Dillweed's parents go on adventures and leave him behind with Umblud the butler and Perfidia the maid, who treat him like their slave. Neither Umblud or Perfidia or the parents appreciate Dillweed's cherished pet, a creature named Skorped. When they threaten Skorped's life and well-being, Dillweed opens his black box and casts the runes, which releases smoky monsters, who do the dirty deeds. And then it's Dillweed turn to go on adventures.
Filled with nasty characters, beautiful details, and subtle humor, this stylish book follows in the tradition of the deliciously dark work of Edward Gorey, so Dillweed's happy ending undoubtedly means the end
for someone else.
A Q&A with Florence Parry Heide, Author of Dillweed's Revenge
Q: You've written more than 100 children’s books--that's pretty impressive! How do continue to come up with new and fresh ideas? Where do you find inspiration?
A: I think ideas are rather like invisible balloons--they're always floating around, and if you are able to reach up and grab one, it's yours, otherwise it will just keep floating around with the other balloons until someone else reaches up and brings it down. Like inventions. Everything--except, of course, things in nature, like trees or clouds--had to be invented by someone. Someone had to be the very first person in the world to think of: the first chair, the first window, the first door. Who was it who reached up and grabbed those balloons? What balloon is up there waiting for you to pull it down?
Q: Your latest book, Dillweed's Revenge, has quite an interesting back story. Can you tell us a little about how Dillweed came to be?
A: This book was written forty years ago! At that time The Shrinking of Treehorn had just been published; my brother and his wife were visiting from California, my daughter Roxy joined us, and the four of us decided to write something that weekend for Edward Gorey to illustrate--thus Dillweed's Revenge.
Some editors liked the story but wanted a date on which the art would be finished, and Edward Gorey would never work that way. So, it sat and it sat, with occasional forays out into the world. But now, here it is! Too late for Edward, but Carson Ellis has accomplished wonders with her intricate dazzling illustrations.
And this long road to publication proves that anything is possible, and indeed that is my motto and favorite saying.
Q: Dillweed's story is both humorous and a little bit scary, all at once. Why do you think stories such as these are so appealing to kids?
A: Of course kids like to be soothed and reassured and coddled and amused, but they also like to read of naughtiness, excitement, and danger.
Q: Do you have any writing rituals or special practices? And what about when you're not writing—how do you spend your time? If you had a whole day free with nothing to do, how would you fill it?
A: I have no rituals or special practices; I just sit down and write. And a whole day free with nothing to do? I can’t imagine that. Isn't there always something interesting to do? Yes!
Q: What was your favorite book when you were a child?
A: I loved the Oz books and read and re-read every single one. My favorite was Ozma of Oz by L. Frank Baum: what an original and truly imaginative tale! Where is my copy? Did I read it so often I wore it out? Did it turn into dust?
Later, my favorite book was A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett, and I read that dozens of times as well and cried each time. It's truly comforting to be crying merrily away while reading a favorite book: you know it's going to turn out happily in the end, so the sadder the book seems, the better.
Q: What's the best advice you have for budding authors?
A: Advice...oh my! We all have our own reasons to want to write, our own styles, our own approach to writing, and what it is we want to write. What might work for me might never work for anyone else. The thing is: just write. Just proceed. What do you want to write about? If you’re telling a story, think about how you want to tell it--what point of view, what language, what style, to what purpose, etc. Do you want to inform your audience, or amuse or challenge them...
To put something into the world that hadn't existed before and would never exist but for you is a thrilling way to spend time! What is this tale that has never been told? Who are these people who have never before existed and will never exist unless you call them into being? Hurry, hurry, write it all down, now, while it’s fresh in your mind, don't let that balloon go!
Gr 2-5–When his oblivious parents depart for adventures, young Dillweed is left in the care of two servants who drink, party, and make him do constant chores. The narrator's wry tone makes it clear that the boy will not accept this situation forever, and his revenge is delightfully macabre. He unleashes a team of shadowy monsters who dispose of both butler and maid, and “Dillweed and Skorped,” his dragon-ish pet, “were happy.” The black humor turns even darker when the parents return and decide to get rid of the pet, then promptly meet the same fate as the servants. Readers leave boy and creature enjoying a cruise and living “happily ever after. Dillweed and Skorped, not the parents.” The restrained satiric voice sets the tone, slyly preparing readers for Dillweed's revenge. Terse sentences and repeated refrains inject humor while leaving room for the playful ink and gouache illustrations, which recall Edward Gorey's work, to fill in the details. Pictures, not words, reveal the magic stone that Dillweed uses, for example, as well as the monsters he calls forth. One especially funny spread shows the luggage of the returning parents being carried in, just as a servant's coffin is being carried out. The mixture of humor and gruesomeness may offend some, but for fans of Roald Dahl, Lemony Snicket, or Hilaire Belloc, it's right on target.Steven Engelfried, Wilsonville Public Library, OR
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