The Witch and the Ice Cream

[An exercise write something, beginning with the first line of a book]

ice cream coneThe witch had a cat and a hat that was black, and long ginger hair in a braid down her back.**

Everything about her said, ‘Witch,” except for the three kids tagging along behind her. I knew one of them. He was Jacob, a kid in my class.

“Hey, Jacob!” I shouted as they walked by.

He looked at me, but didn’t say anything, didn’t even act like he knew who I was. That made me wonder if maybe she was a witch and she did something to them and she was taking them home to cook them. That’s what witches do to kids you know. If the kid’s lucky, the witch will make them a slave and make them wash dirty witch stuff. Usually, the kid isn’t lucky and gets stuffed in a big oven, the size of a pizza oven, only the witch isn’t making pizza.

I thought maybe I should follow them. After all, if she was going to eat them, she had to have a house someplace. Maybe I could follow and see where she went. Then I could call the police. I didn’t want to follow too close, though. Last thing I wanted was to be part of a witch sandwich.

They went down a block and turned the corner. By the time I got there, they were gone.

She must have seen me following and made them disappear, I thought. I hurried down the street thinking maybe there was an alley, but as I was passing an ice-cream shop, I saw them all inside. She was handing each of them an ice-cream cone. Oh no, just like the witch in Hansel and Gretel, she was fattening them up. When they came out of the store, I said, “Hi Jacob.”

He mumbled, “Hi.” as he licked his ice-cream.

“Are you one of Jacob’s friends?” the witch asked. I couldn’t tell if she sounded like a witch, but I think she did.

I nodded, yes.

‘Would you like some ice-cream, too?” she said, and I think she cackled.

“No, thank you very much,” I said as I turned and ran. Maybe Jacob was going to stand there and let an old witch fatten him up, but I wasn’t. I didn’t stop until I was in my yard in front of my house.

** From the first line of “Room on the Broom” by Julia Donaldson

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Haunted Houses… Really?

Haunted houses are not my thing.Haunted House Flyer

The real thing, an old spooky looking house. Those are fun, at least to imagine the possibilities. The ‘just for Halloween‘ haunted houses might have been fun when I was ten or eleven, but once you approach adulthood… well I see no reason to spend any amount of money to go inside a dark building expecting attempts to be made to frighten me. I could consider joining the T-Party if I really wanted to frighten myself… and all it would cost me would be a little of my dignity.

Okay, now I’ve done it, haven’t I, lost a couple readers because of my misdirected and blatant attempt at humor (I could have said, ‘misguided,’ but there was no guiding involved). I guess I frightened myself a little after all.

Okay, let me cross that out and try again. If I really wanted to frighten myself I could rent a Hummer to drive to the gas station. No? How about: If I really wanted to frighten myself I’d audition for America’s Got Talent (If you ever heard me sing, you’d know how frightening that could be).

What is really frightening to me is the things people spend their money on and so-called ‘haunted houses’ is just one of them. When I was a kid if somebody jumped out from a dark place or even from behind a corner and shouted, “Boo,” they better be ready to be chased, unless they got punched good and hard right then and there. I’m sorry, if you love Halloween’s haunted houses, but I’m not going to spend money for something I would have punched some for years ago.

Review: Lost and Found

cover 'Lost and Found' by Oliver JeffersImagine this: you open your door and find a penguin there. It’s a very sad looking penguin. What would you do? Take it to lost and found? Maybe. Ask some birds? Maybe. Help it get home? Maybe.

Let’s say you decide to help it get home. You head down to the docks, but the last boat to the South Pole just left. That means you’ll have to take the penguin there yourself. So you find a row boat, load the penguin in, and start rowing. Many days later you arrive. You leave the penguin and the two of you wave good-bye.

Now, let’s say you really got to like that little penguin; after all you two were together a long time through storms and deep, dark nights. What would you do? That’s what this delightful book, Lost and Found by Oliver Jeffers, is about. But even more, it is about friendship, the friendship that can develop between two unlikely friends, and the feelings we have when those friends go away. The story really begins when the boy realizes the penguin wasn’t sad because it was far from home. It was sad because it was lonely. I also enjoyed Oliver Jeffers lovely, simple illustrations that add immensely to this story.

A Description Doth Not a Story Make

John LeCarre quote
There are many keys to fiction.

One of the most difficult is to create conflict.

It is easy to describe an event.  It is difficult to turn that event from an announcement into a story.

I can easily picture a cat sitting on a mat, looking around, staring at the walls, looking out the windows, and waiting… waiting for something to happen. It can be a pretty cat, an old cat, a battle weary cat. All of this can hint at, sort of dance around the edges of a story, but until something happens it is not a story. Until then, this is just a scene or a character synopsis.

Review: Knuffle Bunny

cover 'Knuffle Bunny' by Mo WillemsLittle Trixie goes to the Laundromat with her father. She delights in helping him load the machines and is having a great time. On the way home though, she notices something is missing. her Knuffle Bunny. She tries to tell her father, but as is the case with most parents, he doesn’t speak ‘baby.’

By the time the two get home both daughter and father are terribly frustrated. Trixie because her stuffed bunny is missing, Father because he doesn’t understand why she is upset. Mother, however, has a better understanding of Trixie’s language.

The family rushes back to the Laundromat. Whew, Knuffle Bunny is still there. “Aggle Flaggle Klabble!” Trixie squeals.

I remember the torment my little brother went through when one of his favorite toys was lost. Unfortunately for him, there was no happy ending. We never did find his little stuffed bear. For a child it’s like losing a best friend.

I loved the innovative use of black and white photographs and cartoon-like drawings. In fact, there are enough clues in the photos that, if you want, you can track down the exact location of the story in New York City.

Knuffle Bunny by Mo Willems, Winner of the Caldecott Honor Award in 2005.

 

Review: Someday

cover 'Someday' by Eileen SpinelliSomeday I am going to be…

It’s hard to be content with the present moment when you are little. The future has infinitely more possibilities! Eileen Spinelli has written a story, simply titled Someday, about a young girl with an extravagant imagination. She dreams of going beyond the common events of her day-to-day life and imagines them as exciting moments instead.

She feeds the fish, but pictures heself making friends with a dolphin. The sofa turns into an archeological site and lunch becomes tea at the White House.

Someday encourages children to go beyond what they know to imagine what could be. It assures them that while their everyday life may seem boring, the future is there for them to create.

With the assistance of Rosie Winstead’s utterly lovely and adorable artwork, this becomes a tale that goes beyond daily events and into the possibilities of someday.

Picture Book: Someday by Eileen Spinelli’,’