Category Archives: Nancy Tandon

Nancy Tandon: Book Review: The Astro Outlaw

From: Out to Play
March 23, 2012 at 10:35AM

          Baseball fans, rejoice!  For anyone who says, “There are no good books out there for boys!” author David A. Kelly has an answer.   The Ballpark Mysteries is an intriguing book series based on two cousins, Kate and Mike, who travel to different baseball stadiums around the country, and solve curious dilemmas at each stop.  In Book Four of the series, The Astro Outlaw, the cousins travel to Houston, TX where they meet astronaut Nicholas Rice and help him find a missing moon rock.
     This book has all the elements a teacher or parent is looking for to interest a “reluctant reader.”  Although not necessarily just for boys, The Astro Outlaw plays on both astronauts and baseball, a nice brew for the 6-8 year old set.  The Houston Space Center and the Houston Astro’s ballpark are both richly described, giving young readers some juicy vocabulary to chew on.  By the end of the book, I was ready to go check out the stadium, and I’m merely a lukewarm baseball fan.  David A. Kelly’s obvious love for the sport and the arenas it is played in comes sparkling through.  Part travelogue, the book has a unique glossary that gives further details about the baseball stadium and helps the book (and it’s readers) dip into the non-fiction genre.
     One other unique aspect of the book is that the main character, Mike, actually has a website you can follow, called The Dugout Scoop.  This is a nice extension activity, and yet another way author David A. Kelly shows us that he understands his young audience and seeks to engage them right where their interests lie.
     Mystery series have a long history of entertaining children.  Most of us can recall curling up with Nancy Drew or the Hardy Boys, and being glad as you finished one story that another was waiting in the wings: more clues to be followed, more adventure to come!  The Ballpark Mysteries is geared toward new chapter book readers, and kids will likely want to start with book one and keep on reading.
     Click here to purchase or to read the latest info on the Ballpark Mysteries.


Nancy Tandon: Manners of the Uber-Rich

From: Out to Play
March 17, 2012 at 09:21AM

     “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous”… remember that show?  From the balcony of my suite at a fancy-schmancy resort hotel in Miami Beach, I keep hearing Robin Leach’s voice saying things like, “He drives a Lamborghini, but that’s not all….” as the camera sweeps to a shot of a 50-foot immaculately appointed yacht.
     No, I haven’t won the lottery.  I just stowed away in my husband’s luggage as he packed for a conference in Southern Florida.  (Stuck the kids in his carry on bag).  When we got here we were upgraded to a suite in some gracious cosmic nod to how difficult it can be to spend prolonged time with your family when stuffed into 300 square feet.  So here we sit, surveying the hotel’s ridiculous spread of pools and glittering beachfront.
     We are interlopers in this world, and God forgive me, it’s fun!  It’s fun to play at being the person who sips ice cold watermelon-flavored water poolside. It’s fun to “call down for the car,” and be greeted by a phalanx of men in crisp white uniforms upon your return.  When I pick up the phone, a voice answers, “How may I help you, Tandon party?”  How lovely.  How nice to step outside of reality for a moment and peek at the 1%.
     But would I want to stay here?  As my little neighbor buddy would say, “No fanks.”  That’s not just because I know I can’t, so therefore am pretending I don’t want to.  I just know that jockeying for the “best spot” by the pool, or tripping over beach chairs lined up like automatons on my way to dip my toes in the water is not the life for me.  There is a lovely rocky cove in Maine that is never crowded that beats this jumble of people any day.  (At this point in my logic my husband points out that that cove is never crowded because the water is always ass cold.  I know.  But still.)
   What really makes me glad that I’m just a visitor in this world, however, is best illustrated by an encounter at the hotel coffee shop yesterday.  I stopped in for an $8 latte (like a drug addict, I would have paid any price at the time…) and a treat for the kids.  The man behind me ordered thusly:

     Barrista:  How may I help you?
     Man:  Give me an Americano.
     Me (thinking):  Say please!
     Man:  What’s in these cookies?
     Barrista:  Chocolate chips and macadamia nuts.
     Man:  Give me one of those, too.
     Me (thinking):  Seriously? You’re not going to say please?

     Moments later:

     Second Barrista:  Here is your Americano, sir.
     Man:  Silence.
     Me (thinking, and biting tongue):  Thank you!!  Hello?  Can’t even say thank you?

     Moments later, alone with kids:

     Me:  I’d better never see or hear about you guys ordering a coffee when you are a grown up and not saying please and thank you!
     Kids:  eye rolls

     I’m not saying all rich people are rude.  I’m just saying at this particular resort, on this particular getaway, it was more often the norm to see people behaving in ways that made me cringe.  I’d never want my kids to think it’s okay to treat anyone with disdain, no matter how many dollars are in their pockets.  Think of the character Celia in The Help – she was incredibly rich but innately kind.
     I may never be incredibly rich, but I strive to be kind in all circumstances, and will continue to teach my kids to be that way as well, no matter how many eye rolls.  Be kind to someone today!  Give an extra hearty “please” and “thank you” to the next person who serves you.  We’re all in this together.

Nancy Tandon: What if it all goes right?

From: Out to Play
March 06, 2012 at 09:37AM


      A few years ago, my sister gave me a refrigerator magnet that changed my life.  Or, at least, my outlook on it.  It says:  What if it all goes right?
     I’m a compulsive worrier, so even when things are going right, it makes me anxious.  All I can do is think about what’s going to happen to ruin it, and when.  But this little refrigerator magnet, a small daily affirmation as I reach for my coffee cream, has somehow wormed it’s way into my thinking.  Now, instead of always waiting for the other shoe to drop, sometimes I just enjoy things being all right.

    Yesterday was one of those days.  Not “one of those days,” that you can’t wait to end, but a day where everything just seemed to go right.  Nothing special, just little nice things such as finding out the price on my rental car for an upcoming trip went down by $20 a day!  (When does that ever happen?).  This was followed by other small nice things:

  • Hitting three green lights in a row when I was a little late taking my son to karate.  
  • My husband pulling hot food out of the oven just as I walked into the house after an evening meeting, late and hungry.
  • A friend being available last minute to meet for lunch.
  • Window shopping that yielded nothing I wanted on a day I didn’t have money to spend.
  • Finally figuring out a particularly tricky revision on a manuscript I’ve been working on.
  • Having a coupon for a free hot beverage at my favorite coffee place (where the above revision took place).
     What if it all goes right? Well, yesterday it really seemed to.  I appreciated every moment, and I think that is the key.  I think things are “going right” all the time, we just need to take a moment to notice them. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go take my daughter’s forgotten violin into school.  Maybe I’ll get all the green lights.

Nancy Tandon: Book Review: Wonder

From: Out to Play

            Wonder by R. J. Palacio is the kind ofbook that from the first page, made me tilt my head to the side and raise myeyebrows.  That is code for,“Huh.  I’m interested.”  By the end of the first chapter, I wasalready invested in the main character, August “Auggie” Pullman, and anticipatedbeing mad at his enemies and cheering his victories as I read on. 
            Auggiewas born with a host of facial anomalies, making his appearance exceedinglyunusual.  In his words: “Whateveryou’re thinking, it’s probably worse.” As a speech pathologist, I’ve had someexposure to children with facial anomalies.  I really applaud the way Ms. Palacio dealt with thedescription of Auggie’s facial features. She realistically portrays the struggles of what this kind of geneticsnafu would entail, including surgeries and difficulties with basic things likeeating. Throughout the story, she intermittently gives us bits and pieces ofdetails, like stolen glances, so that by the end of the book, we have a prettygood idea of what Auggie looks like, without ever having to stare him in theface, which he would hate.
            Wemeet Auggie as he is about to enter 5th grade, his first time goingto school with other children. From there, the author creates a well fleshed-out microcosm ofsociety.  We feel his parent’sanxiety tenderly, and his sister’s protectiveness fiercely.  As new kids enter his world, you willfind yourself thinking, “which kind of kid would I, or my kids, be?”  You will hope you’d be like hisnon-judgmental friend Summer, but if you’re being truthful, you’ll wonder ifyou’d be more like Jack – friends to his face, but denying him behind his back,or Julian – downright unaccepting.
            Theteachers in the story can be a bit preachy at times, and adult readers may feellike they are being force-fed the story’s morals.  However, I happen to appreciate teachers who weave charactereducation into their lessons, and find myself force-feeding morals to my ownkids from time to time.  For theintended audience of a middle grade novel, it works.
             Thisstory is a must read for kids in today’s society.  We have had amazing breakthroughs in medical technology, andmore and more children with differences are surviving and thriving.  We want these kids to know that whileit might take us a moment to get to know them, we value them and want them inour lives.  We want our ‘typicallydeveloping’ kids to understand that we all have differences, we all havestruggles, and people should be accepted for who they are, and the gifts theyhave to share.  This book will helpwith that important work. 
                Ihighly recommend this book.  I hopeyou will read it and enjoy, then pass it along and share the message.  Wonder,and August Pullman, will be with you for a long time.  

To purchase:

Also, check out the book trailer on You Tube, keywords  RJ Palacio Wonder

Nancy Tandon: Where do you work?

From: Out to Play
February 27, 2012 at 01:25PM

     I’ve been thinking a lot lately about environments that people work in.  Many times, you have no choice but to live among muted grays and mauves, in a cubicle world.  Others, like teachers, may have a whole room to play with and add their personality to.  I enjoy seeing what people do to brighten up their work areas.  A well placed picture of the kids or a recent vacation can be a fun window into that particular teller/nurse/accountant/cashier’s life.   Just imagine what you could learn from going through the car of a salesperson who does a lot of driving.
     I’ve had such fun creating what, for me, is an inspirational little work station.  Bright colors perk me up in the morning (the perfectly situated sunny window that looks out onto a row of hemlocks is an added delight!).  I made sure to leave a good chunk of the wall blank for when I need to stare at nothing in order to think of something.  The white chest to the left was made by my great-grandfather. I was so tickled (and a little twilight-zoned) when I realized it fit exactly into the little spot I had for it.
    To top it off, I really can’t beat the commute (just up the stairs!), or the dress code (I may be in my pajamas and it may be after lunch time….).  My husband might wonder if I could beat the pay, but then I would give him ‘the look’ that would tell him not to bother me, that I’m working here.

     I’d love to hear from you: do you like where you work? What have you done to make it your own?

Nancy Tandon: Mommy’s Time Out

From: Out to Play
February 16, 2012 at 08:57AM

     Mommy’s Time Out is the name of a pretty decent and very affordable white wine, and it can also just be a really good idea.  This morning as my kids were getting ready for school, I found myself inside a swirl of inappropriate chaos.  By this, I mean avoidable chaos: if the shoes, coats, and books had been placed where I always ask them to be placed, and if the children had gone to sleep when I put them to bed at a reasonable hour last night, much of this brew-ha-ha would have simply not existed.
     But even when you do things “just right,” some mornings will get away from you.  As I felt my blood pressure rise, I recognized and began to fear the approach of “Mommy Two Heads.” This is a creature straight from your nightmares.  She is a beast so loud and fearsome that she actually grows a second head, because having one mouth to yell out of is just not enough.  But she is no fun. I don’t like her.  I don’t want to let her out.
     So,  I do what the mom character is my soon-to-be-under-contract picture book (FYI: that is a desire, not an announcement) does.  I give myself permission to take a time-out.  I quietly head up to my room, close the door, and sit down next to a basket of picture books I recently checked out of the library.  My children have grown beyond these books as bedtime stories, but I haven’t.  I let the din of downstairs fade away as I read book after book after book.  It is such a delight to escape for a moment to a world where mother bear can hug baby bear and make everything all right.  Delightful.  Simple.  Blood pressure falling, falling.  Mommy Two Heads retreats.
     I think that is why I enjoy writing picture books so much.  In my stories, the children aren’t perfect, but I can control what they do on the next page.  My imagination can swirl around in some rhyming verse that can be later tucked away for just my pleasure.  Delightful. Simple.  Just the right kind of time out – the kind that makes me a better mom, just for having taken some time for myself.
    Time outs – they’re not just for kids!  Give it a try. You’ll be so glad you did.

Nancy Tandon: Book Review: Galaxy Games

From: Out to Play
February 11, 2012 at 10:33AM

            InGalaxy Games (Book One: The Challengers),author Greg R. Fishbone takes us on an ambitious and enjoyable ride through theuniverse.  You’ll have to hold ontoyour seat as this story whisks you from the home of 11-year-old Tyler Sato inPlatte Bluff, Nevada, to his cousin’s home in Tokyo, Japan, and on out into themiddle solar system, home of M’Frozza of Mrendaria. 
            Evenas the world discovers that a star named in his honor is actually a space shiphurtling towards Earth to recruit him as a player in the Galaxy Games, Ty Sato continuesto face everyday life challenges such as sharing a bathroom with his obnoxiousolder sister and dealing with a best friend who’s not talking to him.  These universal themes, along with theoverall message of the benefits of a world without boundaries, kept this(usually) sci-fi phobic reader hooked.
            Althoughthe scenery changes quickly, characters are introduced with enough richnessthat it is easy to keep them straight, and clear chapter headings (and cleveruse of fonts) will help younger readers move from one setting to another withease.  There are several laugh-out-loudmoments no matter where you are in the galaxy.
            Xenophileswill love how Japanese culture is interwoven masterfully into thisintergalactic tale.  Words fromdifferent languages (Japanese, Mrendarian, and others!) are introduced in richcontext so they are easily understood without the story ever feeling pedantic.  As a fantastic resource, the bookincludes author notes on Japanese culture and language, and a fun to readglossary.
            Galaxy Games is well suited for middlegrade readers, but my son and I also enjoyed reading and laughing out loudtogether. If you are looking for a fun book that your Sci-Fi, Judo kicking,video-game loving child might enjoy, look no further.  You’ll be glad there is more to come inthis series! 

Check it out here:

Happy Reading!

Nancy Tandon: 5 Tips for Handling Rejection

From: Out to Play
February 06, 2012 at 02:48PM

          One of my favorite moments in the movie Monsters, Inc. occurs when Sulley, a superstar, and Mike Wazowski, his assistant, are watching a TV commercial/public service announcement made by their company.  While Sulley is featured prominently in the commercial, poor little one-eyed Mike has only one shot on screen, and in it his whole face is covered by print copy.  
     After the commercial ends, he says to Sulley, “I can’t believe it!”
    Sulley, realizing what has happened, starts to comfort him, only to be cut off by Mike’s excited proclamation:
   “I WAS ON T.V.!!”
     Yesterday, after a cringe-worthy relay performance at her swim meet, my daughter had a similar reaction.  As she raced up to me after the meet, I was braced to do some self-confidence damage control.  
     “Did you see that?” she asked excitedly.  “If we had been the same age as those big girls, we would TOTALLY have beaten them!”
    So, I took a cue from James P. “Sulley” Sullivan and told my little Mike Wazowski, “that’s right!”
    Rejection is not fun.  It is not a good feeling to try hard for something and not achieve it.  (Just ask the New England Patriots!).  It is also inevitable that we will all face rejection at some point in our lives.    As the above examples illustrate, we can’t always control how or when rejection happens, but we can control how we respond to it.  
   As a writer, I’ve noticed a theme at conferences, in critique groups, and in blogs about writing:  get ready for rejection.  Lots of it.  With that in mind, here are my top five favorite ways to weather the storm of rejection:
1.  Take a little time to sulk.  You are not a robot.
2.  Take the Mike Wazowski approach:  “I got a letter from an editor!!”
3.  Take my daughter’s approach:  “When I make this manuscript bigger and better, it will succeed!”
4.  Appreciate that a “no” from one publisher leaves you room for a “yes” from another.  Maybe hearing “no” from a small publishing house will translate to better sales when a bigger house says, “yes”!
5.  Process the rejection on a professional, not personal, level.  I’m sure if Ms. Rejecter met you, she would like you very much.  But Ms. Rejecter has a job to do, and I guarantee she doesn’t like rejection, either.  Her critique is of your work, not you.  Bonus is that the critiques you read in a rejection letter will help you strengthen your story.
     Rejection.  It stinks, and it happens to all of us.  However, I think it’s worth it to put yourself out there and take a chance rather than to have a wonderful treasure sitting in a desk drawer that no one will ever see.  A rejection, for a writer, can be a wonderful beginning.  As Neil Simon said, “In baseball, you only get three swings and you’re out.  In rewriting, you get almost as many swings as you want and you know, sooner or later, you’ll hit the ball.”  


Nancy Tandon: If you want it, write it down!

From: Out to Play
February 03, 2012 at 11:07AM

     When I was around 12 years old, my dad came home from work and announced over dinner that he wanted the whole family to take some time over the course of the following week to make a Want List.  My siblings and I were pretty used to laughing at my dad, so this announcement roused a series of giggles. But we could tell by his response he was serious.  Really serious.
    “I want you to write down anything you want to have or do in your life. It could be something you want right now, it could be something you might want a long way in the future.”  He gave the example that my older sister could begin to think about and write down what colleges she might want to go to.  This prompted me to ask, “do I have to do this too?”
     “Yes” was the reply. I remember feeling like it was a really important assignment. He talked about it a lot over the next week, reminding us to write down anything, big or small, that WE wanted.  Adding excitement to the fact that I was included in this grown-up feeling assignment was the concept that we were not going to show our Want Lists to anyone unless we chose to. How freeing that was!
     I tentatively began my list.

1.  Long hair

     I glanced around my rainbow bedroom, got up and shut the door, then came back and wrote in very light pencil:

2.  A boyfriend

     I’m happy to tell you that the list ended up also including slightly more sophisticated line items, such as:

7.  Go to Australia and Costa Rica
12.  Go to college and help people
15.  Get married

     Over the years, I’ve thought about my original Want List and marveled at the prescience of my 12-year-old self.  So many of the wants became reality.  What was so special about writing them down that made them come true?
     When we ask ourselves, privately and frankly, what do you really want? we are peeling back to the core of what drives us.  I’ve updated my Want List about three times since age 12, usually when the road ahead was murky and I desired direction.  Each time, writing down my wants has helped me focus my efforts and achieve goals.  From a list in my late twenties:

4. Go to Graduate School
8. Have children

and then in my mid 30’s:

2. Try not to mess up the kids
3. Sleep through the night

     I have heard of people whose own answers actually came as a surprise when someone asked them, what do you really want?  In fact, this happened to me. One day when my kids were 1 and 3, I was sitting with a group of other moms of young children. The theme of our chatter was the age old dilemma of how difficult it is to balance working and parenting.  As part of the discourse, one of the women asked “what would your dream job be?”
    I answered, “I’m realizing I actually really enjoy being alone sometimes.  I’d like to have a little quiet desk near a window and write books for children, maybe some books that could help with specific speech therapy goals.”
     I had never expressed that idea so specifically before.  And I came home and wrote it down.  Now, 7 years later, I’m writing those kind of stories, among others, from that very “quiet desk” I had pictured so clearly.  It may not happen overnight, but anything is possible, once you know what you want!
     Good luck to you as you explore your goals, dreams, and desires.  Think about what you really want, take out a pen, and WRITE IT DOWN.  Oh, and thanks, Dad.

What would your dream job be? Are you living it?

Nancy Tandon: SCBWI Nuggets

From: Out to Play
January 30, 2012 at 09:34AM

     This weekend I attended the Society of Children’s Books Writers and Illustrators conference in New York.  It was fantastic on many levels.  There was a “blog team” following all the events, and you can re-live the conference through their posts at

     I was delighted to find this morning that when I sat down to write my basic impressions of the conference, it came out as a haiku:

Fantastic City
Inspiring Keynote Speakers
Read, Critique, Revise

Some other juicy nuggets from the weekend~

Timing is everything
Write to touch a heart, soul, or funny bone
Write the story only you can write
Have a HOOK
Readers go where the tension is
Every supporting character should have their own rich inner life
Everything you do informs your work

Two fellow conference attendees, headed home to write!

Nancy Tandon: Headline points to writing career

From: Out to Play
January 26, 2012 at 08:57AM

     I often see my life in headlines.  For example, this morning it was:  MOTHER’S HEAD EXPLODES WHEN CHILD’S FAKE CRYING GOES ON TOO LONG.
     Often, the headlines I read in my head relate to my little daily anxieties and neuroses, such as things involving premature death, fiery crashes, and cruel irony (think, MOTHER PLUNGES TO DEATH WHILE CLIMBING UP STEEP PRECIPICE TO GET PERFECT CHRISTMAS PICTURE OF KIDS).
    These headlines often pop into my head unexpectedly, and they are always welcome.  For one, they often help me realize when I’m being nutty and can put a positive spin on my real worries by making me laugh.  They have also helped guide me in what is important in my life.  In the example above, I would have stopped climbing and thought, the quality of the picture is not what matters – friends want to hear from you at the holidays, that’s it.
     When I began seeing and hearing headlines related to a writing career, I first brushed them aside as grandiose and self-centered.  (After all, they were headlines such as FIRST BOOK PUBLISHED SELLS MILLIONS, and the like).  Then they began to pop into my head, over and over, and took a more realistic bent:  WOMAN FINDS SANITY IN WRITING, and SIMPLE STORY BRINGS JOY TO CHILDREN.
     I also began to see me quoted in interviews, saying things like, “I wasn’t sure I could do this, but I’m glad I tried.  Look where it has taken me!”
    In this case, the headlines have guided me to a little writing nook, where the morning sun comes in, and where I am happy to go each day and peck away, playing with words and stories and hearing the headline:  WOMAN FOLLOWS HER DREAM, ONE SMALL STORY AT A TIME.

What is your HEADLINE today?

Nancy Tandon: The Post Office Blues

From: Out to Play
January 23, 2012 at 04:16PM

The lights are dim
Your countenance gray
to match your shirt, the floor, the day
No smile cracks your lips
No how are you quips;
The automated teller
is the nicer feller.
Where will I go
when Saturdays fail?
Off to a place
where they smile in my face

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