Mary Crockett Hill

I’ve been trying to think for the past few days about what to say about Mary Crockett Hill, who I am not ready to talk about in the past tense. Her daughter Isabelle wrote a wonderful remembrance. (I’ll add the obituary link when it’s public.) I’m also linking to the gofundme to help her family with some of the expenses ahead. Here’s my favorite picture of Mary, taken during a perfect day in the woods.
My last words to Mary, aside from an update on my radioactive cat, were: What has 8 arms and 8 legs and 8 eyes?
Eight pirates.
I’ve spent the past nine months intermittently texting her jokes. Bad ones. Because sometimes when there is so much to say, you don’t know where to start. So you start with pirates. And a guy walking into a bar. And sometimes a pirate walking into a bar.
But you hope that between the punchlines and the arrrhs, she knows what you really mean.
I’m lucky enough to have spent time writing with Mary (and to her, and sometimes at her).
She is someone who looks (take that, past tense) at the same things as the rest of us. But she takes the details and generates some sort of metamorphosis, turning them to liquid and then sending them back to us, solid. And by then the thing – a mountain, a patch of lawn, a beetle, a whisper – is truer than true. It’s moving or devastating or funny or devastatingly funny. It’s art.
There’s more Mary has to say, and I’m hoping somehow that can still happen. There is more I have to say to her, too. The still unsaid things.
One thing that did not go unsaid are the words “I love you.” That’s a gift from Mary, because she says it (and gives it) pretty freely. She said it to end conversations long before she got sick. Which means I always had the chance to say it back. “I love you, too.” Too. The second part of the equation.
Now I’ll just have to say it first.
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ONE SMALL HOP named Green Earth honor book

Thanks so much to The Nature Generation for naming ONE SMALL HOP a Green Earth Book Award honor book. I started writing this book during a quiet summer when the frogs weren’t croaking and I’m so excited about the idea of more kids — and you — reading it.

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Activities for Tu B’Shevat

It’s nearly Tu B’Shevat, the Birthday of the Trees, but you don’t have to be Jewish to celebrate your leafy friends. (See Arbor DayEarth Day and Every Day.)  Here is an updated list of activities you might try with your kids, even during winter months when the trees are stripped of their finery:

Leaf rubbings: You can still find some leaves on the ground. Grab some, along with a pack of crayons. If you can’t find any maple or oak leaves still hanging around, try evergreens. They make great patterns, which in turn make fine covers for letters or notes (you did make a New Year’s resolution about keeping in better touch with friends, right?) Try holding your paper against the tree and make a bark rubbing. Study the differences between different trees.

Plant a tree. I always thought you needed to wait until spring to plant a tree, but when I was doing some research for Happy Birthday, Tree, I learned that it’s okay to plant them while it’s still winter, so long as the ground is soft enough that you can dig a proper hole. (Apparently, when the trees are in their “sleepy” states, they’re less likely to suffer from root shock.) Here are some planting tips.

Create a wish tree. Use a fallen tree branch (there should be a lot of them in the Northeast after the recent snow). Then, use scrap paper to create leaves and have students write their wishes for the environment, or declare how they’ll protect the environment. Hang them from the tree. You can go small, for a table top, or large, using some rocks and a planter. I have an older blogpost that shows this project in more detail.

Be a tree. (Very zen sounding, no?) Hold your arms up to the sky. Bend in the breeze. Ask your child: If you were a tree, what kind of tree would you be?

Have a birthday party for your trees. Make a cake (I recommend chocolate, to look more like dirt.) Add a few gummy worms for authenticity. Make newspaper hats, like the ones Joni makes in Happy Birthday, Tree. Some templates are here, from Martha Stewart, no less.

Have a Tu B’Shevat SederOr for the secular crowd: eat as many different types of fruits as you can.

Find the strangest fruit you can find. Read about it. Eat it!

Count the trees. How many different kinds do you have in your yard? Do you see anything living in your trees? Count the different ways trees are used in your home. (Wooden tables or floors or chairs? Home for animals? Paper?)

Climb a tree.

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Reading guide for Not Your All-American Girl

As we talk with students about Not Your All-American Girl, we decided to put together a reading guide. Make sure you check out the activities at the end! We hope this will help readers connect with the book — and with some of the things that are going on in their own lives.A PDF is here: madwenreadingguide

Thanks for reading!

Madelyn and Wendy


Lauren Horowitz has an awesome tryout for the school musical. But when the part goes to her best friend Tara, who did not sing as well but looks like the teacher’s idea of an All-American girl, Lauren, who is Jewish and Chinese American, must examine her own expectations and beliefs about herself to discover what it truly means to be “all-American.”


Learn about the time period when this story takes place (1984) and the cultures involved. Find magazines, newspapers and other materials at that time to show what was in the news. Look at who was represented in TV shows and advertisements; how often were people of color the main character in a movie or ad?.

 ABOUT THE 1980s

Your parents and guardians don’t think of the 1980s as history, but in fact, it is history. Even today will be history tomorrow. Ask the people around you how life was different then. How did people communicate? What were people worried about? How did they get their information? What did they do for fun? What kind of music represents the 1980s to them?

Now compare that with today. How do you communicate? What do you worry about?  


Many middle grade stories are about friendships. How do friends treat each other? How important is listening in a friendship? Make a list of the things you appreciate about your friends.


How do you resolve arguments with friends? With family? Have you ever been afraid to speak up about something that bothers you? Why? Create a script where you bring up something that bothers you to a friend or family member. 


What assumptions do you think other people have made about you or someone else because of race, religion, gender — or even your height? Were these assumptions correct or incorrect? How have you responded? The authors of this story often say that they could never think of what to do in moments when they faced prejudice, but that this story is their second chance at that. 

What do you think you should do to stand up for friends? What do you wish friends would do to stand up for you?


Bias: A preference for or against an idea or person, without an opportunity to consider other ideas. 

Diversity: The practice or state of including people of different races, social backgrounds, ages, genders, sexual orientations or other identities.

Inclusion: The practice of involving, valuing and respecting others, particularly people who might normally be excluded or marginalized.

Microagression: A microaggression is any kind of slight, snub or insult, whether it is made intentionally or not, which communicates negative or hurtful messages to a person based solely on their identity as part of a marginalized group. 


We all have more than one aspect that defines us. For instance, you might be a vegetarian and a bassoonist. In This Is Just a Test, a companion book to Not Your All-American Girl, one of David’s friends is surprised that he and Lauren are both Chinese-American and Jewish: “You can be Chinese and Buddhist or Chinese and Taoist or Chinese and Jewish.” I managed to stop blathering before I paired being Chinese with every religion on earth.

How do the different parts of Lauren’s identity cross over in her life? How does considering one part of your identity affect the other parts of your identity?


  1. Lauren has a number of buttons that she wears that express her feelings, whether she’s getting ready for a performance or math test, or whether she’s just feeling angry. A button slogan is generally short. Sometimes it uses words and sometimes just a picture. Design a button that describes an emotion, feeling, sentiment or attitude that represents your mood right now.
  2. In Not Your All-American Girl, the students act in a musical. Authors Madelyn Rosenberg and Wendy Shang made up their own musical about hula hoops for this book; what idea, person or time period might make a good musical?  If you were to write a musical, who would be the main character to tell the story?Musicals also have an “I am” song, introducing the main character. A good example of this is “Alexander Hamilton” from the popular musical. Create an “I am” song about yourself. Introduce yourself briefly in song. Create one verse or the whole thing!
  3. When Madelyn and Wendy worked on the book, they made sure to use foods, clothing, muic, and more to give the book an 80s feel. Names of characters also reflect names that were popular at the time. If you were creating a story that reflected the time we’re in, right now, what would you do for the following?
  • Name your character and your character’s best friend
  • Three foods your character would eat
  • List three things your character would wear
  • A piece of technology your character would own
  • A song your character would hear on the radio
  • What type of pet would your character have?
  • What would your character hear on the news? 
  • What are some words your character would know that reflect this time, right now?

4. In a way, a playlist is like a time capsule. Create a musical playlist for the 1980s. If you’d like, have your parents or guardians help. (For reference, here’s a playlist that Madelyn and Wendy made in honor of the book.) Make another playlist of songs you like right now.

5. And finally, because we’re all spending too much time inside, if you own a hula hoop, get it out and see how long you can keep it going. Can you sing and hula hoop at the same time?

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Books in 2020

Publishing a book in 2020, I’ve felt like the proverbial salmon. Not that I’ve ever been a salmon, but ugh. How do you travel around to support your book? (Spoiler alert: you don’t.) How do you visit classrooms to talk to kids? (You don’t do that either, and even if you did, they wouldn’t be there.) I’ve tried a few videos and virtual visits, but here’s another spoiler alert: it’s not the same.

My brain is where it should be: on the pandemic, on my family, on the election, on those who have it so much worse than me. I’ve been working at my full-time job in affordable housing, and every day, I talk to people who are struggling.

It’s hard to tweet “buy my book” at time like these. But my writing career feels like it’s fading. And those books that came out this year? They were important to me. Also? They were good. So I’m going to spit three times and brag about them here on my quiet little blog.

I’m going to tell you that I think Cyclops of Central Park, illustrated by Victoria Tentler-Krylov, should be on the New York Times Best Illustrated Books list. I have the art from that book all over my wall and I never get tired of looking at it. Victoria’s New York is where I want to be right now.

I’ll also tell you that a few parents have said they are using the book I wrote with Wendy, Not Your All-American Girl, to talk to their kids about racism. Those characters are so alive inside my head and I hope more people will find them.

I hope these books will have a shelf life. That authors who had books come out in 2020 will get some sort of a do-over. Because we all have more books to write. And simply put: it’s harder to sell those books if the books we’ve just published are sitting in bookstores where booksellers are working their butts off but nobody is browsing because of COVID. (Free them! Free all the books!)

I have a lot of wishes right now. Most of them have to do with our collective health, both as humans and as a nation. But one of them has to do with these books. My friend Sharlene says when you want something you should put it out to the universe. So that’s what I’m going. Hey there, universe. Please be kind to these books.


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