If I had a pony…

For the past two years, MBC has served as a judge for the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo Trailblazer Writing Competition for Texas elementary school students. This year’s contest was open to 4th graders, who entered poems and essays on the theme of “If I had a pony….”

Pony ownership seems to be a universal desire of children, and MBC and I have had a great time reading the creative poems and essays about all the adventures one could have riding on a pony. Such talented writers with very creative imaginations!

Of course, MBC couldn’t help but recall that she also longed for a pony as a child. She was surprised when her dream actually came true the Christmas of 1963. Fortunately, she saved the poem and the essay she wrote as an eight-year-old, expressing her excitement about that magical day.

My Pony

On Christmas day,

I got a pony.

He had a saddle and bridle;

Everything I need,

But what about the feed?

Our Big Surprise

It was Christmas morning, 1963. My brothers and I ran through the hall calling, “It’s Christmas! Wake up!” Soon, we all went in to see what Santa had brought. Prissy, our dog, came in. We were giving her a collar for Christmas. We put it on her. Then, Daddy said, “Okay, take her outside.” I opened the door.

That’s when it happened. There was a beautiful brown pony in the carport! I called everyone to come see it. But Stuart, my brother, didn’t come. I went back to see why. He was putting on his cowboy clothes! No sir, he wasn’t riding any pony ’til he got his cowboy clothes on!

MBC and I hope that all the writers in the Trailblazer competition will one day realize their dreams of owning a pony, and be able to experience all the fantastic adventures they described.

Congratulations to all who entered a poem or essay in the contest. Don’t forget my motto: “Keep reading and keep writing!”

Happy Trails, Trailblazers!

Bluebonnet Armadillo

Travels on MonsterStreet

Halloween is a time for fun and scary tales, and no one captures that better than J.H. Reynolds in his spine-tingling MonsterStreet series!

MBC and I reconnected with J.H. in 2014 when he and co-author Craig Cunningham published another series entitled ”The Octobers.” (See my October 27, 2014 blog) But this past summer gave us an opportunity to renew our friendship in person after many years.

MBC and I were at our beloved Camp Waldemar when we received an email from J.H.:

“You visited my elementary school in Woodway in the late 80s to talk about Bluebonnet’s adventures at the Alamo, and I can vividly remember your visit. It had a positive and inspiring impact on me. I now write children’s novels for HarperCollins and my latest book series, MonsterStreet, received an endorsement from R.L.Stine, author of Goosebumps. I remember my elementary school library fondly and your visit being one that made books magical with endless possibilities (like seeing through the eyes of an armadillo beneath the Alamo.) I wanted to say thank you again for visiting that day and for all the seeds you’ve planted in the hearts, minds and imaginations of young people through the years and decades.”

As you might imagine, MBC was most appreciative of J. H.’s kind and generous words. Through further correspondence, a visit was arranged so that MBC might give his family a tour of Camp Waldemar. (That wonderful visit is pictured below; note that I am in the picture, too!)

MBC and her granddaughter Ana have enjoyed their reading of the MonsterStreet series, which includes four books: “The Boy Who Cried Werewolf,” ”The Halloweeners,” ”Carnevil,” ”Camp of No Return.” Ana says that our usual ”one chapter a night” doesn’t work with this series, because every chapter ends in such a suspenseful surprise that you have to keep reading to find out what happens! Of course, our favorite book was the fourth one about camp!

We’re so proud of J.H. and his wonderful writing that is thrilling and delighting thousands of young readers. J.H., we know you will live up to our motto, to ”keep reading and writing!” We can’t wait for more travels to MonsterStreet!

Happy Halloween!

Bluebonnet Armadillo

Iggy The Eaglet

MBC and I are always on the lookout for new children’s books, especially ones with animal characters. Recently, a childhood friend of MBC, Nelson Warner, sent her a book entitled “Iggy The Eaglet.”

This book was inspired by an article Nelson read about imprinting. Wild birds and mammals attach themselves to the first thing they see when they are born. They identify with this creature and are “imprinted” with their identity.

After reading the article, Nelson had a dream. When he woke up the next morning, he had the idea for the story about Iggy!

Iggy is an eaglet, but because his egg ended up in a turkey nest, he identifies with the turkeys when he hatches. Only through Father Eagle’s patience and persistence of loving Iggy and coming to live with him does he help Iggy know his true identity as an eagle. Soon Iggy is soaring with the eagles!

The book concludes with a prayer and scripture guide, helping young readers see the connection between Father Eagle and their Heavenly Father.

MBC asked her granddaughter, Anasia, to help in the review of this book. Anasia described the illustrations as “textured and epic.” She thought the story was “very good and entertaining, and you could tell the story was about God.” Anasia said that the story “shows you to never stop trying, and to trust those who care about you.”

I would say that’s a pretty strong endorsement from a young reader!

“Iggy The Eaglet” was written by Ann Elizabeth Yeager, Nelson Warner and Keith Rodriguez, and illustrated by Erin Y. Broussard. It’s available from Amazon.

Anasia, MBC and I are all quite captivated by this story that originated from a true fact about wildlife, a dream and the creative endeavors of the authors and illustrator. Read this book and soon you’ll be soaring with the eagles, too!

Keep reading and writing,

Bluebonnet Armadillo

Bluebonnet Visits Mount Vernon, Texas

Bluebonnet Visits Mount Vernon, Texas

A few years ago, MBC and I were invited to do a presentation about the Bluebonnet Armadillo Adventure series at a meeting of the Franklin County Historical Association (FCHA) in Mount Vernon, Texas. This gathering of fine folk who help preserve the historical sites of their town all agreed it should be the site of my next adventure.

A formal commission was received from FCHA and fortunately for MBC, she lives in Sulphur Springs, only 20 miles away from Mount Vernon. So the visits and research began! Illustrator Benjamin Vincent also joined us for a tour.

In our visit to Daphne Prairie outside the town of Mount Vernon, we learned that short-eared owls can often be seen searching for supper. We also saw the mima mounds (large, circular domelike mounds made of differing soils) which local lore says were created by glyptodonts, a pre-historic cousin of the armadillo.

So the story begins on the Daphne Prairie, where I meet Dandy Don, a short-eared owl named for Mount Vernon’s favorite native son, the late Don Meredith. We take a night-time tour of historical sites, including pre-World War I homes, the Fire Station Museum, featuring the Don Meredith collection and the Nations Family Bird Egg Collection; the Cotton Belt Depot, The Bankhead Highway Trails and Visitor Center, Dupree Park Nature Preserve, Franklin County Courthouse, raised town plaza, and Majors-Parchman house.

All along the tour, sounds and shadows suggest that someone has secretly joined us. Who is this mysterious follower? (Hint: one of the historical sites was originally a farm and still has a chicken house in the yard!) Readers will delight in searching for clues. The picture book provides an entertaining and educational story for young readers, with additional information about each historical site provided for older readers.

This is the first of the ten books in the series to feature additional information about each historical site. MBC and I think this could start a trend!

The books are available for purchase at:


We hope you enjoy this tenth adventure about my Texas travels! And we encourage you to plan a visit to Mount Vernon soon!

Bluebonnet Armadillo

Book #10!

Soon after MBC and I moved to Northeast Texas, we presented a program to the Franklin County Historical Association about the Bluebonnet Armadillo Adventure series. Several folks there suggested I should make Mount Vernon the site of my next adventure!

The Franklin County Historical Association soon commissioned us to create a book that would help teach Franklin County children about their history. MBC and I made several trips to Mount Vernon, and were joined by illustrator Benjamin Vincent for a special day of touring the numerous historical sites. We appreciated many helpful tour guides who shared their love of Franklin County and knowledge of its historical sites.

The manuscript and illustrations are currently at Eakin Press, awaiting publication. The book will be out soon!

Some of the featured highlights of the book include:

The Daphne Prairie, where prairie lands and wood lands have stayed the same for centuries. You can even see the “mima” mounds from the time of the armadillo ancestor, the glyptodont.

The Firehouse Museum, with exhibits of Mount Vernon’s favorite son, Don Meredith; a collection of over 200 eggs, including three from now-extinct birds, and lots more!

The Cotton Belt Depot, the train station which now houses a covered wagon, model train and depot office with a telegraph.

The Bankhead Highway Visitor’s Center, home of Henry Clay Thruston, tallest soldier in the Civil War.

The Franklin County Courthouse, built in 1912 and restored in 2013.

The Majors-Parchman House, second oldest home in Mount Vernon.

Fortunately, as the story goes, I meet a dandy tour guide named “Dandy Don.” (Can you guess who he’s named for?) We have a great tour of the historical sites, but I keep thinking that we’re being followed. The readers will enjoy discovering the clues and the surprise ending!

MBC and I are grateful to the Franklin County Historical Association for this opportunity, and of course to Benjamin for his excellent illustrations. We’ll look forward to letting you know when the book is available.

In the meantime, keep reading and writing!

Bluebonnet Armadillo

Bluebonnet at the East Texas Oil Museum

Bluebonnet at the East Texas Oil Museum

MBC is the first to admit that a book about an oil museum sounded boring to her at first. But after our visit to the East Texas Oil Museum in Kilgore, she proclaimed it was like visiting Disney World!

MBC’s cousins, Guy and Billie Oliphint, were longtime Kilgore residents, and Guy was a docent at the museum. He gave MBC, illustrator Benjamin Vincent and myself a tour, and work began very quickly on the book. The goal was to have the book ready for the October, 2005 celebration of the 75th anniversary of the oil field discovery, and the 25th anniversary of the museum opening.

For this story, I was happy to reunite with my sister Irmadillo. Her husband, “Dad” Joiner Dillo, was named for Columbus Marion “Dad” Joiner, who had a dream about discovering the oil field. Their four sons (armadillos always have a litter of four, either all boys or all girls) have oil-industry namesakes: Bradford, named for Daisy Bradford, who owned the farm where the oil field was discovered; Lloyd, named for geologist Dr. A.D. Lloyd; Hunt, for oilman H.L. Hunt; and Wildcatter, for Wild Cat Creek, home of America’s first oil well in Titusville, Pennsylvania.

My nephews showed me all around the museum, where I learned first hand about life in a “Boomtown” in the 1930’s. As MBC said, the exhibits make you feel like you’re at Disney World.

The book was printed in Singapore and shipped to Pelican Publishing’s home in New Orleans. However, just before the book was due to arrive, Hurricane Katrina hit. The ship was diverted to Houston, where several boxes of books were taken off the ship and put on a truck bound for Kilgore. The books arrived at the museum the day before the celebration!

The celebration was a grand and glorious event with a performance by the Kilgore Rangerettes, lots of dignitaries bringing greetings and a keynote address by Kilgore’s favorite son, the late pianist Van Cliburn. If you ask MBC about her favorite memory of that day, she would say it was getting to meet Van Cliburn and shake his hand! She thinks it improved her piano playing immensely!

The East Texas Oil Museum is indeed a fun place to visit. MBC and her husband, Vic, took their grandchildren last summer, as pictured below. A good time was had by all!

Hope you’ll be able to visit Boomtown soon!

Bluebonnet Armadillo

Ana and Bluebonnet
Revol, Patrick, Vic, Ana, Bluebonnet

The Little Paris Chocolate Shop

MBC, Bluebonnet and Madam Acabo

Last week I visited Paris, France! MBC and I were celebrating our birthdays, and recalled that last year we celebrated in Paris, Texas. This year, we were photographed in front of the Eiffel Tower again—the original one! MBC posted lots of pictures of me visiting historic landmarks on our Facebook pages.
But there was one very special visit that I want to tell you about. A l’Etoile d’Or (Golden Star) is located at 30 Rue Pierre Fontaine in Paris, just down the street from the famous Moulin Rouge. Madam Denise Acabo is the owner of what has been called “the most famous chocolate store in Paris.”
Her uniform is a plaid kilt and necktie, and she wears her hair in braids. She’s a survivor of an accidental gas explosion that destroyed her store in February, 2014. But the shop has been restored with beautiful mirrors and woodwork, and is filled with delicious candies from all over France.
We visited the shop in search of the famous French Christmas candy, the papillot. The legend of this candy stems from Lyons, France, shortly after the French Revolution. Sir Paillot was a candy-maker, and one of his apprentices was in love with a young laundress who worked above the candy shop. To show his love to her, the apprentice would write a message of love inside glossy paper and wrap it around a piece of candy, then give it to his beloved.
He was caught stealing the candies by Sir Palliot, who dismissed him. Then, Sir Palliot realized that the young man’s idea of wrapping candies in paper with special messages was a brilliant marketing strategy. (Some say he re-hired his apprentice, some say he stole his idea.) He called his new product “Papillote.” It’s now a popular Christmas tradition in France to eat these famous chocolate bon-bons.
Some Papillotes have small firecrackers inside them that give a loud “POP” when the ends of the paper wraps are pulled. Alas, we learned from Madam Acabo that these candies are only available in her shop at Christmas time, so we were not able to purchase any. “Seulement à Noël,” she said. (Only at Christmas.)
But we did find lots of chocolate choices, which Madam Acabo described and let us sample, aided by her most able assistant. We left the shop with an ample supply of mouth-watering chocolates and candy. As the French say: “ooo-la-la!”
Madam Acabo had never seen an armadillo, but you can see from the pictures she took quite a liking to me. In thinking back over my trip, this visit to “the most famous chocolate shop in Paris” just may be my favorite memory.
Au revoir and remember “Continuez à lire et à écrire!” (Keep reading and writing!)
Bluebonnet Armadillo

MBC and Bluebonnet with Madam Denise Acabo

Bluebonnet at the Ocean Star Museum

March is the month that many Texans take a “spring break,” and Galveston is a popular destination.  Seven years ago MBC received a call from the staff at the Ocean Star Museum in Galveston requesting a visit from Bluebonnet.  The museum, housed in an off-shore drilling rig in the Galveston harbor, was celebrating its 15th anniversary in 2012, and they wanted a book to commemorate the occasion.

MBC and Bluebonnet at the Ocean Star gift shop

Illustrator Benjamin Vincent and MBC visited the Ocean Star soon after that to learn about life on an off-shore drilling rig.  The staff was most helpful in giving them a tour and explaining the equipment. MBC and Benjamin noticed that pelicans liked to congregate on the decks, and MBC decided to create a special pelican friend for me. She named him “Red” after the famous oil rig firefighter Paul N. “Red” Adair. Benjamin Vincent gave him a red sailor’s hat. MBC and I also have a special connection to pelicans, since most of the Bluebonnet Armadillo Adventure series was published by Pelican Publishing Company.

Benjamin and MBC had quite a fun day learning about the Ocean Star and brainstorming about the book……after all, they make a pretty good team!  Shortly after their visit, MBC completed the manuscript, and Benjamin went to work on the illustrations.  The book was published just in time for the museum’s 15th anniversary!

A few months later, MBC and I returned to the Ocean Star for a book signing. It was a very fun day, especially when I met a brave volunteer who was dressed up like ME……biggie-size! The museum also awarded prizes that day to children who could find characters from my stories, hidden throughout the museum.

Find the armadillo at Ocean Star Museum

MBC’s favorite thing about this adventure is the boy she named Ben (her father and nephew’s name, as well as the name of our illustrator!) In the story, Ben is one of the school children visiting the Ocean Star.  He sees me several times, despite my best efforts to stay hidden, but no one believes him. Finally, at the end of the story, he’s proven right.

The book is dedicated to MBC’s three grandchildren, Revol, Patrick and Ana. She hopes that all schoolchildren can take advantage of the educational programs offered at the Ocean Star and visit this amazing museum.

So, if you’re headed to the Galveston beach this spring or summer, read about my adventure at the Ocean Star, then plan to have one of your own!

Keep reading and writing,

Bluebonnet Armadillo

Bluebonnet at the Ocean Star Museum

Bluebonnet at the Ocean Star Museum


Illustrator Benjamin Vincent and Author MBC


Bluebonnet at the Alamo

MBC and Bluebonnet at the Alamo

First edition of Bluebonnet at the Alamo

Texans remember the brave heroes of the Alamo who died on March 6, 1836 with the cry “Remember the Alamo!” The epic story of this great battle, which took place in an old mission in San Antonio, is etched deeply in the hearts of Texans, who honor the sacrifice of the fallen that led to independence….the Republic of Texas.

When MBC is asked which of my adventures is her favorite, she will respond quickly “Bluebonnet at the Alamo!”  In the summer of 1983, the first book in the Bluebonnet Armadillo Adventure Series, “Bluebonnet of the Hill Country, was published, right after the birth of MBC’s second son, Carter.  The day before Carter’s birth, MBC was at the Dallas Public Library, researching Alamo history. As MBC likes to tell it, there were pages and pages in stacks of books that she read through, but it only took one sentence to give her the story idea.

The sentence stated the fact that Jim Bowie’s personal Bowie knife was lost at the battle of the Alamo, and to this day, no one is certain what became of the knife.  MBC seemed to know right away that Great Great Grand Diller had found the knife and hidden it away in his burrow.

Sometimes stories come as gifts; such was the case with this one.  It sort of took over, and in a short time, MBC discovered it had written itself.  She’s especially fond of Digger Diller, whom she based on several “larger than life” Texans she’s known.

The first edition of “Bluebonnet of the Alamo” was published in 1984 by Eakin Press, illustrated by Pat Binder. In 2013, MBC revised the story slightly, and it was illustrated by Benjamin Vincent and published by Pelican Press.  Both books have been sold in the Alamo gift shop.

Both of the Alamo books were dedicated to Mary Kelley, MBC’s maternal grandmother, who was noted for reminding her children to “Remember the Alamo” as they left the house.  That became family code for “Remember who you are. Remember that you are a part of this family, you are loved. Remember that with these gifts come expectation and responsibility.”  Perhaps she didn’t realize what a tradition she would start, how this saying would be passed down across the generations. But it’s become the motto for her family.

So, for all these reasons, the story of my adventures at the Alamo remains MBC’s favorite.

On this 182 anniversary of the battle of the Alamo, we solemnly remember those who perished and their sacrifice for freedom. May this story help us remember who we are. “Remember the Alamo!”

Bluebonnet Armadillo

Bluebonnet at the Alamo

Bluebonnet at the Alamo






Bluebonnet at the Marshall Train Depot

MBC and Bluebonnet at Depot Centennial Celebration, October 20, 2012

MBC and I have been thinking about Marshall, Texas a lot lately.  And we’re still working on telling the “story behind the story” for each of the Bluebonnet books. Last year, we celebrated my 35th birthday, dated from the time the first Bluebonnet Armadillo manuscript was completed.  This year, we are celebrating 35 years since the first Bluebonnet Armadillo book was published.

But back to Marshall, Texas.  MBC and I were actually drafted to write a book about the Marshall Train Depot.  I received a letter dated October 25, 1995 from the Board of Directors, Marshall Depot, Inc. which stated: “We think that it would be very special for you to visit Marshall’s historical Texas and Pacific Depot.”  That

Letter from Marshall Depot Board of Directors

letter prompted several more letters and phone calls and a trip to visit the Depot and Marshall elementary schools. Marshall Mayor Audrey Kariel and Bluebonnet fan Marjorie Perkins provided MBC with Depot history. And we were inspired by stories of Marshall’s school children who saved pennies for the depot renovation.

Benjamin Vincent and MBC toured the Depot and talked about the use of shadow figures to bring history to life.  Finally, the book was ready, just in time for the dedication of the renovated Texas & Pacific Depot and Museum on November 13, 1999. MBC, her husband, Vic, and parents, Ben and Nancy Oliphint, attended the festivities, because Marshall has special significance for their family.  MBC’s mother was part of the Texas & Pacific Railroad family: her father and grandfather worked for T&P, and her mother, Mary Kelly, grew up in Marshall, graduated from Marshall High School and married John Pegues Kelley at the Methodist Church. MBC and I have especially been thinking about Marshall recently since MBC’s uncle, John Pegues Kelley, Jr., was born in Marshall on Valentine’s Day, 1918……one hundred years ago! He went on to have an extraordinary career as a pianist in New York City. (He died in 2004.)

Invitations and Program for Depot Dedication 1999


Mary Kelley and son John Pegues Kelley, Jr. 1918, Marshall, Texas

MBC considered our book about the Marshall Train Depot a tribute to her roots.  She dedicated the book: “To my Texas and Pacific family with Marshall roots: my parents, Ben and Nancy Kelley Oliphint; my uncle, John Pegues Kelley, Jr. (a native of Marshall); my grandparents, John and Mary Kelly Kelley; my great-grandparents Ely Thomas and Avie Kelly; and my great-grandparents Walter and Exa Kelley.”

MBC and I still like to visit Marshall whenever possible; we were at the depot for the Centennial Celebration on October 20, 2012.  We were even in the “Wonderland of Lights” parade one year. MBC often stops by the cemetery where several relatives are buried, including her great-great grandfather who immigrated from Ireland. And she always likes to stop at Neely’s for a Brown Pig.

Perhaps the best compliment about the depot book was received at Neely’s.  MBC, her parents, and cousin, were having lunch at Neely’s when Bill Moyers, who grew up in Marshall, came in. (Neely’s BBQ is reportedly his favorite place to eat in Marshall.)  When MBC met Mr. Moyers, she noted that she was the author of “Bluebonnet at the Marshall Train Depot.” Mr. Moyers replied, “I love that book!  I read it to my grandson all the time!”

MBC is still glowing about that compliment!

So……what family connections do you have to special places that you could write about? MBC and I hope you’ll pursue those stories, and find writing about them just as rewarding as we did.

Keep reading and writing!

Bluebonnet Armadillo