Debbie Alvarez, Human Being Extraordinaire

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My good friend, Debbie Alvarez, Mother to Declan, Wife to Doug, Sister to Rachel, Daughter and Granddaughter, Avocate of children’s authors and illustrators, Fierce Reader of books, Enlightened Keeper of Literature, Adventurous Traveller, Inspiring Leader, Brave Warrior, Human Being Extraordinaire, passed away this week.

I am heartbroken.

The above photo shows Debbie, just minutes after we first met, when she welcomed me to the Bradbury School library in Hong Kong, for Author’s Day in 2012.

The next year, she and her family joined me at Shaolin Temple in China for a week of Kung fu lessons.

Earlier this year, she invited me to stay with her while I was on book tour in Hong Kong.

We had many heart-to-heart talks, the kind you have with a BFF you grew up with. Here we are during our final dinner together, with another wonderful librarian friend that she introduced me to, Tanja Galetti, in the middle. (Photo will be added at a later time.)

We kept in touch through email and by following one another’s blogs and social media posts.

We said we would make plans to have adventures together in the U.S. after they moved back to Oregon.

I promised that I would come see her at Christmas, when I would be visiting my mom in Seattle.

We settled on December 26. In her last email to me, on 12/15/15, she wrote, “So excited about you coming…Many hugs, much love, Debbie.”

The next day, she posted an alarming update on her blog, Life’s Journey, Interrupted, in which she has documented her battle with cancer. For more than two years, she gave readers an unflinching look at what it’s like to fight for her life. The harder the blow, the more courageous she became. She faced  the storm and hollered so fiercely that it scared the bejesus out of her tumors. But she never became a full-time patient. She charged full-speed ahead as a mom, librarian, reading advocate, writer, adventurer, and a nurturer of enduring friendships. It was an uncommon bravery, the likes of which I have never seen. I believed in a miracle for her — that she would triumph. She had to. Her Son With the Most Tender Heart will have a mother who beat the odds to see him marry and to hold his children, just because she said so. But now, she said she  might have pneumonia.

Pneumonia. It’s not a blow, like chemotherapy. Or a feeding tube. Or even a new tumor. It is Death’s threshold itself. Anyone who’s had it knows. I’ve stared into the airless abyss myself, as a child with asthma. It fills your lungs with liquid, just like that.

The next thing I knew, she was gone.

But she was SO alive, that even today, she managed to post to her blog, The Styling Librarian, which I’ve re-blogged here.

I am sad beyond words. I will not be saying hello to her again, but I will be traveling to Portland after Christmas, to say goodbye.

To paraphrase Wilbur in Charlotte’s Web, it is not often that someone comes along who is a true friend and a good librarian. Debbie was both.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Year-End Thanks and Awards!

Dear Readers,

As this year ends and another one begins, I have much to be thankful for. So let me begin.

Thank you for following my blog.

Thank you for reading my books.

Thank you to all the schools and libraries who hosted me this year.

Thank you for treating me to lunch.

Thank you for eating lunch with me 🙂 .

Thank you, parents, for buying my books so that I have something to sign when I get to your schools.

Thank you, young readers, for laughing at my jokes 😀 and rolling in the aisles as though on cue!

Thank you for HUGS!!!

Thank you, Dan Yaccarino, for a rave review in the New York Times. My first!

Thank you, Schwartz & Wade, for publishing my books.

Thank you, Random House, for inviting me to Take-Your-Child-To-Work Day. I felt seven-years-old all day 🙂 !

Thank you, kung fu monks at Shaolin Temple for being my friends.

Thank you Debbie, Doug and Declan for being true kung fu warriors.

Thank you, Wall Street Journal, for naming BRUSH OF THE GODS as WSJ Best Children’s Book of the Year 2013. Read the article here.

Thank you, Booklist, for naming BRUSH as a Booklist Books for Youth Editor’s Choice 2013. (Article to appear Jan 1, 2014.)

Thank you, Mrs. Tracewell’s second-grade class at Emerald Heights Elementary in Silverdale, WA, for your letter and for sending me not one, but ALL of the most prestigious literary awards an author can ever hope to get:IMG_8297Wow! I can’t believe I won all these. Aren’t they fantastic?!!! I put them up on my writing wall today, just above my desk. Their letter begins thus,

Dear Ms. Look,

Hello! We are 2nd grade students in Washington state — at a school you have visited [twice!] before, Emerald Heights. We just finished your first Alvin Ho book — Alvin Ho: Allergic to Girls, School and Other Scary Things. We really enjoyed EVERYTHING about the book — including the humor, the repetition, the illustrations, the characters, the funny phrases, and the similes! We loved it so much we are sending you 21 book awards — made specifically for you and Alvin. We hope you will feel special when you get these. IMG_8310IMG_8315IMG_8299IMG_8312IMG_8303IMG_8302IMG_8308IMG_8300 I can’t believe these are mine, with my name on each of them. They are fireworks on my wall. You’ve made me feel so special, I can’t even begin to tell you. I feel like dancing!!!

Thank you, second-graders, for ending my year with such a big bang!

Happy New Year, everyone!

XXOO

How to Make Friends in China

Dear Readers,
Staying in one place in China for a month is a very different experience than hopping around from city to city. The best thing about it is you get to make friends! Making friends in China is not that different from making friends anywhere else. The Chinese are generally quite informal like Americans. They say hey, and then they hang out. When you buy something from someone, the next time they see you, hey, you’re a friend! And you didn’t even know it. And if you stay with a family, like I did, you really become family and get included in everything they do, even going to visit a sick grandchild in the hospital.
When you’re an author, making friends and becoming family is very important. Your inspiration and ideas will often come from these relationships. So here are some tips and helpful hints on HOW TO MAKE FRIENDS IN CHINA 🙂 ! Continue reading