Summer Reading

The “lazy, hazy, crazy” days of summer offer hours of reading time, and MBC and I have recently come across some new children’s books which offer tales both inspiring and entertaining! Since my motto is to “keep reading and writing,” MBC is always thrilled to find friends and acquaintances who have done just that. The three books listed below are sure to pique the imaginations and warm the hearts of our young reader friends.

Ishmael the Snail by Madeleine Chalk introduces us to three friends who are each discovering their unique gifts. Wren learns to fly, and Hal the hare hops away. While the temptation is to compare his talents and gifts with others, Ishmael learns that finding his own gifts “at my own pace” is okay. He’s surprised to find that, with love and encouragement from his mother, Gail, just being himself can be a help to others. The soft, simple illustrations bring a calming beauty to this charming tale of Ishmael the snail.

Always Always Always, written by Audrey Copenhaver Nixon and illustrated by Kelsey Marshalsey, provides reassurance for young children of the unconditional love of parents in every season. The whimsical illustrations depict the parent/child relationship with a bear and cub, and reinforce that, through all kinds of weather, a parent’s love stays the same. Sweet and simple, the poetic verses lovingly reinforce that a parent’s love is present always, always, always.

Carrot Top the Island Cat, written and illustrated by Ann Coffee, (Happy Tales Press, Marble Falls, TX) introduces us to an orange cat, Carrot Top, who lives appropriately on Catalina Island. Life is good on the island for Carrot Top, but when Carrot Top’s cousin Butter, a yellow cat, is adopted and moves away, Carrot Top is lonely. Leaving his comfort zone, Carrot Top embarks on an adventure to a neighboring island, Balboa, in search of Butter. Balboa offers lots of excitement to Carrot Top, especially since he arrives on the Fourth of July. But will he find Cousin Butter? Read and find out! This is a “cativating” tale illustrated with beautiful paintings!

All three of these books are sure to delight young readers this summer and can be ordered from Amazon.

Congratulations to MBC’s friends on these beautiful books that encourage us all to “keep reading and writing!”

Have a dilly of a summer!

Bluebonnet Armadillo

Bluebonnet and her beginnings

Scepter of the Universe

MBC has a new book out, but it’s not about me! The E. Stanley Jones Foundation commissioned her to write his biography for young readers.

Due to an excellent suggestion by MBC’s husband, Vic, the life story of this renowned missionary evangelist of the 20th century is told by an Indian boy named Hira Lal. Dr. Jones’ missionary work took place primarily in India, where he founded Christian ashrams. Ashram, meaning “Apart from hard work,” is an ancient Indian practice of retreat and renewal to focus on religious teachings. The name “Hira Lal” is a Hindu name meaning “diamond.”

MBC read many books about Dr. Jones and his wife, Mabel. Mabel Jones also had a long, fruitful ministry as a missionary. She taught and administered a school for young Indian boys, the first of its kind.

Hira Lal learns from Dr. Jones both the challenges and joys of striving to be a follower of Jesus. MBC based the character of Hira Lal on interviews with persons who knew Dr. Jones when they were children.

“Scepter of the Universe” is available on Amazon or from the E. Stanley Jones Foundation ( Proceeds from the book sales benefit the ESJ Foundation.

And the title? MBC really likes it because she says it sounds like a video game, and hopefully young readers will be drawn to it. Dr. Jones was the author of 28 books, and he once wrote this statement: “A nail-pierced hand holds the scepter of the universe, and my knees bend before him.”

I hope you’ll read this book about the exceptional life and witness of E. Stanley Jones. As always….

Keep reading and writing,
Bluebonnet Armadillo

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

Herb Kelleher and the Armadillo Jet

Letter from Herb Kelleher

Stories about the legendary Herb Kelleher, co-founder and chairman emeritus of Southwest Airlines, abound following his death earlier this month. In tribute after tribute, so many who knew him attest to his fun-loving spirit, his hard work and perseverance, his integrity and character. Here was a man who loved and was greatly loved!

While MBC and I never had the good fortune to meet Mr. Kelleher in person, we did have some correspondence with him when he was CEO of Southwest Airlines. MBC and I flew often on Southwest Airlines as we visited elementary schools across the state of Texas. Flying on the Shamu the Whale jet gave MBC an idea: how about a Bluebonnet Armadillo jet?

She could just envision my long armadillo nose painted on the nose of the plane, my bright blue sunbonnet painted on top, and my armadillo tail on the tail of the plane. So she wrote Mr. Kelleher, sent him one of the books she had written about me and asked him to consider creating a Bluebonnet Armadillo jet.

The letter pictured above has been saved in MBC’s files for many years, for she considers it a treasure. Mr. Kelleher responded with kindness and affirmation, while apologizing that due to costs he could not “oblige a ‘Bluebonnet’ Southwest jet.” But he went on to say he would like to purchase copies of the “Bluebonnet” books for gift-giving.

True to his word, he ordered 100 copies of the “Bluebonnet” titles. This remains the largest book order MBC has ever received!

The warmth of his personality, his ability to be supportive and encouraging, even when turning down a request, these are traits that MBC and I have admired ever since we received his letter in 1993. Herb Kelleher and Southwest Airlines will always have a warm place in our hearts.

MBC and I send our thoughts and prayers to Mr. Kelleher’s family and the employees of Southwest Airlines. And we give thanks for Mr. Kelleher’s well-lived life, that leaves a never-dying legacy of love behind.

As always……..keep reading and writing!

Bluebonnet Armadillo