New Book in the CIA Series

Hey Guys,

Lissy here to announce a new book in the CIA series. Operation Dude Ranch is coming out this week and Sam will be signing copies of both Operation Dude Ranch and Operation Pharaoh’s Curse at the Westbank Community Library next Sunday at 1pm. If you are in the Austin area please stop by.

Check out the fabulous new artwork by new cover artist, Claire O’Brien. I just love that we’re pieces of art! Although I hear that Cagney was less thrilled!

Flyer for library JPEG

Happy 90th Birthday, Your Majesty!

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It’s not often you get to wish the longest reigning English monarch a happy 90th birthday! One of my favorite parts of the CIA series is in Operation Jewel Thief was when Tess has, what was henceforth to be known as, “the chocolate biscuit incident” when she accidentally drops a chocolate biscuit on the queen’s lap. To mark the occasion I’ll be giving away a copy of Operation Jewel Thief. Just like or comment below to be entered and I’ll get Tess to randomly choose an entry.CIA UK_FULL_29_actualSize_Cropped

Great Britain is Really Great!

IMG_3012Hello fellow explorers, this is Cagney Puddleton. Most of you know we recently traveled to England. After Peru and India it was less of a shock. No llamas galloping down the high street. No tiger pits hidden in the forest and nobody trying to sell me food that could send me to the bathroom for a week.

However England is still very much a foreign country and not like the US at all. For instance even though Americans speak English – let me tell you this – turns out, we don’t!

Of course everyone has heard British accents and I don’t mean the one Dick Van Dyke does in Mary Poppins. Our dads can’t go to a single restaurant without someone commenting on their British/Australian/South African accent – turns out Americans can rarely tell the difference. It also turns out everyone loves an English accent – especially here in Texas.

The English don’t only sound different but they use different words for lots of different things. Even though our dads are all English, words like pavement (sidewalk), knickers (underwear) and fringe (bangs) all confused us while visiting England. Cookies are biscuits, flats are apartments and a car park is a parking lot – who knew?


Something I also noticed while in England is that their sense of comedy is very different. If I had to use one word to sum up the British sense of humor I would say – sarcastic. Half the time we had no idea if people really meant what they said or if they were (as they would say) having us on, which means they were joking.

_MG_3368acI’d heard people say the food was rubbish (as they’d say) in England. I may be biased after my time in India, but I thought the food was really good. While at the Googly Gherkin we had several amazing meals. Fish and chips (which is really fish and French fries) was Olivia’s favorite. Aidan really enjoyed the massive English breakfasts served each morning – even their bacon is different than ours and their beans far more orangy. Lissy liked the scones served with raspberry jam and something called clotted cream which is like the thickest cream you can imagine – like so thick you could stand a spoon up in it. Tess ate so many packets of the British crisps (chips) called Hula Hoops, we were scared she was going to turn into a hoop. My particular favorite was something called a Cornish pasty, which I will be petitioning to bring to the school cafeteria next year.

Another major difference, of course, is that the British drive on the left hand side of the road. That was a fun fact someone forgot to mention and almost caused me to have a heart attack while driving into central London. Their cars are also a lot smaller than ours and when you see the price of petrol (gas) you’ll understand why.



The British are also really into football, which to us translates as soccer – they call our football, American football. Instead of baseball they play cricket and basketball is not so popular, although girls netball is. Hockey is invariably played on a field and not on ice.


The Googly Gherkin

Also everything is older in England. Where in Texas something that’s more than a couple of hundred years old is considered antique, in England a couple of hundred years is nothing. Take the Googly Gherkin for example, built in the 15th century and still running as a pub and restaurant. If that was in America it would be a museum for sure.


England also has several iconic images that we were all happy to experience while visiting. The famous red double-decker buses, unlike in India, were really fun to ride on, as were the easily recognizable black taxi cabs, although not so many of them are black any more. Even though everyone and their mother has cell phones, those bright red telephone boxes seemed to pop up around every corner along with their squat red cousin – the mail box, or should I say post box?

Of course, England is arguably most famous for is its royal family, and even though our encounter with royalty got off to a bit of a rocky start (the chocolate biscuit incident will no doubt haunt us for the rest of our lives), but other than that it was absolutely the best!

If you get a chance to visit London or England I highly recommend you go, soak it all up and I guarantee, as the British say, you’ll be totally gobsmacked!



Chinese New Year

It was so fun to attend the annual Chinese New Year event in Quincy, MA last month. The girls and I flew up to Boston and spent a wonderful weekend with our friend Chris and her family whose girls were adopted at the same time as mine. I signed books for over four hours and met so many smart, book-loving children. What a blast!

Red Thread Sisters

red thread sisters

Hi Guys, Aidan here with a new book recommendation.

I was at Lissy’s house when I saw this book. She had just finished reading it and although it has a picture of two girls on the front she said I should read it and that I’d enjoy it. She was right.

The book is about an eleven-year-old Chinese girl named Wen who is adopted by an American family. Before leaving the orphanage Wen promises her best friend, Shu Ling, she will find her a home in America too. Of course, that’s not as easy as Wen might think.

One of the most heartbreaking parts of the book is Wen believing if she’s not well behaved her parents will send her back to her orphanage. When her father loses his job and they have to cut back on extras, Wen thinks the of herself as an extra and prepares to return to China.

Wen also finds it hard to attach to her new family, especially her mother. The guilt she feels over leaving Shu Ling behind makes it difficult to even make new friends.

Having two cousins who were adopted from China made this book even more special to me. The book really made me think about a lot of things I take for granted. From major things like knowing my parents love me and would never give me up, to more minor things like knowing presents I get are mine and won’t be given to other people. Seeing American culture through the eyes of someone new to our shores is also really interesting.

I highly recommend this book by Carol Antoinette Peacock to anyone interested in learning more about orphanages and China, but also those who enjoy books about friendship, love and trust.

Launch for CIA – Operation Jewel Thief

Operation Jewel Thief LaunchHey guys, Lissy here.

My aunt’s new book, CIA  – Operation Jewel Thief, came out in December and she is having a launch party on Saturday, January 16th at our local community library.

This is always such a fun event. I get to go up front and read the trivia questions (the answers are all in the book) and then one of the other cousins hands out the prize to the person who wins!

This time my aunt is also going to be serving tea and biscuits (one of her main food groups). She’ll also be reading a passage from the book (one of my favorites about our visit to Buckingham Palace) and taking questions.

If you are in the Austin area stop by and say hi!

So you think you can … Wushu!

Hey everyone,

Olivia here again with more ‘so you think you can …’

This week I spoke to fourteen-year-old Lucy who is originally from Fujian and now living in Virginia. Lucy is an expert in Wushu (a sport I’d never heard of but sounds really cool) and which turns out to be a Chinese martial art.

3When I first spoke to Lucy she sent me a list of all her competition wins and achievements. The list was eight pages long and included being on the Dragon team that greeted the President of China on his trip to the US and being the first foreigner to ever be chosen for a championship round while competing in China (Lucy placed second)! Pretty impressive.

O. Can you describe what Wushu is and how it differs from other martial arts?

L. Wushu is a Chinese martial art, which is different from many martial arts because it can incorporate a mix of bare hand and long and short weapons.

O. How old were you when you started and how often do you train?

L. I was five when I started and I train two to three times a week.

56ddd589-8ce9-4cd8-96b5-6c835a2fd437O. What made you take up the sport?

L.  My dad made me try it. My father originally started me in the Korean martial art of Tae Kwon Do, but changed over to Wushu so I could explore my Chinese heritage. He thought it was important for good health, exercise, and to be around other kids that looked like me. I wanted to quit many times, but he encouraged me to stay. Now I see why.

O. You have won a lot of competitions and medals including placing first in all three disciplines at an international competition in Hong Kong, which ones mean the most to you?

L. Probably the ones from National Trials or any of the international medals/certificates that I’ve received.

O. Are there as many girls as boys taking part in the sport?

L. I believe there are an equal amount of boys and girls (obviously it changes from time to time.)

O. What do you like best about your sport?

L. I love the challenge it brings to me physically and mentally. I love how you make a lot of great friends that you can talk to about anything and that you meet a lot of great people along the way. I feel like we’re a traveling family in a train because we go everywhere together.

O. What’s the hardest thing about your sport?

L. I don’t really think anything is hard about the sport for me, but I think for other people it’s hard to go to practice and not attend school events, friend time, shopping, and other events like that.

26a08e63-94d2-4591-96a5-27f9817b9bebO. Have you ever got hurt?

L. Not to where I break a bone or seriously get hurt but in the long run I can get long term injuries such as overuse, sprained ankle, and a lot of different knee problems. My father has taken me to a physical therapist for over two years so I can learn how to care for my body.

O. There are several different categories of Wushu, barehand, sword and broadsword – which do you like best and which are you best at?

L. I like barehand because I don’t have to think what I’m doing it’s all covered with muscle memory. I’m probably the best at broadsword or barehand. Broadsword is more appealing to people and barehand is normally what I win in competitions.

ad8efd22-aa19-46d6-a55c-b22b1174693bO. I heard that you competed in China. Was it how you expected it to be?

L. Not really, I mean you expect it to be like all the books and movies you see but in reality it’s really pretty, cleaner, and a lot of cars and buses.

O. What did you like best about returning to China and what did you like least?

L. I loved how I got to train there because it would take my mind off of all the stress and whatever was going on that bothered me. I really liked all of it.

Thank you, Lucy. The cousins and I wish you success in all your upcoming competitions.

Operation Jewel Thief

OJT - 9-8-15Hello friends, Lissy here. Happy to announce that my aunt’s third book, Operation Jewel Thief, about our time in England has just hit the Amazon shelves.

This was such a fun adventure, although it was a bit spooky and a bit embarrassing for me, as you will find out at the end. Our time in England was full of castles, ghosts, royalty and coconuts! We met some wonderful people with crazy  names like Pickle and Puffin and the wonderful Featherington-Twits.

I think this was my favorite adventure yet and I hope you enjoy reading about it.

So you think you can dance?

Claire 4Hi Everyone, Olivia here back with another ‘so you think you can …’

This week I interviewed Claire who is a talented ballerina.

Claire is originally from Fujian and now lives in Virginia with her family. She has three siblings, Joe (26), Salm, (24) and a sister, Sydney, who is also thirteen and who was also adopted from China.

Claire has been in an Advanced Academic program since third grade, is a straight A student (her favorite subject is French), and has also been inducted into the National Junior Honor Society. It seems Claire comes from a very talented family as her sister, Sydney, also competed at state level in gymnastics.

After seeing some amazing pictures of Claire I asked her the following questions:

O:  How old were you when you started ballet?

C:  My sister and I both started ballet and gymnastics at three. Sydney was more of a gymnast, while I was more of a ballet dancer.

Claire 2


O:  Which is your favorite ballet and why?

C:  I don’t really have a favorite, but I really like Swan Lake, Gisele, Sleeping Beauty, and Don Quixote because the music is really beautiful.

O:   Of all the roles you’ve performed, which is your favorite?

C:  I loved being a Party Child in The Nutcracker!

O:  Do you want to be a professional ballerina or are you planning to go into another profession?

C:  I love dancing – but since I was very small I have always wanted to be a veterinarian.

O:  What’s the hardest thing about being a ballet dancer?

C:  Having the motivation and dedication to train every day.

O:  How often and for how long do you train?

C:  After school, six days per week, at least two hours each day.

Claire 7

O:  Have you ever been injured?

C:  No, but I had Os Trigonum, which is usually an issue only for ballet dancers and divers – because of the way they flex their feet. I had to have surgery to remove an extra bone in my foot. Now I’m fine!

O:  What would you like to tell other girls and boys who are thinking of becoming ballet dancers?

C:  That you have to sacrifice a lot of your social life for it and it is extremely hard, but that the people you meet through ballet make it worthwhile.

Olivia – thanks for the interview, Claire. I love animals, so was excited to hear you wanted to become a vet. Good luck with your studies and your dancing!