JUST PUBLISHED! New chapter of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory?

BREAKING NEWS! Roald Dahl just published a new chapter of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory!

No, really, the original Chapter 5, “The Vanilla Fudge Room,” was just published by The Guardian on August 29th. It’s an early chapter that was rejected as too subversive for innocent British children.

For those of us who try to write children’s literature, what a treat! I was thrilled to see that I am not the only person who futzes around with character names. Futzing is one of my favorite write-y things to do, for characters and flavors and places and everything else. Veruca Salt’s original name was Elvira Entwhistle. Violet Beauregarde was Violet Strabismus. (Strabismus is an eye disorder in which the eyes cross. Was Violet cross-eyed? What was Dahl thinking there?) Augustus Gloop used to be Augustus Pottle. And the factory workers are just workers. They turned into Oompa Loompas in a later version.

I was also very interested to note that Mr. Dahl dealt with a common problem for a lot of us writers: too many characters. He originally had eight children with Charlie, and later the cast was cut to just four.

I hope you will take the time to read Lucy Mangan’s wonderful article, “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory at 50,” also published in The Guardian on August 29th. She discusses the development of the book from early drafts to the final draft, thanks to the encouragement Dahl received to let his imagination really fly. She also gives us a few paragraphs on the history of the children’s literature industry, complete with the very conservative Anglophile establishment, the original African Oompa Loompas, and framing Charlie as a fairy tale at its most elemental. Mangan is publishing a book called Inside Charlie’s Chocolate Factory: The Complete Story of Willy Wonka, the Golden Ticket, and Roald Dahl’s Most Famous Creationavailable on September 9th.

Read the sweet, fudgy lost chapter and enjoy the delicious illustrations by Quentin Blake!

Screen shot 2014-09-02 at 10.09.10 AM

Read the accompanying article, too: “Lost chapter of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory published.”

Categories: Authors, Books we love | Tags: , , , , , | 2 Comments

The Fantastic World of John Lithgow

John Lithgow is an inspirational fountain of creativity. Most of us kidlit people know about his children’s books in addition to his fame as an actor, but the real extent of his work is almost unbelievable. He has won multiple Tonys, Emmys, Drama Desk awards, Golden Globes, SAG Awards, The American Comedy Award, and has a Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. He graduated from Harvard, studied in London on a Fulbright Grant, and was awarded the Fulbright Lifetime Achievement Medal. When he was honored with an honorary Doctorate from Harvard, he also gave the commencement address, concluding with the dedication of a children’s book, Mahalia Mouse Goes to College, to the graduating class. The book is intended to get small children interested in higher education.

What to make of a man who is a runaway train of talent and storytelling? His work for children includes nine best-selling picture books (some including CDs): 

The Remarkable Farkle McBride (2000), illustrated by C.F.Payne


Marsupial Sue (2001), illustrated by Jack E. Davis


Micawber (2002), illustrated by C.F. Payne


I’m A Manatee (2003), illustrated by Ard Hoyt


Carnival of the Animals (2004), illustrated by Boris Kulikov


Marsupial Sue Presents: The Runaway Pancake (2005), illustrated by Jack E. Davis


Mahalia Mouse Goes to College (2007), illustrated by Igor Oleynikov


I Got Two Dogs (2008), illustrated by Robert Neubecker


Never Play Music Right Next to the Zoo (2013), illustrated by Leeza Hernandez


He has also created a few Lithgow Palooza activity books for parents and children; a series of Lithgow Palooza Readers, non-fiction co-authored leveled readers (I think there are 18 of them) featuring his characters Farkle and Marsupial Sue, about animals and the arts; and The Poets’ Corner, 50 classic poems presented for young people.

Lithgow has performed concerts for children with many American orchestras, appearing in his own shows, singing his own songs, and narrating his original text for Carnival of the Animals as well as Prokofiev’s classic Peter and the Wolf. He has also released three of his own children’s albums. All of this work has won him two Parents’ Choice Silver Honor Awards and four Grammy nominations.

Carnival of the Animals is a special piece. We flute players are often afraid of it, since the Aviary movement is one of the hardest things we will ever have to play. But as I watched Lithgow perform his original story (youtube video), which features a boy who is locked in the Natural History Museum at night and sees the creatures come to life, I wondered if he had been inspired by the 1993 children’s book The Night at the Museum, which in 2006 was adapted into the hugely successful film starring Ben Stiller.


Then I reread Ogden Nash’s delightful Carnival of the Animals poems from 1949 (honestly, who else would rhyme boomerangs with kangaroomeringues?), and discovered the same reference to a museum come to life in the Fossils poem:

At midnight in the museum hall
The fossils gathered for a ball
There were no drums or saxophones,
But just the clatter of their bones,
A rolling, rattling, carefree circus
Of mammoth polkas and mazurkas.
Pterodactyls and brontosauruses
Sang ghostly prehistoric choruses.
Amid the mastodontic wassail
I caught the eye of one small fossil.
“Cheer up, sad world,” he said, and winked—
“It’s kind of fun to be extinct.”

 On his Amazon author page, Lithgow talks about creating works for children: “Writing a children’s book was not something that I pursued. It pursued me. It started when I was asked to write a narration for a symphony for kids. I realized that it had the text for a book. From that text “The Remarkable Farkle McBride” was born. And once the first book was successful, others followed.

. . . .

“I credit my parents for fostering my love of literature and books. I have fond memories of my father reading chapters aloud from great thick books like “The Jungle Book” and “A Teller of Tales”.

“I have carried on my father’s tradition by reading aloud to my own kids when they were little. I have also started a few traditions of my own, like singing to them and playing really mediocre guitar, building castles with them out of refrigerator boxes and treasure hunts across museums. Once I even created a very elaborate paper chase across the entire campus of UCLA for my daughter Phoebe’s 16th Birthday. Some of these games were inspiration for all of the Lithgow Palooza books and books with kits that have been published by both Simon and Schuster and Running Press.”

What do you think? Are you a John Lithgow fan? Does children’s literature pursue you, too?

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BlogShare: Roald Dahl and Matilda from NPR

I have decided to change my reblog name to BlogShare because often what I share is not from a blog post. I hope you enjoy this wonderful interview with Roald Dahl’s daughter Lucy. Did you know he wrote Chitty Chitty Bang Bang or that he adapted Ian Fleming’s novel You Only Live Twice for the movie screen?

Roald Dahl Wanted His Magical ‘Matilda’

To Keep Books Alive


November 14, 2013 5:07 PM
Correction Nov. 14, 2013: Previous audio and Web versions of this story incorrectly referred to Roald Dahl as being English. Dahl was Welsh.

Author Roald Dahl stands with his wife, American actress Patricia Neal, and their newborn daughter, Lucy, outside their home in Buckinghamshire, England, in August 1965. Roald Dahl died in 1990. (Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

Every night, author Roald Dahl told his children a story: “Most of them [were] pretty bad,” he admitted in a 1972 BBC4 interview, “but now and again you’d tell one and you see a little spark of interest. And if they ever said the next night, ‘Tell us some more about that one,’ you knew you had something. This went on for quite a long time with a story about a peach that got bigger and bigger and I thought, ‘Well heck, why don’t I write it.’ ”

That bedtime story became Dahl’s first children’s book, James and the Giant Peach.

Lucy Dahl — the youngest of Dahl’s five children with his first wife, American actress Patricia Neal — remembers hearing those stories before she fell asleep. She joins Michele Norris to talk about Matilda, this month’s pick for NPR’s Backseat Book Club. It’s the story of a lonely girl with special powers and neglectful parents. Matilda finds her courage facing off with a bully of a headmistress, named Miss Trunchbull.

The magical narrative of Dahl’s books makes the writing look easy, but there was a lot of toil behind that playful language. Lucy remembers a letter her father wrote to her in December 1986, two years before Matilda was published:

“The reason I haven’t written you for a long time is that I have been giving every moment to getting a new children’s book finished. And now at last I have finished it, and I know jolly well that I am going to have to spend the next three months rewriting the second half. The first half is great, about a small girl who can move things with her eyes and about a terrible headmistress who lifts small children up by their hair and hangs them out of upstairs windows by one ear. But I’ve got now to think of a really decent second half. The present one will all be scrapped. Three months work gone out the window, but that’s the way it is. I must have rewritten Charlie [and the Chocolate Factory] five or six times all through and no one knows it.”

Interview Highlights

On writing Matilda

Matilda was one of the most difficult books for him to write. I think that there was a deep genuine fear within his heart that books were going to go away and he wanted to write about it.

On how he loved writing, but he also approached it as a job

My father was really very much a single dad. My mother was in America working throughout most of our childhood. He wrote for the money — he didn’t hide that. He also wrote screenplays and he hated writing screenplays, but he did it because the money was good. He wrote Chitty [Chitty] Bang Bang. He adapted Ian Fleming’s [James Bond] novel … You Only Live Twice.

On his work ethic

I remember waking up in the night and going to the bathroom and seeing the glow of the light in the little [writing] hut while it was still dark outside. I don’t know what time it was but that was during the days when he was adapting screenplays and the deadlines would kill him. He didn’t like working on deadlines. But he did it because he had to.

Lucy Dahl remembers that her father’s writing hut was “a sacred place.” Even on the days he wasn’t feeling inspired to write, he’d go out there for hours at a time and “put his bottom on the chair.”Click Here To Learn More About “The Story Behind The Storyteller.”

The Roald Dahl Museum and Story Centre

On the “hut” in the garden where he did his writing

His hut was a sacred place. … We were all allowed to go in there, but we only disturbed him when we absolutely needed to because he used to say that his hut was his nest. You would walk in and the smells were so familiar — that very old paper from filing cabinets. And he sat in his mother’s old armchair and then put his feet up on an old leather trunk, and then on top of that he would get into an old down sleeping bag that he would put his legs into to keep him warm.

He then had a board that he made that he would rest on the arms of the armchair as a desk table and on top of that he had cut some billiard felt that was glued on top of it, and it was slightly carved out for where his tummy was. When he sat down … the first thing he did was get a brush and brush the felt on his lap desk so it was all clean. He always had six pencils with an electric sharpener that he would sharpen at the beginning of each session. His work sessions were very strict — he worked from 10 until 12 every day and then again from 3 until 5 every day. And that was it. Even if there was nothing to write he would still, as he would say, “put his bottom on the chair.”

Categories: Authors, BlogShare, Books we love | 1 Comment

Meet Melanie Typaldos, kidlit author and animal lover

Many people already know Melanie Typaldos from her blog Capybara Madness, where I found a wonderful photo of her pet Caplin. She generously gave me permission to use the photo as the header image for this blog (yay!), and then she told me she had written the book that Caplin was reading! Her middle grade novel Celeste and the Giant Hamsterwhich I reviewed last week, is the first in a series.

So, I have a dog.


He’s cute and everything, but Melanie, on the other hand, has a much more interesting menagerie!


Melanie, what other animals do you have? 

I can’t imagine a life without animals. I had a little Pekingese dog named Dolly when I was growing up, and two cats, Pussywillow when I was young and Frodo when I was older, along with a couple of parakeets and some fish. In junior high, my brother Stephen got interested in snakes and after that reptiles became a big part of all of our lives. In fact, I currently have two rainbow boas and two tortoises. The older tortoise I have had for over thirty years!


I also have two rabbits, three rats, a guinea pig, three chickens, and three horses (one for over 25 years) in addition to my pet capybara Garibaldi Rous. Does that sound like a lot? To me, it seems normal. Luckily we live in the country where there is room for my animals.


Garibaldi is my second capybara. He came to me shortly after Caplin Rous died because Gari’s previous owners could no longer care for him. Caplin’s death was sudden and unexpected and it hit me very hard. When I heard that Gari was looking for a home, it seemed like we were two lost souls who needed each other.


Have your other pets also inspired you to write?

My daughter’s cat, Flopsy, is a major character in the second book in the series, Celeste and the Adorable Kitten. Flopsy is a very unique cat and I hope that comes across in the book. All animals have their own personalities, just as people do, and I try to capture that when I write about them. Garibaldi also has a cameo appearance.


Can you tell us about your journey to self-publishing?

I did not start out with the intention of self-publishing. I wrote Celeste and the Giant Hamster and then shopped around for a literary agent. I was thrilled when an agent agreed to shop my book around. But an editor at Random House read it and said that its vocabulary was too advanced for young children and that older children would not be willing to read about cats that talk. I don’t believe in dumbing down vocabulary for children. I think they learn from what they read, both the content and the vocabulary, as long as it is used in a way that they can guess at the meaning. As for whether older children will read about talking cats, I like to think that even adults will enjoy my books. Maybe I think we’re all children at heart.

As all this was going on, I got an opportunity to film a segment for an Animal Planet show called Most Outrageous Pets. I decided I wanted to get my book out in time for that show so I just went ahead and self-published.

I’d like to stress that if you go the self-publishing route, don’t do it blindly. Make sure that you are in a critique writing group that seriously reviews submissions. I was very fortunate to be in the Austin writing group Novels In Progress (NIP). I learned almost everything I know from that group because they are ruthlessly honest, and not just about my work but about the work of all the members. You really need to see the mistakes other people make to understand the mistakes you are making yourself in your writing.

Tell us about the foundation you started to benefit capybara health. 

I started the ROUS Foundation for Capybara Veterinary Medicine in conjunction with the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine after Caplin Rous died. Caplin’s Facebook friends and his blog (Capybara Madness) followers nearly overwhelmed me with their empathy and support. When I suggested that people purchase one of the items from my store if they wanted to help pay for Caplin’s veterinary expenses, I never expected to generate so much money. It more than covered his vet bills so I took the remaining money and started the ROUS Foundation.

There is so little known about capybara veterinary care that every bit we learn could save lives. Each year I donate $1 from the sale of each item from my online store to the RF along with half of any monies earned through Gari’s appearances in person or on TV. This year (2013), I donated $1780 to the RF. The money has been used to do routine testing of capybara liver function, since Caplin Rous died of liver failure, along with helping to pay veterinary bills and performing necropsies.

You are about to publish an updated version of Celeste’s first adventure as well as her second adventure, Celeste and the Adorable Kitten. Are you working on a third?

I started working on the third book in the series, Celeste and the Big Move, but I’ve been sidetracked by having a major stroke. I am currently working on a book about it, Left Side Blind, The Truthy Story of My Quirky Stroke. Obviously, this is not going to be a children’s book. I am hoping it will be a light-hearted but insightful look into what it’s like to suffer an event like I had. Once I’m through with that, I will complete Celeste and the Big Move.


You are a software engineer. How did you become a writer?

I think I have always been a writer. I remember writing short stories when I was very young. And then i wrote a novel for each of my kids when they were in junior high. But I didn’t take it seriously until about ten years ago when I joined Novels in Progress. Then I learned how much I needed to learn! Having a group of people read my submission and give it a really serious critique motivated me to write more and to write better as well as to take my writing more seriously.

Oddly, I have also always been an engineer. I just have that kind of logical mind that looks at a problem and sees it as a series of steps to be solved. I know engineers have a terrible reputation as writers and documenters, I’ve seen first hand that the reputation is based in fact. But in some ways writing a a novel and solving an engineering problem are similar. The novel has a beginning and an end and in between are a bunch of subproblems that have to be solved.

Melanie, a huge thank you for your stories and insight! We wish you the best in your continuing recovery, and we wish we could visit you and all your animals!

I want everyone to know that Melanie recently went to Brazil and saw a lot of wild capybaras and wonderful birds. She also saw a gorgeous, hungry jaguar who wanted to eat a capybara!


That’s quite a photo! (And the capybara escaped.)

For a Melanie’s educational article for kids about a day in the life of a pet capybara, visit

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Celeste and the Giant Hamster by Melanie Typaldos

I just finished reading the middle-grade novel Celeste and the Giant Hamster by Melanie Typaldos, and I feel compelled to blog about it right away because I enjoyed it so much. Celeste is an adventurous cat who goes out looking for a giant hamster one night, hoping to capture it and teach her owner that hamsters are not good pets. She discovers parts of her friends and herself that she never imagined.

I will be interviewing Melanie shortly and am looking forward to sharing her love of animals and books with you!


Title: Celeste and the Giant Hamster

Author: Melanie Typaldos

Ages: 9-12

Publisher: BookSurge Publishing, 2009

Synopsis: Celeste the Cat is tormented by her human’s insistence on keeping a dwarf hamster, appallingly named Celestina, as a pet. Enlisting the aid of two friends, the brave but intellectually challenged Tiger and overly-enthusiastic Ruby, she sets out to trap a giant hamster that is loose and living in a nearby field. She plans on placing the giant hamster in front of Celestina’s cage to show her owner what she thinks of pet rodents. The giant hamster–actually a capybara–proves to be a larger, stronger and more intelligent adversary than the cats expect, resulting in a series of humorous mishaps that leave the trio battered but not dispirited. Slowly the cats come to realize that the capybara is not the frightening monster they imagined. When the capybara has a litter of eight precocious capy-kittens, Celeste, Ruby and Tiger find themselves doing things they never imagined, like going for a swim and protecting baby rodents from a tough gang of tom cats.

What I thought: I could not put this book down while I was reading it. The cat characters were lovingly drawn with tons of personality, and I enjoyed watching Celeste learn about herself. She is a lovely, loyal cat with a real hankering for adventure. She and her pals Tiger and Ruby are truly cat-like but think and feel on a human level about fitting in, having fun, and the difference between right and wrong. And the book is funny in so many ways, like when Celeste is horrified that the monster with hideous feet (ahem, capybara) is actually having baby monsters.  What is she going to do with monsters running all over her territory?

Celeste is a wonderful book in the same category with Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of Nimh. It is much harder to find great fiction for the quieter, more tender-hearted children who love animals. I actually have a child who refuses to read JK Rowling, Rick Riordan, and Philip Pullman, but he loves Charlotte’s Web and Mrs. Frisby. So I am particularly grateful to find a book like Celeste. And it’s soon to be re-released with all-new artwork! I can’t wait!

Just for fun, you can watch Animal Planet’s Most Outrageous Odd-Looking Pets episode featuring Caplin Rous, who was Melanie’s beloved pet and the inspiration for the giant hamster.

Celeste and Caplin were also featured in a great blog post by Jeff VanderMeer on Omnivoracious. Jeff also posted an extensive interview with Melanie, with a great deal of information about capybaras, on Ecstatic Days.

What do you think? Are there any other capybara fans out there?

Categories: Authors, Books we love, Reviews | Tags: , , , | 4 Comments

For the love of Madeline

I want to share a wonderful interview of John Bemelmans Marciano from National Public Radio’s Morning Edition.  Next year is the 75th birthday of the first Madeline book by Ludwig Bemelmans, loved by children everywhere. Four new Madeline books have been created by Marciano, Bemelmans’s youngest grandson, who has also written a gorgeously illustrated biography of his grandfather and the board book Madeline Loves Animals.

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One commenter on the NPR article page wrote, “Bemelmans fans may want to visit his murals at the Carlyle Hotel in New York, where he painted scenes of Central Park in exchange for lodging for himself and his family.” Has anyone been to Bemelmans Bar at the Carlyle and seen these murals or the painted lampshades? I am going for a drink on my next trip to New York!



Another commenter wrote, “Ludwig Bemelmans lived in Shoreham, NY for a time and the school from the story was based on Briarcliff Elementary School (the exterior of the school and his illustrations are are a delightful match), a school right around the corner from his house. The school still exists today as a wonderful public community school and is of a French architectural design.” Has anyone seen the school?

Enjoy this illustrated interview article or listen to the story yourself!

October 11, 2013 2:56 AM

Madeline may be about to celebrate her 75th birthday next year, but the beloved little girl never seems to grow up. After more than seven decades she’s still having adventures donned in her coat and big yellow hat with a ribbon down the back.

Readers were first introduced to Madeline in 1939 by author and artist Ludwig Bemelmans. He would go on to write a series of stories that each began in the same way:

In an old house in Paris
That was covered in vines
Lived twelve little girls in two straight lines.

Today, Bemelmans’ grandson carries on the colorful, rhyming legacy.

John Bemelmans Marciano has written and illustrated books like Madeline and the Cats of Rome, Madeline at the White House, Madeline’s Tea Party and his latest, Madeline and the Old House in Paris.

Throughout, Madeline is a courageous, plucky heroine. Marciano tells NPR’s Renee Montagne that he thinks Madeline’s fearlessness is what appeals most to children. Here’s how Bemelmans introduces Madeline in the first book in the series:

She was not afraid of mice —
She loved winter, snow, and ice
To the tiger in the zoo
Madeline just said, “Pooh-pooh.”

That image of the tiger really sticks with young readers. “It’s incredible how many kids know that specific line and that specific image,” Marciano says.

"To the tiger in the zoo, Madeline just said, 'Pooh-pooh.'"

“To the tiger in the zoo, Madeline just said, ‘Pooh-pooh.'” (Ludwig Bemelmans/Penguin Young Readers Group)

Over the years there have been some misconceptions about Madeline and the people who inhabit her world. Many readers assume that Madeline lives in an orphanage, and that her teacher, Miss Clavel — who wears a headpiece — is a nun.

“It’s not an orphanage; she’s not a nun; and Madeline is not French,” Marciano clarifies. “I used to get almost indignant over it, but these things take on a life of their own and sometimes misperceptions are the stuff of legends.”

In fact, young Madeline attends boarding school — which probably didn’t stick out to Madeline’s original readers — but seems more surprising today. Still, part of the appeal of the books is the sense that Madeline takes care of herself.

“Kids think they are out in the world on their own,” says Marciano. “So there isn’t really anything strange about it.”

"... and brushed their teeth ... and went to bed."

“… and brushed their teeth … and went to bed.” (Ludwig Bemelmans/Penguin Young Readers Group)

“She loved winter, snow, and ice.” (Ludwig Bemelmans/Penguin Young Readers Group)

There was no one model for Madeline, but all the women in Bemelmans’ life — including his wife, his daughter, and his mother — may have played a role in shaping the spunky character. Bemelmans’ wife was named Madeleine, but “that doesn’t rhyme with anything nearly so well as Madeline,” Marciano says. He created an elaborate sketchbook for his daughter (Marciano’s mother) called “Your First Trip to Paris” which depicts a little girl — dressed up exactly like Madeline — visiting the zoo and seeing the sights.

But ultimately, the story of the little girl was actually based on the story of a little boy: Bemelmans himself. “He was the littlest kid in class,” Marciano says. “He always felt like an outsider. He was getting into trouble. So I think it was very autobiographical.”

Bemelmans’ family relocated several times when he was a child, and English was not his first language.

“He didn’t speak any language without an accent,” Marciano recalls. “I don’t know that he really had a first language. He spoke French, basically until he was 5, then he moved to Germany until about 13 or 14. And then he moved to America. By the time he was 18, I think he had all three of those languages in his head.”

That led to some surprising and delightful rhymes in his Madeline books.

Ludwig Bemelmans (above) started the Madeline series in 1939. His grandson, John Bemelmans Marciano, continues the legacy today. (Penguin Young Readers Group)

“He must have driven his editors crazy,” Marciano says — for example in Madeline’s Rescue, he insists on rhyming the words Genevieve and beef. “In German … the v and the f is the same,” Marciano says. “I can just imagine [the editors] saying: No. It does not rhyme in English.”

Bemelmans’ playful couplets keep kids engaged: “I think there’s something great about inconsistency,” Marciano says. “It keeps you on your toes as a reader.”

Marciano has a daughter of his own now, and says it can be hard to predict which books will be a hit.

“One of the hardest things in the world is to figure what is that magic thing that makes kids love a character?” he says.

Whatever it is, it’s a magic that Ludwig Bemelmans mastered, and his grandson now carries on for new generations of young readers.

A page from John Bemelmans Marciano's Madeline and the Cats of Rome.

A page from John Bemelmans Marciano’s Madeline and the Cats of Rome.

What do you think?

Categories: Authors, Books we love | Tags: , , , | 4 Comments

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