published by Penguin/Random House,
Anne Schwartz Books, 2021
Lovers of Roald Dahl and Louis Sachar's Sideways Stories From Wayside School will be captivated by the adventures of this very special group of friends.
In this delightful chapter book filled with black-and-white illustrations you'll meet Lionel, Lindalee, Hans, Mateo, Bob, Ameera, Evelyn, Emmett, Charlotta, Rodney, and Ursula--the kids who live on Cattywampus Street, not far from the Waddlebee Toy Store.
Each of the eleven chapters in this magical, mysterious, silly, scary, happy, and sometimes even sad book tells an utterly unforgettable tale about one of the kids. Whether it's about Lionel and his magic ball, which knows how to find him after it's been stolen away; or Charlotta, who shrinks so small that she can fit inside her dollhouse; or Rodney, whose pet rock becomes the envy of all the other kids, these are stories sure to charm, captivate, and engage readers of all ages.
A Reflection on Writing
The Kids of Cattywampus Street
When I was young, especially around the ages of seven, eight, and nine, I wrote and drew all the time—sometimes autobiographical snippets, sometimes completely made-up stories.
I lived with my mother, father, and older brother on a farm with goats, sheep, chickens, a horse or two, dogs, cats, parakeets, hamsters, and fish. For a short time, we even had a pet monkey. My father was a zoologist who studied animals, so he liked having animals around. My mother was an artist who liked to paint in her studio. My brother liked to dare me to do scary things, but he was also my playmate.
Living on a farm made me familiar with all sorts of joys and sorrows. The animals were my best friends. I watched our mama goat give birth to triplets and I also watched her die. When I was sad, I felt better if I made things up. Things could be very somber in my stories, but they could also be upbeat or magical, or a combination of everything. I would tell my stories to the goats or sometimes to my dolls—they were excellent listeners.
Of course, along with being a writer, I was also a reader. I would read a story and then imagine it happening differently. I would see a small thing, like a frog in the pond or an owl in the barn, and I’d imagine how it got there and what sort of life it had. I carried a notebook where ever I went (I still do!) and wrote these thoughts down because I knew I had to practice if I wanted to be a writer. I wrote every day, a story or two or three, and I drew pictures to go along with them.
In school, every morning we had to write about how we felt. I loved this part of school better than anything! Lo and behold, I did grow up to become a writer and an artist, but as I wrote new things, I put these old stories away and forgot about them. A few years ago, I came across an old suitcase stuffed full of my childhood writings. They were faded and torn, but I could still read them and as I did, I laughed and even cried out loud. Some were boring, but others were funny or strange, and I began to remember how it felt to write them.
For example, there was a story about a boy who sets out to buy a magic ball when his friends try to steal it, another about a girl whose entire family dies and she cries for the rest of her life (that was an especially sad one), and one where a very poor girl finds a magic house for her dolls. If you read The Kids of Cattywampus Street, these might sound a little familiar. The stories had such originality and imagination that I was actually envious of the eight-year-old me.
As I grew older and learned more “rules” I felt that I had to hold back on writing absurd, inexplicable things. I became a better writer for sure and I love all the books I’ve published thus far, but these stories were so FUN and so STRANGE! They sounded just like a child wrote them. because after all, they were written by a child! I wondered if they would appeal to kids today and what would happen if I “rewrote” them as the writer I am now, but with the voice I had back then. I made a pile of the best stories. As I transcribed them into my computer, I changed things here and there, added some turns and twists. The more I wrote, the more I felt like I was eight, sitting under the willow tree, talking to the goats, playing with my dolls, and making things up. I was able to invent some brand-new stories that sound (I hope) as funny and fresh as these. After all I am still the same me, just older.
illustration by Natalie Andrewson
Parade Magazine: CLICK HERE FOR an Interview with Lemony Snicket where he calls The Kids of Cattywampus Street the last MG book he read that he "really, really loved."