Skip links

Home Hiding Out at The Pancake Palace Neil Armstrong is My Uncle and Other Lies Muscle Man McGinty Told Me About the Author What's Real Contact Nan Resources for Teachers Author's Blog Links
What's Real Jake! My new dog and writing buddy!

I write fiction but real things seem to creep into my stories.
Hiding Out At the Pancake Palace
Neil Armstrong is My Uncle  


Hiding Out at the Pancake Palace

There really is a Pinelands in New Jersey. It's one of the most unique ecosystems in the world. There are tea-stained streams, lovely carnivous plants and paths made of sugar sand.

The Pinelands:
The Pinelands of New Jersey (also called the Pine Barrens) is a unique ecosystem of over 1 million acres of forests and wetlands.

New Jersey Pinelands Commission
The Pinelands Preservation Alliance

While the term "amusia" is never mentioned in the book, it's clear that one of the characters has this condition. Amusia is a musical disorder. A person who has amusia may not be able to recognize or produce musical tones. People who have been diagnosed with amusia have described music as sounding like "breaking dishes." It is a rare condition and it is difficult to diagnose especially in children.

To see if you have amusia, take this short test.
In this video, the physician/author Oliver Sacks discusses amusia.

Reality Shows:
We've all seen them but are they really real?

Ten Reality Shows that aren't Real

Albert Music Hall:

Albert Music Hall is a gem in the Pinelands. They have music every Saturday night. Enjoy a cup of coffee and a sweet treat and listen to the bands. There is also a Pickin' Shed where musicians go to jam.

Official Albert Music Hall website

Folklore of the Pinelands:
The Pinelands is a place with a rich cultural history. It has its own set of myths and legends.

Many of them center around the Jersey Devil, a mythical creature who is said to roam the pinelands. To this day, people will say they've seen him.

Another lesser-known tale is about a fiddler nicknamed Sammy Buck. Sammy lived in the 1800s and was known for playing a beautiful and unusual song which he called the "air tune." He claimed he heard this song "in the air" when he was walking in the woods. There are many versions of this story. Some say that Sammy met the devil in the Pinelands, who taught him this song. Others say that they played the song together. Others say it is the music that is there in the Pinelands just "out of reach." Still others said that Sammy was too fond of having a drink. Scholar Herbert Halpert, who spent 15 years interviewing Pinelands residents and collecting folktales, recorded many versions of this story. You can find them in Folk Tales, Tall Tales, Trickster Tales and Legends of the Supernatural From the Pinelands of New Jersey annotated by Herbert Halpert, edited by JDA Widdowson.

Read a version of the Sammy Buck story
Storm, the double dappled dachshund

In the book there is a double dappled daschund named Storm. Here's a picture of the real Storm. Storm (the real one) lives with my brother Robert in upstate New York. Storm is a little dog but lives large.

Massapequa Park sign

Neil Armstrong is My Uncle and Other Lies Muscle Man McGinty Told Me

The characters in the story are fictional (even though some have the same names as people I know). There's no such place as Ramble Street in my Long Island, New York town.

But there is a place called Massapequa Park, New York. I grew up there.

We played kickball and had barbeques where we ate Swedish meatballs and listened to my big brother play the accordion.

There really was a neighbor who loved to sing. His favorite tune was “If I Were a Rich Man.” He still lives in the town of Massapequa Park, and he still has a favorite song.

If you are lucky enough to find him, and ask him nicely, I bet he will sing it for you.

More real things from the book:

The Apollo 11 Landing:

On July 20th 1969, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin took their first steps on the moon. It was beyond historic and arguably one of mankind's greatest achievements.

NASA The 30th Anniversary of the Apollo Landing
This was created for the 30th anniversary. The 40th anniversary website is coming soon and will be linked here.

The Apollo 11 Astronauts:

Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins are and always will be my heroes.

Neil Armstrong bio
Buzz Aldrin bio
Michael Collins bio

The Moon:

Check out these websites, but make sure to look up in the sky tonight.

To the Moon:  A companion to website to the NOVA special. Click on “space pioneers” to hear Buzz Aldrin talk about the first landing.
Quiz Your Noodle:  Take the National Geographic Test on how well you know your facts about the moon.
Quotes about the Moon:  From scientists to poets, everyone has something to say about our nearest celestial neighbor.

The Vietnam War:

The Vietnam War is the longest military conflict in US history lasting from 1959 to 1975.

Battlefield Vietnam:  This timeline from the PBS chronicles the Vietnam Conflict.

The Massapequas:

Located on Long Island not too far away from New York City are the towns of Massapequa and Massapequa Park.

Massapequa Map:  Here's a map to see where the story takes place.


To some, they're a common weed. Others see their beauty.

Fun facts on dandelions:  This site lists interesting facts about our most easily recognizable flower.