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January 10th, 2012

Meet Jim (again)

This is Jim, the actual flesh and blood crossing guard after whom the fictional crossing guard Jim in THE REINVENTION OF EDISON THOMAS is named. (He doesn't know it, though.) He was profiled in this article, from which I lifted the above photo.

(ETA: He knows now, and I gave him a copy of the book.)

My dear husband chats with Jim frequently. Jim's corner is on DH's bike commuting route to work. I've met Jim a few times when I've ridden along with DH to get a bit of exercise. Every school day Jim is there, in downpours, in subzero Wisconsin winters, standing for hours and placing himself between our kids and inattentive drivers. He always greets DH with a smile and a kind word.

Danger at school crossings is a major plot point in EDDY, and it's a major concern of mine. We live next to an elementary school attended  by the littlest ones--kindergarten through second grade. There is a stop sign on the street between our house and the school, and I can see it from my kitchen window. Drivers often fail to come to a complete stop at that sign, and many ignore it completely. I share my protagonist's outrage at this.

It may seem like a trivial issue, but if you read the article, you will see that two schoolchildren were injured in one day. I have also witnessed the aftermath of another incident, a little girl lying in the middle of the street, her pink backpack  beside her, being tended to by passersby. (Traffic was backed up quite a bit, angering some commuters, I'm sure. They probably complained to the people they were phoning or texting.)

A teacher friend of mine held one of her students in her arms as he died following a similar incident.  

So the next time you see a crossing guard, thank him or her. And slow down.


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Jacqueline Houtman
I'm a freelance science writer based in Madison, WI. I also write sciency fiction for kids. My award-winning debut novel, THE REINVENTION OF EDISON THOMAS, was published by Front Street/Boyds Mills Press in March 2010.

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February 2016


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    21 Apr 2015, 17:27
    Hi Jacqueline. Suzy G. here. I just got these 2 new titles in at my library: "Life On Mars" by Jennifer Brown and "The Fourteenth Goldfish" by Jennifer L. Holm. Haven't read them yet, but they look…
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    A more up-to-date listing can be found on my website:

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    25 Sep 2013, 21:14
    According to your page nothing has been going on since 3 Feb 11. Is that true? Did the world stop and I haven't been informed?

    Not to be a pest

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    Thanks for your comment, Beth.
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