You’re a kid who fell asleep in your bed one night, just as usual, but when you wake up in the morning, you find that while you’re still in bed in your room, things have changed. The entire world is full of anthropomorphic dinosaurs who walk and talk and have lives similar to humans. You don’t exactly know what’s happened, but you quickly realize you’re the only human walking around, and you’ve got to get back “home” in a hurry!
Do you remember:
The Double Disappearance of Walter Fozbek by Steve Senn (Avon, c1980)
Many moons ago I found this book when I was a guest at a friend’s house where I was staying a few days. Never one to turn down an intriguing book when I discovered one, I quickly devoured the title–and never forgot the bizarre set up. Walter Fozbek, the boy is leading normal life, doing regular things like school and homework, until one night he goes to bed and wakes up in an alternate dimension. Walter is still in his room, in his house,and in his life, but now all the people have been replaced with anthropomorphic dinosaurs . . . and humans are the ones who are extinct. Back in Walter’s world, similarly a dino-Walter is waking up in a world full of humans. The two boys have switched places and now must endeavor to find a way back to their rightful dimension before they’re existence is discovered. With the help of both dimensions’ cousin Ralph and a Dr. Krebnickel the boys seek an answer to their inter dimensional nightmare!
A fun and funny book by an author I’ve loved as a kid. It’s the kind of quirky science fictional adventure story for kids that is just delightfully fun and bizarre at the same time. The book was made into a CBS Storybreak TV movie (though the wrong image is attached here) in 1985 . . . I’m pretty sure I must have seen it at some point, although I’m foggy on the details. It’s an entertaining romp perfect for enticing reluctant readers into the story. All the interior illustrations are done by Steve Senn, as was the original 1980 cover art. Mr. Senn’s artistic ability adds tremendously to the worlds he creates, pulling the reader in and helping the visualize what he had in mind while writing the story.
This story of Walter Fozbek is only one of a trilogy of loosely connected sort of “wild and weird” stories. The other two are Ralph Fozbek and the Amazing Black Hole Patrol (1986) and Loonie Louie and Meets the Space Fungus (1991) While the original books are well out of print, Mr. Senn has recently made these children’s books available again via Kindle–so old fans can find the stories they loved, and a new generation can discover his work. The new digital versions are published under the author’s full name: Oscar Steven Senn. Mr. Senn has written a number of other speculative fiction works for children, including Spacebread (1981) and Born of Flame (1982)–two books that I touched on in a much earlier Flashback Friday post.
Oscar Steven Senn’s biography and contact info can be found here: http://www.5thcornerpublishing.com/our-authors/senn200x200/
I have to admit that while the author has gone on to quite a career in the arts, there’s a part of me that wishes he’d written more books for young people. Most of his stories made me quite convinced of the worlds of adventures and crazy stories that were left to be told!
Any other fans out there? Comments welcome!
Twins . . . they’re one of the common tropes you’ll run across in a lot of fiction. I think there’s always been a certain fascination with twins, the bond between them and the fact that identical twins can trade places with each other–experiencing an entirely different life than their own. I’ve found ten twin titles for this list below!
Alanna: The First Adventure by Tamora Pierce (Simon Pulse, c1983)
In this quartet, our protagonist’s entire deception depends on her being a twin–and able to disguise herself and switch places with her brother so she can train as a knight in his stead. Alanna’s brother comes back in later books to add to the story in other ways. Still one of my favorite books where a girl pretends to be a boy in order to find her place in the world. First book in the Song of the Lioness Quartet.
The Unwanteds by Lisa McMann (Aladdin, 2011)
The first book in the Unwanteds series (currently 5 books long), this story is set in a fantasy dystopia where people are separated into those who are strong, intelligent and practical–these are the Wanteds, who go off to university, and the creative, odd and imagination prone Unwanteds, who are to be sent away and gotten rid of. This is the story of twin brothers, one Wanted and one Unwanted and how their destinies will ultimately put them at odds with one another, and ultimately pit brother against brother.
The Horse and His Boy by C. S. Lewis (HarperTrophy, c1954)
Book five in the Chronicles of Narnia, this is the only story set with protagonists completely from the Narnian realm. Young Shasta is an orphan raised far from home, he escapes along with a talking horse named Bree and heads towards freedom. Only along the way he encounters a young prince who looks just like him and a rather crazy “Prince and the Pauper” scenario plays out. Later, it’s realized that the boys really are twins and that Shasta was stolen away as a baby.
Santa’s Twin by Dean Koontz, illustrated by Phil Parks (William Morrow, c1996)
What’s a twin list without an evil twin? In Dean Koontz’s foray into picture books, he gives us this hilarious holiday tale with an evil twin of Santa! Bob Claus has stolen the slay and filled Santa’s toy bag full of mud pies, cat poop and broccoli! It’s up to two sisters to journey to the North Pole and rescue the real Santa in time to save Christmas!
The Witch’s Boy by Kelly Barnhill (Algonquin Young Readers, September 2014)
Like most of Kelly Barnhill’s stories, this one is an unusual tale of magic and quests, of thieves and giants. And it does also feature twins . . . in a way. Our main male protagonist Ned lost his twin brother when he was young. What he doesn’t know is that his mother sewed the soul of his twin into his own skin, saving his life but also changing him. A sort of “twinless twin” tale, I thought it appropriate to add to the list.
Jupiter Pirates: Hunt for the Hydra by Jason Fry (HarperCollins, 2013)
Tycho and Yana are twins that are part of a family of privateers in this science fiction space adventure! In Tycho’s family, tradition has it that only one sibling of the three will be chosen as the next captain of their spaceship, the Shadow Comet. So all three are in competition to prove themselves worthy. Adventure, betrayal and plenty of pirates! Arrr!
The Akhenaten Adventure by P. B. Kerr (Scholastic, c2004)
Twelve-year-old twins John and Philippa have just discovered that instead of being normal New York City kids, they’re descended from a long line of Djinn and they’re being sent to learn how to use their formidable powers under the tutelage of the uncle Nimrod. This series has been a favorite with many kids, although the author does seem to have some bias against the french in particular, and his Brit style humor may not be every reader’s cup of tea. First book in the 7-book Children of the Lamp series.
Switched by Sienna Mercer (HarperTrophy, 2007)
You know vampires have become passe in YA by the time the subject is part of middle grade fiction. This paranormal school story series basically takes the whole “identical twins separated at birth” and adds the vampire element for flair. Olivia comes to a new school where she meets Goth girl Ivy–who looks just like her under the make up. It turns out they’re twins, identical twins. But Ivy is more different than Olivia first realizes–she’s a vampire. Vampires in this story are pretty light weight. They don’t drink blood anymore and live on rare meat and red drinks instead. Book 1 in the popular My Sister the Vampire series which has 16 books published to date.
The Wishing Spell by Chris Colfer, illustrated by Brandon Dorman (Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 2012)
The first book in The Land of Stories series about a set of twins who wind up in a world populated by the characters from fairy tales and stories. Twins Alex and Connor use a magical book to transport them into this world where there adventures are only just beginning. Written by a celebrity author, I admit this series isn’t one I’ve read myself and reviews seem to vary as to it’s readability. Twins tend to be a popular trope in fantasy novels and sometimes I wonder if that’s due to the fact that the writers want to attract both male and female readers to the story.
Many Waters by Madeleine L’Engle (Laurel Leaf, c1985)
While this really sneaks in as YA, I can’t leave it off the list as I loved this book from the Time Quartet. Rather than focusing on Meg or her brother Charles Wallace, this book focuses on the time-traveling adventures of her twin brothers. Sandy and Dennys who inadvertently transport themselves back to the time right before the great flood. I picked this cover image mostly because it shows the twins on the front, but it is a really cheesy image that gives an entirely different impression of the kind of story you’re going to find. I think the twins are like fifteen or sixteen in the story–not quite as old as the guys in the picture.
So what twin books do you prefer? Comments welcome!
You’re a young girl with dreams of taking off into space. So you not only dream and draw your spaceship, but you actually build it, and take off on an amazing trip . . .
Do you remember:
Blast Off by Linda C. Cain and Susen Rosenbaum, illustrated by Leo and Diane Dillon (Gin & Company, 1973)
This book is one I (sadly) have not read. It’s out of print and exceptionally obscure. Even Amazon lacks much information on the book. It’s a real crime that this is the case, because I had no idea such an item was even out there. Hard enough to find girl-centric science fiction in the 40s-80s, harder still to find African-American girl-centric science fiction. In fact I didn’t know it existed. Even though the art is by Leo and Diane Dillon, and it’s hard to believe that anything they’ve drawn would be left in obscurity.
This is the picture that had me digging online for more information:
Can you look at this stunning bit of illustration and not wish to know more? Regina Williams is a girl who dreams of being an astronaut. Even when her friends laugh at the idea and dismiss it, Regina is more determined than ever to achieve her dream. Given that all my information about this book was pulled from websites and scans, I do not have an actual version to read or refer to. However, I know enough about the Dillons to know that their work is usually something special.
When this was written, there was not yet a female astronaut and certainly not a woman of color in the space program. That’s changed over the decades, but the depiction of young women of color, particularly in books about science, invention and exploration is still very thin on the ground. I wish this particular work was still available today, but all I have are partial scans of the book and others’ accounts of the story.
So, this is an odd sort of flashback. I hadn’t known about this book until yesterday, but I think it’s an important one to note in the history of SF and science in literature for children. Searching around the web, it becomes obvious that one of the sites that’s been most influential in getting the word out there about this book is Brain Pickings. Their blog post about this book can be found here.
What treasures have you discovered through Internet searches?