Bluebonnet of the Texas Hill Country

Bluebonnet of the Hill Country

Bluebonnet of the Hill Country

 

It was the summer of 1982.  MBC had been given the gift of an idea from her mother-in-law, Dede Casad.  “Why don’t you create an armadillo character just for kids? You could write a series of books about this armadillo traveling to different Texas landmarks, teaching Texas history.”

MBC thought that was a pretty good idea.  A few weeks later, as she and her husband Vic and their one-year-old son McCrae were walking on the shores of Lake Bridgeport, an armadillo came up to MBC, stood on its hind legs and sniffed, then wandered off. MBC took that to be a sign!  She should write about armadillos!

She returned home (at that time she lived in Grand Prairie), went to the public library and began researching armadillos. She also thought about her first encounters with armadillos as a child in the Texas Hill Country, where she attended Camp Waldemar for seven summers. Plus, as she liked to say, she just used her imagination.

So, an armadillo character began to emerge, with her blue sunbonnet as a trademark, named Bluebonnet (suggested by Dede and Vic).  MBC enlisted the help of elementary teachers Ben and Juddi Gilmore, and Joan Dobson of the Grand Prairie Public Library.  She finished the manuscript on her birthday, September 15.  So it became my birthday, too!

“Bluebonnet of the Hill Country” was published by Eakin Press in June of 1983, a month after MBC’s son Carter was born. Pat Binder of Plano created the illustrations.

This story introduces my Mommadillo and Daddidillo and my three sisters Normadillo, Irmadillo and Arvilladillo (if you want to know why I have three sisters, you’ll need to read the book!). It teaches lots of facts about my Hill Country home and armadillos. The story reveals how I got my trademark sunbonnet, and of my desire to go to summer camp.

When Eakin Press was sold several years ago, this book went out of print.  Last year, MBC tweaked the story and gave it a new title, “Bluebonnet of the Texas Hill Country.” Eakin Press published the book in April, 2016, with Benjamin Vincent’s illustrations.

Bluebonnet of the Texas Hill Country

Bluebonnet of the Texas Hill Country

So today, MBC and I are both celebrating birthdays…..35 years is pretty significant for me!  As MBC frequently says, the best thing about being a story book character is immortality!   I’m forever young!

MBC and I are grateful for these years together, our wonderful adventures and the amazing friends we’ve made. Thanks for a wonderful idea, Dede!

To all of our Bluebonnet Armadillo Adventure series readers……..have a dilly of a day!  Bluebonnet Armadillo

 

 

A Pig Named Bunny, A Girl Named Ruby Clyde

Perhaps you think an armadillo named Bluebonnet is a bit odd, but how about a pig named Bunny?  That’s the name Ruby Clyde gave her pet pig.  Of course, Ruby Clyde is an interesting name, too. But somehow, it fits the spunky character of Corabel Shofner’s debut novel Almost Paradise, published by Farrar Straus Giroux, New York.

MBC learned about this book several months ago when she was reunited with Corabel, a childhood friend, via social media.  She’s been eagerly anticipating the publication of this book, written for middle readers, grades 5-7.  But after reading it, she recommends it for ALL readers.

Now the book totally captivated MBC. After all, it’s set in the Texas Hill Country (where I was born!) where MBC spent her childhood summers at camp; in fact, that’s where she and Corabel met.  The story is sure to tug at your heart as you learn Ruby Clyde’s life story.  Not an easy life, but it’s helped her become strong and courageous.

Through the strange actions of her mother’s boyfriend, Catfish, Ruby Clyde ends up on Paradise Ranch, a peach orchard in the Texas Hill Country.  She lives for a time with her aunt, a nun, Sister Eleanor Rose.  (Sister Eleanor wears blue cowboy boots, just like MBC!)

We won’t give too much away, but as MBC says, she did not see the ending coming.  Quite a dramatic conclusion…..one full of love, self-sacrifice and redemption. MBC gave this book five-stars on the Amazon review and concluded by saying:  “I closed this book with a smile on my face and a tear in my eye.”  It’s the kind of book you’re sorry to see end, because you’ll miss the characters so much.

So, whether you’re a middle reader or not, MBC believes you’ll enjoy Almost Paradise. As for me, I’m always glad to make a new storybook friend, including a pig named Bunny.

Keep reading and writing!  Bluebonnet Armadillo

 

 

We’re on a quest!

That’s right, MBC and I are on a quest to visit more than 16,000 Texas historical markers!

With markers scattered all across our state, commemorating persons, places and events important to Texas history, MBC and I have decided to stop and capture these markers on camera. After all, my very purpose for being is to teach Texas history!

The markers placed by the Texas Historical Commission are a fun way to learn about each area of the Lone Star State as we travel the Texas trails.  http://www.thc.texas.gov/preserve/projects-and-programs/state-historical-markers

So first up are two historical markers, one in English and one in Mandarin Chinese, commemorating the birthplace of Major General Claire L. Chennault of “Flying Tigers” fame.

You can visit these markers at 1501 Monroe St. in Commerce, Texas.  This is the first Mandarin Chinese language historical marker in the state of Texas.

(You can also learn more about Major General Chennault at the Chennault Aviation and Military Museum in Monroe, Louisiana.      www.chennaultmuseum.org

Major General Chennault grew up in Monroe, which happens to be MBC’s hometown!)

So how about it?  Want to join our quest?  Let’s see how many Texas historical markers and other Texas landmarks we can visit….ready, set, GO! (Two down…..lots more to go!)

Your traveling Texas armadillo friend, Bluebonnet

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bluebonnet at the Johnson Space Center

Bluebonnet at Johnson Space Center

Bluebonnet at Johnson Space Center

In looking back over 35 years of the Bluebonnet Armadillo Adventure series, MBC remembers that the book about my adventure at Johnson Space Center was certainly one of the most thrilling to research.

The good folks at the Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center in Houston, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s (NASA) Manned Spacecraft Center www.nasa.gov  were most helpful to MBC, inviting her to tour “behind the scenes.” She climbed up into the space shuttle where astronauts trained, and also saw the giant swimming pool for underwater training (that gave her the idea of using armadillo swimming techniques in the story!) Staff members helped her throughout the writing process with the manuscript to insure that the technical parts of the story were accurate. One even suggested the idea that my armadillo shell be used to study ways of improving astronaut suits in the story!

Space Center Houston, www.spacecenter.org the visitors’ center for the Johnson Space Center, was just being built when MBC did her research, so the book was timely in helping introduce this fabulous facility.  Less than a year after the center opened, MBC and I did a book signing in the gift shop.

The first printing of hardbacks was April, 1993.  The paperback version became available in September, 2002, and is still available at http://www.pelicanpub.com

Some of the highlights of the story:  this was the first book that re-introduced one of my sisters, Normadillo.  In true sisterly form, she teased me about being a “silly dilly” for wanting to become the world’s first “astrodillo.” Normadillo kept tabs on me during my space shuttle flight from Mission Control in Houston. MBC’s Aunt Norma has always claimed my sister Normadillo was her namesake, so MBC fondly calls her “Aunt Normadillo.”

The story certainly captures the era of the Space Shuttle flights. MBC and I salute the many astronauts who bravely flew these space missions, and honor the memory of the Space Shuttle Challenger and Columbia astronauts. The story also honors the work of many people who have worked at Johnson Space Center over the years.

MBC has a heart for Houston.  Her parents lived there for 25 years, and she has many beloved friends and family who are still residents there. For the past week, our hearts and prayers have been with everyone in Houston and other areas as they recover from the devastation of Hurricane Harvey. MBC invites you to join her with a donation to the United Methodist Committee on Relief.  100% of your funds go directly to relief efforts.http://www.umcor.org

To all you future “astrodillos” out there, keep reaching for the stars!

Bluebonnet Armadillo

 

 

Bluebonnet at Dinosaur Valley State Park

Bluebonnet at Dinosaur Valley State Park

Bluebonnet at Dinosaur Valley State Park

One of my most popular tales of my Texas travels is about my adventure at Dinosaur Valley State Park.  Now this book came about following a trip MBC made with her family more than 30 years ago.  They journeyed to Glen Rose, Texas for a day trip with their good friends, the Gilmores.

MBC remembers it as a very fun time of swimming and picnicking, and she remembers the excitement her sons and the Gilmore girls had over seeing the dinosaur tracks along the Paluxy River.

MBC had recently seen a museum exhibit featuring a fossil of a glyptodon.  A glyptodon was a pre-historic mammal, cousin of the armadillo, that looked a lot like an armadillo, but boasted a large ball of spikes on the end of its tail. MBC named my new glyptodont friend Glyndon P. Glyptodon, but her son McCrae quickly nick-named him Spike.

As MBC began to create the storyline on that hot summer day at Dinosaur Valley State Park, she remembers that friend Ben Gilmore offered the idea of the glyptodon’s discovery by the footprints he left behind, picking up on the dinosaur tracks found at the park.  That idea helped MBC quickly write the story.

“Bluebonnet at Dinosaur Valley State Park” was the first book of the Bluebonnet Armadillo Adventure series to be illustrated by Benjamin Vincent and published by Pelican Publishing Company. The first printing was 1990; a second printing followed in 1995.

Children continue to be fascinated with dinosaurs, just as MBC’s sons were. MBC has had many parents tell her that they visited Dinosaur Valley State Park because their children read her book and wanted to go.  So if you haven’t visited this beautiful state park in Glen Rose, this summer would be a great time to go.  Learn more about it at:http://tpwd.texas.gov/state-parks/dinosaur-valley

As always, keep reading and writing!

Bluebonnet Armadillo

Bluebonnet at the Texas State Capitol

Bluebonnet at the Texas State Capitol

Bluebonnet at the Texas State Capitol

In a recent blog, I noted that this year marks the 35th year of my birth.  As part of the celebration, I’m telling the “story behind the story” for each of the Bluebonnet Armadillo Adventure series books.

“Bluebonnet at the Texas State Capitol” was published in 1997……20 years ago!  MBC recently learned that the hardback copies have sold out.  Pelican Publishing Company printed the first paperback edition this past April. The book sells for $7.95, making it the least expensive book of the entire series.  Copies can be ordered on this website or at:http://www.pelicanpub.com/proddetail.php?prod=9781455623631#.WWzIo4WcHIU

Back in the mid-90s, when MBC decided to write about the Texas State Capitol, she had friends in Austin that helped connect her with Capitol officials, who graciously gave us a tour of the Capitol and supplied us with historical information.  But the story was greatly influenced by a school visit to then Oak Creek Elementary School in Houston (the name was changed in 2005 to Reynolds Elementary School, honoring long-time principal Pat Reynolds).

We were invited to visit this school because we have something in common:  their mascot is the armadillo! The students worked hard to have the armadillo proclaimed the recognized mascot of Texas in 1981.  Because of their efforts, other schoolchildren across Texas lobbied the state legislature for years to adopt the armadillo as the small state mammal and the longhorn as the large state mammal.  This was the primary influence for MBC’s story….and that’s why you see Bevo, the longhorn mascot of the University of Texas, make an appearance in this book.

MBC and I had lots of fun working in the “official” items of Texas, and they are scattered throughout the story.  MBC’s son, McCrae, named the character Mac the Mockingbird (the official bird of Texas).  When MBC’s husband, Vic, expressed concern about an armadillo and longhorn dancing together at a square dance (the official dance of Texas), MBC just shrugged and said, “That’s the illustrator’s problem!”  Benjamin Vincent was up to the challenge as always; Bevo and I look pretty good “dancing on the capitol grounds!”

But perhaps my favorite part of the book is the last line.  After coming through a tale of debate over differing opinions in the political process, all the characters remember the official motto of Texas:  “Friendship.”  Thus, the story ends with these words:  “Just remember in Texas, we’re all friends!”

Would that we could live up to those words today!

Your friend, Bluebonnet Armadillo

 

On the first day of summer

On the first day of summer, MBC and I paid a visit to author Sharon Feldt and her friend, Sarah O’Shea.  We were eager to get an autographed copy of Sharon’s latest book, “Sarah O’Shea and the Wacky Faucet.”

Tagging along with us on this visit were MBC’s three grandchildren, Revol, Patrick and Ana, who are visiting from Colorado.  These three are big fans of the first book about Sarah, “The Scary Hair of Sarah O’Shea.”

The Scary Hair of Sarah O’Shea

So, they were especially excited to read the second book in the series about Sarah’s trip to the beach.

Sarah, known for her wild, unruly red hair (MBC can relate!) takes off on a family trip to the beach, along with her faithful dog, Claude.  She enjoys her time on the beach, but when some of the sea creatures make a surprise visit, she learns that the beach is not only her playground, but a home. This inspires her to take action in protecting the beach environment.

Now, MBC and I read this story to her three grandchildren, and we all decided to write this book review together.  So here’s what they had to say about “Sarah O’Shea and the Wacky Faucet”:

Ana (5):  “I love Sarah because of her wild red hair.”

Patrick (9): “This book teaches about taking care of sea life.”

Revol (10): “It will help you remember that you’re not the only thing that matters in the world.  Animals matter too.”

I’d say that’s a five-star recommendation!  As summer begins and our thoughts turn to summer reading, this book should be at the top of your list. You can order it at Barnes & Noble or Amazon or at www.sharonfeldt.com

Happy Summer Reading!

Bluebonnet Armadillo

A First

Last week, MBC and I experienced a “first:” we attended our first convention of the Daughters of the Republic of Texas.  It was the 126th time the “daughters” had gathered, however.  The DRT was founded in 1891.

The Daughters of the Republic of Texas are women who trace their ancestry to those who lived in Texas from 1836-1846 when Texas was its own nation.  MBC, whose maiden name is Oliphint, traces her lineage through her great-great grandfather, Wilford Oliphint, who lived in Sabine County with his family.  The Gaines-Oliphint cabin still stands there today, purchased by Martha Oliphint, MBC’s great-great grandmother, from the Gaines family.

You can read about the Gaines-Oliphint cabin here:

https://tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/ccguc

Now MBC may be a native of Louisiana (of which she is very proud), but she is definitely a genetic Texan!

Twelve years ago, MBC’s friend, Mrs. Elizabeth Walsh, encouraged her to join the DRT and invited her to become a member of her DRT chapter, James Butler Bonham. MBC has attended chapter meetings throughout the years, but attending this year’s state convention was a first.  Imagine her delight when Mrs. Walsh, now 103 years old, opened the convention by playing “Texas Our Texas” on the piano.

Fortunately for me, MBC took me along so we could sign books…..you know, those books about Texas history she writes…..with me as the main character!  We both had a great time meeting so many people who are as interested in Texas history as we are.

Mary Brooke Casad and Elizabeth Walsh

 

Bluebonnet and MBC signing Bluebonnet Armadillo Adventure books at the DRT “Bluebonnets and Boots” Convention

 

The Daughters of the Republic of Texas work to preserve Texas history in myriad ways.  One that was especially meaningful to MBC and me was the recognition of 4th and 7th grade students for essays on Texas history and the recognition of Texas history teachers.  We were pleased to attend the dinner awarding the 2017 winners. Congratulations!

2017 History Teacher Awards and the Student Essay Contest Winners

There’s much more we could tell you about this convention, but I think this first one definitely won’t be our last.  We had a marvelous time and grew in our appreciation of the history of this organization that carries the spirit of Texas from past to present to future.

MBC and I will continue to do our part to teach children about Texas and its unique history!

As always, keep reading and writing!

Bluebonnet Armadillo

 

A Stroll Down Memory Lane

MBC recently had some surprising news for me; she reminded me that this year is my 35th birthday!  That’s right, it’s been 35 years since I popped into MBC’s imagination.

MBC often tells the story of how, in the spring of 1982, her mother-in-law, Dede Weldon Casad, suggested that she should create an armadillo character for children and write a series of books, using the armadillo to visit Texas sites and teach about Texas history and geography.

A few weeks later, MBC came face to face with an armadillo on the shores of Lake Bridgeport.  That encounter convinced her it was a sign……time to write about armadillos!  She visited the Grand Prairie Public Library and researched armadillos, aided by librarian Joan Dobson, and enlisted the help of two friends who were public school teachers, Ben and Juddi Gilmore.  She completed the manuscript of Bluebonnet of the Hill Country on her birthday, September 15…..so that date became my birthday, too!

To celebrate the 35th anniversary of the beginning of the Bluebonnet Armadillo Adventure Series, MBC and I will be taking several strolls down memory lane, and sharing these with you.  We’ll be posting “the story behind the story” about each of the books.  We invite you to come along and share these special memories with us.

To kick-off our celebration, we have a special offer on this website.  The CD of MBC reading the first three original stories in the series, Bluebonnet of the Hill Country, Bluebonnet at the Alamo, and Bluebonnet at the State Fair of Texas, is offered at a reduced price, and includes a free study guide and bookmark.

Bluebonnet Audio CD

Bluebonnet Audio CD

MBC says this CD makes a great gift for teachers and librarians to use for story time in the classroom, and it’s also great for parents and grandparents to use for bedtime stories, as well as car trips.  Check out “Special Offers” on this website for details.  http://bluebonnetarmadillo.com/order-books/special-offers/

The original stories were illustrated by Pat Binder and published by Eakin Press.  MBC will be sharing more about these stories in future blogs; two of the stories have been revised and reillustrated.  The original Bluebonnet of the Hill Country and Bluebonnet at the Alamo books are now available only on Amazon. www.amazon.com

Bluebonnet of the Hill Country

Bluebonnet of the Hill Country

Bluebonnet at the Alamo

Bluebonnet at the Alamo

Bluebonnet at the State Fair of Texas is available from Pelican Publishing Company. www.pelicanpub.com

Bluebonnet at the State Fair of Texas

Bluebonnet at the State Fair of Texas

MBC and I are looking forward to our stroll down memory lane this year as I celebrate my 35th year.  Hope you’ll join our celebration, and remember…..”Keep reading and writing!”  Bluebonnet Armadillo

90 years of camping in the Texas Hill Country!

Waldemar StoryA remarkable thing happened this week!  Campers arrived in the Texas Hill Country for another fabulous summer at Camp Waldemar for Girls, which has been operating continuously since 1926. (www.waldemar.com)

Ora Johnson, the first woman principal of a major co-educational high school in Texas, had a dream of establishing a summer camp for girls on the banks of the Guadalupe River near Hunt, Texas.  Named for a Scandinavian word, Waldemar, meaning “Sea of Woods,” the camp opened in the summer of 1926.  Since that time, thousands of girls have attended, creating life-long memories and friendships.

From Ora Johnson, to her niece Doris Johnson, to Marsha and Meg Elmore, the camp’s owners and directors, Camp Waldemar has established traditions and legacies that are now a part of fourth-generation camping families.

MBC’s family first connected with Camp Waldemar in the 1940s.  Her grandmother, Mary G. Kelley, recruited campers from her home in Alexandria, Louisiana, chaperoned campers from La. to camp, was a counselor to the youngest campers and taught bridge for more than 30 summers.  Her mother, Nancy Kelley Oliphint, attended as a camper in the 1940s and was also a counselor.  Several other family members, cousins and nieces, also attended.

MBC was also a camper and counselor, and helped start the short-term camp in 1991. To this day, she cherishes her Waldemar memories and friendships. And, she claims she was first introduced to armadillos at Camp Waldemar, which you can read all about in “Bluebonnet of the Texas Hill Country.” (Can you figure out which part of the story is based on a true incident MBC saw at camp involving an armadillo?!)

Bluebonnet of the Texas Hill Country

Bluebonnet of the Texas Hill Country

http://wildhorsestore-com.3dcartstores.com/Bluebonnet-of-the-Texas-Hill-Country_p_107.html

MBC also edited “The Waldemar Story: Camping in the Texas Hill Country,” written by her mentors Sue Van Noy Willett and Carolyn Carmichael Wheat. http://www.shop.campwaldemar.com/The-Waldemar-Story-Book4.htm

The book covers the first 70 years of Waldemar’s history; 20 years worth of tales have yet to be told.  And new memories are being made every day!

So, what is so special about summer camp? Former Waldemar camper, Sissy Goff eloquently describes the importance camp plays in a child’s development and formation in this blog:

http://www.raisingboysandgirls.com/raisingboysandgirls-blog/the-difference-a-camp-can-make

MBC and I celebrate summertime and camping. We give thanks for our family’s long association with Camp Waldemar.  Here’s to 90 more years of camping in the Texas Hill Country!

Keep camping! Bluebonnet Armadillo