My first loot
If you look to the right, you'll see that I'm reading a book about the National Lampoon, a once-great humor magazine. (Aside from MAD, do we even have humor magazines any more?) I have a soft spot for the NatLamp folks because I made my first money from any sort of media enterprise from them. I still have the check stub, all these years later. They didn't pay me much, but money didn't matter then. The fact that they were willing to give me money for something I did...woohoo! The greed came later, after I'd become a calloused veteran of radio and TV.
Creepy books for kids
Hey, it's easy to buy cutesy books for kids. They're everywhere! But what if you have a child who is...shall we say, different? Hah! You've come to the right place, and just in time for your holiday shopping.
For starters, we have Ryan Heshka's ABC SPOOKSHOW. Says Amazon, this alphabet book "brings together weird words and creepy characters to create one devilishly entertaining alphabet book. A Witch stirs her cauldron, casting evil spells, while a pig moans in pain from too much Yucky candy. A Quagmire monster rises from the dead while an Unlucky black cat lies squashed and still, the last of its nine lives gone.
What creepy youngster wouldn't want to have this book under the Christmas tree, or Festivus pole, or Voodoo candle, whatever you have. Come to think of it, I might get this book for myself.
How about this one: A COME RINOCERONTE/A IS FOR
RHINOCEROS by Harriett Russell. Last Gasp says this is the follow-up to Harriet's "utterly pointless counting book." That might be a good thing and it might not. Don't bother looking for this one is your local book store. It probably won't be there.
Also, I don't think there's an A in rhinoceros. If there is, it's very well hidden.
Here's one I read when I first became interested in children's literature: LIZARD MUSIC by D. Manus Pinkwater. I don't remember anything about the plot except I thought it was dumb. What I do remember is that the main character, a 12-year-old boy, was obsessed with Walter Cronkite, the old CBS News anchorman. He was often called "the most trusted man in America." Cronkite, that is, not the 12-year-old kid.
Thing is, it's pretty weird for a kid to be obsessed with Uncle Walter. Also, I don't remember that having anything to do with the plot. It's not Cronkite came in waving a couple of .357 Magnums and blew away the evil space lizards, or whatever they were.
The other thing I remember about this book was that it contains a single paragraph that spans three pages. Really.
I will leave off with a classic, THE GASHLYCRUMB TINIES by Edward Gorey. A is for Amy who fell down the stairs. B is for Basil assaulted by bears. C is for Clara who wasted away. D is for Desmond thrown out of a sleigh...well, you get the point.
Gorey is the master of creepiness, but it's a good kind of creepy, you know? All aspiring children's authors should read Gorey. You will not find one weird mention of Walter Cronkite in any of his books, nor will you find Chet Huntley, David Brinkley, John Cameron Swayze, or Wolf Blitzer for that matter.
If you know of any creepy children's books, send 'em in so we can add to the list. Don't be stingy.
Also, if a bookstore near you has an angel tree, I hope you'll think of children who might not have such a great Christmas. It doesn't have to cost much and it would mean a lot to the kids. It doesn't even have to be a Christmas thing. It's all about the spirit of the season, whatever you happen to be into.
And while we're on the subject of weird stuff, here's a picture of a goat on a trampoline. Just because.
Email of the day
Dear Dr. Missy,
I have been invited to attend a book signing in a woman's home. Isn't this unusual? I thought book signings were always in public places.
Linda (my real name is Sharon)
I was once invited to a booksigning in an alley in a bad section of town. I arrived at midnight as requested, a handful of books under my arm, only to find myself under attack by a quartet of ninjas. Dressed all in black, with only their hate-filled eyes showing from their hoods, they sprang from their perches along the alley walls, shrieking their ninja battle cry. I knew at once this could only be the work of my next door neighbor, Mr. Bushida, in retaliation for those unfortunate incidents that have occurred since I moved into the neighborhood.
It's not like I don't apologize. I said I was sorry for bringing home a panther from the zoo, and even sorrier that it got into Mr. Bushida's house and did those awful things to his aunt and uncle and his poodle or whatever it was. I'm sorry about blowing up his bird bath, and I'm sorry about the spear gun accident. What else can I say?
None of that mattered in the alley. Luckily, ninjas are nothing new to me. I dispatched the first one with a garbage can lid to the face. The second got a shot of mace up his nose. The third whizzed a throwing star past my ear; I responded with a cellphone to the temple. That left the fourth, brandishing a knife in each hand as we circled each other slowly in the blackness of that alley. He lunged, but I dodged the attack. He didn't know it, not yet, but he was mine.
As he danced around me, I grabbed one of my books. What the poor ninja didn't know was that I am a master of Bookku Hai, the art of books as weapons. I held the book in a certain way only a few people have mastered and flicked my wrist, sending the book on its mission of doom. The poor ninja could only watch as the pages made hundreds of paper cuts on his body. Bleeding badly, he dropped to his knees and screamed in agony.
I walked away whistling the theme from the Patty Duke Show, but I knew Mr. Bushida lurked nearby, anguishing over the failure of his plan. I also knew that we would meet again, and he would unleash something much more deadly than ninjas on me.
Since then, I don't go to book signings in alleys. I hope you'll do the same. Or not do the same, however that works out.