you’ll find a link to a recording I did for TeachingBooks.net about STRIKE!: THE FARM WORKERS’ FIGHT FOR THEIR RIGHTS. And since so many people mispronounce my name, there’s a pronunciation guide at the site as well.




Connected? Or Have You Lost Touch?

Social media is a great tool, but often it gets in the way of true communication and connectedness. Consider what this video says: