A Tuesday Ten: Food Fantastic!

With the holidays coming up, food is usually an important part, so my mind’s turned to magical foodstuffs . . .


A Snicker of Magic by Natalie Lloyd (Scholastic, February 2014)

The most notable food-magic  in this charming small-town story of enchantments is the Blackberry Sunrise  ice cream, which can prompt memories in the person eating it, both good memories and sad ones.  By the end of the story you kind of wish you had a pint of this stuff stored away in your freezer somewhere!


Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll (Macmillan, c1865)

Alice runs into lots of strange things in her journey through Wonderland, but the “Eat Me” cakes and “Drink Me” potions are unforgettable imagery.  Making Alice larger and smaller by turns, they’ve become fairly iconic and recognized in references outside the book itself.


No Such Thing as a Witch by Ruth Chew (Random House, c1971)

Ruth Chews stories are always full of contemporary magic, taking place just next door, or down the block.  In this story, two children suspect their neighbor of being a witch. But it’s not until they try her enchanted fudge that they know for certain.  One piece of fudge makes you like animals, two pieces allows you to talk to animals, three pieces makes you act like an animal and four pieces turn you into an animal . . .


Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl, illustrated by Quentin Blacke (Puffin, c1964)

You can’t talk about magic food and not mention Mr. Willy Wonka himself!  Chocolate waterfalls, everlasting gobstoppers, wallpaper that tastes like snozzberries . . . the discoveries and wonder go on and on.  But if you’re a naughty child, better watch out!  The factory does not take kindly to infractions!


The Lemonade Trick by Scott Corbett, illustrated by Paul Galdone (Scholastic, c1960)

Kirby is given a mysterious chemistry set  after he helps a stranger.  The set can make some unusual things indeed!  In this first book, Kirby brews a batch of potion that can make people and animals behave and be nice when they drink it.  At first this seems like a great way to change the local bully, but then things start to get out of hand!


M for Mischief  by Richard Parker (Scholastic, c1965)

Another older book! This one has kids encountering an old stove in the summer house with setting O for ordinary and M for magic.  Along with the help of a magical cookbook, these kids get up to all sorts of strange cooking adventures!


The Candy Shop War by Brandon Mull (Shadow Mountain, c2007)

Four friends discover a new candy shop in town sells candy with magical side-effects.  With the lure of magic, the owner persuades kids to go hunting for a mysterious talisman for her, but there are other magic users out there after the same thing!  Moon rocks that make you feel weightless, jawbreakers that make you unbreakable!  Sounds like the candy store for me!


Strega Nona by Tomie DePaola (Simon & Schuster, c1975)

My favorite version of the magic porridge pot folktale.  Here, the witch Strega Nona owns a magic pasta pot that produces pasta just by singing to it.  But you have to know the correct rhyme and blow three kisses to get the pot to stop!  Otherwise you might wind up inundating your whole town with pasta like Big Anthony does . . .


Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs by Judi Barrett, illustrated by Ron Barrett (Atheneum, c1978)

Nothing really like the movie it inspired, this charming picture book was one I grew up with and loved.  In the land of ChewandSwallow, residents got all their meals from the weather.  All sorts of foods would come fully prepared and ready to eat for those ready with their utensils and dishes.  Things are great . . . until the food becomes a dangerous storm of ever larger foodstuffs, and the people of the town must escape while they can!



The Magician’s Nephew by C. S. Lewis (HarperCollins, c1955)

The reason this one made the list is this book chronicles the beginnings of Narnia, when the land is so new and so fertile that anything grows in the soil once planted.  Even a lamp post.  Our two children are on a quest to retrieve a special apple  and on the way they plant some toffees from a pocket, and wind up with a toffee bush.  As a kid I loved that idea . . .

So there are my ten.  Please share your own favorite fantastic foods in the comments!

Author Interview: Timothy J. Bradley!

Welcome readers!  Time for my next interview! Timothy J. Bradley, the creator of the Sci Hi book series was kind enough to answer a few questions from this curious blogger.

TimBradley03Bio: Tim Bradley is an award-winning, self-taught author/illustrator in the field of children’s literature, published in both fiction and nonfiction. Tim has been fascinated by the distant past and the far future from a young age, and filled many sketchpads with drawings of dinosaurs, robots, and spaceships.  

As a professional artist, Tim has had the opportunity to work with amazingly talented artists like Syd Mead (Blade Runner, Tron, 2010, Aliens), and companies like Hasbro (Tim worked on Transformers, Star Wars, and Jurassic Park toys). Lately, Tim has been writing and illustrating fiction and non-fiction books for children, with compelling text, and the dynamic, colorful renderings he has become known for. Tim’s books have earned awards and accolades from reviewers (The Horn Book, School Library Journal, Kirkus Reviews, Booklist), and he has been invited to hold author signing events at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, The Field Museum, and the National Aquarium. Tim’s most recent projects are middle-grade, illustrated “hard” science fiction novels, in the style of Arthur C. Clarke and Isaac Asimov, whose books inspired Tim’s imagination as a child. His first novel, Infestation, debuted in April, 2013 from Scholastic.

For more on the author’s latest titles,  Hive Mind (2013), Ripple Effect (2013) and Time Jump (published just this month!) check out my reviews in the links! And now, without further ado–to the questions we go!

Q: What were your favorite books/authors to read when you were growing up?

A: My favorite books growing up were “hard” science fiction, for the most part. Arthur C. Clarke was my favorite author, followed closely by Isaac Asimov, Robert Heinlein, Ray Bradbury, and H. Beam Piper. The two books that probably had the biggest impact on me were Rendezvous With Rama by Arthur C. Clarke, and The Caves of Steel by Isaac Asimov.

Q: What science fiction stories inspired you/ sparked your imagination? (this can be either now, or in the past)

A: Stories with huge ideas based on really weird and interesting science phenomena are still my favorite kinds of books. “A Sound of Thunder” by Ray Bradbury was a great story in that it combined a bunch of things I was interested in: dinosaurs and time travel. The first time I read the ending of that story, I felt like my brain exploded. I think the contemporary author that has that effect on me is Robert Charles Wilson. His stories tend to revolve around some really huge and very interesting concepts. I have re-read his books a lot.

Q; What was it that inspired you to create the Sci Hi series?

A: A couple of things. When Teacher Created Materials asked if I’d be interested in writing a sci fi series, I wanted to construct a story framework that would let me explore the kind of weird science concepts I find interesting with the sort of adventure stories (like the Tom Swift Jr. series) that I loved to read growing up.

A movie I had really enjoyed as a kid was called “The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes”(1969), and it took place at a college. The characters were all involved with the science and computer labs. I thought that looked like a great place to study and hang out. Also, there is a special high school here in Orange County, California for kids that are interested specifically in the arts. I’ve often thought that there should be a similar school that is focused on science. I came up with several concepts that might make a good series, but I felt that the “Sci Hi” concept was the strongest. It allowed lots of opportunities to touch on the sort of wild science stuff I find fascinating.

Q:  Is Sci Hi the kind of school you’d have wanted to attend, like Sid?

A: Absolutely! The outburst Sid has at his school in Hive Mind is pretty much the way I felt all though my years at school. Science education was not considered a priority during the 60’s and 70’s, and the result was that students weren’t introduced to a lot of the awesome information that was actually being discovered at that time, in natural history and biology. Space exploration was in the news a lot–there was a lot of coverage of the Apollo space missions, and I remember the feeling I had watching Neil Armstrong step on the Moon. Fantastic. Unfortunately, none of my science classes ever discussed space or space exploration. Thank goodness for “Star Trek”.

Q:  If you could have any cool science fictional invention from one of your stories, what would it be?

A: I would have a lot of fun with the type of jetpack Sid, Penny, and Hari use in Time Jump. Flying around like that would be a blast.

Jetpack (1)

Q: There’s a lot of conversation these days regarding girls and science fiction, you present a strong science-positive image with Penny in your books.  What would you say to those girls considering going into science and engineering?

A: I would say: GO FOR IT!! The challenges facing our planet at this time will only be solved by responsible use of new technologies. We need as many girls and boys involved in science and technology as we can get; especially now, in the anti-science climate we are confronted with now. A career in engineering or the sciences, discovering new things that may eventually help all of us would be a very challenging and rewarding life, on both a personal and professional level. Gender should not keep anyone from pursuing a career in the sciences. That’s the great thing about science—it doesn’t matter who you are or where you’re from. If you have a passion for the work, you should go after it.

Q:  You’re not only the writer of these books, but the illustrator as well.  Your illustrations are wonderfully helpful in bringing the stories and tech to life.  Do you start with a vision of the art prior to writing? Create the writing first? Or both in tandem?

A: Once I have the basic idea for a book, I start thinking about specific things that could happen and I draw lots of little thumbnails of possible imagery and gadgets that I could include in the story. I tend to think of things in pictures, being a visual person, and writing the story is like watching a movie of it in my head, and transcribing it into words.

Q:  Sid and his friends have been through quite a bit in their first three adventures. Any hints on what’s in store for them in the future?

A: Oh, my gosh—I have a bunch of ideas that would make good Sci Hi installments, based on my own interests in science topics. The characters haven’t gone into space yet, or to the Earth’s core. The question of the future of Sci Hi rests with readers. If the series finds a readership, then the continuation of the series will make sense. I would have no problem continuing the series from an author’s perspective! That would be a lot of fun.

Tim, thank you for your time and participation!


Check out more about Tim and his work here:
For more information on Argosy Press (Teacher Created Materials imprint): : https://www.facebook.com/ArgosyPressBooks
For more information on the Teacher Created Materials website: http://www.teachercreatedmaterials.com
Comments Welcome!

Flashback Friday: The places you’ll go . . .

You come to the entrance to a mysterious cave  that holds the secrets of time travel itself.  You are faced with a choice go forward or backward in time?  Either way will result in adventure!

Do you remember

The Cave of Time by Edward Packard (Bantam, c1979)

With the recent death of R.A. Montgomery, I figured I might pull up an old blog post, brush it off and post it for this week’s flashback friday!

This was the very first Choose Your Own Adventure story, published in 1979 by Bantam.  In truth, this spectacularly different sort of reading experience was the brain child of two writers: R. A. Montgomery and Edward Packard.  Edward Packard came up with his first story to introduce multiple endings and a second person perspective a few years earlier with a book called Sugarcane Island (later to become CYOA #62).  From what I’ve read, the idea came to fruition from two particular points of inspiration.  The first was Packard’s own children, whom he created a version of the Sugarcane Island adventures for as a bedtime story.  The second was the popularity of role-playing games in the 70s.  I’m suspecting particularly the advent of Dungeons and Dragons.  While it was Packard who came up with the first text, it was Montgomery who got the idea to set up and publish this new format of fiction and it  was R.A. Montgomery who eventually took the: Adventures of You idea to Bantam books where it became what we know of as Choose Your Own Adventure stories.

Interactive books set in the second person narrative.  It makes YOU the star of the story.  You get to pick between two possible ways the story will go, and then continue branching off with each following decision.  Reluctant reader friendly, engaging, interesting and with a wide range of genres!  Many of those with science and science fiction elements were based on actual scientific ideas and principles (rather than simply inventive narrative).

When the series first came out, it took some time to catch on.  But I bet most of you who were reading children’s books in the 80s encountered them.  Between 1979 and 1999 there were over 150 original titles published in the Choose Your Own Adventure Series. The original publisher put out  the last title in 1998.   A few years later, R. A. Montgomery  began republishing Choose Your Own Adventure titles under his own publishing company: Chooseco LLC.  Since 2005 they have revised and republished 40 of the original titles.    So you’ll very likely still see many of these titles on the shelves.  And they’re still being read by the young patrons who come into the library!  Edward Packard went out on his own and began a new publishing venture several years ago, with U-Venture, which has some of his classic content, and some new content.

I think the influence of these books can sometimes be overlooked.  Yet according to the founder’s website, this series is the 4th best-selling children’s series of all time.  That’s pretty impressive.   And from a genre perspective, these things are pretty awesome.  Packard and Montgomery weren’t just shuffling around a couple of scenarios.   They knew how to construct science fiction elements into a story.    And what kid doesn’t want the chance to have his own adventures in time and space?  A lot of these books have multiple plot lines and possibilities of dozens of different endings.   It’s a heck of writing job to put it all together in a single book and have it work.

R.A. Montgomery passed away at age 78 on November 9th, 2014.  His efforts in the field of children’s books, encouraging reluctant readers, and giving speculative fiction another platform will not be soon forgotten.

Interview links:

The CYOA website recently posted an interview with R. A. Montgomery.

SeanMunger.com has an interview with Edward Packard from 2013.

What was your favorite Choose Your Own Adventure story?  Did you read them following the rules or did you “cheat” and back up when endings didn’t work out?


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