New evidence for my Pickwick Papers = Lord of the Rings theory…

You may recall that one of my pet theories is that Tolkien was inspired to write Lord of the Rings by reading Charles Dicken’s Pickwick Papers.

The most obvious piece of evidence, of course, is Sam, who is basically the same character with the same name and the same father in both works.

Pickwick has a fellowship of sorts, but he’s more of a Bilbo than a Frodo. Bilbo and Pickwick have very much the same body type and the same inclination to write up their adventures. (Admittedly, Pickwick’s adventures are quite non-Fantastical.)

But, it seems to me that the inspiration for the books might have been as simple as, “What if Mr. Pickwick had to go fight a dragon?”

Now I’ve stumbled on a new bit, which makes me think Tolkien may have had a bit of help in having this moment of inspiration.

I’ve been reading G.K. Chesterton’s work on Dickens, which is full of all sorts of insights, including this astonishing take on Pickwick:

Pickwick” is supremely original in that it is the adventures of an old man. It is a fairy tale in which the victor is not the youngest of the three brothers, but one of the oldest of their uncles.

and how about this:

“…Pickwick is not the fairy; he is the fairy prince; that is to say, he is the abstract wanderer and wonderer, the Ulysses of comedy; the half-human and half-elfin creature…” (whole thing)

A half-human, half-elfin creature!

We know for a fact that Tokien read and liked at least one of Chesterton’s works on Dickens.

Anyway, once you’ve been told that Pickwick is half-elfin and that the book is a fairy tale, it’s not that hard to wonder what if it was a REAL fairy tale with proper dragons, goblins and a wizard to set the whole thing in motion… (or perhaps it IS hard to wonder that, but perhaps Tolkien was just the person to wonder it.)

So Tolkien sent Pickwick out to get Smaug’s gold and that was good, but then he sent Frodo out and this time he sent Pickwick’s manservant Sam along with him and that was great!


Six degrees of Little Women



Harry Potter-Esque Chocolate Frog…


Made by the Chocolate Spike store in Blacksburg Va. Many colors available. Quite beautiful…

The Vanishing “Vanishing Treasure” Mystery starring the Three Investigators and me…


Take a look at this book… And the back of it…


Why could ace sleuth Jupiter Jones tell us about this book?

1 it’s from a library.
2 but most libraries don’t use those old timey punch cards anymore.
3 it doesn’t have the word discard on it anywhere.

Jupiter: It was stolen from a library circa 1982!!!

No, Jupe, you’re wrong this time. I paid for it. I couldn’t find it anywhere! I had to pay something like $7.50 for it, which was a fortune in 1982. Then when I finally found it, I figured I might as well keep it since I had paid for it.
What a thrilling mystery! All we need now is a boilerplate intro by Alfred Hitchcock and we’re ready to roll!

Story songs

Today I heard the Decemberists’ song The Mariner’s Revenge for the first time.

I thought right away that it needed to be added to my list of the all-time great story songs.
But I don’t actually have such a list. So I’ve been mulling it over…

  • “The Fox Went Out on a Chilly Night”
  • “’52 Vincent” written by Richard Thompson, but as performed by Del McCoury band
  • “A Boy Named Sue” — Johnny Cash, written by Shel, of course.
  • “Devil Went Down to Georgia” — Charlie Daniels
  • “Roland the Headless Thompson Gunner” – Warren Zevon
  • “Mean Individual Stranded in a Limousine.”- Paul Simon
  • The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia.
  • “Hot Rod Lincoln”
  • “Frozen Logger”

Trucker songs merit their own category… Two of my favorites:

  • “Little Joe” Red Sovine
  • “Roll On” Alabama

Of course, if we’re going to allow Roll On, it almost seems like we’ll have to allow “Wildfire…”

I love how many of thoser songs have not only an ending, but a twist ending!

These are great songs, which almost qualify as story songs, but not quite (according to my stringent standards)

  • “City of New Orleans”
  • “The Weight”

Of course I wouldn’t dream of finalizing this list without hearing your input…

The status of things here in Happy Valley

I really miss writing this blog the way I used to. But, I guess all those crazy posts about kidlit served their purpose at the time.

Right now I’ve got videos and an activity guide for Darth Paper Strikes Back to make. Just over a month until he DOES strike back.

Plus, I’m so close to finishing another MS. (One I’ve already sold and which is due at the end of the summer.) I’d love to tell you a bit about it… see there’s this llama with a hat…

Also, I’m back on the bubble with an unsold manuscript I’ve been working on with Sci-Fi author Paul Dellinger. It’s robot book and it should be pretty awesome.
We wrote the whole book over the course of 3 years or so, so the story is complete. But we’ve decided to change it to 1st person. I’ve rewritten 6 or so chapters in 1st person and gotten pretty excited about it. So, we’re showing it to my editor to see what she thinks.

Meanwhile, Cece is so crazy busy that’s it’s not funny. She’s got all these paintings due at the end of the summer for her next picture book. When she finally finishes those, she has to go back to work on her first early reader book.
Both are AWESOME!

Look what I got! Clockwork Dark #3: White City Arc!

I love this cover!
And of course I cant wait to get into the book…. Is that Ferris Wheel really as sinister as it looks?

The book comes out the same day as Darth Paper, Aug. 23… But is you haven’t read the first two Clockwork Dark books yet… Get moving!

Need me to summarize? An American Fantasy novel. Our history reimagined as if American folk tales were hazy, incomplete versions of the truth. John Henry’s Hammer is at the center of it all.

The author, John Bemis, has become a friend … But I wouldn’t be recommending this to you if I didn’t think it deserves to be read. I think it’s got exactly what is needed to capture the middle school reader… And me.

I’m walking again and other news!

Quite a week around here last week!!!

On Monday I flew to New York for BEA and got to meet with most of the Origami Yoda team! What a great group of people!

On Tuesday, I went to BEA and had a great time at the ABA/ E.B. White Awards. Instead of an acceptance speech, I taught the audience of about 300-400 how to fold Origami Yoda…. with the help of the awesome Peter Brown, who won the E.B. White Picture Book prize. You can see a picture of us here.
I met so many great people at and around BEA! Sadly, I missed some others I’ve been hoping to meet, but I had to fly home

On Wed. (I think) I started listening to the new Recorded Books version of Horton Halfpott. Awesome!

Then Friday was another big day:
I signed two book contracts. These are books I’ve mentioned before, it just took awhile for the contracts to be written up.
One of the books is Fake Mustache, which I’m pretty excited about!

Then I went to physical therapy and LEARNED TO WALK again! (As opposed to hobbling around.) It felt great!

Sam’s Big News! Tom’s too…

Sam: I don’t exist… But that’s okay. I really don’t mind.

I am so excited to be telling you about my big news! It’s really, really exciting! (And it also ends a long-running secret.)

My awesome publisher, Amulet, is going to come out with three more of my books! This is great news, because Amulet did such an amazing job with Origami Yoda and Horton Halfpott! I just can’t wait until these books are done so I can see what they look like and share them with all of you!

First of all, it’s time to end a secret … which most of you probably knew anyway….

I am Tom Angleberger AND Sam Riddleburger. Sam Riddleburger is a pen name I used on two books: “The Qwikpick Adventure Society” and “Stonewall Hinkleman and the Battle of Bull Run.” (I wrote Stonewall with a pal of mine. It’s a Civil War Time Travel Extravaganza. Check it out, you might dig it!)

Qwikpick is a book I really, really love. And I think a lot of you might like it, too. It’s got a little origami, a little bit of adventure and … a whole lot of sewage! (Really!)

Well, the great news is that Qwikpick is coming back! Amulet is going to reprint it. It’ll have an awesome new cover and new artwork inside, this time by me. Maybe even a new title. And my real name on it this time. I really hope you guys are going to like it!

The second book is going to be really, really wild! It’s a thriller set during a presidental election and it should be out in time for the real election in 2012. But don’t worry…. it’s not going to be all serious. In fact it won’t be ANY serious. It’s called “Fake Mustache!”

And the third book? Amulet hasn’t decided yet. We’ll just have to wait and see….

Speaking of waiting and seeing…

If you’re wondering about more Origami Yoda books all I can do is quote Harvey: “No comment!”


One more book, this one from another great publisher, Clarion: It’s a picture book. I know most of you are done with picture books, but when it comes out, you can sneak over to the picture book shelf and peek at it…

The book is “Crankee Doodle” and it’s very, very silly. It’s by me and Cece!!

It’s so exciting, because we’ve been trying to publish a book together for 20 years or so… We’re a great team and help each other all the time. (Or at least she helps me…) Finally, we’re going to have our names together on our own book!

News from Tom (Sam still news-less)

Almost finished with crazy 8-day, 3 conference, 2 festival, 3 bookstore, 4-school super-trip. Exhausted, but really looking forward to final event… keynote speech for VEMA tomorrow. (Virginia Educational Media Association conference.)

During the week I ate with John Bemis — Clockwork Dark — and later with Marfe Ferguson Delano —Genius: A Photobiography of Albert Einstein.

Got to hear Nikki Giovanni and Ashley Bryan read poems.

Got to see a few favorite authors again: Madelyn Rosenberg, Alison Hart and Kathy Erskine.

And got to meet Calpurnia Tate author Jacquline Kelley and Soar, Eleanor! author Tami Lewis Brown!

What a job!

Have I mentioned on this blog how much I like “A Tale Dark and Grimm?”

It’s one of my competitors for the E.B. White Award and seriously… E.B. White would have loved this book! (I’m guessing.) So I’ve told Adam I hope he wins and I do.

He deserves it … plus I’ve already got an award and now I’ve got a (digital) medal to go with it!