Hey, I almost forgot: today is the birthday of Daniel Manus Pinkwater, the deranged genius who wrote such classics of kids' science fiction as Lizard Music and Alan Mendelsohn, the Boy from Mars. For some reason, he's less well-known for his masterpiece, the totally brilliant (and sadly out of print) Borgel, in which Melvin Spellbound's mysterious and previously unknown 111-year-old relative Borgel comes to live with the Spellbound family. If Uncle Borgel's stories from the Old Country don't make you laugh out loud, your sense of humor may be on the fritz and you should perhaps take it in to the shop for repairs.

Many of Pinkwater's books are wonderful; I also particularly recommend my close second-favorite, The Snarkout Boys and the Baconburg Horror. (It's the sequel to The Snarkout Boys and the Avocado of Death, but this is one case where I recommend reading the second one first; the slightly off-kilter feeling of not having read the first book adds to the second one's charm.) He's also written lots of offbeat picture books for younger kids (the Blue Moose books, for example, and the ones about Larry, the polar bear who lives in a hotel). He has a weekly half-hour show on some NPR stations called Chinwag Theatre, on which he reads aloud from his work, with assorted deadpan commentary from him and Scott Simon of NPR. (There are at least two official-looking sites for Chinwag Theatre.)

That show was where I heard Pinkwater reading from his very silly new series The Werewolf Club, a kind of Pinkwaterian take on series like The Babysitters' Club. Highly recommended, though the books are probably better read aloud by Pinkwater than read to oneself silently (because most things are).

I seem to have neglected thus far to mention that he has a nice Web site that includes a complete bibliography of his work.

Some poor deluded people claim that Pinkwater's best book is Young Adult Novel, the saga of the Wild Dada Ducks, but I consider such people WRONG WRONG WRONG.

Oh, and I should mention Fish Whistle, a compendium of his NPR commentaries. Good stuff.


Official-looking Chinwag Theatre site 1

Official-looking Chinwag Theatre site 2

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