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Holiday blessings

Posted: December 25th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: T Writes | Tags: | No Comments »


Share the love.

Spread the wealth.

Keep on truckin’.

A holiday letter

Posted: December 17th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: T Writes | Tags: , , , , , | 1 Comment »

This is my second cousin once removed, composer Cornelius Power.

Composer Cornelius Power (April 1, 1821 – July 4, 1915)

Cornelius loved writing letters, and every year at holiday time, the Power family turns to one of them in particular, which has been handed down through the generations. It is dated December 17, 1856, and I’d like to share it with you.

Greetings, Holiday People!

You’ll never guess what I’m doing right now. I am actually dashing through the snow in a one-horse open sleigh. Contrary to expectations, I am not laughing all the way. It is far too cold here in this winter wonderland for that. As it is, I am bundled up from head to toe in warm clothing, but I think I’ll burrow down deep into the cozy quilts and blankets that my sleigh driver has so thoughtfully provided.

Sleigh driver? Ha! It is my BFF, James Lord Pierpont, the famous organist and composer and my comradely rival in all musical endeavors. James has got a thing about one-horse open sleighs. The only thing he cares more about than composing catchy songs is dashing through the snow. He is working on a new song about it now, but I can’t see it going anywhere. He calls it “Jingle Bells,” and it’s fairly simpleminded, not at all up to the high standard he set with “Ring the Bell, Fanny.”

How I long for a cup of hot cocoa! We brought a whole lake of it in a thermos, but it spilled all over the floor of the sleigh thanks to James’s erratic driving. He’s up there now on the absolute edge of his seat, cracking the whip and singing at the top of his lungs. I’m burrowing further into the blankets and quilts. It’s a well-known fact in these parts that survivors of sleigh crashes are nearly always found closest to the floor of the vehicle.

I can only imagine how wondrous one-horse sleighs will be one hundred and fifty or so years from now, but I daresay holiday wishes will have remained exactly the same. By then, no doubt poor James’s simpleminded ditty “Jingle Bells” will have been long relegated to the dustbin and some other songwriter will have come along to better describe how fun it is to ride in a one-horse open sleigh. I am far too humble to be referring to myself, of course, although some say my sleigh song “Horsey Snow Ride” is the catchiest number they’ve ever heard.

Darn it, James! That turn was much too sharp. Ohhhhhhhh!!!!

(At this point the letter ends in a series of jagged marks.)

Of course, as history shows, Cousin Cornelius was wrong about “Jingle Bells.” James Lord Pierpont’s sleigh-ride song went on to become one of the best known and most commonly sung winter songs in the world, whereas, sadly, Cornelius’s own sleigh song “Horsey Snow Ride” has been completely ignored. But he was right about holiday wishes. They’ve remained exactly the same.

Give thanks for blessings.

Say a prayer for peace.

Give a donation where it’s needed.

Resolve to be a little more patient, a little more forgiving, and a lot more helpful.

Amen to that!

Yadiloh greetings!

Posted: December 9th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Letters to T | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment »

Dan’s Mom writes:

Dear T,

I would like to tell you about a fabulous new holiday celebration. It’s called Yadiloh, the Festival of Brooms and Mice, and it happens on the second Sunday of December, right before the traditional holidays begin. I had an artist friend of mine make up a card for it.

Yadiloh begins early in the morning as each and every kid in the family sweeps (or vacuums) their room and then cleans the whole house. Then, in the spirit of Yadiloh fun, they hide the broom (or vacuum).

After that, for even more fun, they sit quietly together and draw a picture of an adorable mouse. The fun doesn’t stop there! At this point, Mom or Dad takes on the role of Atnas, the Yadiloh Broom Finder. Atnas asks the kids (the Mice) where the broom (or vacuum) is. They tell him (or her), and then go outside to quietly play while Atnas takes a much-deserved Yadiloh nap.

Let’s get cracking and help make Yadiloh a part of every family’s holiday tradition! Here are a couple of rousing Yadiloh carols to get everyone in the mood.

Oh, Yadiloh!

(Sung to the tune of Oh, Tannenbaum)

Oh, Yadiloh! Oh, Yadiloh!

My favorite time of year.

Oh, Yadiloh! Oh, Yadiloh!

I’m glad you’re finally here.

I cleaned my room

and swept the house,

then hid the broom

and drew a mouse.

Oh, Yadiloh! Oh, Yadiloh!

You fill us all with cheer.


Here Comes Atnas

(Sung to the tune of Here Comes Santa)

Here comes Atnas, here comes Atnas,

looking for the broom.

Here comes Atnas, here comes Atnas,

checking every room.

Searching twice and asking mice for any little clue,

Atnas knows a broom hunt is the funnest thing to do!

T replies:

Hey, Dan’s Mom. Yadiloh sounds like a real hoot, but if I didn’t know better, I’d think you made it up to get Dan to clean the house before the regular holidays begin. If so, you get credit for a very crafty plan. Let’s see if Dan (or anyone else) falls for it!

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!


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.

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!

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!

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.

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.

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.