Happy Halloween!

frankensteinBemonster, Ludworst. Frankenstein: A Monstrous Parody.  New York: Feiwel and Friends, 2012

As I was wandering through Barnes and Noble, this book caught my eye.  Its cover called to me (Robin, Buy me!). I looked at it, studied it and pondered it.  The art style looked familiar, the printing looked familiar.  What was it about this book?  Then I picked it up and read the first two pages and smacked my head, “Duh!”  Here’s the first two lines of this book.

In a creep old castle all covered in spines,
lived twelve ugly monsters in two crooked lines.

It came to me!  It was a parody of Ludwig Bemelman’s Madeline. Had I studied the cover more thoroughly, I would have noticed this statement above the author’s name: “A spooky twist on the classic tale of Madeline”  and so it is.

As Madeline was the focus of Bemelman’s story, Frankenstein is the focus of Bemonster’s.  Here is how this ugly little guy is described.

The ugliest one was Frankenstein.
He scared people out of their socks.
He could even frighten rocks.
When he visited the zoo,
animals hid and cried, “Boo-hoo!”

These little monsters have a caregiver too, her name is Miss Devel.  Like Miss Clavel, she is awakened and realizes something is not right! Frankenstein has lost his head.  He is whisked away.  Where does he go?  He is rushed to the laboratory.  Where else would you take a little monster for repair? Has he lost his head for good?  What will happen?

I wish I had children to share this book with, it would be a silly, creepy read. We would have shivered and chuckled our way through it. I may entertain my family with a reading from this book at dinner.  I wonder, if they can guess who all the other little monsters are.  I just figured out that they are all famous in their own right. I spotted the Bride of Frankenstein and the Creature from the Black Lagoon to name two. Attention to detail is important so this is a “CaldeNOT Horror Book” instead of a Caldecott Honor Book.

I don’t always buy a book based on its cover, however much I like it.  I might have left this book at B&N and regaled you with another of my Halloween books had I not read the author information in the back.   Here’s what captured my attention!

Ludworst Bemonster is the pen name for author Rick Walton and artist Nathan Hale, who got bored one Halloween and decided that their favorite children’s book would be much, much better if there were monsters in it.

Is this classic story better with monsters?  I will let you decide. It is ghoulish enough to share with your favorite trick or treaters.  Happy Halloween!



Reading Report from North Central, Texas: October 2016

oct2016Fall is well underway here in Central Texas.  The first two weeks of the month were beautiful and cool.  We were able to keep the windows open all night.  It probably didn’t help anyone’s allergies, but it was magnificent.  While we have had cooler mornings, the afternoons have still been in the mid to upper 80s.  We are waiting patiently for cozy reading weather.  You know, those perfect days that you can take your book, your cup of tea, and your afghan/blanket to the sofa for a snuggly read. We have managed to read our way through some great books despite the weather! Here’s this month’s reading report.


You may recognize three of the books in the stack above. They were a part of my reading for this blog in October.

  • Mark Kelly’s Astrotwins
  • Victor Appleton II’s Tom Swift and His Rocket Ship
  • James Herriot’s All Creatures Great and Small

Since, I read Handling Sin by Michael Malone, a number of years ago, I have been on a quest for another really funny book.  That was another book that I wasn’t aloud to read in bed, because it made me laught out loud!  Fannie Flagg’s book, Welcome to the World, Baby Girl! was recommended to me.  I like her writing and I enjoyed reading this book.  It has its amusing bits, but it was not the absurdly funny book I have been seeking.

I decided that I wanted to read more classic science fiction/fantasy .  NPR’s 100 Top Science Fiction/Fantasy Books as a guide. Science fiction/fantasy is a genre I really like so I was not surprised by the number of books on the list I had already read.  Skimming through the list for something different, I decided on #87, The Book of the New Sun by Gene Wolf.  The book I am reading is Volume I and includes The Shadow of the Torturer  and  The Claw of the Conciliator. Here’s a brief summary from that list.

In the distant future, after the sun has cooled and dimmed, the disgraced torturer Sevarian recounts his hard-fought rise to absolute power.

So far it has been a terrific read, but it will take me some time to finish it as it is rich and dense with descriptions of life in this torturer’s world.

pathfindersOn my Kindle App I read Pathfinders by Aidan J. Reid. This book is written from several different perspectives. It is the first I have heard of lucid dreaming.  I will never quite look at dreaming the same way again. I wish the book had tied up more of the loose ends, but it was fun to read.

  • Flagg, Fannie.  Welcome to the World Baby Girl! New York: Ballantine Books, 1998.
  • Wolfe, Gene.  The Book of the New Sun.  Volume I: Shadow and Claw.  New York: Orion, 1980 & 1981.
  • Reid, Aidan J. Pathfinders.  NP: Self Published, 2016


This month, Jim finished The Three Body Problem by Cixin Liu. He and Alexis have both enjoyed this book.  Cixin Liu is a Chinese writer of science fiction.  The Three Body Problem has won honors both in China (Galaxy Award) and in the United States (Hugo Award).  Jim really liked this book.  It is one of the better science, science fiction books he has read in a long time, deeply rooted in complex science and math.  It was also a window into Chinese Culture.

The Three Body Problem is the first book in the Remembrance of Earth’s Past trilogy.  He liked it so much he has now moved on to the second book, The Dark Forest. 

  • Cixin, Liu. The Three Body Problem.  Ken Liu, Translator.  New York: Tor, 2015
  • Cixin, Liu.  The Dark Forest.  Joel Martinsen, Translator.  New York: Tor, 2016


Alexis has been plowing through library books.  Here’s a brief list of what she’s been reading. This month her reading ran the gamut from Victorian gaslight mysteries to a zombie apocalypse.  It is always interesting to me to see what she is reading.

  • Thompson, E.V. Murder on Marble Row.  New York: Berkley, 2005
  • Cronin, Justin. The Passage. New York: Ballantine Books, 2010
  • Henry, Christina. Black Wings. New York: Berkley, 2010
  • Cho, Zen.  Sorcerer to the Crown.  New York: Ace Books, 2015


This morning I had a conversation with Sarah about what she was reading this month.  She has been busy so her personal list is short.  She is still reading Everything, Everything.  As I said last month, this is a part of an Austin ISD reading program.  On her Nook, she is reading Happily Ever After edited by John Klima.  It is a series of fairy tales retold by various authors.  She says that this book has an awesome introduction.

  • Yoon, Nicola. Everything, Everything. New York: Delacorte Press, 2015
  • Kilma, John (Editor). Happily Ever After.  San Francisco: Nightshade Books, 2011

After we talked about the books she was reading for her own pleasure our discussion moved into the books that she read to her music classes this month. Music and literacy are very connected.  Just look at this year’s Nobel Prize Winner, Bob Dylan.  Always know for his music, he was recognized for the poetry of his lyrics.  Here’s a run down of what was enjoyed in her classes.

  • Snickett, Lemony.  The Composer Is Dead.  Illustrated by Carson Ellis.  Music by Nathan Stookey.  New York: Harper Collins, 2009
  • Engle, Margarita. Una Niña, Un Tambor, Un Sueño: Cómo La Valentía De Una Niña Cambió La Música.  Illustraciones de Rafael López. New York: Scholastic, 2015
  • Wood, Audrey.  A Dog Needs a Bone. New York: Scholastic, 2007
  • Trapani, Iza. Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star.  Watertown, Ma: Charlesbridge Publishing, 1997
  • Ehlert, Lois. Growing Vegetable Soup.  New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 1980
  • Williams, Sue.  I Went Walking.  Illustrated by Julie Vivas.  New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 1996.

This last book, I Went Walking by Sue Williams was a favorite with her class.  Evidently the book features animal butts.  Her students took delight in that fact and they had fun guessing what which animal it was.


madelineBemelmans, Ludwig. Madeline. New York: Viking Press.

Do you have a feisty little girl in your life?  Then you both might like reading this book.  I had two little girls and we loved to read about Madeline. She was the smallest and the bravest of twelve little girls living in a large house in Paris. She caused her teacher, Miss Clavel some distress from time to time.  Here’s how Madeline is described.

She was not afraid of mice—
she loved winter, snow, and ice.
To the tiger in the zoo
Madeline just said, “Pooh-pooh,”
and nobody knew so well
how to frighten Miss Clavel.

Miss Clavel, who must have radar ears, wakes in the middle of the night and knows that something is not right. Madeline is ill and is rushed to the hospital with appendicitis. Spoiler Alert!  Madeline gets well.  Her friends come to visit poor Madeline.  She is not so sad as they imagined as they looked at all the gifts she’d been given and here’s what was the most impressive:

But the biggest surprise by far—
on her stomach
was a scar!

Imagine what happens that night in the house covered in vines!  Miss Clavel awakes again to something not quite right.  Can you imagine a room full of little girls who want to be in the hospital just like Madeline?  What a ruckus! Poor Miss Clavel!

This book is a delightful rhyming book.  It is fun to ready by yourself, with a friend, or to someone else.  Pick up a copy and enjoy it with someone.

Here’s another reason to spend some time with this book. Did you ever want to visit Paris?  Here’s your opportunity. Ludwig Bemelmans illustrates many of the sites of Paris for us. Here are the sites in this book: the Eiffel Tower, the Place de Concorde, the Paris Opera House, the Place Vendome, the Hotel Des Invalides, Notre Dame, the Gardens at the Luxembourg, the Church of Sacre Coeur, and the Tuileries Gardens facing the Louvre. You can take a nice side trip by examining the illustrations in this book.

Ludwig Bemelmans

He was born in the Italian Tyrol in 1898. He moved to the United States in 1914.  He worked in restaurants and eventually opened his own.  He didn’t begin his career in literature until 1934.   He was a humorist, satirist and painter¹.

Surprisingly, he wrote only five Madeline books, but they were very popular. Madeline was a Caldecott Honor Medal in 1940.

You can listen to this interview with his grandson insights into his life: https://www.npr.org/player/embed/230949629/231950307#.  Here’s the transcript for that interview: At 75 She’s Doing Fine; Kids Still Love Their ‘Madeline’: http://www.npr.org/2013/10/11/230949629/at-75-shes-doing-fine-kids-still-love-their-madeline

Other places to learn more about this author.


Strega Nona in Honor of World Pasta Day

streganonade Paola, Tomie. Strega Nona.  New York: Scholastic, 1975.

Happy World Pasta Day, Strega Nona!  On this day, we recognize that pasta is consumed on all the continents of the earth.  It comes in all shapes and sizes and it is delicious!  In honor of this day,  I offer you a delicious story of pasta and magic, Strega Nona.  

Who is Strega Nona, you ask?  Her name means “Grandma Witch” and she was a wise woman who lives in a small villiage in Calabria.  In her small village, Strega Nona helped many people with her special touch. She realized she was getting old and needed help to keep her little house and tend her little garden. She decided to post a job offering in the town square. Big Anthony applied for the job.  She outlined his duties: to sweep the house, to wash the dishes, to weed the garden, etc.  For his work, he would get a little money, as much as he could eat, and a place to sleep.

Strega Nona had a very special pot.  It was a pasta pot.  She warned Big Anthony, who never paid good attention, never to touch the pasta pot! Do you think he was paying attention?

Big Anthony worked hard.  He had a good place to sleep and lots of good food and he was happy.  All was well, until the day he learned that Strega Nona’s pasta pot was magic!  He saw her sing to start the pot and sing to stop the pot, but in his excitement, he missed something important.

When Strega Nona leaves to visit Strega Amelia, Anthony seizes his chance.  He pulls out the pasta pot and makes pasta for the entire village.  What happens next is no surprise.  Can you guess?  Will Big Anthony get in trouble?  Can the pasta pot be stopped? Pick up a copy of this story to read with your World Pasta Day meal.

Oh and by the way, if you have a magic pasta pot, will you share it with me? Look below for the Strega Nona’s verse to start the pot. You can do like I do and sing the pasta pot song to your pot.   May be Strega Nona’s magic will work for you!

Bubble, bubble, pasta pot.
Boil me up some pasta, nice and hot.
I’m hungry and it’s time to sup.
Boil enough pasta to fill me up.

Tomie De Paola

Born September 15, 1934.  He learned to love books early as his mother loved books and read to him every day. At the age of four, he told anyone who would listen that he wanted to write books and illustrate them¹.

After high school, he attended the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, New York and received a BFA.  He went on to earn MFA from the California College of Arts & Crafts in Oakland, California.  He taught, designed greeting cards and painted church murals until he had the opportunity to illustrate his first book².  The rest is history so they say.  He has written and/or illustrated over 200 books.

I love his work.  His books are funny and poignant.  Often they illustrate part of his story as in The Art Lesson and Nana Upstairs, Nana Downstairs.  I think he is masterful.  I love today’s story, Strega Nona!   You can visit Tomie’s website and read his spotlight on this book and how he developed his ideas for this particular book: http://www.tomie.com/books/spotlight_on_strega.html.

He has received many honors and awards for his books. Strega Nona received the Caldecott Honor medal in 1976.

The Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators gives the Tomie de Paola Illustrator Award annually.  It is given to an illustrator of promise chosen my Tomie.  You can read more about the award at this website: http://www.scbwi.org/awards/tomie-depaola-award. Here is the quote and writing/illustrating prompt for the 2017 competition3. There is still time to enter, December 1, 2016 is the submission deadline!

“Among the most successful and most satisfying books I have done, over the years, are my autobiographical picture books, and the series of chapter books. It’s an interesting journey to tell the “true” story of my youth, and even more, to make pictures of my past. I found it not only drew upon remembering, but of revisiting emotions of all kinds, especially laughter and hilarity, seriousness and sadness. This work has been almost daunting, not easy but, when successful, the most satisfying work I’ve done.
Now about the assignment or prompt, if you will.”

This year’s assignment is to cast yourself, as a child, in a picture book. Show your autobiographical character in a scene and make sure to convey the emotion of your character. The viewer should be able to read the emotion of the character immediately and clearly.
No words or captions are allowed in the image.

Here are more websites with information on this author.




Tom Swift and His Rocket Ship and Astrotwins: Project Blastoff

discoveryThis summer I was luck enough to visit the Udvar-Hazy National Air and Space Museum.  It is in a huge hangar at the Dulles Airport.  It has an impressive display of all kinds of airplanes and space vehicles, including the shuttle Discovery.  It was grand and amazing place. We had such a fun time there.  Before we left, I needed a souvenir to remember my visit.  I chose Mark Kelly’s book.

rocketboys2As I was looking for a book for this blog, I remembered this purchasing this book.  In the meantime I was perusing the bookshelf and I found Jim’s stash of Tom Swift, Jr. books.  I decided to read both of them and report out.

  • Appleton II, Victor. Tom Swift and His Rocket Ship. New York: Grosset & Dunlap, 1954.
  • Kelly, Mark. Astrotwins: Project Blastoff. New York: Simon & Schuster for Young Readers, 2015.

Tom Swift and his friend, Bud Barclay are preparing a rocket ship.  Tom and Bud along with a significant staff provided by his family’s company want to win the Rocket Race among Nations. Tom, Jr. is an inventory extraordinaire!  He has invented several things to gain advantage for the upcoming orbital flight around the earth.  He wants to win that race.  With a large lab for their work and an island to assemble the rocket, you might think it would be a shoe-in.  However, Tom has problems.  He has to contend with spies and saboteurs. A shady competitor, Rotzog, also wants to win Rocket Race.  Rotzog is determined to win and he doesn’t care what happens to Tom and Bud.  He thinks the race will help him be master of the world.  How do Tom and Bud escape this nefarious devil?  Do Tom & Bud win the Rocket Race of Nations? Find a copy of this book and find out.

As you can tell by the title, Mark Kelly’s book is about twins.  They are 11-year-old Mark and Scott.  It is summer and although they have chores to do and bikes to ride, they get restless.  The first thing they do is dismantle their Dad’s calculator, which lands them in hot water.  They are sent to visit their Grandpa.  This isn’t really a problem as they love to visit him.  Despite the chores Grandpa assigns and all the activities at his home, they get bored and begin to bicker. Their very smart Grandpa suggested that they practice détente and work on a project together.  One that will keep them out of trouble and from destroying things. The project they decided upon was to build and launch a rocket ship.  With plenty of help old friend, Barry and their new friends, Jenny (Egg), Howard and Lisa. They build a replica of John Glenn’s Friendship 7 capsule.  Was it easy? No!  They actually had to go to the library and study!  Who gets to fly it?  How will they power it?  Where will they launch it?  All the questions and more are answered in this very entertaining book.

Happy Belated Birthday, James Herriot!

herriotHerriot, James. All Creatures and Great and Small.  New York: Bantam Books, 1972.

James Wight, who wrote under the pen name James Herriot, was born on October 3 in 1916.  He was a gentle country veterinarian in the Yorkshire Dales.  He wrote memorable tales of his life and adventures.

I read this book many years ago.  It was the first book I was banned from reading in bed.  My Jim said I laughed too much.  His stories were funny, poignant, and heart warming.  He made the people and animals of the Yorkshire Dales come alive.

He didn’t start writing until he was 50, but his memory for detail is phenomenal.  In the winter attending a calving, you could feel the cold, raw wind blowing across his thin shirt.  In the spring, riding through the Dales, you can smell the wildflowers rising on the wind.  His descriptions are lyrical.  You can see and feel his love for the country and its people.  He writes with such respect and affection.  Here’s a description of one of his annual pleasures, the time of lambing.

And the lambs.  All young animals are appealing but the lamb has been given an unfair share of charm.  The moments come back; of a bitterly cold evening when I had delivered twins on a wind-scoured hillside; the lambs shaking their heads convulsively and within minutes one of them struggling upright and making its way, unsteady, knock-kneed, toward the udder while the other followed resolutely on its knees.

The shepherd, his purpled, weather-roughened face almost hidden by the heavy coat which muffled him to his ears, gave a low chuckle. “How the ‘ell do they know?”

He had seen it happen thousands of times and he still wondered. So do I.

His humor is gentle and humble. It his animals that shine, Strawberry the cow, Old Prince and our family’s favorite Tricki Woo. He is a Pekingese, much beloved by his owner, Mrs. Pumphrey.  She was besotted with this puppy and fed him with twice the amount of food necessary for a small dog.  Here’s a description of Tricki’s ailments.

“Oh, Mr. Herriot,” Mrs. Pumphrey said, looking at her pet anxiously. “I am so gland you’ve come.  Tricki has gone flop-bott again.”

This ailment, not to be found in any textbook, was her way of describing the symptoms of Tricki’s impacted anal glands.  When the glands filled up, he showed discomfort by sitting down suddenly in mid walk and his mistress would rush to the phone in great agitation.

“Mr. Herriot! Please come, he’s going flop-bott again!”

This book begins with Herriot as a newly qualified vet traveling to the Yorkshire Dales to interview for one of the very few jobs available. It describes the ups and downs of a young, country vet in a wild, wonderful country with land and people he comes to know, love and respect.  I really enjoyed rereading this book.  It still made me chuckle and I still couldn’t read it in bed.  He writes with kindness and humor even about his trials and tribulations.


Andy and the Lion

andylion1Daugherty, James. Andy and the Lion. New York: Puffin Books, 1989 (1938).

Last weekend as I was straightening up, I came across this small figurine on the bookshelf over my desk.  It is titled “Il Fedele”.  It means “boy with a thorn” or “the faithful boy”.  According to my reading this faithful shepherd boy was given an important message to deliver to the Roman Senate.  He ran and ran to deliver it as quickly as possible.  Only after the message was delivered did he stop and remove the thorn from his foot. I hope his faithfulness was rewarded.

il_fedele2My Mom bought this small item when we lived in Greece a long, long time ago.  I wish she was still here so I could ask her why she bought it.  I think she liked the boy’s face. Looking at this figurine made me remember my Mom, our time living in Greece, and more to the point, another story about a boy and a thorn, “Androcles and the Lion”. Aesop, the great Greek storyteller, gave us this story of courage, kindness, and gratitude. If it has been a time since you have heard this story, listen to this nice version on the website Storynory:  http://www.storynory.com/2007/04/29/androcles-and-the-lion/.  It is a great story to tell.

James Daugherty’s 1939 Caldecott Honor Book, Andy and the Lion is a retelling of this ancient story.  Its subtitle is “A tale of kindness remembered or the power of gratitude.” This version is a delight to read to yourself and out loud.  When I was the story lady at our local library, this was one of my favorites to read.  I would combine it with another tale of the value of kindness by Aesop, “The Lion and the Mouse.”

What better to begin a book that with a boy and his dog, making a trip to the library?  Here are the opening lines.

It was a bright day with just enough wind to float a flag.  Andy started down to the library to get a book about lions. He took the book home and he read and read.

Andy read about lions, talked about lions, listened to his Grandpa tell stories about lions, and dreamt about lions.  He was still thinking about lions as he walked to school the next day. Much to his surprise, he met one!   As you may guess, the lion has a thorn in his paw and Andy pulls it out.  Andy was kind and the lion was grateful.

But it was time to part, so they waved good-by.  Andy went on to school and the lion went off about the business of being a lion.

I always wondered what the lion’s business might be.  It was intriguing to think about what he was getting up to while Andy was at school.  If you’ve listened to the story, you know how it ends.  Andy and the lion meet up in an unexpected way.  Andy remembers the lion and more importantly, the lion remembers his gratitude to Andy.  In each story there is a happy ending for the boy and the lion.  Here’s the last line of Andy’s story.

Andy took the book back to the library.

Its accompanying illustration shows Andy with his nose in a book, Prince (Andy’s dog), and the lion all walking to the library.  Everyone should go to the library, although these days, I don’t think that dogs or lions are allowed to come in with you.

I recommend this book to you.  Daugherty’s take on the famous fable is hilarious.  His drawings are pure Americana.  It’s a homey, playful story that delivers an important lesson about the power and importance of kindness.