Having failed to write a novel that adults will voluntarily read (let alone pay money for), the next step of my two-step business plan is to fail their children as well. I am attempting to write my first children’s story.
Technically, I’ve already written the story – but as my college professor used to say, there are no final drafts, only deadlines. So I’m taking the short story I wrote for my son and expanding it into a chapter book. This may have been a bad idea. #1, because finding time to write a chapter book is about as easy as ironing my shirts while changing diapers. #2, because children will run away screaming from the mean hairy man at book signings. #3, because my experience in children’s literature consists mostly of memories of asking my mother to crack open Richard Scarry’s “Planes, Trains, and Automobiles” for the billionth time. And that wasn’t really literature so much as a collection of cartoon vehicles, so I could learn to identify them on sight should I ever cross paths with a cartoon on the road. Another book I liked was a morality tale about a boy who steals a humongous gumdrop from a candy store and then feels guilty and returns it. I’m not sure that I cared about the story per se, but the gumdrop looked juicy and delicious. Then there was Grover’s “The Monster at the End of This Book,” which was probably the root cause of all my chronic anxiety later in life. There was this horrifying buildup as Grover broke the fourth wall and begged us, time and again, not to turn to the next page. Which, of course, we always did. And then the last page would come, and the truth would dawn on Grover that the “monster at the end of the book” was only Grover himself. My mom, by the way, did a spot-on impression of Grover.
Here is a sneak preview of my in-progress chapter book, “The Goblin who Chased the Moon.”
On a clear autumn night in the deep dark woods, way down in the thick, wet undergrowth, a pair of eyes opened.
Or to be more precise, a goblin child’s eyes.
Now as everyone knows, goblins live underground in the oldest, blackest caves. Their homes were carved by long-forgotten floods and long-forgotten creatures from long-forgotten days. The reason goblins are rarely seen is that they never leave those caves. Never, that is, except on very special occasions when the night sky shines brightest and a deep sleep covers the land.
That’s when the magic calls them.
It was on just such a night that this particular goblin, whose name was Muddle, grabbed hold of a dangling tree root. He grabbed the root tight and climbed it through rock and soil to the surface of the world. The goblin hole ended on a mossy patch in the shadow of a great gray tree. Out came his hands, his head, his arms and legs and long pointy feet. Then, as Muddle wiped away the dirt and opened his eyes to the roofless, endless “overworld” – that’s the goblin name for the place that we humans just call the world – they were met by a blinding light.
The goblin child blinked, then looked, then blinked, then looked, then blinked and looked again. He could hardly believe his eyes! Far up beyond the highest, thinnest branches of the tallest trees was the most amazing sight – a gigantic, bright white…
“Ball!” said Muddle.
“No, silly,” said his goblin brother, whose name was Fuddle. The taller, stronger, smarter goblin had followed him up the root and caught him by surprise. “That’s not a ball. That’s the moon,” he said. Then he whispered a warning, “Keep quiet or the humans will eat you.”
“I want it! I want the moon!” said Muddle. He had never heard of a moon before, but he knew it must be a special thing to have. He wondered what games he could play with it. The moon was so big, so shiny, so perfectly round, so everything amazing. There was nothing like it at home. He just had to capture that great pale disk that floated so high above.
Ignoring his brother’s warning, Muddle pointed his crooked goblin finger at the sky. “Come down moon!” he shouted. Then he waited for an answer.
But the moon didn’t come. And the humans didn’t eat him.