ALEXANDRIA, VA - Most people get excited when they get one book published. Madelyn Rosenberg recently got to celebrate two illustrated books hitting the shelves. The Schmutzy Family and Happy Birthday, Tree! A Tu B’Shevat Story explain Jewish holidays to small kids. The Schmutzy Family (illustrated by Paul Meisel) is about a messy family that deserves their own TLC series. They have no restraint when it comes to turning their house into a disaster zone. But there’s one thing that gets them cleaned up. Happy Birthday, Tree!: A Tu B’Shevat Story (illustrated by Jana Christy) features a little girl wanting to make her favorite tree happy.
I’ve known Madelyn since we worked together at NC State’s Technician student newspaper. It’s fun to finally have a classmate involved in something that I can share with my kid (unlike Eastbound and Down which will not be shown until the kid hits 40). I dropped Madelyn a few questions about her new tomes.
Party Favors: What’s it like to have two children’s books in production at the same time?
Madelyn: This has been a long time in coming so I mostly feel relieved, actually. Relieved and lucky. And the two have a lot in common, so it’s easy to market them together.
Party Favors: Did you ever get the illustrators confused as to which one was working on which book?
Madelyn: Nope - if you were hoping for an episode of the Patty Duke show, that didn’t happen. I was confused for a while about which book would come out first, though. And they ended up being officially released on the same day.
Party Favors: Are any of your relatives upset that you think they’re The Schmutzy Family?
Madelyn: My brother has been disavowing any similarities (although that book is actually loosely based on a few stories from when we were kids). But I think most members of my family know that the only finger I’m pointing is at myself.
Party Favors: Have you heard from any families really named Schmutzy?
Madelyn: No, although I have a friend who was a member of a Zionist youth movement called HaShomer HaTzair and they used “Schmutznik” as a nickname. I think they considered themselves a family of a sort.
Party Favors: What did you tell Paul Meisel about the mess he had to depict in the pages?
Madelyn: Not much. I did have a few art notes in the original manuscript, though I’m not sure how many the editor kept when she sent the manuscript on to Paul. I will say that I originally thought of Irving as a cat, because I have cats and doing anything to a cat that the cat doesn’t want done is bound to result in a mess. And pain. But Paul is a big dog person, so he naturally saw Irving as a dog, and now I can’t imagine that image any other way. One interesting note about this industry: they often keep illustrators and writers separate, so we don’t talk much - a collaboration, but from a vast distance. I can’t say I always agree with that, but I respect it, and hopefully it gives the illustrators freedom to do their magic.
Party Favors: Do you get to keep any of the art to frame for the living room?
Madelyn: No, but I’d love to. (I’d probably have to fund it by selling another book, though.)
Party Favors: Are your kids using “The Schmutzy Family” as an excuse to mess up the house?
Madelyn: Yes. And I’m trying to use it to get us to clean up together in a way that’s a little more fun. (I admit, there’s just so much fun you can have with a toilet brush.)
Party Favors: How did you celebrate Tu B’Shevat before you started working on “Happy Birthday, Tree?”
Madelyn: We started celebrating it when my kids were in preschool with a Tu B’Shevat seder, and it quickly became one of my favorite holidays. When I was a kid I think we just ate dates.
Party Favors: When is the holiday in 2013?
Madelyn: January 25th.
Party Favors: Do you hope to make Tu B’Shevat a bigger holiday than Talk Like A Pirate Day?
Madelyn: Why not? It’s already becoming a much bigger holiday than it used to be, with so much awareness about trees, caring for the earth, and global warming.
Party Favors: How many trees do you have in your yard?
Madelyn: Eighteen, not counting shrubs. We have a good variety because the people who lived here before us were huge gardeners and chose their trees carefully: tulip magnolia, crepe myrtle, smoke tree, Chinese golden rain tree. We also have one Mr. White called “a rubbish tree” because he planted it to hide rubbish/lawnmowers/etc.
Party Favors: How many times did your kids have to hear the stories before you sent them off to a publisher?
Madelyn: More than a dozen.
Party Favors: Are the kids good copyeditors?
Madelyn: They’re good editors and good copyeditors. I’ve trusted them since the first time my son gave me a fake laugh because he didn’t want me to feel badly about a manuscript that only I, apparently, thought was funny. (He was right.) My daughter is good at knowing when a sentence needs an extra beat in it. And she is quite pleased that her souvenir swan makes an appearance in Happy Birthday, Tree.
Party Favors: Have you put up a website or video that explains how to pronounce the more complicated of words?
Madelyn: Uh, no. I’ll add it to the list.
Party Favors: Are you frightened that someday your books will be turned into feature films with musical numbers?
Madelyn: Musicals haven’t frightened me since I discovered Elvis.
Party Favors: Does society treat you differently now that you’re a children’s book author?
Madelyn: Nope. In other places I’ve lived, I could have said “I’m working on a book,” and people might have said, “cool.” Here, outside of D.C., if I say, “I’m working on a book,” they say, “Oh, yeah, me, too. Also, I just shot baskets with Barack Obama.” My kids’ barber authored a book on the lost amusement parks of Missouri. The lawyer around the corner authored a chapter of The Economics of Beer. The list goes on and on.
Party Favors: Do librarians slip you their manuscripts?
Madelyn: (See previous answer.)
Party Favors: Are you going to work on more illustrated children’s books or do you wish to write without pictures?
Madelyn: I’m working on more picture books, and on a few books that will have no illustrations. I have a middle-grade novel coming out in the spring that does have illustrations, though I haven’t seen them yet. I should add that I see images in my brain when I write anything - even articles or answers to interview questions.
Remember this holiday season to get the loved on in your life a copy of The Seven Secrets of Great Walmart People Greeters. Hooters waitresses might need them soon.
WHAT TIME IS IT?
NBC is rerunning Spout shows on Saturday mornings between 8 hours of the Today Show and college football games. This is fine, but why are they showing The Pajanimals at 10:30 a.m.? This is a great show for parents when it airs at 8 p.m. on Sprout. The whole point of the show is muppets put on pajamas, brush their teeth and go to bed. That’s perfect for bedtime. But 10:30 a.m. is the time a child gets told, “You’re not going to sit around in your pajamas watching TV all day!” It’s mixed messages. On the positive side, if you don’t have Sprout, you should record Pajanimals and play it for them right before bedtime.
CHRISTMAS IN NOVEMBER
Ella Enchanted made Anne Hathaway a fairy tale figure back in 2004. At birth she was cursed by her fairy godmother with a spell that made her super obedient. This meant she’ll follow any instruction without hesitating. She does her best to track down the fairy to give her back this lamest of “gifts.” Her only true companion is a talking book with all the powers of an iPad. She also has to save a prince without being told conflicting instructions. It’s a cute film with plenty of fairytale creatures encountered on her journey. Anne is so magical in the title role which explains why this film has gained a cult audience over the years. This is the perfect little film for a lazy Fall afternoon on the widescreen. Cary Elwes (The Princess Bride) gets to return to the magical realm of cinema. The Blu-ray resolution brings out the joy in Anne’s smile and huge eyes. The big bonus feature is a DVD of the movie.
Everybody’s Fine is a holiday season tradition right after we watch Taxi Driver. Robert DeNiro is recently widowed and discovers that it was his wife that held together the family. When none of them want to visit him, he hits the road to connect with his kids. Turns out they viewed him as Robert DeNiro character. His kids include Kate Beckinsale, Sam Rockwell and Drew Barrymore. They’ve at least gone onto rather successful careers so he didn’t completely break their will to live. The film is a remake of a Marcello Mastroianni flick. As kind as DeNiro seems to be, there’s a fear that he’s tracking down his offspring to plant bugs on them or just make them disappear. Although DeNiro does his best to not merely play DeNiro as a dad. The big bonus on the Blu-ray is behind the scenes footage of Paul McCartney’ “(I Want To) Come Home.”
Mad Men: Season Five is a difficult time for Don Draper (Jon Ham). He can’t quite transform himself to fit the times. Things are changing in 1966 as the youth revolt takes seed. Fashion is moving forward with more risks. His collection of suits and ties are looking played out. His company is on the cusp of either failing or becoming as big as they were. Draper’s biggest problem is that he no longer has his secret identity. His new wife Megan (Jessica Pare) knows about Dick Whitman. She’s become a perfect wife and co-worker since she helps Don at sales meetings as the wife who gets it. But he’s fears that he made a major mistake since she wants to return to acting. The other folks in creative are bitter about Megan’s rise. Peggy Olson (Elisabeth Moss) is unsure what to think of Don and starts hearing offers from other agencies. Joan Harris (Christina Hendricks) truly takes on for the team to land a car account, but she gets a high price for her service. Roger Sterling (John Slattery) drops LSD and changes his perspective on life. He doesn’t just want to be Roger anymore. Everything is in flux for Don. He’s not sure what form he can take to deal with the perfect life he craves. Can he maintain the perfect façade for business or will he become a burn out refuge of Madison Avenue? The only thing that gives him relief is that his ex-wife (January Jones) has gained a lot of weight. That’s one less problem holding him down. Fans of Jared Harris will be a little disappointed. This is not a defenestration season. The boxset has a ton of bonus features including the Newsweek magazine covers from 1966 and a piece on the first Daylight Savings Time. Mad Men remains one of the premiere shows on the TV dial. The big highlight of the season happened in the first episode when Megan broke out the French pop as part of a party for Don.
90210: The Fourth Season brings the next generation from West Beverly High to California University just like the original kids. Except these new breed had a whole lot more issues during this transition period. Naomi (Nip/Tuck’s AnnLynne McCord) has the roughest time since she’s lost all her power as the queen bee. Nobody cares what you were in high school unless you’re the freshman star on the football team. She’s got to struggle to find a place where he sinister talents are recognized instead of being ignored amongst the masses. She ends up going to a sorority to once more have a flock under her power. But does that really work with older girls that don’t need to be trapped in the same homeroom? Dixon gets his recording career back on track to the point where he gets an offer to do a movie soundtrack. But his old vices creep into the studio. Can he resist? Raj keeps on dying. Liam has a shot at male model stardom. Janice Dickenson does a guest shot to remind us that Tyra didn’t kill her at the end of America’s Next Top Model. The big ending for the season has Naomi getting hitched. Or will it all implode at the last minute since this is a soap opera? At least by going beyond a 4th Season, 90210 has escaped the high school curse. The bonus features include tours of all the major sets including the bar and new student center.
Bonanza: The Official Fourth Season, Volume 1 & Volume 2 takes us back out to the Ponderosa for another visit with the powerful Cartwright clan. Ben (Lorne Greene), Hoss (Dan Blocker), Adam (Pernell Roberts) and Little Joe (Michael Landon) take on all comers that want to dent their empire or hang them high. “The First Born” has a new ranch hand swear that his mama is also Little Joe’s mama. Denver Pyle (Dukes of Hazzard) wants to string up Hoss for a robber-murder In “A Hot Day for Hanging.” Because of the number of episodes they makes each season, there are a few solo adventures to let the other Cartwrights have a break. “The Way Station” sticks Adam at a stagecoach station with Robert Vaughn (The Helsinki Formula) and Dawn Wells (Gilligan’s Island). The most monumental episode is “The Decision.” Hoss is injured and only DeForest Kelley can save him. Bones from Star Trek must be a doctor to keep the big hat on the range. “The Saga of Whizzer McGee” will make you take a bathroom break. The bonus features include a Perry Como special with Lorne and Dan showing the audience how Bonanza is changed for the foreign markets. You can also see the original promos and openings on a few episodes. The new image looks better than the tapes being shown on the various cable channels.
The Lucy Show: Official Sixth and Final Season wraps up Lucille Ball’s time as Lucy Carmichael. The series had changed so much since starting as the tale of two single moms and their children in New York. But Vivian Vance left halfway through and the kids vanished. The show refocused to Lucy torturing banker Mr. Mooney (Gail Gordon) first as client and then as employee. For the sixth season, Lucy was constantly encountering celebrities to cause trouble in their lives. “Lucy Meets the Berles” has her confuse Milton rehearsing a love scene with Mr. Television having an affair. “Lucy and the Starmaker” scouts talent in the office when Frankie Avalon is forced to be a banker. Lucy can spot his real passion. “Lucy Gets Jack Benny’s Account” is another visit with the world’s greatest cheapskate. “Lucy and Robert Goulet” features a truck driver who looks like Robert Goulet played by Robert Goulet. “Lucy and Carol Burnett” gives the two episodes to cut each other up. Carol was about to launch her variety show. Vivian does return for two episodes. “Lucy and Viv Remember” has Viv care for an injured Lucy. More importantly is “Lucy and the Lost Star.” Lucy and Viv encounter Joan Crawford. Two major icons for the price of one episode. “Mooney’s Other Wife” hints that Mr. Mooney was hooked up with Edie Adams (Ernie Kovacs’ widow). This final season was #2 in the yearly rankings, but Lucy shut it down since she had sold Desilu to the company that owned Paramount. She didn’t want to work for a boss. She created Here’s Lucy and brought Gale Gordon along to be her tortured boss once more although now she was his sister-in-law. There are a lot of bonus features including Lucy winning the Emmy. It’s nice that all of The Lucy Show is on DVD since it doesn’t get the same airplay as I Love Lucy.
Gunsmoke: The Sixth Season, Volume 2 wraps up the 30 minute era of the long running western. This was the last time that the show would resemble the radio series with compact storytelling about Dodge City. Here are the 19 episodes that ended this part of the 20 season run. “Love Thy Neighbor” brings up a family feud over a sack of potatoes. Harry Dean Stanton, Ken Lynch (Green Acres) and Warren Oates (The Wild Bunch) are part of the spud fight. “Kitty Shot” puts a bullet in Miss Kitty during a gun down. George Kennedy (Cool Hand Luke) might be responsible. George returns for “Big Man” as a stalker following Miss Kitty. “Minnie” gives Doc an unwanted girlfriend. Alan Hale Jr. (Skipper on Gilligan’s Island) is part of the heart games. “The Love of Money” suspects Cloris Leachman (Mary Tyler Moore Show) as a cop killer. Can Marshall Dillon (James Arness) really bust Phyllis? The short times end with “Colorado Sheriff” with Matt investigating if a wounded man is really a deputy from Colorado looking for a robber in Dodge City. Strange to think there’s still 14 more seasons to go. The first 17 episodes of the hour long black and white version arrives on Dec. 11.
Care Bears: The Original Series Collection contains the animated adventures of fuzzy teddy bears with symbols on their belly. The series ran from 1985 to 1989. It’s hard to explain the joy of the series without a small child in the house. The bears are like the evolution of the Smurfs except more cuddly and less Smurfette. The Care Bears were a hot selling toy that needed to elaborate their roles via a TV show like G.I. Joes and Transformers except with less explosions. The bears live up in the clouds in a place named Care-a-Lot. That sounds pretty, but it gets warmer as part of the Kingdom of Caring. They battle Professor Coldheart and Lord No Heart with warmth. They prove that violence isn’t a solution. You got to hug it out. The boxes that has 64 episodes that ran during the ’80s. The topper is a feature length The Nutcracker. The movie is based on The Nutcracker Suite with a sad girl named Ana dealing with rats. Time to revive it as a holiday tradition.
Jake and the Never Land Pirates: Jake Saves Bucky contains the double length episode of the popular Disney Jr. series. Who is Bucky? Turns out it’s the name of Jake’s pirate ship. He must race the ship against Captain Hook’s Jolly Roger. The winner gets the pink slip of the other’s ship. Can Jake really win against a notorious cheater like Hook? He must get help from Peter Pan and a Dragon. The kid got excited watching this extended episode. This also means you shouldn’t think of putting it on right before bedtime. The disc also includes four other episodes: “Peter’s Musical Pipes/The Never Night Star,” “Captain Hook’s Hooks/Mr. Smee’s Pet,” “Race-Around Rock!/Captain Hook Is Missing” and “Captain Hook’s Lagoon/Undersea Bucky!” The show is squarely aimed at little kids although I’m really enjoying the singing pirates in their live action segments. There’s a Pirate-oke to get more of their swashbuckling swinging numbers. There’s also a disc with the cartoons set up for digital download. The most exciting thing inside the box is an inflatable pirate sword. I haven’t seen it since the kid forced me to blow it up.
Something Big stars Dean Martin in his favorite genre: the western. The film is from the end of his cinema career and it sort of follows that path. He’s an old time outlaw wanting to have one big thing go his way. He dreams of a Gatling gun in his hands. In order to achieve the firepower, he’s got to do a lot of little things including holding up a stagecoach and kidnapping. Brian Keith (Family Affair) is on his trail. There’s a lot of fine talent on the desert locations with Honor Blackman (Goldfinger), Ben Johnson (The Wild Bunch), Denver Pyle, Merlin Olsen and Harry Carey Jr. Dean has some fun with a touch of comedy as he gets serious about the big gun of his dreams. “Lucy and Carol Burnett” is a two parter done before Carol got her own series. “Lucy and Viv Reminisce” brings back Vivian Vance to nurse her pal. This duo gets upped in power on “Lucy and the Lost Star.” The girls meet Joan Crawford. Lucy and Joan is like a Logo series ready to happen. The show was #2 for the season, but had to come to an end. Why? Lucy had sold Desilu to Paramount and didn’t want to be an employee. She created a new production company and created Here’s Lucy. This gave her six more seasons to torture Gail Gordon. It is good to have all of The Lucy Show out on DVD since for some reason there’s a dozen cable channels showing I Love Lucy and none risking a slot on The Lucy Show. The DVD includes numerous bonus features including Lucy winning the Emmy.
The Cup is the true story of a family’s bad luck streak at being jockeys. Damien Oliver’s brother and dad died while racing in Australia. The brother was the favorite to win the Melbourne Cup (the Kentucky Derby of Down Under). Damien can’t let can’t be dissuaded to find a safer career. He needs to win for the sake of himself and his family. He gets help from a trainer (The General’s Brendan Gleeson) to make sure he doesn’t follow in the family tradition. It’s an inspirational tale from Simon Wincher, the director of Free Willy. Wincer also made the equally entertaining Phar Lap about a famous Australian race horse than died mysteriously in Mexico. Shame his earlier film isn’t out since it would make a great double feature with The Cup.
Mancation: Unrated is another classic entry into the oeuvre of Joey Fatone. Matt Kawczynski is brown nosing his way up the corporate ladder. After he marries the Boss’ daughter, he should be on easy street. Except it all goes horribly wrong when he goes home early to surprise his bride. Unfortunately he surprises his bride and the maid of honor doing something less than honorable. The best part about the unrated nature is that you don’t have to guess what they’re doing in front of the horrified groom. In the midst of his crash, it’s up to Joey Fatone to pick him up and take him to Atlantic City for a Mancation. Who is waiting for him in the Boardwalk destination is Danica McKellar. He’s had a crush on her for a long time. Can he seal the deal and cleanse his soul of his sham marriage? He has an issue with two buddies who are beyond annoying. They get into fights with gang members and Russian freaks. This is where being unrated isn’t a great thing as we get to see a scene paying tribute to Scatman. Oh my eyes. Luckily there some Fatone to wash the images off the screen. Plus you can make plenty of jokes about Winnie Cooper. The big bonus feature is the uncut Bonerall commercial. Wonder if Fatone stole this role from Justin Timberlake?
Power Rangers Samurai: Christmas Together Friends Forever finally gives us a mini-marathon of Seasons Beatings. Three episodes on the DVD start with the recent “Christmas Together, Friends Forever.” Even on a sacred day, big monsters in rubber costumes will attack. Can’t Nighlok take a holiday? “I’m Dreaming of a White Power Ranger” has Santa’s workshop taken over by the evil Rito and the Tengu Warriors. They have a devious plan for what needs to go under the trees around the world. This special was from the third season of The Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers, “A Season to Remember” came from Power Rangers Zeo. Skull and Bulk must find a fruitcake bandit. Isn’t this a victimless crime? The three episodes should brighten your holiday season better than It’s a Wonderful Life.
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