Three out of four are on a certain subject

Finally back online after a phone outtage here at The Smudge.

Here are a few items that have piled up:

1) Read Chitty Chitty Bang-Bang. I was very suprised to discover that it was NOTHING like the movie, with the minor exception of having a flying car. I always thought that Fleming knocked it out just so Broccoli could movie-ize it and give it the Mary Poppins treatment. But, whatever Mary Poppins flavor was in the movie was added by Broccoli. It’s very well written, with the problems that the characters are flat and the plot is tepid and the conclusion doesn’t exactly add up.

Note that the book has a dad and a really thinly drawn dullsville mom, whilst the movie has a single dad and his lover Truly Scrumptious! The single dad arrangement of the movie would apparently make it more palatable to critics of the Newbery.

2) I looked up The Great Brain to see when it was written and was STUNNED to see that the author, John Fitzderald, was not even born until the 20th century. The action all takes place before the turn of the century, of course. To me that makes the writing feat all that much more impressive, since it reads as a 100% believable memoir. (Except for some of The Great Brain’s stunts.) And I’ve always assumed that the general background of the story was non-fiction.

3) I had lamented that The Great Brain didn’t win a Newbery, but I’ve been thinking on that. Taken as a whole, I think they do add up to Greatness. But the first book on it’s own might not really merit it. I think my favorite of the series might have been The Great Brain at the Academy. But it would have been weird to have given the award to a book from the middle of the series, especially one that’s different than the others.

So, I guess I can see why it never won.

4) I have not relented on the subject of Lizard Music, however.

The winner that year, 1976, was The Grey King. Fair enough, I know some people worship that book.

But they only had two Honor Books.

  • The Hundred Penny Box by Sharon Bell Mathis (Viking)
  • Dragonwings by Laurence Yep (Harper)
Preposterous not to at least give Lizard Music an Honor. To my mind, Lizard Music beats The Grey King by a mile and a half, being a stunningly original book, attempting things which most people would assume could not be handled in a kids book.

11 Responses

  1. I had the same reaction to “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.” I wondered whether the screenwriter had read the book at all or simply heard about it.

    You’ve convinced me. I’ll read “Lizard Music.” I’ve never heard of it before, but if you’re this big a fan, I’ll take that as a recommendation that I should read it. I’ll get back to you.

    I also haven’t read “The Grey King.” My wife has, though, and she loved the “Dark is Rising” sequence. The only one I’ve read is “Over Sea, Under Stone.” I suppose I should put that series on my to-read list for the year, too, huh? My 12-year-old read them about a year ago and loved it.

  2. Wickle, I’m glad to have convinced you to read Lizard Music. May I suggest listening to Pinkwater read it himself. download it for free at It’s a wonderful reading!

  3. I’ll wander over to the library in the morning and see if they have it.

    I’m downloading the audio as you suggest. Since I’m a dial-up user, it might take me about three years to get the whole thing, but that’s beside the point, right?

  4. It’s funny, Sam — I think my favorites of the Great Brain series are At the Academy and Me and My Little Brain, which as you know are the two where Fitzgerald broke from the formula used in the other 5 books (not counting the posthumous one). But the whole series still stands up really well, and you’re right — it is amazing that Fitzgerald wasn’t even around during the time he wrote so knowingly about.

    I’ll be reading Lizard Music very, very soon, based on your recommendation. Thanks!

  5. At the Acadamy was my favorite as well. If you find a copy of Fitzgerald’s memior, the out-of-print Papa Married a Mormon, you will see the grounding for JD world.

  6. The only thing I remember about the book Chitty-Chitty Bang-Bang is that there was a fudge recipe at the end of the book. I cannot remember why there was a fudge recipe, but I’m glad it was there.

    (Was it there?)

    • Yes it was in there! Good memory. It was very oddly stuck in and it made it sound awfully easily – it’s not.

  7. I love “Lizard Music”! The library didn’t have it, but I did listen to the whole recording of it. Twice.

    It’s great! I love that!

    The discussion of what makes someone a pod person is fairly poignant (I don’t think I’d leave out the idea of too much processed food, by the way!), and the rest was just so much fun!

    Thanks for the suggestion!

  8. Yahoo! After 30 years of pushing Pinkwater on people I now have two victories, Wickle and Cece!

    I am really glad you liked it, Wickle. And that you listened to it twice. It was after listening to it repeated times that I started to realize it was more than great it was A Great Book.

    We’ll have to wait on Collecting Children’s Books to see if I have a third…

  9. I was in the general vicinity of a bookstore yesterday (I had an appointment about 2 miles away), and therefore went in. I came really close to buying The Neddiad. The fact that it’s outside our budget and would almost certainly result in overdrawing the checking account stopped me, but only just.

  10. Maybe if you had looked at the first sentence, it would have closed the deal:
    “I have not always lived here and by here I do not mean the La Brea tarpits where I’m writing this down.”
    (from memory)

    Get the Neddiad on audio book, too, if you can. His reading of it is super excellent!
    I think it’s one of his best and is possibly the best ending of any Pinkwater book ever.

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