Deb Aronson | Writing is magic | Books

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Do you like stories about five-limbed flying robots, aliens, wizards, wizard wizards, vomiting, snot, belching, castles, kings, outer space, villains selling ice cream , good guys selling ice cream, inventors, cows, international ice cream quest or ice cream eating contest?

Then “Ice Cream Machine,” a mid-level debut album by accomplished picture book author Adam Rubin, is for you.

Then again, if you don’t like any of these things but are intrigued by the writing, you’d like to talk to someone about writing a story, or if you like to laugh out loud (which I have many times, even though I’m too old for this nonsense…), then this book is also for you.

I think most writers who write humor for young readers are still young readers themselves. Rubin is no exception. But he also takes a minute to speak directly to readers at the beginning, end, and even occasionally in the middle of the story. And by story, I really mean six stories, all with the same title.

Rubin takes one subject, “Ice Cream Machine”, and tells a story with that as the main plot in six different ways. Each has a different setting, characters, and plot, though there are similarities that run through them all, including the new-to-me substitute for a cursed word, “jangus.” I’ll let the reader find the rest of these “wormholes”. I found the research fun and engaging.

But ultimately, “Ice Cream Machine” is Rubin telling his readers about the power of writing.

“As long as you read my words, you are under my spell,” he writes… then challenges the reader to NOT think of a dog eating a diaper. “See? you are in my power.

Ultimately, writing is magic, says Rubin.

In another example, what if you need to keep people away from a bench that has just been painted? You could stand by the bench all day waving your arms around, but if you write two simple words on a piece of paper, “Wet Paint,” you’ve created an “anti-butt spell,” he says. So much simpler and more effective!

Rubin is sneaky; it slips little nuggets of information into stories, making learning fun. Readers learn the difference between running and running; common expressions in Spanish, Italian and Hindi; and there’s even a bit of STEM regarding the process of making ice cream.

Another thing Rubin does that I love is very Dr. Seuss (or even Charles Dickens…). He invents silly names for people and things. For example, the evil ice cream man is called Cromulous Blotch, and the aliens have names like Larf and Fleebar. Another character is called Gorby the Fletch.

In one story, the main character rides in a hot air balloon through the jungle with a group of “bird nerds”. The birds they want to spot have silly names (take it from a casual birdwatcher), like the red-headed tickler, double-crested cowabunga, and woolly-legged warbler.

In another story, ice cream types include super gloopies, glow-in-the-dark mondo chompers, and fudgey plops… not very appetizing, but the characters LOVE them.

So! Go get that book. Check it out at the library, go to a real bookstore or ask your favorite adult to buy it for you, maybe they’ll even like it!

Deb Aronson is an Urbana-based author whose nonfiction book about famed racehorse Rachel Alexandra is “a tale of four-legged girl power.”

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