Cabby Potts, Duchess of Dirt, Review and Interview with author Kathleen Wilford

Kathleen Wilford, one of my critique partners, can now say her middle-grade historical novel is published! The story is funny, emotional, full of interesting, historical details and, most of all, Cabby is engaging!

All credit for this review and interview are due to middle-grade author Darlene Beck-Jacobson and her blog Gold From The Dust: Bringing Stories To Life.

Kathleen Wilford’s debut CABBY POTTS, DUCHESS OF DIRT (Little Press) is a delightful story set in the 1870’s during the migration of Americans to the prairies of the Midwest for homesteading. Here is my review:

This historical fiction story set in the 1870’s, is a fast-paced trip to the days of homesteading on the Kansas prairies. When her parents force her to work at grand Ashford Manor, 12-year-old Cabby Potts will do anything to escape, including playing matchmaker between her sister and the rich young lord of the manor. If it succeeds, her scheme will save her family’s struggling homestead. If it fails? Cabby can’t even think about that.

Can Cabby find the courage to stand up for her family, a Native American friend, and an entire community threatened by land-grabbers?

The author does a wonderful job grounding the reader in time and place with period details and appropriate phrasing and language of the era. “My brain buzzed like it was full of gnats” is one of many similes that feels fresh and original. The characters are well-rounded and engaging, making for a quick read. Readers will enjoy Cabby’s antics and feisty demeanor as she navigates the unfamiliar world of the wealthy. A highly recommended debut.

Darlene Beck-Jacobson

Thanks Darlene and Kathy for this interview!

What was your inspiration for Cabby Potts?

I ran across a book called Prairie Fever, by Peter Pagnamenta, and I was intrigued to learn about the British aristocracy’s fascination with the American West. Cabby Potts, Duchess of Dirt is based on the true story of Victoria, Kansas, an enclave of British aristocrats in the 1870’s. Victoria was designed as a “community of culture and refinement” where “the arts and graces of life” could be imported straight from London.

I couldn’t imagine a bigger culture clash than between the English nobility and hardscrabble American homesteaders. I pictured an outdoorsy 12-year-old girl forced to work as a housemaid at a grand English manor, and the character of Cabby was born. Trying to save her family’s struggling homestead, Cabby plays matchmaker between her pretty, romantic sister Emmeline and the rich young lord of Ashford Manor. What could go wrong with that scheme?

As an author of historical fiction myself, I was immediately drawn into the setting and era of the story. What drew you to writing historical fiction?

I love the way historical fiction immerses readers into a different world. All good fiction is immersive, but with historical fiction, the past comes alive in a fresh way. And there’s a serious side too: I believe that to understand where we ARE, we need to understand where we’ve BEEN. Non-fiction helps readers do that too, but fiction adds an important layer of empathy.

As for this particular era, 1870’s Kansas, I’ve always been fascinated by pioneer literature, from Willa Cather to Laura Ingalls Wilder. My life is so easy compared to women who endured life on lonely prairies, living in sod houses and struggling to keep themselves and their families alive.

Tell us a bit about your research process.

I like to begin with books that situate the time period I’m studying in a larger historical context. I follow that up with more specific books and then with primary sources. For Cabby Potts, Duchess of Dirt, I consulted homesteader journals, 1870’s editions of the Dodge City Times, an 1841 book by Dr. Samuel Sheldon Fitch called Diseases of the Chest (fascinating, trust me), Mrs. Beeton’s book on the duties of a housemaid . . . etc.! Since I work for Rutgers, I’m lucky enough to have access to the rich depth of primary materials owned by the university. I think primary sources are key not only to authentic details but to the language of the times.

Several experts also helped me with questions, and of course, Google is great for filling in details!

What amazing thing did you discover while writing?

How much time do we have?? I learned so many fascinating tidbits of information, many of which I couldn’t include in the book but would be happy to tell you about sometime. Some facts that DID make it into the book: people used to believe that walking on the prairie could cure consumption (tuberculosis)—housemaids were not allowed to whistle in the house—dried up buffalo dung was burned for fuel.

One fact that informed my book: fully half of all homesteaders didn’t make it and never “proved up” on their claims. We tend to romanticize homesteading on the prairies, but it was brutally difficult.

What message do you want young readers to take away from this story?

I hope kids will enjoy a funny, fast-paced story with lots of drama! Beyond that, I hoped to give readers a clearer picture of the homesteading life. Along with showing how difficult the life was, I wanted readers to see how race and class prejudices infiltrated even supposedly egalitarian rural America. Cabby wakes up to this prejudice as she forms a friendship with Eli, a half-Kiowa boy. She finally learns to use her “intemperate tongue” to stand up for him, her family, and her whole community. In Cabby Potts, I tried to portray a funny, feisty girl growing into more awareness of her world, with all its imperfections. She learns to use her voice to make that world a better place, something I hope we all can do.

Kathleen Wilford, @kathwilford

Book Review, The Lending Library by Aliza Fogelson

Cousin Connection

When one needs writing/publishing advice, who should one go to? First, I checked in with fellow NJSCBWI writer-friends. Shout to Laurie Wallmark who has written many women in STEM biographies in addition to Dino Pajama Party: A Bedtime Book, Donna Cangelosi whose debut picture book Mr. Roger’s Gift of Music launches Aug. 2022, and Ariel Bernstein who has written many humorous books including We Love Fishing. Then I connected with my cousin, writer/editor/novelist Aliza Fogelson. Aliza shared her publishing journey, listened to my concerns, and gave me honest and insightful advice. Thanks, Aliza!

I just finished reading Aliza’s adult novel The Lending Library, and the more I read, the more I wanted to find out what was going to happen to Dodie, her love life, friends, family, and the library she created in her home. Issues weren’t easily solvable, real-life emotions such as grief and longing for a child were explored, and the main character actually worked (as opposed to many stories/tv shows/movies where I wonder why isn’t anyone working?). Aliza’s descriptions of food highlighted one of Dodie’s passions and added–ahem–flavor to the story.

For fans of Jane Green and Loretta Nyhan, a heartwarming debut novel about a daydreamer who gives her town, and herself, an amazing gift: a lending library in her sunroom while confronting an even higher stakes, life-changing, decision.

When the Chatsworth library closes indefinitely, Dodie Fairisle loses her sanctuary. How is a small-town art teacher supposed to cope without the never-ending life advice and enjoyment that books give her? Well, when she’s as resourceful and generous as Dodie, she turns her sunroom into her very own little lending library.

At first just a hobby, this lit lovers’ haven opens up her world in incredible ways. She knows books are powerful, and soon enough they help her forge friendships between her zany neighbors―and attract an exciting new romance.

But when the chance to adopt an orphaned child brings Dodie’s secret dream of motherhood within reach, everything else suddenly seems less important. Finding herself at a crossroads, Dodie must figure out what it means to live a full, happy life. If only there were a book that could tell her what to do…

Amazon.com

In an interview with Christine L. Henderson, Reading and Writing Books, I liked this Q and A because, hon, I spend a lot of time writing and revising!

What is the best advice you’ve been given about writing or that you’ve learned that you would like to pass along? 

If at all possible, write for pleasure—for your imagined reader and for yourself—instead of worrying about whether your book will ultimately be published or sell well. When inspiration strikes, follow it and write without editing or criticizing what you’ve written. Let that come later. If you can enjoy the process, the time you spent will likely feel worthwhile to you and you will learn a lot about writing whether or not your manuscript ends up as a published book.

Aliza Fogelson

Calling Dibs, Jinx, Shotgun, and Other Things No One Knows the Rules To by Theresa Julian

Humor Expert At It Again!

Theresa Julian’s newest book, Calling Dibs, Jinx, Shotgun, and Other Things No One Knows the Rules to is a natural third book in her series with the The Joke Machine and 101 Hilarious Pranks and Practical Jokes. Like the Joke and Pranks books, illustrated by Pat Lewis, Calling Dibs, illustrated by Kim Griffin, is a funny, punny guide on “who gets dibs on the last slice of pizza” and “who’s ‘it’ when two people call ‘not it’ at the same time.” The book was written with 8-12 year-olds in mind, but anyone who wants to connect with kids and nostalgic adults will laugh-out-loud at Theresa’s rules and game challenges.

Theresa, critique-partner, writer-friend, and fellow triplets-mom, is getting good press! Time for Kids magazine featured her “How to Write Funny” advice and Highlights for Children Magazine asked her to share some “tips and tricks of the trade.” So cool!

Published June 29, 2020

Connect with Theresa on Twitter @Theresa_Julian, Instagram tm_julian, TikTok @thefunnyu

House of Many Colors: Casa Vicens, Barcelona

Image source: Accessable

Barcelona is the city of Gaudí.

The first place we visited in Barcelona was Gaudi’s first project. Casa Vicens was designed and built between 1883 and 1885 as a summer house for the Vicens family. Antoni Gaudi i Cornet (1852-1926) “is one of the most noteworthy figures in universal architecture.” The house is a marvel even before you enter, with its wrought iron palm leaf gates, ceramic tiled walls, and interesting doorways. The garden is planted in colors that coordinate with the house.

Gaudi was lauded for “his support for traditional architecture, along with his exceptionally ground-breaking genius both in terms of shapes and the building and structural systems of his projects.” He designed buildings where “the construction and ornamentation are integrated in such a way that one cannot be understood without the other.” Casa Vicens was declared a Unesco World Heritage site in 2005. ( https://casavicens.org/casa-vicens/)

Have you been to Barcelona? What did you think of the Gaudi architecture?

Palm leaf fence, ceramic-tiled walls, and unusually shaped doorway.

Wall of ceramic sunflowers and leaves.

Lantern with colorful disks in entranceway filled with texture, colors and patterns.

Vivid blue arched ceilings and stained glass windows.

Cool perspective and view of cherub sitting on a ledge.

Meaning and Miró , The Smallest Noise and Constellations of Sounds

Joan Miró, gouache, c.1934

Last in series of posts from Fundació Joan Miró in Barcelona.

I found many of Miró’s works intriguing for their artistry and for their meanings. As a writer whose Kidlit language is lyrical and seemingly simple, but actually layered with emotion and action, I appreciate knowing the thoughts that inspired the process.

When it comes to canvases saturated with one color, I have a harder time connecting to the work, but the meaning behind “Landscape” felt different–it’s like us as individuals in our lives or us as humans in the universe.

“Letters and Numbers Attracted by a Spark(V)” called out to me. Letters float in the sky and look down on water and earth. I wonder,

Do the letters which form sentences and tell stories that are derived from my imagination with the goal of resonating with children ever going to get a chance to come to life?

The depth of meaning in Joan Miró’s work springs from a desire to capture the essence of human existence. On a personal level, this desire also implied an affirmation of identity that arose from Miró’s strong connection with the land–with Mont-roig, the original source of his creativity. ‘It is the land, the land. It is stronger than I. The fantastic mountains have a very important role in my life, and so does the sky. It is the clash between these forms within my soul, rather than the vision itself. In Mont-roig it is the force that nurtures me, the force.’

Excerpts from Fundació Joan Miró

Landscape, c. 1968

“‘Silence is a denial of noise – but the smallest noise in the midst of silence becomes enormous,’ said Miró. As the only referential element, a blurry point acquires a powerful presence, but also makes the space around it resonate. Therefore the point reinforces the presence of the space while also emphasizing the weave, the material of the canvas.” (https://www.fmirobcn.org/en/)

Fundació Joan Miró, Barcelona, Part 2

Joan Miró

At the Joan Miró Foundation in Barcelona, I found the sculptures and enormous wall hangings as intriguing as the paintings. The museum has several outside areas as well as interactive art and a place for young children to explore and build. Kudos to including the kiddos! Just like the Peggy Guggenheim Collection in Venice, I’d return to the Foundation if I traveled to Barcelona again.

Miró insisted that art ought to be an extension of life and part of life itself…His increasing knowledge of ceramics and sculpture led him to cultivate some of these techniques using more weather-resistant materials…Beginning in the 1960’s he was particularly prolific sculpting in bronze. In Miró’s view, both sculpture and ceramics were closely bound to nature…Landscape claimed the last word: out in the open, his pieces interact with their surroundings and, to some extent, give back to the land that which has always belonged to it.

Excerpts from the Fundació Joan Miró

Hon, if you ever go, I highly recommend bringing headphones so that you can listen to explanations of pieces throughout the museum via your phone.

“Lovers playing with almond blossom,” resin, c.1975, These sculptures are models for the enormous sculptures displayed at La Defense, Paris.” Of the two people, “One is captured as a tall cyclinder with yellow and reddish regions, with a blue ball shape on top. The round blue shape is decorated with pre-historic style abstract shapes which would deliver symbolic meaning to this intriguing piece. There is then a second tall construction, with a pointed blue shape that leans away, though with a red claw-like feature which is placed around half way up. It could perhaps be a hand reaching out to catch the ball which sits on the other figure…” (joanmiropaitings.org)

Fundació Joan Miró, Barcelona, Part 1

Joan Miró

Hon, I have lots to share from my trip to Spain. Our first stop was Madrid where our daughter is studying this semester. From Madrid, we took the high speed train to Barcelona. We saw so many different things from palaces to parks, churches to cobblestone street, and museums to mountains. So fun!

When I found out about the Joan Miró Foundation in Barcelona, I added it to my itinerary. Miró, a Catalan painter who combined abstract art with Surrealist fantasy, wanted to create an international, interdisciplinary center that made art available to the public. He created the Foundation by donating the majority of his work which is supplemented by donations from his wife Pilar Juncosa, artist Joan Prats, and collector Kazumasa Katsutas.

The Joan Miró Foundation reminded me of the Peggy Guggenheim Collection in Venice because the artwork is housed in a smaller, interesting building set away from the center of the city. Whereas the Peggy Guggenheim Collection faces Venice’s Grand Canal, the Joan Miró Foundation, located in Parc de Montjuïc, sits on a hill with a gorgeous view of Barcelona.

The Fundació Joan Miró was created by Miró himself, at first principally with works from his own private collection, with a desire to set up an internationally recognised centre in Barcelona for Miró scholarship and contemporary art research, and to disseminate the collection. The Fundació opened to the public on 10 June 1975 and has since become a dynamic centre in which Joan Miró’s work coexists with cutting-edge contemporary art.

https://www.fmirobcn.org/en/foundation/

“Figure in front of the sun,” acrylics, c.1968
In this diptych, the figure in each painting appears in a celestial landscape accompanied by the moon in one and the sun in the other.
View of Barcelona from museum terrace, “Sun, moon and one star,” bronze and painted cement, c.1968
Image source: Fundació Joan Miró

Don’t Look Up, Movie Review

I miss many pre-pandemic things, especially going to the movies. The big screen, the popcorn, the Raisinets, the Twizzlers, the not-doing-ten-other-things-at-the-same-time…

Theaters have re-opened but Hubby and I have not yet take advantage of that fact, mainly because our small, local movie theaters shut down for good. Sad. Our family room is now where we determine if a film passes the “watch test.” Not familiar with term? It’s Hubby’s way of asking, “Was the movie engaging or did I look at my watch to see when it ends?”

We hadn’t heard much about Don’t Look Up and thought it sounded interesting. We were in for an enormous surprise! Not only did it pass the watch test, Don’t Look Up was in turns alarming, hilarious, disturbing, outrageous, scathing and sad. We were glued to the screen! Later I learned it had received mixed reviews and, by mixed reviews, I mean scathing reviews. Why?

Hon, have you seen Don’t Look Up? I’d love to know your thoughts.

Here’s the opinion of The Arts Fuse’s Daniel Gewertz. (review has been edited)

Don’t Look Up, directed by Adam McKay. Starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Jennifer Lawrence, Meryl Streep, Cate Blanchett. On Netflix

Don’t Look Up is a clever, unapologetically brash satire about a future America so consumed with celebrity worship, brain-numbing infotainment, social media popularity, and political gamesmanship that it refuses to take the impending destruction of planet Earth seriously. We’re not talking climate change here, though the parallel is obvious. Dr. Randall Mindy (Leonardo DiCaprio) has irrefutable evidence that an unprecedentedly gigantic comet will wipe out Earth in precisely six months, 14 days. The chances of “planet extinction” are set at 99.78%.

“Call it 70% and let’s just move on,” says President Janie Orlean (Meryl Streep), who’s more bothered by the upcoming midterms and the unearthing of nude pics of her sexy boyfriend, a Supreme Court nominee.

Are you an unabashed pessimist about 21st-century America? Do you believe that we’ve reached a point that — to quote W.B. Yeats — “the center cannot hold”? And, most of all, are you in the apparent minority who understands that true satire is a purposeful exaggeration of reality? If so, I say just give this liberating, appropriately cynical, fitfully hilarious film a look.

Despite an abundance of cinematic virtues, Don’t Look Up has been met with more negative reviews than raves, and a Rotten Tomatoes rating of just 55%. Critics from all political segments of the mainstream media have joined the surprisingly ferocious attack on this expertly made comedy. TheWall Street Journal and Britain’s Guardian exhibited outright loathing; The Guardian‘s Charles Bramesco went so far as to complain that the movie might “drive away any [anti-science] partisans who still need to be won over,” as if the film were some sadly tone-deaf BBC News Hour segment.

The newspapers and websites most joined at the hip to the movie industry — from Variety to the Hollywood Reporter — were so venomous, it’s as if they believe this film is a danger to the American dynasty and their own jobs. The word smug crops up in nearly every pan. Is it a mere matter of blaming the messenger? And yet, this movie is hardest on political elites, tech billionaires, and mass and social media — not your average American. Perhaps the underlying belief is that rich movie actors have no right to rock their gravy boat.

The National Board of Review, meanwhile, named Don’t Look Up one of the top movies of 2021. The Golden Globes and the Critics Choice Movie Awards gave it best picture nominations.

Don’t Look Up‘s bitterly satiric stance threatens a middle-of-the road political complacency. It intimidates the reviewers’ apparent bedrock belief that our centrist, big-business establishment — be it left-leaning or right — will solve our real-life apocalypse movie: the global-warming disaster. That “profits over planet” mindset is a smugness that is killing us.

Admittedly, the satiric volume here — to use a Spinal Tap reference — is set at 11. But despite this volume, and a slightly excessive 2-1/4 hour length, Don’t Look Up is one of the best-executed comic movies in years. Its script bristles with witty, incisive details; its dramatic arc is effective.

The first few scenes — depicting the discovery of the comet’s size and destructive course — are not played for laughs. Dr. Randall Mindy, a Michigan State University astronomy professor (DiCaprio), and his assistant, doctoral candidate Kate Dibiasky (Jennifer Lawrence), discover a comet of mind-blowing size that, according to repeated calculations, is headed straight for Earth. Their certainty and shock are well dramatized. The two scientists are soon whisked off to DC, and by the time we see them waiting outside the Oval Office, anxious to see the president of the United States, the film has set up a tension that is palpable.

And then, the satire hits. We’ve seen Streep portray quiet, dignified power before. This isn’t it. She plays this future POTUS as a shallow monster of self-satisfaction, surrounded by photos of herself arm-in-arm with Hollywood celebrities. In the Oval Office, her smug smile is ever ready to turn to bored irritation. What she pulls off here is a letter-perfect encapsulation of the rotting soul of America. But still, she’s funny. Her own son is her chief-of-staff, Jason Orlean (Jonah Hill).

As Dr. Mindy tries to tell the world of its impending destruction, DiCaprio portrays, at first, a collapse of composure — something that is seemingly the most deplorable sin in a media-ready society where a confident outer shell has vanquished our deeper understandings.

Dr. Mindy: “It will have the power of a billion Hiroshima bombs.”

Jason: “You’re breathing weird. It’s making me uncomfortable.”

DiCaprio’s character travels a plausible arc here: first, he devolves into panic; then, with media coaching, transforms into a smooth, fatherly TV science-guy while simultaneously entering the sexy highlife as the adulterous lover of America’s most watched news-magazine host (an astonishing Cate Blanchett.) And then, by film’s end, he has believably revivified his humanity. Lawrence’s Kate Dibiasky’s reactions to her plight — from tense to tumultuous to totally checked out — make similar sense. Despite the bigger-than-life satiric thrust, one is emotionally tied to the two main characters.

Blanchett’s part isn’t huge, but she’s still able to dig beneath the shell of a shallow media star. Brie is the sex-hungry host of The Daily Rip, a meretricious Good Morning, America–type show that has either replaced newscasts, or just murdered them in the ratings. She’s a slick, sinuous over-achiever, highly educated, utterly amoral. When faced with a potentially emotional situation Brie simply looks bored and asks if it is really necessary to “do” this part of the routine. Yet Blanchett is so alive to the moment she can perceptively mine a hidden ore of humanity, a long buried nugget. When Dr. Mindy and Brie part ways — and the doctor tells her he’d been close to feeling love for her — Blanchett’s Brie is visibly startled by the word “love”: a look of shocked wistfulness flits over her glossy countenance, as if she’d just remembered love as a concept hidden away in a childhood memory. And then her eyes dismiss the idea as sadly irrelevant, and she’s gone. It is the kind of subtlety that humanizes a wicked satire, but doesn’t defang it.

The character of Sir Peter Isherwell, the billionaire tech guru and essentially the world’s most powerful man, is also a gem. Mark Rylance plays him as a robotic Elon Musk/Mark Zuckerberg type. His god-like algorhythmic control is so great that he knows more about every human than they do about themselves — and also can predict the exact date and cause of each human’s eventual death. (That tidbit is used to hilarious effect in the closing scene featuring President Orlean.) When Dr. Mindy criticizes Isherwell’s plan to monetize the looming catastrophe — calling it the thinking of “a businessman” — the mogul goes berserk at the perceived mega-insult.

Ariana Grande, Timothée Chalamet, Rob Morgan, and Melanie Lynskey are all excellent in this beautifully cast comedy.

In the end, the knee-jerk, hateful reviews of Don’t Look Up possess comments so outsized, and so beside the point, that they bear a resemblance to the oblivious thinking of the movie’s anti-science ostriches.

True satire is often deadly at the box office. Hollywood’s most common version — satire lite (a lightly scathing comedy with a happy ending) — is a far easier sell. It suggests to the viewer that heaven exists. But if the characters aren’t likable, the details not standard movie realism, the ending not cheery, the charges are often: How smug! How unrealistic! Don’t Look Up is intended as an active spin on reality, and not a charitable one. True satire is anti-romantic. It should come with a warning: cynicism, in the service of truth, is no sin. Is it possible, in 2022, to be cheered up by a good film about the bad end of the world? The thought that society sucks and then you die isn’t uplifting, true, but a smart film such as Don’t Look Up proves to the pessimists that we have company! We are not alone! We are not crazy! There are others like us on this Earth.

Daniel Gewertz for The Arts Fuse

Starting the Year & Ending it With Hope

HOPE sculpture in Manhattan by Robert Indiana

At the start of 2021, I shared art from a visit to the MOMA in “Sorbet for the Soul Series,” and I’m ending the year with a similar feeling of contemplation. Hon, here are three masterpieces that invited me to stop and study, think and feel, and to hope.

This is the last of the “Sorbet for the Soul Series,” at least for now. I hope to get back to the MOMA, the MET or any other place where creativity, inspiration and peace of mind resides. Shout out to Lyn Sirota who shared a September 13, 2019 program on TED Radio Hour NPR called “How Art Changes Us.”

Marc Chagall, The Lovers, Oil on canvas.

Gustav Klimt, Hope II, Oil, gold, and platinum on canvas.

Pablo Picasso, Guitar and Clarinet on a Mantelpiece, Oil, sand, and paper on canvas.

101 Hilarious Pranks and Practical Jokes! New Middle Grade Book by Theresa Julian

Theresa Julian, critique partner, writer-friend, published author, and fellow triplets mom, can be called a humor expert. Her first book, The Joke Machine, teaches kids how they can increase their own funny factor. Her second book, 101 HILARIOUS PRANKS AND PRACTICAL JOKES, illustrated by Pat Lewis, is now out in the world! Woohoo! Darlene Beck-Jacobson added an excellent post to her blog “Gold From The Dust: Bringing Stories to Life,” in which Theresa gives potential pranksters a leg up by sharing tips from her book. Darlene’s post is re-blogged below.

Theresa says:

Did you know:

  • Cows moo with different accents – depending on where they live?
  • The bones in the human body are held together by marshmallow taffy?
  • Snakes don’t live in swamps, they live in potato chips cans, like this:

If you didn’t know these facts, it’s okay because – none of them are true. I’m pulling your leg. Kidding. Pranking you.

If there’s a little jokester in your life who wants to learn about pranking, check out 101 Hilarious Pranks & Practical Jokesa middle grade book written by me and illustrated by Pat Lewis. This super silly book includes – you guessed it – 101 pranks, AND explains how to pull the perfect trick.

The book teaches kids how to pace their prank, find the right attitude, and create a story around it. It explains how kids can kick their pranks up a notch through physical humor, which is using their body to make someone laugh. It’s using goofy faces, funny voices, slipping, tripping, and weird smells and sounds to make their pranks extra awesome.

Here are some tips from the book:

Attitude

Start a prank with the right attitude. How would you feel if you were really in the prank situation? If you’re pretending you’ve just won a million dollars, act thrilled. If you’re pretending you broke a window, act shocked. If you’ve filled the cabinet with ping-pong balls, act casual and wait for someone to open the door. Pick an attitude, commit to it, and sell it.

Story

Create an interesting story around your prank. Let’s say you want to convince your friend that your family has a “dead finger” collection and you’ve brought in your favorite one to show her. But, of course, it’s really just your finger in a box, covered in ketchup and avocado mush.

If you walk up to your friend and show her the box, it may not be very effective. But if you build it up with a story that draws her in, and then show the box, you’ll get a bigger reaction. 

Try creating a story like this: You crept down your creaky basement stairs; opened the rusty door to the back room; and gagged at the stench of rotting skin. When you turned on the light, you found that there, in your very own basement, was a dead-finger collection – probably great-grandpa’s from the war. Now, when you show the box, you’ll probably get the reaction you were looking for.

Pacing

A good prank is carefully paced, not blurted out or rushed.

Picture this: Your brother walks into the kitchen and hasn’t yet seen the fake tarantula on the cheese casserole. Do you jump up and yell, “Look at the cheese casserole, ha ha!”? No, of course not. You sit and wait, distract him with comments about how good you’ve been (which, is always true, right?), and wait for the time to be ripe. It’s sooo much better if he finds the hairy spider himself!

Funny Faces

Let’s face it, facial expressions are key to a good prank because they help sell your story. Picture a face that’s afraid, amazed, annoyed, or bored, like the ones below.

The right face can say a lot more than words. So when you’re pranking, let your face do the talking!

Kooky Arms & Legs

Get your whole body into the prank. If you tell your friend the rat in the garage is THIS BIG, fling out your arms and show just how big. If you’re pretending you’re about to vomit, clutch your stomach, moan and double over in pain. In the prankiverse, body language reinforces your story and paints a picture, and is often funnier than words.

Silly Voices and Sounds

Silly voices and sounds make pranks more believable and fun. If you’re pretending you’ve broken a window, download a crashing glass sound and play it on your phone or computer. If you’ll make a prank call, you’ll need to disguise your voice with an accent or different tone. Funny voices are fun to create and once you’ve nailed a few, you’ll wonder how you ever lived without them!

Slipping, Tripping and Prat-falling

101 Hilarious Pranks & Practical Jokes teaches you how to pretend you’re slipping, tripping and falling, so you get the reaction you want. For example, here’s how to pretend you’re hitting your head on a door:

The book also explains how to crack your nose, bite off your finger, detach your head, spit out your teeth, push a pencil through your head, rip your eyeball out, slip in poop, and control gravity. You’re welcome.

So, if there’s a little prankster in your life who’s looking to learn completely ridiculous skills, such as how to use goofy faces, funny voices, bad smells, weird sounds, and smooth body moves to trick their friends, check out 101 HILARIOUS PRANKS AND PRACTICAL JOKES which goes on sale Sept. 28, 2021. Then — watch your back

Theresa Julian loves chocolate, changing her ringtones, and writing humorous books for middle graders. Her books have been featured in TIME for Kids magazine, the Barnes & Noble Kid’s Blog, and Today.com. Theresa is a graduate of Boston College and has a Master’s in Corporate Communications. After many years of writing business documents for large corporations, she’s now happily living on the beach, writing funny books for kids. Her mother claims Theresa spent most of first grade sleeping on her desk, but don’t worry, she’s awake now, dreaming up new ways to keep kids reading and laughing.

Connect with Theresa on http://www.TheresaJulian.com
Twitter: @Theresa_Julian
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