Saturday, December 22, 2012

Putting the Silly Back in Middle-Grade (and Christmas)

My favourite author and writing inspiration is none other than the great Roald Dahl. I grew up on his outrageous and hilarious stories (my two most cherished were Witches and The BFG, but he also wrote such classics as Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and James and the Giant Peach).

When I say, they don't write 'em like Dahl anymore, I'm not exaggerating. Very few children's authors have been able to re-capture his storytelling prowess, with all the weirdness, silliness, and at times, darkness that comes along with those stories. It's my career goal to achieve even a fraction of what he was able to achieve, but that's not what this post is about.

This post is a call to you middle-grade writers to try and at least infuse a little silliness back into your own writing. Don't be afraid to go the route of nonsense even. Take a lesson from Dahl. Giant peaches and industrious foxes are fair game. Turn your kids into rats! Drown them in chocolate! Let loose with your imagination to unleash all sorts of cruel mayhem on the brats of your stories. That's why we do what we do, isn't it?

Well, here's my contribution, for now. Given that it's Christmas time, what better way to celebrate the holiday season than bringing out the silliness of it? After all, Christmas isn't Christmas without  a little fear, shock, and grotesquery, am I right?

The Biggest Gift in the Universe
By Ryan Greenspan

‘Twas Christmas Eve and the Greens were in a panic;
Their daughter, you see, had become quite manic.
Loud as she was round, the brat had whined for weeks;
“Bigger!” she screamed, ‘til she was red in the cheeks.

Each year her parents had it increasingly rough;
Whatever they bought her was never enough.
Yes, shopping for her was a great deal of trouble,
‘Cause the size of her gifts always had to double.

Now, I’m not talking quantity; there was plenty;
The spoiled little terror got at least twenty.
No, it was the big gift that was always too small;
No matter its size, the sight of it made her bawl.

The Greens tried their best to please the rotten child;
The last thing they wanted was to get her riled.
They once bought her a horse, but that sent her squealing,
So they got her a dollhouse that reached the ceiling!

When that wasn’t good, her poor folks wringed their hands,
And bought her three new cars, all the biggest brands!
But that didn’t make it right since she couldn’t drive,
So they cloned a dinosaur and wrapped it alive!

“Bigger!” she squawked, crumpling up all that paper.
With nowhere to turn, they bought her a skyscraper!
“Not good!” she barked, “I want something bigger still!”
So what did her folks do? They bought her Brazil!

The Moon was too small, as was the planet Mars.
You know what else she turned down? Two neighboring stars!
The Greens were at wit’s end; this year, they were strapped.
They even thought of ways to have her kidnapped.

“Aha!” exclaimed Mr. Green, late that Christmas Eve.
He knew the biggest gift she could possibly receive!
Using all his resources he bribed Santa Claus,
Who brought something that defied all physical laws.

When Christmas Day came, the Greens held each other tight,
Hoping beyond hope that they finally got one right.
Their daughter came down the stairs, eyes ready to judge,
Her arms locked cross her chest, not hinting any budge.

She kicked the other dozen gifts aside like trash.
“I want my BIG one!” she ordered, rudely and brash.
So, the Greens led her outside into the driveway,
Where their gift made for a fantastical display.

It towered over them all, as big as big can be;
Wrapped in golden paper, it was a sight to see.
It swirled round and round and hovered in the air;
There was nothing in the universe quite so rare.

“What is it?” said their daughter, looking confused.
“Open it, dear,” said Mr. Green, rather amused.
Their daughter tore through the paper with little control,
And underneath it was a supermassive black hole!

The force of it gave her little time to react;
She was spaghettified almost instantly, in fact.
No more complaining, no more whining, what bliss!
Her parents smiled as she fell into the abyss.

But the girl didn’t perish; at least, not yet.
She found herself in a den, still as a statuette.
Above her was a tree, all decorated in light;
Other children were bound beside her, nice and tight.

Suddenly, down the stairs came the sound of stamping feet;
There appeared the strangest family one dared to meet.
You see, they weren’t human, though they had arms and eyes;
No, they were gift-wrapped boxes of various size.

The parents stood with proud smiles on their striped fronts,
While the kids gleefully rushed the tree on their gift hunts.
“I want my BIG one!” said one, grabbing a hand of hair.
And with that, it ripped the girl open in one foul tear.



  1. Wonderful post, Mr. Greenspan. ;)

  2. You're SO good, Ryan. Loved this. And really, you bring something *special* to the writing world that I haven't seen anyone else bring. I love your work. And I'm excited to see where you go. You have that quirkiness and "it" factor that's so necessary. :-)

  3. Challenge accepted :)