Fatal: Book Review and Interview

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Thanks to Reach And Teach alumni, consultant, friend, and all around nice guy Drew Durham for this great review of John Lescroat's newest book, Fatal. Drew knew that we were fans of mysteries here at Reach And Teach, especially ones with Bay Area connections. Read on to get Drew's take on this hot new title and then check out his interview with the author! We got an advanced review copy of the book from Simon and Schuster and LOVED it too!!!

AND, you can buy the book by clicking here.


Fatal by John Lescroart - book review


The fog comes
on little cat feet.

It sits looking
over harbor and city
on silent haunches
and then moves on.

now my review

A new stellar page turning yet philosophical legal detective thriller titled Fatal from expert mystery writer John Lescroart stays with you like lingering San Francisco Fog long after the clouds have dispersed. The intricate and complex mystery is set in familiar parts of San Francisco told with indelible characters and is fraught with unanswered ethical enigmas, personal problems and criminal crises.

As is well known by Lescoart readers, all of the descriptions of both San Fransisco scenery and enthralling characters in this New York Bestselling novel are all at once fantastic, immediately accessible, and intimately real.

The plot focuses on several local people caught in situations they struggle to control.

Kate Jameson is a wife caught up in an obsession, her lust for a married man named Peter Ash.

Kate's best friend and confidant, Beth, a San Francisco Police Department detective, has experienced and solved many infidelity cases thus Beth personally knows the devastation such lustful behavior creates for all parties involved.

Six months after Kate and Peter's first affair, Peter Ash ends up dead in the San Francisco Bay as the mystery unravels, the suffocating fog that is the full fledged drama of human emotions masterfully slowly and tantalizingly teasingly reveals all of the mysteries involved with Peter's death, including some really profound truths.

We are left to ask ourselves what do we let go of, what do we hold close? What matters most to us? What can we live without?

I have strong distain for anything about infidelity and sexual passion for other people while married and I still cant speak highly enough of this book whose focus is a married man who charms multiple women into affairs with him multiple times. The book is so well crafted in every way that it made me have readers withdrawal several times while reading and now after finishing it I am really having full fledged why John why did you end this book symptoms. My symptoms include like a serious serenity of feeling of the books mastery while at the same time being hurt by the all to sudden sadness of the book being a stand alone (hopefully just for now).

It could be a fatal mistake to not read Fatal by John Lescroart. Please comment below about this review especially people who have read it. PLEASE NO SPOILERS!

for more please check out John's awesome website: http://www.johnlescroart.com/

below is my interview with John Lescroart.
His answers are listed after my questions.

Yours Drewly with Thriller master John Lescroart

Drew and John 

All the Best.

1. How would you describe yourself in a police suspect interview? What crime would you be most likely to commit, if any? Why or why not?

I would say that I'm a professional author and I make things up for a living. The crime I'm most likely to commit would be murder, because if you're going to break the law, might as well break the big one.

2. Given your remarkable life and your greatest influences, why do you write detective mysteries and legal thrillers?

I write crime thrillers because I love the internal and external conflicts that usually come into play. Also, I am a big fan of plot and puzzle, and good crime fiction has those qualities in spades.

3. In the story of your life thus far as is told on your website and interviews and in a number of your books fate and fortune play a crucial role. Can you describe the role of luck or lack there of in your most recent New York Times Best Selling book Fatal? What is the role of luck in your own life?

Luck, karma, fate, happenstance, serendipity -- call it what you will, the ineffable playing out of things beyond our control is one of the great themes in all of literature. We are simply helpless against the inexorable pull of the unknown future. In FATAL, just such a happenstance occurs near the end of Part One and infuses the rest of the book with a huge universal underpinning that I didn't plan originally, but certainly did recognize when it came into play. See, I answered that without making it a spoiler.

In my own life, luck has also played a large role. I got spinal meningitis when I was 41 years old, and after that became a different kind of author. Beyond that, my book THE 13TH JUROR came out in paperback just as the OJ Simpson trial was beginning, and (aside from its good writing and super plot), that coincidence propelled that book onto the NY Times Bestseller List.

4. I've overheard in some interviews and talks you have given that you started your writing career with an overwhelming emphasis on character development and scenery and personal descriptions. Today your plots are nearly as dynamic as your characters. How do you keep plot and description so excitingly balanced?

This is a good question. The basic answer is that I used to write to understand what led up to actions almost exclusively -- motive, impulse, prejudice, etc. But now I try not to write scenes where nothing happens. I want some physical action in almost every scene, and as these pile up, the book takes on a much more active tone, and the narrative drive increases dramatically.

5. What was your favorite part of your writing process for Fatal? What was your least favorite part of writing Fatal? Why? What were the most memorable both great and bad moments of writing Fatal?

My favorite moment was, truly, the opening scene. After struggling literally for months with another, completely different book, I started this new one -- FATAL -- and from the opening sentence I suddenly felt that I knew where I was going. It was magic! My least favorite part, although it turned out very well, was the ending, which I re-wrote three times in its entirety. Not fun. Why? Because it's hell not knowing where something needs to be when you've worked it in your brain a zillion times. And by the same token, the greatest moment was when I finally knew I'd nailed it.

6. Given your mysterious yet marvelous characters in your new book Fatal, What is the role of emotions and personalities in Fatal?

Everybody feels things, and any writer who wants to have readers care about his characters and doesn't acknowledge the wallop that emotions have in store for us, isn't doing his or her job. Even if you're have a small moment of action, the emotional reaction cannot be ignored.

7. Your relationship to the city of San Francisco is clearly intimate and immediate. What is the role of scenery and setting in Fatal? Why did you chose those parts of San Francisco for particular plot points in Fatal?

In all of my books, the physical setting is enormously important. And since I've mostly written book set in San Francisco, I've developed a deep connection with that most romantic and zany of cities. In FATAL, I knew I needed to be near water -- the Bay and the ocean. I needed fog for atmosphere. I needed both upscale and tawdry neighborhoods. And don't forget food. Luckily, San Francisco supplies all this and more.

8. Why did you name your newest book Fatal?

Well, my agent and editor and I used up all the other names in the universe. I handed this book in under the title of PANDORA'S BOX, and starting there, we went through at least a hundred different titles. Finally, my editor gave me a list of twenty more titles, each of them starting with "fatal," so I said "Why not get rid of the middle man and just use the key word. And that's what happened.

9. What does love have to do with plot development in Fatal? What about the role of lust?

Lust plays a much larger role that love in FATAL. Lust drives the plot arcs of several of the main characters, whereas love is a much more fragile and yet durable thing by the time the book concludes.

10. Your personal acknowledgements at the end of your new book Fatal give us a glimpse into your influences in writing this book. What is one thing you want readers to come away with after reading Fatal?

I try not to load my books up with too much didacticism. My aim is to entertain, not teach. But FATAL is finally a cautionary tale showing how even apparently minor transgressions and sins can have unexpected and disastrous results. If any reader on the verge of temptation finds him- or herself taking an extra minute to reflect on the possible consequences of what might happen, that would probably be to the good.

11. Whats next for you? Whats next for your writing career?

I've already finished my next book, which is a Dismas Hardy mystery featuring my "usual" gang of characters -- Dismas Hardy, Abe Glitsky, Wyatt Hunt, Wes Farrell, and all of their families. I'd like to see that book embraced by fans the way that FATAL has been.

12. How would you describe your new book FATAL?

FATAL is a stand-alone suspense thriller that explores the emotional landscape of the crime of passion, with surprising and powerful results.

13. What's next for your characters?

Let's just say that a type of sequel to FATAL is in the earliest planning stages -- so early, in fact, that they might not make it to another full book, but I'm thinking that they also might. There is a lot unexplored with a few of the main characters in FATAL, and it might be fun to see what they do next. But no promises!

14. What is the role of sarcasm and humor in your book Fatal?

When you're writing about very serious stuff, and that's what I was doing with FATAL, you'd better include some light and funny stuff. So whenever I got to feeling that the seriousness of the story was bogging things down, I threw in some leavening of irony and humor to keep my readers happy. That's the ball game -- keeping readers happily turning the pages.

15. What do you think the role of a legal thriller/detective mystery writer is in todays society in the United States?

crime/detective/legal thrillers play a large role in keeping the idea of justice and fair play in the forefront of society's consciousness. We aspire to the right and the good, and books of this kind are a constant and largely optimistic reminder.

16. How do you define the word worthy? How do you gauge a books "worthiness"?

A "worthy" book is one the plays by its own internal rules, and does so in a competent and artistic way.

17. Any other words for your readers or the readers of this blog post?

I hope that readers of this blog post find a lot to like in FATAL, and may choose to explore other books I have written. Enjoy!

Check out John's website particularly the FAQ section http://www.johnlescroart.com/meet-john/faq/

Thanks for reading this post!


AND...... BUY THE BOOK!!!! Click here.

Listen Up and Read On: The Stories We Share

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Scholars, common folk, sages and fools all through the ages continue to prove that we are a storytelling species. We are a species that, regardless of seasons or reasons, regales those around us dozens of times a day with an abundance of lessons, tales, myths, fables, fiction, memories, mysteries, narratives, anecdotes, advertisements, articles and all other types of stories. But are we also good story listeners? We here at Reach And Teach sometimes feel that as a species we can too often be far greater storytellers or ‘story givers' than we are as story receivers.

One of the key themes that guides us as an organization is that the shortest distance between two people is a story. And, the difference between an enemy and a friend is a story. When arguing about a particular social issue, instead of sharing an opinion, we are more likely to say "Let me tell you a story about my experience, my story, because that story shapes how I feel about this issue."

What is a story? A story, for the purposes of this blog and from our friends at Webster's Dictionary, is simply any account of imaginary or real incidents or events or a statement regarding the facts pertinent to a situation in question including narratives and anecdotes. Thus stories are basically anything we tell or write to ourselves or others through written, nonverbal or verbal language. All a story really needs is an observer (listener or reader), content (the story), a storyteller (writer or performer or storyteller), a willingness to share, and attention (hopefully) given on both sides to the story being portrayed.

The historical, physical, social and most of the other parts of the scientific record give credence to the need for a listening and attention revival. New and recent books and articles galore argue about the role of attention merchants and advertisers, the role of attention on memory, and the deterioration of communication attention spans into tweets, short profile updates, soundbites and snapchats. The impact of social media on listening and reading attention spans is clearly a hot item in social science and psychology today. Better storytelling and better listening can be remedies to attention spans run amok.

Squirrel. (Pop culture reference to being suddenly distracted.)

According to Jonathan Gottschall in his book The Storytelling Animal, stories help us navigate life's persistent problems, like any other simulator prepares you for potential dangers. Even as we are the master shapers of stories, we ourselves as human beings are changed and forced to adapt by the stories we hear, observe and convey. So, our listening to stories and allowing ourselves to be changed through our listening are vital ways to connect with and develop compassion for and empathy with others.

This bears repeating... we ourselves as human beings are changed and forced to adapt by the stories we hear, observe and convey, giving us compassion for and empathy with others.

Recently the need for listening skills was most clearly seen in the election hysteria and our nation's seemingly polarized responses. Media reports and pundit soundbites abounded on both sides about those who were labeled as "the other" being the epitome of evil and embodying everything that's wrong with America. Now, regardless of which side you are or were on, Bernie or Bust, I'm With Her, or wanting to Make America Great Again, chances are you had a visceral reaction to all the us versus them memes with which you were being bombarded, resulting in total burnout from the whole political mess.

Our take away from the onslaught of the overwhelmingly destructive babble, was stories matter now more than ever. Not tweets, headlines, bumper stickers, slogans on hats or banners... stories. Our need to listen to each other's stories, histories, herstories, viewpoints and observations of the world has never been more vital to us as individuals, as neighbors, as citizens and as human beings. We need to understand the stories we hear, read, observe, and experience just as much as we need to be understood by others. But of course, that takes time and we, the people, in order to form a more perfect union, need to take the time to speak up, listen up, and read on. One project that is working on improve our civil conversations is the Civil Conversations Project "a resource for healing our fractured civic spaces."

As the saying goes, listening is an act of love. Yet contrary to what would be healthy communication, instead of actively listening and thoughtfully reflecting... so often we immediately attach ourselves to the content and context of what the other is communicating. This is not healthy as it is an entanglement with the words being conveyed. If we allow ourselves the perspective of a listener and untangle the attachment to what is being said or written then we allow time and space for more complete understandings and discernments of the messages being shared.

Projects like StoryCorps, Stanford Storytelling Project and many others including podcasts of "This American Life" are all about listening. They are about listening to all the stories in our lives as an active process of love.

After active listening is done, then and only then is it time for us to tell our own stories with care.

There are many types of stories we share, but to us they all fit into three loose categories, what if, what is, and what was.

What if are the fictional narratives. What is are observational or experiential stories based in the here and now, there and now, or either here or there and wow! What was are the histories and herstories of our past. At Reach and Teach we are all for positive storytelling and empowerment even with the inherent struggles, and strife, but negative storytelling needs to be deconstructed.

The negative storytelling we experience often harms everyone involved, no matter how justified the speaker or writer is in the opinion, prose, poetry, observation or story being shared. Reframing or redirecting stories has actually been and is continually being scientifically proven to be an effective way in deconstructing and rebuilding of our narratives.

Redirect by Timothy D. Wilson (a book new to our store) gives plenty of evidence to the science of changing stories leading to changes in lives. So you don't have to take our word for it. Ask Tony Robbins and countless other story changing self help gurus.

At Reach and Teach we are always open to the ideas and stories of all creatures, regardless of the storyteller's experience, even stories from creatures bigger than Drew or smaller than Holly! Now more than ever, we encourage everyone especially you to share all of your stories with each other throughout our communities both local and national. Our world needs your story!  To share your story or your experiences with stories with Reach and Teach electronically, or if you want your story to be recorded for any reason email Drew at drew@reachandteach.com

To practice on and play with our listening skills we have some events coming up.

A Wolf at the Gate - Monday December 5th at 4pm

Wolf at the Gate

Reach And Teach is thrilled to have Mark Van Steenwyk, the author of A Wolf at the Gate, joining us on Monday December 5th at 4:00pm for a dramatic (in costume) reading of the story. The gathering will be great for all ages and snacks and beverages will be provided.

Join us Monday December 5th at 4pm at 144 W. 25th Avenue in San Mateo! FREE.

About the Book:

The Blood Wolf prowls near the village of Stonebriar at night. She devours chickens and goats and cows and cats. Some say children are missing. But this murderous wolf isn't the villain of our story, she's the hero!

The Blood Wolf hates humankind for destroying the forest, but an encounter with a beggar teaches her a better way to confront injustice. How will she react when those she loves are

This imaginative retelling of the legend of Saint Francis and the Wolf explores what it means to be a peacemaker in the midst of violence and how to restore a healthy relationship with creation.

Settle in and hear a tale of tooth and sword, of beggars and lords, of outlaws and wild beasts. It is a story of second chances and the power of love. This is the story of A Wolf at the Gate.

Crossing Lines in San Mateo - Sharing Stories, Creating Community
January 29th 2017 2:30pm to 5pm
Martin Luther King Center - 725 Monte Diablo Avenue - San Mateo

Click here for details

Reach And Teach friends Len and Libby Traubman will be facilitating an inspiring, hands-on community workshop for respectful communication across all lines beginning with a new quality of listening to one another - to everyone.

This practical afternoon to create a San Mateo culture of listening and inclusion offers modern tools of communication for your home, school, business, neighborhood, and global community.

Facilitators Libby and Len Traubman co-founded the 24-year-old Jewish-Palestinian Living Room Dialogue of San Mateo featured on CNN, NPR, MSNBC, and Voice of America. They co-produced five films including DIALOGUE AT WASHINGTON HIGH, PEACEMAKERS: Palestinians & Jews Together at Camp, and DIALOGUE IN NIGERIA: Muslims &
Christians Creating Their Future. They have guided hundreds of dependably successful dialogues on high school and university campuses, and in neighborhoods across America and overseas.

Seating is limited and RSVP is required. Click here to view a flyer with contact info.

California Writers Club - Third Wednesday of Each Month 7:30pm

Share your stories and listen to other new stories with us at the California Writer's club on the third wednesday of each month (January 18th) at 7:30 pm at Reach and Teach. Click here to visit the club's web site for more info and to sign up to share your story!

Online Resources:

Here are a few resources we'd like to share.


Finally - Two Reach And Teach Products to Share

Tell Tale

Discover the art of storytelling with Tell Tale. Be guided through your own unique tale with cards illustrated with a variety of characters, settings, objects and emotions. If a picture is worth a thousand words, imagine the possibilities with 120 inspiring images! Create your own storyboard or improvise a tale together; there are four ways to play! In this creative storytelling game, everybody is a winner. 

Click here to order a copy or come into our shop and play first! 

Once Upon A Time

We LOVE this game! We were introduced to it by wonderful friends one evening around the dinner table and had hours of fun playing. We're huge believers in storytelling being one of the keys to peacemaking. Our friends Len and Libby Traubman like to say that the shortest distance between two people is a story, and the difference between an enemy and a friend is a story. The art of storytelling, whether telling true stories based on our experiences or making up stories of worlds we've never seen, is very important and games like this help keep it going. We HIGHLY recommend this wonderful game!  

Once Upon a Time is the award-winning storytelling card game that encourages creativity and collaborative play. One player is the Storyteller, and begins telling a story using the fairytale elements on her Story cards, guiding the plot toward her Ending Card. The other players use their own cards to interrupt her and become the new Storyteller. The winner is the first player to use all her Story Cards and play her Ending Card. The object of the game, though, isn't just to win, but to have fun telling a story together.  

Click here to buy the game or come into out shop and play!! 


Thanks to Creative Commons for some of the images in this post!  

A Wolf at the Gate - Dramatic Book Reading for All Ages December 5th 4:00pm

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Reach And Teach is thrilled to have Mark Van Steenwyk, the author of A Wolf at the Gate, joining us on Monday December 5th at 4:00pm for a dramatic (in costume) reading of the story. The gathering will be great for all ages and snacks and beverages will be provided.

Join us Monday December 5th at 4pm at 144 W. 25th Avenue in San Mateo! FREE.

About the Book:

The Blood Wolf prowls near the village of Stonebriar at night. She devours chickens and goats and cows and cats. Some say children are missing. But this murderous wolf isn't the villain of our story, she's the hero!

The Blood Wolf hates humankind for destroying the forest, but an encounter with a beggar teaches her a better way to confront injustice. How will she react when those she loves are threatened?

This imaginative retelling of the legend of Saint Francis and the Wolf explores what it means to be a peacemaker in the midst of violence and how to restore a healthy relationship with creation.

Settle in and read a tale of tooth and sword, of beggars and lords, of outlaws and wild beasts. It is a story of second chances and the power of love. This is the story of A Wolf at the Gate.

Publisher's Weekly Review: 

Check out this revew of the book to be as inspired to attend this event as we are to host it!

"Van Steenwyk retells the story of St. Francis of Assisi and the wolf of Gubbio in his first book for children. This time, the story is narrated from the point of view of the wolf with a red coat, ‘born under the red glow of the Hunter's Moon,' a clever shift that adds tension and new beauty to a familiar tale. When her pack is forced to leave their native forest because humans in nearby Stonebriar deplete the wolves' food, she remains. Angry and starving, the red wolf begins to prey on humans and their livestock. Soon, Blood Wolf, as she is now called, meets the Beggar King, ‘beloved by the common folk.' Under his tutelage, she transforms from angry, violent predator-feared by animals and humans alike-to kind friend to all, renamed Sister Wolf. As a result of her instruction from the Beggar King, Sister Wolf comes to understand that all life is worth preserving and that loving kindness is the greatest of all gifts. Influenced by Japanese woodblock prints, Hedstrom's stark, solid, and lovely illustrations appear throughout."
-Publishers Weekly 

About the Author:

Mark Van Steenwyk founded the Mennonite Worker in Minneapolis in 2004. He is a Mennonite minister with an M.Div., with a concentration in Christian thought. He is a writer, speaker, and grassroots educator working with groups to help them live more deeply into the radical implications of the teachings of Jesus. He is the author of several books, including The unKingdom of God, That Holy Anarchist, and The Missio Dei Breviary. He lives with his wife Amy and son Jonas in one of the Mennonite Worker's houses of hospitality. 

Yes Virginia, There IS An Independent Bookstore in San Mateo and Santa Is Coming to Town!!

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Tis the season and we're excited to announce that Santa Claus is coming to Reach And Teach on 25th Avenue in San Mateo on  Saturday December 26th from 1pm to 3pm!

Children of all ages are invited to come by, say hello to Santa, share a few wishes, and enjoy some great snacks and beverages at the shop.

This is also Small Business Saturday so we'd love to have you come and show your support for Reach And Teach and other local businesses that day. We'll have the whole place decorated for the holidays, festive music, and lots of other fun stuff planned.  

Elsewhere Is Everywhere

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At Halloween time, many of us treat our minds, trick our memories and fill our hearts with the eerie, wild, fun and sometimes creepy spirit of the holiday and from spirits of the dead. The last five Halloweens have been filled with even more excitement for Drew Durham (that's me), Assistant Manager here at Reach And Teach because of the creation of the Books of Elsewhere, one of my all-time favorite series of books by master word artist/author Jacqueline West. I was blessed beyond all magic to have interviewed Jacqueline West recently and she graciously allowed us to post the interview here on our site and to promote it via social media. I hope you'll enjoy the interview, check out some of the books, and share this with your friends on Facebook, Twitter, and if you have any connections to the other realms, send it that way too!

Without further ado here is the interview spoiler alert, there are no spoilers, just keen insights and some of the writer's personal magic unleashed! -- Drew Durham, Reach and Teach

1. How would you introduce yourself, your career and your mysterious series Elsewhere? What do you say about Elsewhere's illustrations and illustrator?

Hello! I'm Jacqueline West, and I'm a writer of middle grade and young adult novels, short stories, and poetry-most of it fantasy of one stripe or another. My middle grade fantasy/mystery series The Books of Elsewhere has garnered a lot of nice awards and accolades, and has been published in eleven other languages so far. The illustrator of The Books of Elsewhere is the utterly brilliant Poly Bernatene, whose style perfectly captures the creepy but whimsical atmosphere of the stories. I'm so lucky to have had my work paired with his.

2. What do you think of Halloween? One of the books is set on Halloween how do you think spirit of Halloween plays out in the series?

Oh, I adore Halloween. At Halloween-time, fantasy and mystery and horror filter into our everyday lives in ways we usually don't allow. (Most of us don't have skeletons and tombstones and little black bats proudly on display in our homes year-round...although-ahem-some of us do.) We get to put on costumes and masks and pretend to be more magical or monstrous than we ordinarily are. I tend to love-and to write-fantasy works that are set in the real world, but that have strange, impossible, magical things infiltrating those real-world settings...and I guess that's the spirit of Halloween in a nutshell!

3. To some, Olive Dunwoody, the lead character in Elsewhere, is one of the most dynamic and relatable young girl protagonists in 21st century children's literature. You once said Olive arrived to you as one package, yet she develops so smoothly through each story. What was your process like for writing Olive? What discoveries did you have while writing Olive's stories?

That's so incredibly kind. Olive and I are honored. J

Olive Dunwoody did appear in my head quite fully formed: I knew her name, I understood her personality and emotions and fears and quirks, I could picture what she was wearing, right down to her scuffed tennis shoes. She felt real to me, like she was already a girl I could have met in an elementary school classroom, or walked past on the street. And I loved her for that realness. I didn't want Olive to turn out to be half-vampire, or have hidden magical powers, or discover that she's destined to fulfill some heroic quest. She's an ordinary girl who finds her way into some totally extraordinary circumstances. And for me, that's where the fun really begins.

Sometimes Olive makes terrible mistakes. She's young, and she's impulsive, she's full of fears, she can be stubborn and secretive, and often she's too quick to trust people or to take chances-plus, she's up against some extremely powerful adult enemies. Sometimes she behaves in ways that I honestly dislike. But as a writer, when your characters start to do things that you didn't plan or expect or even really approve of, you know you're onto something! At those times, I had to let Olive act in a way that felt true to her. Because she's not perfect. She's human. When Olive saves the day-and sometimes she does that too!-it's also thanks to her real, human qualities: kindness, creativity, faith, loyalty, sympathy for others.

With each book, I got to know Olive more deeply. And at the same time, Olive was forging bonds with the people (or almost-people) all around her. At the beginning of the series, Olive is a very isolated, shy, lonely girl. By the end of Volume One: The Shadows, she has several friends who need and care about her. In each subsequent book, those relationships grow and change and get tested and are slowly repaired, until by the end of The Books of Elsewhere, Olive is part of a whole rich, weird, wonderful little community. The way Olive discovers that she's not alone, but that she has a home full of people who love and need her, is really the emotional heart of the series. (At least, it is for me!)

4. What's the story with Olive's parents? They seem totally awkward and rigid like a literary set of parental math textbooks. What are your observations about them?

Ha! I actually have a huge soft spot for Alec and Alice Dunwoody. Olive's parents are both brilliant mathematicians, and they see the world in logical, mathematical terms. To them, math is exciting and romantic and magical. Because Olive is so different from her parents, she sees things that they simply don't see. Olive finds magic (literally!) in things like art and animals and mysterious old houses. I think Olive's parents genuinely care about her, and Olive genuinely cares about them...they just see the world through different lenses. And this actually makes all of their lives much richer.

5. Tell us why you choose art and paintings to be the portals to Elsewhere? As a writer, describe your relationship to visual art.

I'm a sucker for stories of all kinds. To me, paintings are like one frozen instant of a story. When I was little, I loved to imagine that paintings were just holding still as long as someone was looking at them, and that as soon as everyone left the room, they would come back to life: painted trees would rustle, painted water would slosh, painted animals would run or flutter, painted people would move and talk and fix their hair... Those frozen stories could continue. That childhood daydream is where a huge part of The Books of Elsewhere came from.

6. I understand that you wanted Olive to be a realistic kid. Clearly Olive's gifts and faults play pivotal roles in the books. What can Olive teach older readers?

I'm not sure that Olive can teach older readers any specific lessons, but I hope she'll remind adults of what it feels like to be a kid-when your emotions are so deeply felt, but you don't have the tools to understand and cope with them, or when the real world doesn't seem to have a place for you in it, or when impossible things feel possible, because you haven't yet learned all of reality's rules.

7.  What part of Olive's growth process do you think has the most impact on you as a writer? What does Olive have to teach all of today's readers?

The way that the old stone house on Linden Street gradually becomes Olive's home-not just because of the house itself, but because of all the people that fill it-is the most impactful part of the story to me. When you love someone or something, and when you love it enough to even put it ahead of yourself, then you've found your home.

8. I've heard part of your personal magic is that you have great memory of your childhood. Is this true? How has this gift changed your writing? What would your child-self say to you today?

Yes, I have a lot of exceedingly clear memories of my childhood. Or maybe I've never really grown up. Either way, I still feel pretty closely in touch with my childhood self. (A lot more in touch than I am with my adult self! I forget how old she is half the time.) I'm lucky in that I've got lots and lots and LOTS of material to mine for stories. This impacts my writing in more ways than I can even perceive, I'm sure.

And what would my child self say to me? She'd probably be a little disappointed that I didn't become an archeologist/ballerina/veterinarian/Wonder Woman, as we originally planned...but I'm sure she'd be pleased with how things have turned out. Then she'd ask if she could read my books.

I hope she'd like them.

9. What is the role of friendship in this altogether unforgettable series?

Friendship, or the journey from loneliness to friendship, is really the core of the story. Olive starts out as a shy, awkward, isolated girl who gradually finds a place that feels like home.

Books have often felt like home to me. Books have been there for me at the darkest and loneliest times of my life. I hope that Olive and the cats and the rest of the characters in The Books of Elsewhere can do the same for other readers-that they can be a place of escape and company and wonder and refuge for anybody who feels alone.

10. What do you want the legacy of the series to be? Any parting thoughts or advice? Any new take home messages? Any book discussion guide questions for the series?

Legacy? Gosh. I just hope people will read the books. I'm delighted that they do. Books have saved me. They've built me. They've made my life what it is. To know that now my books are in the hands and imaginations of readers all over the world is such a privilege. So that's my take-home message: Thank you, readers! Thank you, thank you, thank you.
And there are some book discussion questions, as well as some links to other materials, on my website, in the "Tools for Teachers" section (although of course the questions can be used by anyone!):


Jacqueline West

The Books of Elsewere at Reach And Teach

Books of Elsewhere: Second Spy
Books of Elsewhere: Second Spy
SKU: 978-0142426081
Price: $6.99

Books of Elsewhere: The Shadows
Books of Elsewhere: The Shadows
SKU: 978-0142418727
Price: $6.99

Books of Elsewhere: The Strangers
Books of Elsewhere: The Strangers
SKU: 9780803736900
Price: $7.99

Books of Elsewhere: Spellbound
Books of Elsewhere: Spellbound
SKU: 9780803734418
Price: $7.99

Books of Elsewhere: Still Life
Books of Elsewhere: Still Life
SKU: 9780142422977
Price: $7.99


A Cry for Help: Homophobic Language on the Schoolyard

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Here at Reach and Teach we are always open to new heart opening and mind exploring questions. Recently we received a question about a troubling truth. 

The request was this. "Please recommend any good novels/books that would be appropriate to assign to junior high school ages boys (namely my son and friends; ages 12-13) that show how its NOT COOL to use homophobic language. I have been very upset just thinking and knowing what a problem homophobic bullying continues to be...especially at junior high school age! It seems to continue to be real problem/epidemic around this age, and any recommendations would be appreciated."

Sadly, we're are all too familiar with the daily experience of reality for many young people today. Given the progress we've seen in the last decade for LGBTQ people, it can be hard to fathom that there is still so much hurtful, fear and ignorance-fed mistreatment happening with extreme community and peer pressure to conform to hetersexual binary norms. There are far too many very real and dangerous threats to individuals who identify as gender of sexually fluid, identify as gay or lesbian, or who simply attract the unwanted attention of bullies. There are also often serious threats to their family and allies.
Any serious look at global news or even a quick Google search will show hundreds of thousands of examples of gay bashing and micro aggregations, bullying and far worse.

Yet we also take hope in all the examples we see every day of people, programming, books and other media that promote identity peacemaking in all its forms!
First for non fiction? Tons of that  out there!! 

Now for some of the fictionalized stories that promote peacemaking particularly with gay sexual orientation. 

If you are looking for fiction books with specfgically a gay identity peacemaking message that is actually hard to come by. Don't get us wrong there are tons of LGBTQI... Young Adult books and other age group books but most of them in our experience are "pride" books that explore almost exclusively the positives of the coming out experience as many minimize the bullying aspect and instead focus on being true to oneself and take all pride and confidence because bullying must be surpassed, and overlooked.  The rougher, meaner and worse parts of the books are often glossed over in a radiant light of the resulting inclusion. 

There are however a few YA fiction books who get to some of the more sociopolitical ignorance, arrogance and hate fueled realities of our time that focus on the bullying and hate issues. 

To start here is a list so you don't have to take our word for it:

Easier reads include 

Geography Club, by Brent Hartinger (Harper)

The novel is a fastpaced, funny, and trenchant portrait of contemporary teenagers who may not learn any actual geography in their latest school club, but who learn plenty about the treacherous social terrain of a typical American high school and the even more dangerous landscape of the human heart. Also, check out the sequels, The Order of the Poison Oak, and Split Screen.

And James Howe's books including the Misfits


Best refusal of religious bigotry in a chapter book

The God Box by Alex Sanchez

High-school senior Paul has dated Angie since middle school, and they're good together: they have a lot of the same interests, like singing in their church choir, and being active in Bible club. But when a new boy, Manuel, transfers to their school, Paul has to rethink his life. Manuel is the first openly gay teen anyone in their small town has ever met, and yet he says he's also a committed Christian. Talking to Manuel makes Paul reconsider thoughts he has kept hidden, and listening to Manuel's interpretation of Biblical passages on homosexuality causes Paul to re-evaluate everything he believed. Manuel's outspokenness triggers dramatic consequences at school, culminating in a terrifying situation that leads Paul to take a stand.

Sports related books on gay peacemaking 

Out of the Pocket by Bill Koinsberg

Star quarterback Bobby Framingham, one of the most talented high school football players in California, knows he’s different from his teammates. They’re like brothers, but they don’t know one essential thing: Bobby is gay. Can he still be one of the guys and be honest about who he is? When he’s outed against his will by a student reporter, Bobby must find a way to earn back his teammates’ trust and accept that his path to success might be more public, and more difficult, than he’d hoped. An affecting novel about identity that also delivers great sportswriting. 

A Chance to Dance for You by Gail Sidonie Sobat
Ian lives in a suburb where everything's the same. The houses are the same; the cars are the same; the families are the same; and their aspirations are the same. But Ian is different.
Openly gay in his bigoted high school, Ian doesn't exactly fit in. But he's not worried he's been training in dance for a long time and soon he'll be able to leave town and train to become a professional. Then he falls in love with Jess, the high school quarterback. 
Draw the Line by Laurent Linn 

Jerkbait by Mia Siegert
Drew says: "To me, the best anti-gay-bashing or bulling and sexuality peacemaking book for YA. Serious, real, masculine, truth about the power and impact of words, raw, emotional, powerful, did I mention intense? A boy wants to get into the National Hockey League, but he's gay and has to hide it. A gay hockey player, bullied by parents, the world, and himself, eventually attempting suicide. Told from his twin-brother's perspective this is a great read.
Science Fiction and Geeky Gay Inclusion Books Include:
Draw the Line by Laurent Linn 

Willful Machines by Tim Floreen 
Here are some more Reach And Teach products that promote inclusion:
CIVIO, A Civil Rights Game
CIVIO, A Civil Rights Game
SKU: 0-10-civio
Price: $14.95

Operation Marriage
Operation Marriage
SKU: 9781604864229
Price: $14.95

Girls are not Chicks Coloring Book
Girls are not Chicks Coloring Book
SKU: 01aganc1
Price: $10.00

Sometimes the Spoon Runs Away with Another Spoon
Sometimes the Spoon Runs Away with Another Spoon
SKU: 978-1604863291
Price: $10.00

Every Girl Every Boy Poster
Every Girl Every Boy Poster
Price: $15.00

Speaking Out: Queer Youth in Focus
Speaking Out: Queer Youth in Focus
SKU: 9781629630410
Price: $14.95

Good-Bye Bully Machine Card Game
Good-Bye Bully Machine Card Game
SKU: bullymachine
Price: $12.99

I Am Jazz
I Am Jazz
SKU: 9780803741072
Price: $17.99

It's Our Prom (So Deal With It)
It's Our Prom (So Deal With It)
SKU: 9780316131445
Price: $8.99

10,000 Dresses
10,000 Dresses
SKU: 978-1-58322-850-0
Price: $14.95

Puberty Boy
Puberty Boy
SKU: 9781741145632
Price: $19.95

Puberty Girl
Puberty Girl
SKU: 9781741141047
Price: $15.95

One of A Kind Like Me - Unico Como Yo
One of A Kind Like Me - Unico Como Yo
SKU: 9780985351410
Price: $15.95

The Great Big Book of Families
The Great Big Book of Families
SKU: 9780803735163
Price: $16.99

The Miseducation of Cameron Post
The Miseducation of Cameron Post
SKU: 9780062020574
Price: $9.99

In Our Mothers House
In Our Mothers House
SKU: 978-0399250767
Price: $17.99

Riding Freedom
Riding Freedom
SKU: 978-0439087964
Price: $6.99

First Person Queer: Who We Are (So Far)
First Person Queer: Who We Are (So Far)
SKU: 9781551522272
Price: $17.95


Celebrate Our 6th Year in San Mateo and WIN!

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NOTE: This article is online for archival purposes. The contest has been closed.

We're celebrating our 6th year in San Mateo throughout July! We hope you'll come in and help us celebrate. We'll have chocolate, home-made cookies, cake, and other treats during the month PLUS we have some great prizes to give away thanks to some of our partners in making the world a more peaceful, sustainable and inclusive place. 

We have THREE great ways you can potentially win a prize. You can visit our shop in San Mateo at 144 W. 25th Avenue any time Tuesday through Saturday from 11am to 6:30pm, or attend one of our special events listed below during July, and open the treasure chest you see pictured below. (NOTE: This article is online for archival purposes. The contest has been closed.)


  • Saturday, July 9th 1:00pm: Origami Time and Cake 
    Join us on Saturday the 9th at 1pm to learn some new folds and enjoy great cake!

  • Wednesday, July 20th 7:30pm: California Writers Club Open Mic
    Listen to local authors share their latest work AND enjoy sone home-made cookies and treats
  • July 30th and 31st: Northern California Home Schooling Conference
    Visit Our Exhibit for Your Chance to Win Prizes and Check Out Makey Makey


Of course we have to add a little challenge... there's a lock on the box. To open it you'll need to figure out the combination. Hint: the combination is the 8th and 9th Fibonacci numbers. To see what you might win, check out the list at the end of this post.

To qualify for this contest, you must either visit the store or sign up for our newsletter by Saturday July 30th, 2016 OR you can also visit us at the Northern California Home Schooling Conference. There is a limit of one entry per family unit.  All awarded prizes must be claimed and picked up at our store by August 20th, 2016 or may be forfeited. The contest will be closed on July 31st, 2016 or immediately after all prizes have been awarded (whichever occurs first).

Prizes include:

  • Prize 1: Alchemy Goods Wallet (1) - already awarded
  • Prize 2: $25 Gift Certificate for the store (1)
  • Prize 3: Green Toys Recycle Truck or Tractor (1)
  • Prize 4: Cate & Levy Sock Puppet or Volta Solar Racer Kit (1)
  • Prize 5: $10 Gift Certificate for the store or Tedco Gyroscope  (1)
  • Prize 6: ChicoBag or Skoy Cloth or Klean Kanteen stainless water bottle (2)
  • Prize 7: Small soapstone heart or Crayon Rocks (3)
  • Prize 8: Fair-Trade Equal Exchange Chocolate Bar or 10% Off of any regularly priced book (10)
  • Prize 9: Fair-Trade Equal Exchange Chocolate Minis


Doing Good in San Mateo and Around the World

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Do-Gooders Unite!

Someone recently argued, during a policy debate, that those who disagreed with him were "just a bunch of do-gooders!" Our shop is full of products that do good in the world so we decided to lift some of them up in this newsletter.

Tomorrow (Friday March 25th) we're getting a visit from a wonderful organization called Limitless Horizons IXIL, helping women in Guatemala create sustainable lives AND creating scholarships so that their children can go to school.

In today's newsletter we'll talk about that (come on over tomorrow if you're free) and other ways the people of San Mateo and the peninsula are DOING GOOD with us here at Reach And Teach.

The photo at the left, by the way, is of Craig and Derrick with Cynthia Chin-Lee's family. Cynthia is the author of Operation Marriage (a true story about marriage equality told through children's eyes  that has done a lot of good in the world).

Doing Good with Limitless Horizons IXIL

At the front of our shop you'll always find beautiful scarves, bags, and other treasures hand-crafted by the women of Chajul Guatemala. Limitless Horizons IXIL, a Santa Cruz nonprofit, works with these women, helping them create sustainable lives for themselves, AND, pay for their children to go to school.

Tomorrow, Friday March 25h at 11am, Lisa Krigsman, the Associate Director of the organization, is coming by our shop to bring us all new goods and tell us about all the good things that are happening in Guatemala. in part, because of all the support we and our customers have provided. Come by and meet Lisa and check out the newest crafts.

Doing Good with Soap

We're thrilled that a lot of San Mateo and surrounding community folks come into our shop lugging plastic jugs and bottles all the time. Why? Because they've run out of laundry detergent, hand soap, shampoo, or dish soap. Rather than tossing containers into the recycle bin, or worse, into the trash, these folks come by our shop and use our earth-friendly soap filling station.

We offer soaps that are good for the planet and good for your wallet. Come in with an empty container and we'll fill you up.

Doing Good with REALLY GOOD Chocolate

Nine out of ten doctors say that eating a bit of dark chocolate every day is good for you. The tenth doctor was too busy chewing on our Dark Chocolate with Caramel Crunch and a touch of Sea Salt too weigh in on this idea.

When you buy small-farmer fair-trade chocolate in our shop you are helping farmers all over the world to have a sustainable living, to care for the earth, to raise living standards in their communities, protect labor rights, and reduce the number of middle-people in the chain that goes from farmer to consumer.

Doing Good with Stories

We love to tell people the stories behind our products because we believe that the shortest distance between two people is a story, and the difference between an enemy and a friend is a story. So, come on by our shop some time soon, pick up a product, and ask us to tell you a story.

OK, any product except the one shown here.

Well, actually, there is a story but you'll have to come in to hear it.

For now, thank you for being our partners in peacemaking, having a positive impact on a world that can sometimes, especially now, seem scary.

You help bring light to the darkness and today we need that light. Shine on!

Show Your Stuff at San Mateo Pride

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Reach And Teach is honored to once again be a sponsor of San Mateo Pride which will take place on Saturday June 4th from 11am to 5pm in the beautiful San Mateo Central Park. This year's theme is PRIDE withOUT borders: Embracing Culture and Diversity!

Craig Wiesner, as part of his role as a San Mateo County Commission on the LGBTQ Commission is helping the Pride Initiative find great businesses to show their stuff at this year's pride.

We are actively seeking local business vendors from San Mateo County to have a booth at the event. Last year, we had approximately 600 participants at the event from all over San Mateo County. This is a wonderful opportunity for vendors to show their support for the LBGTQQI2S community and gain exposure! The cost to participate is minimal. For vendors that have their own canopy, table and chairs the cost is $75 to participate and $150 for vendors that need these provided. Exhibitors from past years all stated that participating in this event is very easy and fun! The deadline for participating is April 1st, 2016. 

Click here to download the vendor form.

Contact craig@reachandteach.com if you have any questions.

Moso Natural in the House!

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A Problem: Stinky Places

We have a dog. We have a bathroom, We have a laundry room. We have some stinky places.  For most of our lives we've used various sprays to get rid of, or cover up, odors. Here's the problem with most of those sprays. They only work for a short time, they're expensive, the containers they come in can't be reused, and the science is not very clear on whether they are bad for the environment and our health. But..... we don't like stinky places! So, what can we do? 

A Solution: Reusable Odor Absorbers

After finding it at a gift show, we tested out a Moso Natural air purifying bag when we noticed that our car was beginning to smell way too much like our dog. Following the simple instructions that came with the bag, we put it out in the sun for a few hours and then popped it into the back near the kennel and when we got into the car a few hours later, no more dog smell! We were sold. We've had the bags in various sizes available in our San Mateo shop and have gotten great feedback from lots of other customers. "My son's room was really bad. I put the Moso Natural bag in the sun for a few hours and then carefully opened my son's bedroom door and tossed it all the way in. The next time I opened the door, I could breathe!

The Moso Natural Air Purifying Bag is the easiest way to maintain a fresh, dry and odor free environment. Without using batteries or wires, the Moso Bag will work continuously to remove odors, allergens and harmful pollutants from the air. In damp, musty environments the Moso Bag will absorb excess moisture to prevent mold, mildew and bacteria from forming.

MosoThe Moso Bag is a safe alternative to air fresheners that are filled with formaldehyde, petroleum and fragrance, which can be carcinogenic and lead to numerous health problems. The Moso Bag is filled with non toxic, chemical free and fragrance free moso bamboo charcoal that allows your family and pets to breathe safely.

To use, simply place the Moso Bags in or near the effected area. Within a short time (usually less than 1 day) the effected area will be fresh, dry, and odor free.

With simple maintenance the Moso Bags are reusable for up two years! Most common air fresheners, in addition to being ineffective, don't last more than 45 days. Once a month, place your Moso Bag outside. The UV rays from the sun will clear out the pores of the bamboo charcoal, making it ready to absorb again. After two years as an air purifier, the Moso Bag makes a wonderful addition to your garden. Simply cut open the Moso Bag and sprinkle the bamboo charcoal into the soil, where it helps plants absorb moisture and nutrients. This completes its lifecycle as a product that comes from the earth and ultimately gives back to the earth.

Click here to learn more about and purchase Moso Natural bags.

Green America approved