Peppermints in the Parlor
This is a Victorian melodrama/mystery, in which orphaned Emily comes to live with her Aunt and Uncle Twice in their white-pillared mansion called Sugar Hill Hall, only to be greeted with horrors that she could never have imagined even in her worst nightmare.
Nobody wanted the book when I wrote it. Well, that's not entirely true. My then publisher wanted it. They accepted it, and then rejected it. It seems they were soon to stop publishing books altogether, although I didn't know it at the time. I sat on the steps and cried. It was the first time I'd ever cried over a rejection. I was certain no one else would want a book so different from others being published then. And I was right. No one else did. Well, that's not entirely true either. Several editors loved it, but turned it down for all sorts of reasons. One, who was really going to take it, was told at an ABA Convention that no one would buy it. So she didn't either.
A young editor, who had become my friend at my first publisher's, had been encouraging me to send Peppermints to Jean Karl at Atheneum. But I couldn't bear the thought of being turned down by someone I believed to be the top children's editor in New York. So what I decided to do finally was to send it off to an agent in London. I had it all wrapped and ready to do, when at the last moment, unaccountably, I changed my mind. I unwrapped the package, changed the label, and rewrote the cover letter to Jean Karl. And that decision changed my writing life. For Jean, of course, accepted the book. From then on, no matter how many times she cut down on the list of her authors, she kept me with her and remained my wonderful editor until the end. That I've always considered to be one of the proudest achievements of my life.
But here is something I'd like to add to this. If my first publisher had not returned the book, I believe they would have left it pretty much as it was, despite some serious flaws. I believe it would have probably had a very short life, and died with the company. As it was, I considered carefully the suggestions I received in every rejection letter, and then been lucky enough to have Jean guide the book the rest of the way to a successful end. Peppermints in the Parlor was published in 1980, and is still in print.
I love to tell this story, especially to a young person who has suffered a crushing disappointment, because if this isn't a story of how one of the worst things that has happened in your life can in the end be one of the best, I don't know what is!
P.S. "Filled with Dickensian flavor"! That's what Jim Trelease wrote in his The Read-Aloud-Handbook. Dickensian! Oh! Oh! Oh!
* * *
The Perils of Peppermints
In which Emily from Peppermints in the Parlor is, to her sorrow and dismay, left behind in a boarding school when her Aunt and Uncle Twice must go off to faraway India.
Now, at long last, here is the sequel to Peppermints in the Parlor. I vowed I'd never write one. But after all, what if I'd never unwrapped that package to London containing Peppermints in the Parlor, and re-directed it Jean Karl, to whom I vowed I'd never send it? Well, what then?
Anyway, I think many of those long-ago boys and girls who had wanted the sequel, also wanted Emily's mama and papa to miraculously return. But they couldn't. Really they couldn't. They were "no more" and that was that. But, of course, what does happen to Emily is as fraught with tremors and quakes as the first book. And then there are all those villainous villains. Well, you'd have to know people named Ichabod Crawstone, Sophronia Spilking, and the lawyers Screwitch, Chizzle & Slyde couldn't be very nice, could they? But never fear. We all know that Emily's bound to live happily ever after despite the machinations of those nasty people. In any event, here are two of my favorite things that others have said about The Perils of Peppermints.
"All the delicious gothic details are here: the evil headmistress with her vicious dog, the screeching cook, the gruel, and the horrid cupboard where our young orphan heroine is sent for punishment. All is not as it seems and it is the delightful task of the reader-and Emily-to sort out the details. Emily has learned a lot from her stay with Mrs. Meeching and Miss Plumly in the first volume and she will need to use all her wiles to get out of this predicament. Though this tale stands on its own, it will likely send readers back to the first volume for further elucidation and adventure. Good fun." KIRKUS REVIEWS
"What could be more fun than an old-fashioned Victorian thriller about an orphan stuck in a dismal boarding school run by an evil woman who is scheming to her steal her inheritance? This long-awaited sequel to Peppermints in the Parlor is great fun. Emily Luccock is an appealing heroine, the villains are suitably creepy, and Mrs. Spilking's Select Academy makes the grade as one of the gloomiest boarding schools ever described in a book. Credit must be given an author creative enough to make candy an instrument of torture: peppermints are kept in a dish just to tempt the girls into misbehaving. Theft of peppermints results in a night locked in a basement room with Mrs. Spilking's scary dog growling behind the door!" THE BUFFALO NEWS
* * *
The Twin in the Tavern
In which twice-orphaned Taddy, now become a servant in the hands of Neezer, a villainous, thieving tavern-owner, has been told by his dying "uncle" that that nothing is what he thinks, that he must find his twin to learn his real identity, and, most frightening of all, that his life is in danger.
Well, this book almost didn't get accepted either. At least for a few minutes. Atheneum wasn't sure they wanted another book from me because a prior one (which I'll tell you all about shortly) had fallen on its nose. But Jean Karl prevailed, and they took it. Here's what the starred review in The School Library Journal had to say about it:
"A worthy successor to The Peppermints in the Parlor, filled with orphans, musty passages, mysterious relatives, and despicable villains. This book turns Alexandria, Va. into a delightfully murky New-World version of London past. . . . With a fine hand for Gothic embroidery and a nifty surprise conclusion that ties up all the loose ends, Wallace has delivered another very satisfying read."
And Kirkus Reviews: "Wallace populates her story with wonderfully creepy, sinister, and mysterious characters - the reader's never sure whether Taddy is confiding in the right people when he begins to search for his twin, while the denouement makes a dandy surprise for him and the reader alike."
The Twin in the Tavern was nominated for the Mystery's Writers of America EDGAR award. Everyone forgot to let me know about it, but a writer friend mentioned it to me. Jean asked me to send her a note to read just in case I won. Jean got to read the note, because I did. Win, I mean. Jean always said the EDGAR statue wasn't something she would want haunting her living room. Well, I don't know. Everyone else I know thinks it's kind of cute.
This book had some other nice things happen to it as well, like Junior Library Guild, but enough is enough.
* * *
Cousins in the Castle
In this Victorian mystery, Amelia, suddenly orphaned by the death of her widowed father, must journey to far-off New York from London in the company of her chilling Cousin Charlotte, who disappears when she arrives there.
Here's what the ALA Booklist had to say in their starred review: "The plot twists and turns at an alarming rate in this story of dastardly crimes and firm friendships, and that's exactly what makes it so much fun. . . . Written in a lightly Dickensian style, this peach of a book will make an excellent read-aloud. But be prepared for shouts of, 'One more chapter!'"
And then there was this wonderful letter from Barbara Huff from Junior Library Guild: "What a great romp Cousins in the Castle is! Even after the reader starts getting the hang of the fact that nothing is what it seems and certainly no one is what, or who, they seem to be, it's still impossible to anticipate the next terrific plot twist. You know what a fan I am, but you've really outdone yourself with this one. This tops our new list for really smashing reads."
Letters like this one make it all worthwhile, don't they?
Oh yes, this book was nominated for an EDGAR award. Didn't win, though. Too bad! No little twin statue to go with my other one. But never mind. Sparrows are flying this way!
* * *
Sparrows in the Scullery
Newly-orphaned, wealthy, pampered, Colley Trevelyan finds himself terrifyingly in the hands of the murderous Obadiah and Quintilla Crawler, proprietors of the Broggin Home for Boys, where he is sure to die either at their hands, or by virtue of the glass factory where he is sent to work.
"This is fully realized Victorian melodrama, with horrific villains, spunky child-heroes, and a sense of coincidence that would make Dickens (or Joan Aiken) proud. . . . This is a suspenseful, nicely rendered piece of historical fiction. Wallace's language is evocative and consistent, her sense of place is startlingly vivid, and her orphans deserve their own musical. Just booktalk the scene where Colley is tossed into the Hole and watch Sparrows fly off the shelves." Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books
"The action takes off at a horse's gallop: After his parents are killed in a carriage accident, Colley is kidnapped and sold to the Broggin Home for Boys. There he is stripped of his name and put to work in a glass factory. . . Wallace is deliberately Dickensian in her portrait of the home and the boys, yet the tale is full of hope: The boys find an unexpected savior, and readers will be borne along by the suspense to an exhilarating conclusion." Kirkus Reviews
Sparrows in the Scullery did win the EDGAR from Mystery Writers of America. So now I have a pair of those little statues. I used to keep them on a shelf behind my teddy bears. Then I was told I should have them out front where everyone could see them. So I moved them out in front. Didn't change my life a bit.
Junior Library Guild liked the book as well, but they don't give out little statues. Too bad.
* * *
Ghosts in the Gallery
Jenny arrives at the doorstep of the mansion that is to be her new home, only to learn that the letter explaining who she is has never arrived, that her appearance appears highly suspicious to everyone there, and she will only be allowed to remain as a servant, not as the beloved granddaughter she expected to be.
I never seemed to have any story where I could drag in my China background, when along came this one. I wasn't certain if it was such a good idea, until . . . well, read on.
"The Victorian period is the perfect setting for the latest of Barbara Wallace's alliteratively title mysteries, a gothic orphan story that introduces a soupcon of the exotic with references to China, surely the mysterious East in the nineteenth century. . . . Guaranteed thrills and chills." The Horn Book
No mention of China in the following, but they are nice just the same.
"Wallace has incorporated all the expected elements of the Victorian Gothic: an orphan, a gloomy mansion, a secret will, false identities, and a cast of sinister and mysterious characters. There is also a deft use of language that hints at the syntax of the 19th century. Descriptions of clothing and furnishings, as well as the minutiae of daily life, draw the reader a picture of time and place and atmosphere that is nearly perfect. Sure to be hit." Kirkus Reviews
"Wallace spins a delightful tale of Dickensian treachery, betrayal, and triumph in a setting replete with fog, cliffs, and haunting portraits of long-gone family members. This melodramatic story is perfectly peppered with secrets and expectations, making it a first-rate choice." The School Library Journal.
Ghosts in the Gallery was a Junior Library Guild book, and was nominated for an EDGAR by the Mystery Writers of America. It didn't win, and as noted earlier, JLG doesn't give out little statues. So no more little statues!
* * *
Secret in St. Something
In this Victorian mystery set in the grim tenement district or New York, young Robin escapes with his baby brother from their brutal stepfather, and only ends up surviving thanks to some surprising young "saviors" hiding out in a an unlikely place called St. Something.
Doing research on tenement life and child labor in factories for Sparrows in the Scullery was so disturbing to me, I almost didn't want to finish writing the book. But it was fascinating as well, and after a while, I realized I wanted to do another book in a tenement setting. This is the book.
"Fans of Wallace's earlier novels will be lining up to read her latest mystery-adventure set in the dangerous streets and bleak tenements of late-nineteenth-century New York. It has all the elements they've come to expect from the Edgar Allen Poe award-winning author: a plucky main character who is repeatedly thrust into dangerous situations, cliff-hanging chapters, vicious enemies, and a period setting so well described readers will be able to smell the dank hallways, and dirty streets." ALA Booklist
"Positively Dickensian in its melodramatic twists and turns, but not in its length, Wallace's latest page-turner grabs and hold attention. . . . A thrilling denouement involves a deathbed confession, that purloined locket, and an incredibly joyous ending for Robin and the boys." Kirkus Reviews
"This rousing survival story of five street boys and a baby is every bit as captivating as Oliver Twist. . . . The ensuing tale is a Dickensian mystery filled with tension that will alternately shrink readers' hearts in fear and then swell them with joy. . . . The title of the last chapter, "Quite a story indeed," describes it best." Children's Literature
This was a Junior Literary Guild book, and was named one of the ten best mysteries for youth of the year in ALA Booklist.
* * *
The Barrel in the Basement
This is a story about Furkens, "descendants of a branch of the genus Elf," tiny creatures who hide fearfully in human houses, have lost their elvish powers, and are unfortunately often mistaken for mice. They don't smell like mice, though. They smell like warm apricot jam. Although they have had a heroic past, they have lost pride in themselves, become timid, and as a result, lost their ability to vanish. Pudding, a young Furken, and his ultra-timid guardian, Muddle, find their way into a house where they miraculously find a perfect home for themselves, a completely outfitted barrel in the basement. Unfortunately, it is already occupied by another Furken, crusty Old Toaster, who has been befriended by the owner of the house, a lovely man, Noah, who can "talk with the Little People," and his dog Thor. Old Toaster resents the intrusion of Pudding and Muddle, and invites them to leave. But then . . . well, I guess you'll have to read the book to find out what happens next.
Here are some nice things said about the book.
"These endearing creatures, their habits of diet and speech, and their pastimes of dancing and music are fully developed, while soft, black and white drawings give them substance. Now that Pudding has found his way back to the mythic valor of his forebears, readers may hope to hear further exploits of these newest denizens of Faerie." The Horn Book Magazine
"Alice-like, the reader is drawn into the tale to view the dangers of the human world from the perspective of the engaging, well-rounded characters. A tale that will have readers clamoring for a sequel." ALA Booklist
"The Barrel in the Basement is satisfying on so many levels. The dramatic story will enchant young readers. The characterizations are superb and the author's style is impeccable. . . . Although Wallace's story is basically for eight-to-twelve-year-olds, aspiring writers of children's fiction could learn a great deal about their craft by analyzing every aspect of The Barrel in the Basement." St. Louis Post-Dispatch
(Author: Mercy! Could this be true?)
"Fantasy at its best!" Granite District Media Center
"A delightful fantasy for all ages. I couldn't put it down! I wish a Furken would find a barrel in my basement." SE Pennsylvania School Library Book Reviewers
(Author: I wish I could have sent her one!)
* * *
The Interesting Thing That Happened At
Perfect Acres, Inc.
Apparently nothing much did. Oh dear! Do you mind if we don't talk about this?
It did turn into a cute musical, though. We had a staged reading of it in a real, honest-to-goodness theatre. I don't think anybody knew what was really going on, but it was great fun all the same. You know, I think I'll just add some of the lyrics down below right after those from Peppermints in the Parlor. The fabulous Nancy Reed, of course, provided music for them all.
* * *
The Claudia Books
In the second book, Claudia, which is the first of these books that I wrote, eleven-year old Claudia Harper constantly get into mischief with her close friend and neighbor, precocious eight-year-old Duffy Booth. Just at the time when an old girl friend returns to snub her royally, when things are going badly for her at school and even within her own family, and she needs Duffy's friendship the most, she is told she must stop playing with him.
In the first book, Hello Claudia, we go back to see how Claudia's friendship with Duffy began. In the third book, Claudia and Duffy, we see how Claudia outgrows Duffy, but must learn to live with the fact that Duffy may be suddenly outgrowing her.
Claudia was the first book I wrote that wasn't fantasy. My then agents returned it and said, "Nobody is going to buy a book that begins with children going to a department store. Oh well, you had fun writing it. But we really think you should just file and forget it."
I didn't. I sent it to Esther Meeks at Follett, who had earlier written the agents saying she thought I should try my hand at a true-to-life story instead of fantasy. Esther bought the book in ten days. Later, she asked me if I'd sent the book to any other editor. I said, "No." She wasn't surprised, she said, because there wasn't an editor anywhere who would have turned the book down.
The book turned out to be enormously popular, but I've never exactly known the appeal of the story. Perhaps the Young Reader's Review said it best:
"Claudia is a perfectly delightful heroine and the book is loads of fun. The author is completely on Claudia's side; there are no great character changes, Claudia's friends and family are the ones who revise their thinking. . . I hope I don't leave the impression that this is a solemn story. It isn't. It's funny all the way through - dialogue, situations, descriptions. Girls should love it."
Girls did! They wrote to tell me that, and how many times they'd read the book, over and over again. Curiously, the book seems to have been loved often by boys as well as girls. One young fellow used to call me regularly on a pay phone from Minnesota. I think he was using money from his allowance to do it. I could hear the coins clinking in the coin box!
Kirkus Reviews described the book as "eleven-year-old angst treated with humor and insight."
Of the next two books, Hello, Claudia and Claudia and Duffy, School Library Journal had this to say: "The books capture the details of fourth- and sixth-grade life. Claudia and Duffy are fully realized characters who sound like the kids next door."
And this review I really liked from ALA Booklist : "The simple story premises are bolstered by Wallace's easy way with dialogue and sure instinct for capturing kids' personalities. There is a Cleary-like ingenuousness to the stories."
Anyone like to guess why I liked this last review so much? Well, who wouldn't like being mentioned in the same breath as Beverly Cleary!
If the publisher hadn't stopped publishing, I might still be writing Claudia books. I would have loved that.
* * *
Shy, timid, eleven-year-old Dilys, who is afraid to cross the street without someone holding her hand, who idolizes bold, free-spirited, unpredictable Victoria, and who also happens to be madly in love with Victoria's handsome father, learns, unhappily, that she is being sent along with Victoria to boarding school. Dilys is miserable at being separated from her parents, while Victoria (who has lived in hotels much of her life) seems primarily concerned that boarding school does not provide room service. But once in the school, she makes use of her mysterious Black Book to form a club with their roommates, whom she considers to be "freaks," ostensibly to ward off "evil spirits," but in reality to try to get herself expelled.
If anyone should ask what character in my books most resembles the young me, I think I'd say it was Dilys in this book. Yes, I'd have to say Dilys. But, of course, Victoria is the "star" in it.
The book was inspired by the brief time I spent in a boarding school in Baguio, P.I. when my sister and I were evacuated from China on a destroyer and troop transport, to join our family in Manila (a long story that's in my elusive autobiography!). Mother had always threatened us with "boarding school" whenever we misbehaved, for as long as I could remember. Of course, when we finally got there, I, for one, loved it. It's that boarding school, conveniently transported to New York, where I placed tearful Dilys, and strong-willed Victoria, who is totally disgusted with their two roommates, Eugenia and Scarlett.
Publisher's Weekly called this "an unusual and entertaining novel, well told."
Chicago Tribune Book World said, "Victoria is a boarding school story, far from the old formula junior novel, that is perceptive and deft in characterization."
And my favorite from Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books: "A perceptive story, adroitly written; perhaps not since Harriet (the Spy) has there been a young heroine so self-centered so complex, and so touching.''
* * *
Can Do, Missy Charlie
"The subtly changing relationship between two American sisters growing up in China during the l930's told with humor and perception." Junior Literary Guild
This book is almost entirely inspired by my childhood in China, the time when I was about eleven years old and lived in Tientsin. Although Junior Literary (now Library) Guild, appeared to love the book, other than via their books, very few people knew about it. From all that I could find out, the publisher, apparently about to leave the publishing business, never sent out review books.
I've since met several girls and young women who had read the book via the JLG, and were terribly excited to know that I'd written it. It was their favorite book, some of them said. That was nice to know.
* * *
The Secret Summer of L.E.B.
Elizabeth Bracken, L.E.B., is thrilled to be immediately accepted by the sixth grade V.I.G.'s and B's when she's still the "new girl in school." But that soon has a price when she often has to be something she isn't, or say things she doesn't mean, or act in ways she doesn't like. But the price doesn't seem too high until she meets, likes, and begins what has to be a secret friendship with a boy who is the "outcast" of the class.
This was never a book I cared much about for a long time, though I knew several people who felt otherwise. Quite a bit otherwise, actually, especially some teachers I know. I think they agreed with The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Book, which wrote: "The situation of the child who is a member of an elite social group but dubious about its value, and the situation of the child who discovers that a social pariah can become a friend . . . are combined quite deftly and perceptively." Well, time has gone by, and I've taken another look at this book. And hey, it's not bad. Really!
* * *
Andrew the Big Deal
Andrew begins his story by saying, "I've heard that when things get really bad, they can't go anyplace but up. I have news for the person who invented that saying. He hadn't met me. I could start with the day I was born to explain what I mean, but that would be too depressing. So I'll just start with last August when we left California to come to Washington, D.C." So besides being a brainy, straight-A misfit in a family of sports enthusiasts, Andrew has to deal with being a new boy in school, which includes dealing with class bully, Melvin Funkhauser.
I don't know what to say about this book. It's first person, of course. I'm told it's laugh-aloud funny. I've just checked out the scene again where Andrew is held captive in a school bathroom toilet by Melvin. It really is pretty funny. A couple of people have said Andrew has the voice of Holden Caulfield in Catcher in the Rye, even though the story is entirely different. I hadn't read that book when I wrote Andrew. Strange. This isn't a red-blooded "boy" book, but it isn't a girl book either. So I thought it interesting that a young neighbor, a girl, was wild about this book, and formed an Andrew club. There were boys in the club, though, so I guess that made it okay.
* * *
Julia and the Third Bad Thing
When Julia accidentally lets a hot iron fall on her little sister Anicia's hand, worried Grandmama says, "Bad things always happen threes. What will the next one be?" And starts to count. Unfortunately, when she has reached the magic number "three," she realizes that the bad things she has been counting are only little girl bad things. Grandmama's are far worse, and Grandmama's second bad thing has only just happened. What will be her third?
This book was inspired by my mother's life in Russia as a child. It's made up of the bits and pieces she would tell me from time to time. Although the turn-of-the-century setting is Czarist Russia, School Library Journal wrote: "With it simple, leisurely plot that unifies and strengthens a poor family, this will appeal to many young readers." The Mike Eagle illustrations in this book are fantastic.
* * *
Palmer, a skunk, has been captured and has lost his weapon, his precious powerful smell. Now he has been brought by Jonathan Patch to join the other Patch family animals, Socrates, a goat, Mrs. Alabaster, a duck, Scratch, a cat, Clyde, a large dog, and Fringe, a small dog, his "shadow." Palmer thinks they are nothing but foolish backyard pets whose blind trust in humans is sure to be betrayed. And it is, or so they think, when they believe they are to lose their beloved home. They decide to run away together into the dangerous forest, and now Palmer must place his own blind trust in all of them.
I love, love, love animals (well, excluding crocodiles and snakes, although I'm sure there are those who love, love, love them as well). That's why I was so happy with the following things said about this book:
"For children who love animal stories, this has a sure appeal, since the author's affection for them permeates the book without ever descending to sentimentality. . . dialogue is brisk and funny." Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books
"Enthusiastic affection for the animals overflows in Wallace's warm story." ALA Booklist
* * *
The Hawkins Series
Harvey Small, age eleven, who never misses an opportunity to collect a "free thing," finds a scrap of paper offering a free contest. Without having any idea what it is he might be going to win, he ends up winning the services of a very proper English gentleman's gentleman named Hawkins.
It would have been pretty difficult to write a story pairing a ten-year-old American boy with a proper English butler and not have it turn out to be a funny book. I didn't succeed in doing it, apparently, as there was nobody, it seems, who thought these books were anything but. Funny, that is.
"Fun on its own, this sequel to Hawkins is all the better in conjunction with the earlier book." School Library Journal
"Comedy and reader involvement plus the effusive energy that Wallace brings to her story telling signals this a pleasant addition to the sparse field of humor for middle grade readers." ALA Booklist
"A sure-fire solution to all those requests for a funny book to read." Kirukus Reviews
"Harvey Small seems destined to follow Encyclopedia Brown, Alvin Hicks, and The Great Brain as another master-mind of mad-cap merriment for middle readers." Oklahoma State Dept. of Education
"Harvey and Hawkins together work out what is really going on in this fast-paced, funny, endearing and suspenseful book which will find wide appeal. In Hawkins' own words, "It is . . . it is simply splendid!" Santiago Library System
"Harvey Small is a modern-day Homer Price. His antics are hilarious and his sensitivity is heart-warming. Demand for this appealing book should be enhanced by its television presentation." Richardson Independent School System
"Wallace's light touch is sure: dialogue flows naturally and the humor is never strained. Her kids are winners in spirit, and it's gratifying to see their problems neatly solved." ALA Booklist
* * *
The Miss Switch Books
Miss Switch is the very popular fifth-grade (and subsequently sixth-grade) teacher. She also just happens to be a witch, a real one! But what is a witch doing as a teacher at Pepperdine Elementary School? Well, it seems she has been condemned by some contraption called a Computowitch to sweep Witch's Mountain for150 years unless she can come up with some original witchcraft. So she comes seeking the help of great scientist (according to him, anyway) Rupert P. Brown.
In Miss Switch to the Rescue, it's Miss Switch who comes to the rescue of Rupert, when his best friend, Amelia, is kidnapped and transported back to the seventeenth century by the warlock Mordo, who is (naturally!) a buddy of the evil witch Saturna.
In Miss Switch Online, Saturna sends Grodork, her ultra handsome but ultra stupid brother, to do her dirty work for her, which is seek revenge on Rupert and his sixth-grade classmates. She communicates with Grodork via some really bad poetry on her Computowitch.com web site. Appearing in Rupert's sixth-grade classroom just at the same time is a new teacher, Miss Blossom, who comes complete with a mountain of yellow hair piled on top of her head, mile-long eyelashes, and a bee-sting mouth. Could this be Miss Switch? Do you doubt it?
I never thought much of the mildly okay reviews for The Trouble With Miss Switch, but the ones for Miss Switch to the Rescue were great, every one of them. Here, however, is my very favorite of them all. It's from Publisher's Weekly.
"Miss Switch, the witch with attributes like Mary Poppins, enthralled readers in The Trouble With Miss Switch. She returns in Wallace's fast, suspenseful and funny sequel (where) Rupert and Amelia let a sea captain from the 17th century out of a bottle that has imprisoned him aboard his ship, the Bide-A-Wee. Unluckily, the captain turns out to be a vicious warlock, Mordo. . . . The escapades are dashingly described by Rupert right up to the daffy end, with skirmishes by the opponents on broomstick and on the decks of the Bide-A-Wee.
* * *
Argyle is a sheep who roams the highlands and lowlands of Scotland. He looks like a sheep, and he feels like a sheep. He likes to do the same things other sheep do. He isn't one bit different from any of them, and he doesn't give a hoot mon about it. Then one day, he wanders off and finds some tasty little flowers. He eats a large number of them, and ends up growing wool that knits into Argyle socks. Argyle becomes famous overnight. He's a sensation. Good, you say? No, terrible for poor Argyle!
Here's another book that floated around a long time before it found a home. Nobody wanted it. Too slight! Too whatever. And then it landed back on Abingdon's desk a SECOND time, when they got a new editor. Etta Wilson L-O-V-E-D it and rushed it out in a mere ten months on her first list.
Here's what School Library Journal had to say in their starred review:
"A sheep named is Argyle is appropriately featured in this comic-satiric fable about the blessing of anonymity and the pitfalls of fame. . . . The book has the brevity, simple style, and layered meanings of the classic fables. . . . At its most sophisticated, this is a clever and original commentary on capitalism. All told, a natural for reading aloud."
(Author: Gosh! I thought I was just writing a story about a sheep. "Clever and original commentary on capitalism," eh? Hmmmm. I'm impressed.)
The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books said:
"Delightful nonsense, this combines a plot with an improbable/impossible twist that is firmly meshed with a realistic base. The style is honed to simplicity and is given humor by the union of fantastic development and bland style."
(Author: Wow! I did all that?)