If you are between 8 and 108 years old and like to read middle grade books, then you are especially welcome here!

Fantastic Mr. Dahl

Posted: November 22nd, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: T Writes | Tags: , , , | No Comments »
Mr. Dahl

The tall Mr. Dahl.

Six foot five-inch tall writer Roald Dahl is one of the Immortals. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and his other great books will live from now until the end of time.

Two of Mr. Dahl’s books have been made into stop-motion films. Stop-motion is a form of animation where moveable models are photographed in incremental movement. A model is photographed, then repositioned and photographed again, and again and again until a required action is completed.

The first of Mr. Dahl’s books to become a stop-motion adventure was James and the Giant Peach in 1996.

James and the Giant Peach—the book.

James and the Giant Peach—the book.

Grasshopper and James mid-adventure. Photo (c) cinefantastiqueonline.com

Grasshopper and James mid-adventure in the stop-motion film version. Photo (c) cinefantastiqueonline.com

Now Fantastic Mr. Fox has received the amazing stop-motion treatment.

Fantastic Mr. Fox—the book.

Fantastic Mr. Fox—the book.

A scene from Fantastic Mr. Fox, the stop-motion film. Photo (c) bbc.co.uk

A scene from Fantastic Mr. Fox, the stop-motion film. Photo (c) bbc.co.uk

Wes Anderson is the director of the filmic Fantastic Mr. Fox. He talks about bunk beds and toy trains—the inspiration behind one of the scenes in the movie—here. Included is a sketch of his ideas, and a clip of the scene in question from the new film.

Mr. and Mrs. Fox on the set of their new stop-motion film. Photo (c) huffingtonpost.com

Mr. and Mrs. Fox on the set of their new stop-motion film. Photo (c) huffingtonpost.com

A peach that grows big enough to live in and a fox that talks may sound crazy, but not to those who enjoy having fun. “A little nonsense now and then is relished by the wisest men,” Mr. Dahl was known to say.

The Roald Dahl Museum in Great Missenden, Buckinghamshire, England is dedicated to preserving the legacy of the great writer. It is the current home of Mr. Dahl’s writing chair, where James and Mr. Fox came into being. Not everyone gets to sit in Mr. Dahl’s chair, but author Val Tyler can boast of having done so.

Mr. Dahl in his chair. Photo (c) Roald Dahl Museum

Mr. Dahl in his chair. Photo (c) Roald Dahl Museum

Ms. Tyler in Mr. Dahl's chair. Photo (c) valtyler.co.uk

Ms. Tyler in Mr. Dahl's chair at the Roald Dahl Museum. Photo (c) valtyler.co.uk

No wonder she looks so happy. She’s probably picking up a lot of great ideas!

Share

Aawwwooooo!

Posted: November 1st, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: T Writes | Tags: , | No Comments »

I met the Wolfman last night, and let me tell you, he is a pretty cool guy. Thanks, Wolfman, for not ripping my head off! Let’s keep in touch.

The Wolfman says hi.

The Wolfman says hi.

Share

Bad lighting

Posted: October 25th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Letters to T | Tags: , , , | 3 Comments »

George from Portland, OR writes:

Dear T,

I am writing a scary Halloween story called “The Evil Lightbulb.” It’s about a 60-watt lightbulb that shines with pure evil. Everyone who sees its light turns into a homicidal maniac. It likes people who are scared of the dark, because they are sure to turn it on, and then it sits back and watches the bloodbath.

T replies:

Hey, George. That sounds like a scary lightbulb indeed. But to foil its evil intentions I would attach it to a dimmer switch on every other night but Halloween!

Share

Knock, knock …

Posted: September 15th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Letters to T | Tags: , , , | 8 Comments »

Eric from Columbus, OH writes:

Dear T,

I’m writing a book about the adventures of a street lamp and a telephone pole, and I’m drawing the pictures for it, too. The only problem is, Lampy and Poley are stuck in the ground and can’t go anywhere. All they can do is tell Knock Knock jokes. What should I do about that?

Drawing by Eric

Drawing by Eric

T replies:

I say keep ’em telling Knock Knock jokes, Eric. The world could use a few more of those. With all the problems we have to face every day, we can all use a good laugh!

Share

Tut uncommon

Posted: September 3rd, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Letters to T | Tags: , , , , , | 5 Comments »

Sarah from Seattle, WA writes:

Dear T,

I am writing a story about an Ancient Egyptian girl named Tibby. She is the secret daughter of the famous Boy King, Pharaoh Tutankhamun. The Boy King Tut wasn’t really a boy when he died under mysterious circumstances in 1323 BC. He was nineteen years old, which was plenty old for a father in those days.

When her father, King Tut, dies, Tibby goes to live among friends of the former Pharaoh. She grows up as happy and content as a girl can be. However, the day soon comes when she must sacrifice a bull to the God Osiris to ensure the fertile crops, and she cannot bring herself to perform such a bloody deed. She is given a chicken to sacrifice in place of the bull, but she can’t bring herself to do that, either. So the High Priests decide to sacrifice HER to Osiris instead.

Needless to say, Tibby must flee for her life. Luckily, she befriends the handsome son of an Egyptian slave and together they sail down the River Nile to live out the rest of their days in peace and happiness.

I have drawn the cover for my book, which I have entitled Daughter of Tut. Here it is in all its glory.

Book cover for Daughter of Tut, drawn by Sarah

Book cover for Daughter of Tut, drawn by Sarah

P.S. King Tut didn’t really have a daughter named Tibby. I made her up!

T replies:

Your story about Tibby, the secret daughter of King Tut, sounds like a real page-turner, Sarah! And I really like your book cover. I have always been fascinated by Ancient Egypt. It’s thrilling to imagine the excitement archaeologist Howard Carter must have felt in 1922 when he discovered King Tut’s glamorous tomb, with all its golden treasures. Of course, poor Mr. Carter was later struck dead by the Pharaoh’s Curse. Oh, well! I’m sure it was worth it.

Share

Bird brains

Posted: August 23rd, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: T Writes | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment »
Bully hummingbird photo by Dan True

Bully hummingbird photo by Dan True

A few summers ago I installed a hummingbird feeder out by my front door, and from the day it showed up, it’s been a busy spot indeed. Just like at the playground and the workplace, however, there’s a bully who wants to run the whole show. Whenever other hummers come to sip at the feeder, this tiny tyrant swoops in out of nowhere and threatens to poke out their eyes with his needle-sharp beak.

The other hummingbirds aren’t letting him get away with this obnoxious behavior, thankfully. They’ve worked out a system to outsmart him.

First, one of them moves in as a decoy, and while he is busy chasing that one away, another one visits the feeder and sips like there’s no tomorrow. Then the others switch places until they’ve all had a turn. It doesn’t work every time, but it is successful enough that at the end of the day all the hummingbirds get a drink of sweet, sweet nectar.

It’s group cooperation at its finest, and it just goes to show that there’s always a way to get the best of a bully, if you try hard enough.

Share

Blast from the past

Posted: August 20th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Letters to T | Tags: , , , | No Comments »

Marianne from Palo Alto, CA writes:

Dear T,

I was the naughtiest child you could ever imagine. My goodness, did I ever get into mischief! I nearly drove my poor parents crazy. I haven’t a clue as to why I was so naughty. Misbehaving certainly didn’t make me happy. No, it was quite the opposite. It made me feel absolutely miserable. But I was a child possessed and couldn’t stop myself from breaking every rule I came across.

Fortunately, when I was eight or nine years old, I came across a book that changed my life for the better. It was the charming story of a brother and two sisters who share exciting adventures while helping their mother after their father mysteriously disappears. They move from their home in the city to a cottage in the country, and save a train filled with passengers from a landslide, and rescue a baby from a fire, among other heroic deeds.

This book taught me that there are nobler and more fulfilling pursuits in life than breaking every rule there is, and now that I am a grandmother with four naughty grandchildren, I would like to introduce them to this wonderful tale. Unfortunately, I can’t remember the title for the life of me! Can you help?

T replies:

Welcome, Marianne! I’m pretty sure that the book you’re describing is The Railway Children by E. Nesbit. As it was written more than a hundred years ago, it had already been kicking around some by the time you read it at eight or nine years old. Although it takes place long ago in England — which means American readers must exercise their brains a little in order to understand the curious things about another time and place — the adventure is every bit as gripping as it was in 1905, the jokes are just as funny, and the children in it still show bravery, generosity, perseverance, and how to be good without being a total suck-up. I’m certain your grandchildren will enjoy it as much as you did. It’s a favorite of mine, too.

This is the 100th Anniversary edition of The Railway Children by E. Nesbit, with a jacket illustration by Caldecott medalist Paul O. Zelinsky.

This is the 100th Anniversary edition of The Railway Children by E. Nesbit, with a jacket illustration by Caldecott medalist Paul O. Zelinsky.

Share

A rad arachnid

Posted: August 12th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Letters to T | Tags: , , , | No Comments »

Dan from Tallahassee, FL writes:

Salutations, T!

Today my mom went into the bathroom to take a shower like she does every morning, and two minutes later my dad and I heard her scream bloody murder. He and I went running to see what was the matter, and she showed us the cause of all the fuss. Here’s a hint: It had six more legs than I do! Trapped in the tub was the biggest, hairiest spider we had ever seen. At first, Mom wanted Dad to smash it, but then she cooled down and let me capture it in a jar and release it in the garden. Before I set it free, I did a drawing of it. Dad and I got online and looked at pictures of the different kinds of spiders that live in Florida, and we’re pretty sure it was a Giant Lichen Orbweaver. Here’s a jpeg of my drawing. I’m going to write a report about the Giant Lichen Orbweaver on my own and turn it in for extra credit in Biology class next year.

Giant Lichen Orbweaver drawing by Dan

Giant Lichen Orbweaver drawing by Dan

T replies:

Wow, Dan, the spider in your drawing is so scary I nearly jumped out of my skin! I can see why your mom screamed bloody murder when she encountered the real thing in the bathtub. You captured the hairiness of this arachnid specimen especially well. And I appreciate your use of “salutations” in your greeting. I don’t see or hear that very often!

Share