Yarning with Mad Martha about…the Edgar books (+ a free crochet pattern)!

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yarning with mad martha_Fotor (2)

Cheerio my dears!  If you are a fan of the delightfully macabre Edgar Allan Poe, then today’s books are sure to have you quivering with excitement!  Recently we managed to get our paws on some books that have been on our TBR list for a while and just as we suspected, they were a hit with the shelf-denizens AND the mini-fleshlings!  edgar and the cover_Fotor

I speak of the Edgar series of books, part of the Babylit range by Jennifer Adams, that introduces the tiniest of fleshlings to literary classics.  While most of this range are in the form of primers, the Edgar series bumps things up a bit, with more text, a story loosely based on the originals and a gorgeous pair of protagonists that you can’t help but fall in love with….and of course, recreate in yarnful glory.

The first book in the series is Edgar Gets Ready for Bed, inspired by Poe’s famous poem, The Raven.  Following on from this we have Edgar and the Tattle-Tale Heart and most recently, Edgar and the Fall of the Tree House of Usher…I’m pretty sure you can guess the titles of the poems upon which these last two are based.

edgar gets ready for bed

edgar and the tattle tale heart

tree house of usher

Sadly for us, our library only had the second two books in the series, so we’re still hanging out to read about Edgar and getting ready for bed (“Nevermore!”) but the second two books were hugely enjoyable.  The older mini-fleshling particularly loved the Tree House of Usher with its initial “No Girls Allowed” theme, while the younger mini-fleshling enjoyed seeing Lenore (Edgar’s younger sister) finally receive the recognition that she deserved.

edgar face to face_Fotor Even if you haven’t read the original poems (in which camp I fully admit to sitting), the stories stand well in their own right.  For those who are more familiar with Poe’s work however, you will find plenty of motifs in both the text and Ron Stucki’s darling illustrations.  The books are available in paperback and hardback as well as board book (our favourite!) formats, so there will be a perfect edition for mini-fleshlings of any age.  We’d definitely recommend Poe fans and Poe fans-to-be check these out (either with your eyes, or from the library – we did both!) at your earliest convenience!

edgar on a bust

Edgar quickly found a bust on which to perch

 

Now, on to the crochet pattern!  I will admit that this pattern may have a few small errors in it, as I tried to render Edgar’s head and  body in one single piece, rather than attaching a beak separately.  The pattern is written in US crochet terms because that’s how I learned first.

What you will need:

Black yarn

Small amount of white yarn

3.5mm crochet hook

Stitch marker

Pipe cleaners or thin wire

Scissors

Yarn needle

Head, beak and body

Using black yarn, make a magic ring and crochet 6 sc in the ring

  1. 2sc in each sc around (12)
  2. *2sc in the next sc, sc* repeat x 6 (18)
  3. Sc in the next 6 sc; 2sc in the next 6 sc; sc in the next 6 sc (24)
  4. Sc in the next 8 sc; ch 1, turn (8)
  5. Repeat round 4 (8)
  6. Repeat round 4 (8)
  7. Sc in next 8 sc, then continue in the round sc in the next 16 sc (24)
  8. Sc2tog; sc in the next 4sc; sc2tog, ch 1, turn (6)
  9. Sc in next 6 sc, ch 1 turn (6)
  10. Repeat round 9 (6)
  11. Sc in next 6 sc, then continue in the round sc in the next 14 sc (20)
  12. Sc2tog, sc in the next 2 sc, Sc2tog, ch 1, turn (4)
  13. Sc in the next 4 sc, ch1, turn (4)
  14. Repeat round 13 (4)
  15. Sc2tog, sc2tog, ch1, turn (2)
  16. Sc in the next 2 sc, ch 1, turn 90 degrees (2)
  17. Sc down the edge of the beak and continue with 1 sc in each sc and back up the beak, back to the point of the beak
  18. Repeat round 17
  19. Repeat round 17
  20. Repeat round 17
  21. . Sc in the next 8 sc (place a stitch marker here!), sc in the next 18 sc, SKIP the stitches that make up the beak, slip stitch in the sc with the stitch marker. Stuff the head a little here if you wish. (26)
  22. 2sc in the SAME sc, sc in the next st; *2sc in next sc, sc in the next sc* repeat 5 times (27)
  23. *2sc in the next st, sc in the next sc* repeat 6 times (41)
  24. Sc in each sc around (41)
  25. Repeat round 24
  26. Repeat round 24
  27. Repeat round 24
  28. Repeat round 24
  29. *Sc2tog, sc in the next sc* repeat 6 times (27)
  30. *Sc2tog, sc in the next sc* repeat 6 times (18)
  31. *Sc2tog, sc in the next sc* repeat 6 times (12)
  32. Stuff the body and head here.
  33. Sc2tog repeat 6 times (6)
  34. Sc around (6)
  35. Fasten off leaving a long tail. Using the yarn needle, weave the tail through the last round of sc, pull tight, knot and snip remaining tail off.

Finishing the beak

Using the yarn needle and black yarn, whip stitch the open stitches at the bottom of the beak together.  Tie off and snip remaining yarn away.

Tail

Using black yarn, make a magic ring and crochet 6 sc in the ring.

  1. Sc in each sc around (6)
  2. Repeat round 1 eight more times
  3. Flatten the tail, fasten off leaving a long tail and attach to the back of Edgar’s body at a jaunty angle.

Wings (Make 2)

Using black yarn, make a magic ring and crochet 6 sc in the ring.

  1. 2sc in each sc around (12)
  2. Repeat round 1, three more times
  3. Flatten, and sc across the opening
  4. *Ch 6, sl st in the next sc* repeat 3 times
  5. Fasten off and attach to Edgar’s body, with chains facing tail.

Eyes (make 2)

Using white yarn, make a magic ring and crochet 6sc in the ring.  Sl st into the first sc.  Close the ring tight, fasten off and stitch onto Edgar’s face.  Use black yarn to embroider pupils.

Hair

Using two short strands of black yarn, surface slip stitch to the top of Edgar’s head.  Knot and pull tight.

Legs (Make 2)

Cut your pipe cleaner or wire into two short sections of about 1.5cm.

Using black yarn, ch 1, sc over the pipe cleaner until your pipe cleaner is covered in sc stitches.

Ch 6, attach to the final sc on the pipe cleaner with a sl st. Repeat twice more.

Fasten off and attach leg to Edgar’s body firmly.

edgar and brucey_Fotor

I hope that these instructions are easy enough to follow.  Of course, if you’d like to make a little Lenore to keep Edgar company (as well as to keep a beady eye on him!) you can follow the pattern above and just add a small bow to the head.

Until we meet again, I am,

Yours in yarn,

Mad Martha

 

 

Bruce’s Reading Round-Up: The Comic/YA/Nonfiction/Picture Book Edition…

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I hope you’ve brought your lasso and a particularly fast horse because today’s Round-Up books are ranging all over the Generic Plains. I received all of these books from their respective publishers via Netgalley, and in this collection we have a set of comics, a YA fantasy, fairy-tale retelling featuring the undead, an almost-wordless picture book and a handy guide for making work a lot more interesting. Saddle up and let’s bring these wildbooks in!

Deep Dark Fears (Fran Krause)

Two Sentence Synopsis:deep dark fears

This collection of 100 comic strips explores the irrational and unlikely fears that many of us keep quietly to ourselves, to avoid being thought mad. You may end up recognising yourself in these pages or, on the other hand, if you’re the suggestible type, you might pick up a few extra fears to go in your emotional baggage.

Muster up the motivation because:

This is a beguiling, sometimes hilarious, sometimes touching, easy-to-peruse collection that would no doubt inspire some classic reactions were you to place it in a conspicuous place and watch people sneak a look. The fears run the gamut from those (I assume) are secretly shared by many, such as running to make a train, then worrying that you actually meant to miss it and will no doubt now be involved in a train wreck, to the (I assume) more obscure and idiosyncratic, such as worrying about falling, biting off one’s own tongue and then being unable to clearly annunciate to the emergency services what the problem is. The illustrations are just charming and lend a wonderful air of levity to the fears. If I were a doctor, or indeed, trained in any profession which requires a waiting room, I would definitely leave this book lying around there to see who picked it up. My favourite fears in this collection are the imposter dogs, the not-immediately-apparent dangers of cookie cutters and the sad past history of mall cops.

Brand it with:

Art imitating life, unnamed fears, schadenfreude

Once Upon a Zombie #1: The Colour of Fear (Billy Phillips & Jenny Nissenson)

Two Sentence Synopsis:once upon a zombie

After Caitlin’s mother disappears, she moves to London with her father and younger sister for a fresh start, a new school and time spent writing for a website detailing the unexplained. When strange sightings are reported in cemeteries around the world however, Caitlin is drawn into a bizarre and chaotic world where fairy tales and nightmares might just come true…if the zombies don’t get you first.

Muster up the motivation because:

If you’re a fan of fairy tale retellings and comedy zombie tales (zom-edy tales?) then you’ll find a lot to enjoy here. The story begins in a fairly YA typical fashion, with Caitlin trying to make her way in a new school, clashing with the popular girls and vying for the attentions of the cutest boy.   It also becomes apparent that Caitlin suffers from social anxiety and the author describes this quite well throughout the various situations that Cailtin finds herself in. I enjoyed the riddle of the cemetery disturbances and once Caitlin “goes down the rabbit hole”, so to speak, the action becomes a lot less typical. While the story is light and filled with humour and banter, there are a bunch of different fairy tale and classic storybook characters included, as well as an undead plague plotline, so I did feel that things started to get a bit unwieldy at certain points. If you enjoy YA that is two-parts expected and one-part nutty, then you’ll get a good kick out of Caitlin’s adventures. This is a book that aims for enjoyment and doesn’t take itself too seriously.

Brand it with:

Undead princesses, carnivorous plants, stay off the drugs and stay in school

Moletown (Torben Kuhlmann)

Two Sentence Synopsis:moletown

At first the mole was alone in the meadow but once progress arrives, the mole’s world changes almost beyond recognition. Will the mole be able to hang on to what matters most?

Muster up the motivation because:

This is a beautifully imagined, almost wordless picture book reminiscent of the work of Shaun Tan. The illustrations are atmospheric, with an earthy colour palette that encompasses both the natural environment of the mole’s original habitat, and the dark, dingy pollution brought by progress. The ending is hopeful but poignant and perfectly reflects the challenges of sustainability in a coal-driven world. Moletown would be a canny and engaging choice for the primary classroom exploring environmentalism and the challenges of preserving natural environment in the face of continued urbanisation.

Brand it with:

Scratching the surface, Get out of my personal space, cosy burrows

Tiny Games for Work (Hide Seek)

Two Sentence Synopsis:tiny games for work

Bored at work? This handy pocket guide will provide a wide range of exciting, subversive games to help break the shackles of toil-related monotony.

Muster up the motivation because:

No place of work should be without this compact, enlivening guide. This is a collection of games that can be played alone or in company, within meetings or with (or against!) unsuspecting customers. The games use few or no resources and range from the harmless and hilarious, to the actually quite questionable and likely to get you fired. At the back of the book is a handy index that lists the games under various categories – feeling competitive? Stuck at your desk? – for quick reference. I particularly enjoyed the games designed to be played within meetings – who hasn’t wanted to get back at that annoying brown-noser who won’t stop asking irrelevant, meeting prolonging questions? – and those played using customers as unwitting pawns. The game called “Triangulation”, in which the employee must keep an equal distance at all times between two unsuspecting customers is one that I would quite like to try and, like many of the games here, could be modified to be played outside of a work setting, using the general public. If you happen to work somewhere that could do with some subversive excitement, you could do a lot worse than purchase a copy of this book and share it with likeminded colleagues.

Brand it with:

You lose, watch out Beadle’s about, making one’s own fun, WH&S

So there you have it – a variety of tomes just waiting to be caught, tamed and made to serve humans.  Do tell if there’s any that has taken your fancy!

Until next time,

Bruce

Graphic Novel Read-it-if Review: Pinocchio, Vampire Slayer…

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Cheerio all – today I have a little graphic gem that also happens to be a reimagining of the well-known story of Pinocchio, he of the honesty-related nose tumours.  Pinocchio, Vampire Slayer  by Van Jensen and Dusty Higgins, in the complete edition presented here, is a hefty, action-packed, beautifully drawn retelling of the original tale, with added monsters.  If you’re a fan of graphic novels that take more than fifteen minutes to flick through, this may well be the one for you.

When Pinocchio’s town is invaded by mysterious, deadly vampires, he makes the serendipitous discovery that a nose that grows when you lie can also be harnessed to produce pointy stakes on demand – stakes that can then be used to have at those nasty undead monsters!  Armed with nothing but the truth and a stake-producing schnoz, Pinocchio and his friends Master Cherry and Fairy Carpenella vow to travel together until the vampire menace is eradicated.  Along the way they’ll face tragdy, friends-turned-foe, a puppet army of reinforcements, a potential romantic relationship and a little bit of magic.  He may not be a real boy, but Pinocchio could well turn out to be a hero.

pinocchio vampire slayerRead it if:

* you’ve ever serendipitously come across a hitherto undiscovered function for an under-utilised body part

* you associate fluffy bunnies with a sense of impending doom

* you are of the opinion that being a magical, sentient, vampire-slaying puppet outweighs being a real boy any day of the week

* you can’t resist a familiar tale that has been spruced up by the addition of a famous beast of myth

Let me start by saying that while this tale didn’t pan out quite as I expected it to, based on the cover and blurb, I really enjoyed it and found myself engrossed in the toils of Pinocchio and friends.  As has happened quite often over the course of my “Fairy Tale Makeovers Review Series”, I became aware of the fact that I have a very sketchy memory of the original tale, so I can’t comment on how the addition of vampires enhanced or ruined the story.  I will say however, that the book provides a very comprehensive (and enlightening) foreword explaining how this particular incarnation of the story is faithful to the original tale.  The first few pages also display a basic retelling of the original story to bring readers up to speed on how vampires have come to inhabit an originally vampire-free fairy tale.

The story was originally released as a trilogy which has been collected here in this complete edition.  I was only able to access half to two-thirds of the book through Netgalley due to the file size, but I found it a very satisfying reading (and viewing) experience.  The artwork is of the traditional comic/cartoon style and the frames are really well formatted and designed – one gripe I have with graphic novels, especially in digital form, is the fact that sometimes there’s too much text in certain frames or the text is too small or something of the sort, requiring a great deal of concentration to follow.  I’m happy to report that I experienced no such drama here and I was able to immerse myself in the art and narrative as quickly as my download speed would allow. (Which incidentally wasn’t very fast…I’d suggest getting this – or any other graphic novel – in print).  Here’s an example for you…

pvs_2monsterminator

As far as the story goes, there was a great mix of humour, action, intrigue and vampire-slaying.  There was also a tiny bit of potential romance, which rounded the story out nicely and gave a bit of realism to Pinocchio’s desire to become human.  The puppet army was a really interesting development to the story and ratcheted the action and humour up at an opportune time, but the stars of the tale for me were the Rabbits of Ill-Portent – a quartet of furry doom-sayers that turned up unexpectedly an injected a bit of a giggle swathed in impending destruction.  Here they are in action:

rabbits of ill portent

Overall, I found this to be a surprisingly engaging read.  I should point out that the surprising part relates to my surprise at how engrossing I found the story, given that it was in graphic novel format – not because I thought it wasn’t going to be any good.  I recommend you have a look if you’re a fan of retellings that feature a bit of monster-mayhem but also hold their own in the “good narrative” stakes.

Until next time,

Bruce

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Behind the Fairy Tales: Interview with Author, Becca Price

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Have you ever wondered how authors come up with new ideas when writing about old favourites? Of course you have. Well now you have the opportunity to get the answer to that burning question – hurrah! Becca Price, author of Heart of Rock, a modern fairy tale featuring gargoyles (that you can read more about here) has kindly answered some of my burning questions about her work.

Becca has written a number of books featuring her own modern fairy tales and you can find out more about them at Wyrm Tales Press, but for now, sit back, imbibe your favourite beverage, and find out more about writing new stories in an old, old genre.

It seems that there are lots of retellings of traditional fairy tales around at the moment – how difficult is it to come up with original ideas for your modern fairy tales?

I have always loved fairy stories, but as I grew older and more sophisticated, I saw some of the patterns in the Grimm Brothers and Andrew Lang stories that I hadn’t seen before: brave, bold men, and domesticated women who need to be rescued. Rebellion against those stereotypes also informs my writing.

I’m a science fiction and fantasy fan, and I figure that fairy stories are the gateway drug to JRR Tolkein and other fantasy books written for adults. I have heard that people don’t read stories to their children anymore, and that kids today read less than my generation does (too many other bright shiny forms of entertainment vie for their time and attention). I wanted to write stories that might be more modern, more relevant to young children than Cinderella and Snow White are, but would still have that archaic, fairy-tale feeling about them that I loved so much myself.heart of rock

What was it about gargoyles (apart from our stunning good looks, of course) that made you choose them as major protagonists in Heart of Rock?

Heart of Rock had it’s genesis in a couple of interesting events. The first was when a minor acquaintance from the Society for Creative Anachronism appeared at my door looking for a place to stay for a few days. As a guesting gift, he brought my then-husband a gallon bottle of sake; for me, he brought a plaster-of-paris classical gargoyle (you know, the kind that looks rather lilke a distorted pug dog with wings, and a fierce expression and a half-opened mouth showing teeth.) I’d never given much thought to gargoyles before then, I admit, but I was absolutely charmed by this one, and he stayed with me for years.

The second part of the story is that, after my divorce from my then-husband, I stayed with some friends for awhile while getting back on my feet. Their little girl, Gillian, suffered from severe night terrors – she would (still asleep) sit up in bed and start screaming and giving forth heart-rending cries. If you’ve never experienced someone who had night terrors before, they’re just as scary for the people around the child as they are for the child.

So one night, I took my gargoyle, and put it by the side of her bed, and told her the first part of the story – how nightmares (Night Mares – intentional pun) were brought by magical creatures in the night, that they looked like horses with flaming eyes, mane and tails, but that gargoyles could fly after them and nip at their heels and drive them away. (this part of the story was inspired by a friend who had a chow-chow, which the Chinese had bred to fight invading horsemen a long time ago – that was the origin of the breed, and my gargoyle did look a bit like my friend’s chow only not as hairy. For the record, Dominic was the sweetest dog you could ever hope to find in reality.)

Oddly, that was the end of Gillian’s night terrors, but she wouldn’t give me back the gargoyle, and has it to this day in her room – and she’s in her mid-20s now. I’ve never found anything like it to replace it, which saddens me.

So that was the origin of Heart of Rock.

I got interested in gargoyles, and decided that, in spite of their ugly and sometimes frightening appearance, they should be an old race, much given to a love of beauty and seeking wisdom. I decided that there needed to be a story about why so many places have gargoyles carved up high on roofs where they really can’t be seen, and figured that they were there to guard the city against Night Mares and other evil creatures, and to serve as watchmen for enemies. And that was the genesis of the third part of the story came about.

Then I got to wondering – what if two kingdoms both needed the same magical talisman, and their needs were equally pressing – most fairy stories tell about the hero finding the magical talisman and stealing it away from the monsters who guard it and taking it back – but what if the “monsters” weren’t evil, and needed it for their own reasons? and needed it equally as important as the putative hero needed it?

And there was my story.dragons and dreams

Why did you choose to write for younger readers?

Why do I write fairy stories? well, Albert Einstein said “If you want your children to be intelligent, read them fairy stories.” I have two children of my own, now in college, but when they were little, I would tell them stories to help them get to sleep . If I read picture books, they’d be involved in looking a the pictures, and wouldn’t go to sleep. That’s why my original books were unillustrated – I wanted the children to be able to see the pictures in their heads. Both my kids tend to be… idiosyncratic, let’s say, and the standard fairy tales and children’s stories bored them (although my daughter liked Paper Bag Princess). My son likes dragons, so there had to be dragons in some of the stories, but not the fierce man-eating kind, because I didn’t want him to have nightmares. My daughter was afraid of the dark for awhile, and that’s the genesis of The Dark, in my firstcollection, Dragons and Dreams.

So I had all these stories written down in my computer, and never did anything with them until a cousin looked into self-publishing her father’s WWII experiences, which he’d written down as a sort of therapy (The book is called Bailout over Normandy, and is itself fascinating – I seem to come from a long line of story tellers) I figured that I should look into self-publishing through Amazon, and it turns out that I have a friend who is a fabulous artist (Todd Cameron Hamilton) and I sent him my first book, and he came back with a lovely painting for Dragons and Dreams, and has done the covers for me for most of my other books.

And one thing leads to another. Writing one story gives me ideas for another one, and some how they keep coming.fairies and fireflies

Do you have any projects on the boil right now that we should look out for? (And are there any plans to feature more gargoyles in your future works?!)

My immediate goals are to get illustrations for my other books. I’ve stumbled on a wonderful artist who is illustrating Fairies and Fireflies for me, and I hope to get that one out by July. I have a second set of butterfly-fairy stories cooking, but I don’t know when I’ll have time to write them. I’m also working on a fairy tale collection called “Quests and Fairy Queens” that may contain more gargoyle stories.I hope to have Quests out by the end of the year, as well as a few more stand-alone stories.

My beta readers, and other reviewers have told me that there needs to be more to Heart of Rock than the relatively simple fairy tale it currently is. One of my goals, for maybe this year, for maybe early next year, is to expand the current story into something maybe 20,000 words long, aimed at late middle-grade, with more chapters and more details.I’m not sure whether I’ll keep the same name for the longer version or not – but I definitely want to expand on the gargoyles, make them more individuals and characters in their own right.

But yes, there will be more gargoyle stories – they’re too fascinating to leave alone.

Hurrah! We agree. Too many gargoyle stories is never enough.  We of the shelf thank Becca for her time and for telling us all about how her ideas get from brain to book.

Until next time,

Bruce

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