If you read my previous blog post, you know that a wonderful little story titled The Bugliest Bug had my grandkids all (brace yourself) abuzz with excitement the last time the Book Lady (Googie in disguise) surprised them at their front door with a bag full of library books.
You may also recall that I promised to elaborate on a second crowd pleaser in my next writing, so without any further ado let me introduce you to Addie Adams' Hilda and the Mad Scientist. While the bug book wins the prize for bringing science to life for all three kids, it was Hilda who grabbed the imaginations of the two older ones with a most delightful result (which I will tell you about later).
Hilda is an eccentric middle-aged, middle-European woman who, if she weren't so darned lovable, might be mistaken for a busybody. Repeatedly, she imposes herself on her fellow villagers in her own sincere but misguided attempts to be helpful.
Unfortunately, in the course of her undertakings, much like the beloved Amelia Bedelia, she often evokes more damage than improvement in whatever situation she forces herself into. Truthfully, at the end of Hilda's extended "help" sessions, people are much more glad to see her go than they were to see her come.
This is definitely the case with Dr. Weinerstein, the mad scientist who lives in a spooky old house atop a hill just outside the village. As his name suggests, Dr. Weinerstein is in the business of manufacturing monsters in a laboratory well-stocked with potions and poisons.
But when Hilda learns that Dr. Weinerstein suffers from rheumatism, off she goes to cook, clean, and care for him. "I go where I'm needed," she repeats as her mantra, "and stay until I'm not." Needless to say, Dr. Weinerstein wants to get rid of her as quickly as possible, so he sets out to create a monster that he thinks is sure to scare her away.
I won't spoil the O.Henry ending for you here, but suffice it to say that, because Hilda takes it upon herself to purge the good doctor's arsenal of bad stuff and replace it with something more wholesome and healthy, the monster turns out to be quite different from what Dr. Weinerstein--and the unsuspecting reader--envision. As a result, Hilda is delighted, and so are we.
In addition to the unexpected plot twist and the perfectly rendered illustrations by Lisa Thiesing, Hilda and the Mad Scientist gives young readers and listeners unforgettable characters and fresh, imaginative dialogue. For this reason, I spent much of the afternoon as a drama coach of sorts, prompting Sooby and Pooh as they acted out the story complete with makeshift costumes and props.
In the role of Hilda, Sooby remembered most of the lines, or facsimiles thereof, without much prompting. She was hilarious as she swept and clattered about the "kitchen," delighted at the prospect of bossing the cranky old doctor around. Pooh gave the role of Dr. Weinerstein his all, insisting that Hilda "leave right now" and rubbing his hands together in his best diabolical fashion as he set about his monster-making.
All in all, it was a great day last time the Book Lady went to Kansas. It was a day filled with bugs and monsters and laughter and the magic of the written word. It was an opportunity to live for a while in a world where the good guys come out on top and the bad guys get their just deserts.