Posts Tagged fiction

Interview with Julie Dawn Cole, Veruca Salt from Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory!

Hello Mixed-Up Filers!

We are in for an enormous treat today!

Whenever I interview anyone, I usually ask them what their favorite childhood movie was. Among the top answers I always receive is Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory. It’s among my favorites as well, and that is why this is definitely among the most excited I’ve ever been to conduct an interview. Please help me welcome one of the stars of that film, Julie Dawn Cole, who played one of the most memorable child characters ever, Veruca Salt!

                                                                                                                                     Julie Dawn Cole

JR: Hi Julie, and thanks for joining us today!

To start with, after you agreed to do the interview, I went back and watched Willy Wonka again, and it brought me right back to my childhood. It’s a movie that I watched as a kid, and loved when I got to see it again through that lens when I watched it with my children. The film has such a timeless feel. How often do you go back and rewatch it and can you distance yourself from the film and just enjoy it, or is it a more analytical and emotional experience?

JDC: I confess that I don’t go back and watch it as a whole, but if friends are around and it is on, then I might dip in. Though when I do watch it, it is like watching a scrap book for me, I remember what happened just before we did that etc etc, I remember the stuff surrounding it.

JR: I’m sure in many ways it’s like a home movie. At what point did you realize that the movie would have such tremendous staying power?

JDC: Not until the 80’s probably when it was shown on TV regularly and then gained its cult following. When It was released, it didn’t do well at the box office and came and went. In fact for many years, I hardly mentioned it, and I think for a while I left it off my resume, as it wasn’t relevant, and was a ‘kids movie’ and not a very popular one.

 

JR: That’s still amazing to me how it only got popular years after its release. You are my daughter’s favorite in the movie. Even though you played the perfect bratty child, you’ve picked up a big cult following, including a rock band named Veruca Salt. That’s a testament to your performance. What do you think it is about that character, which even though she was soooo bratty, kids still loved her?

JDC: I guess secretly we all have an inner dark self that we might like to let loose! Veruca does and says what we might secretly think but would never dare do, or be allowed to do.

                                                                                                                        Julie as Veruca Salt and now

JR: Have you had any interaction with the band?

JDC: Sadly no, though I think we connected via twitter.

                                                                                                                                  The band, Veruca Salt

JR: Other than Peter Ostrum, who played Charlie, you were the only kid to have a song, which was a memorable one. That must’ve been a feather in your cap.

JDC: It still annoys Paris, (Mike Teevee) he was desperate to have a song, and used to walk around singing ‘where is love’ hoping they might relent and write him one!

                                                                                                                     Paris Themmen as Mike TeeVee

JR: That’s very funny. Willy Wonka was your first film. What was that like for a kid to go in filming with some established actors and big names like Gene Wilder, Jack Albertson, and Roy Kinnear?

I was in awe of the woman who played my mother, Pat Coombs, and she doesn’t even get a credit! But don’t forget I was 12, and didn’t know who Gene and Jack were. I had seen Roy Kinnear on British TV, but as a kid I think you just accept things.

                                                                                                                Julie with Roy Kinnear and Pat Coombs

JR: That innocence was probably a good thing! What are your memories of Gene Wilder?

Gene was very sweet and kind, especially when he found out that I was the only kid who didn’t have a relative with them on location. 3 months in Germany away from home. I think he felt for me with that, and went out of his way to make a fuss of me. Plus probably the British accent helped!

                                                                                                                     Gene Wilder as Willy Wonka

JR: The accent certainly works on my daughter, she’s obsessed with all things British! I just read and loved your memoir, I Want it Now, which was so much fun. You included so many personal items like pictures and letters that you wrote from the time, that I felt like I was a part of the experience. There are tons of great stories that fans of yours and fans of the movie will find amazing and they’ll love being able to reminisce with you. I highly recommend everyone to go and purchase it from your website, https://www.juliedawncole.co.uk/ where they can get a signed and personalized copy, but are there some fun anecdotes from the making of Willy Wonka that you can share with us here?

JDC: I think most of them are covered in the book, apart from the fact that we used to play with an Ouija board in our hotel room. ( I didn’t include that bit,)  let’s face it we were often bored and there was no cable TV.

JR: Actually, the Ouija Board sounds like an interesting evening. I was saddened to read about Denise Nickerson’s unfortunate passing. Did you have contact with her before then?

JDC: I saw Denise regularly, and we were in contact just 2 weeks before she had her stroke. Paris was staying with me on vacation and Rusty Goffe (who played one of the Oompa Loompas), had joined us for lunch, so we gave her a call. Denise and I always called each other Sis. I was incredibly sad, when she died. She had a terrible year following her stroke and never recovered. Paris and I visited her in September just after her stroke. She had recovered well, but her speech was slow, and she struggled, So we sang Willy Wonka songs, and she seemed really happy. It was one of the saddest days I have known. That was the last time I saw her, waving goodbye from her balcony window.

                                                                                                                                    Denise Nickerson

JR: I’m glad you had that time together. You’ve gotten together with the cast many times for reunions. Do you all still keep in touch?

JDC: Yes all still in touch, last time was when I saw Paris and Pete for the launch of a pinball machine! We had a lot of fun.

                                                                                                                               Peter Ostrum

JR: Okay, I have to ask, the Oompa Loompas seemed to be working day and night at the whim of Wonka, shouldn’t they have unionized?

JDC: Of course they should!!!! Wonka was exploiting them.

                                                                                                                                     Oompa Loompas

JR: Speaking of Oompa Loompas, what was your first impression at seeing the chocolate room?

JDC: It was beautiful, and such fun to run round. I used to take my lunch to the riverbank and have my own little picnic.

                                                                                                                          Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Room

JR: I don’t blame you. That set looked magnificent. And I read that you actually hated chocolate? My daughters are the same, and I question their bloodlines because of that, but how was it for someone who hated chocolate to be surrounded by it?

JDC: There wasn’t as much chocolate as most people think there was. I guess the most was in the salts salted peanut factory when they were shelling wrappers, but most of those were dummies.

 

JR: You have had such a lengthy and fantastic career. Out of your post-Wonka roles, which are some of your favorites and why?

JDC: Couldn’t really say, but I have certainly had fun, and got to travel lots. I worked out once that work had taken me to 40 countries!

JR: That’s amazing! You really have been fortunate to get to see so many different places and cultures. Can you share any fun anecdotes regarding some of your other roles?

JDC: I was working on a movie called ‘Camille’ with an amazing cast, including the gorgeous Colin Firth. I shared a trailer with Billie Whitelaw, and we were on location near Versaille. Relaxing after lunch there was a little knock on the door. It was Sir John Gielguid. He asked if he could join us, as he was lonely on his own! What an amazing afternoon. Another time I had to meet Katherine Hepburn, and read a script with her. (I didn’t get the part) she said in that wonderful voice, “Oh you are so much better at this than I am!”. Not true of course, but oh how magical to read with her.

                                                                                                                                   Camille (1984 film)

JR: Do you ever do conventions?

JDC: Yes, we had some planned for the 50th anniversary, but sadly all on hold.

 

JR: That is sad. Would love to get to see you at a convention! How are your interactions with fans?

JDC: Interesting, especially the lady who has a full sized tattoo of me on her back! (Kansas City)

JR: Now THAT’S a fan! On your Facebook page, Julie Dawn Cole – The ORIGINAL Veruca Salt, you recently posted videos of you reading Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, which was such a treat. I read the comments in the videos, and you just saw how much that meant to fans. It really was nice of you to do. Did that give you a new sense of how much of a part you played in the childhoods of so many people?

JDC: That was a fun thing to do, and early lockdown was such a scary time for us all. It was lovely to see all the comments, and I feel I know so many of the fans. It was such a thrill that people enjoyed it. When  we first did it, my kids said ‘ who is going to watch it?’ I” don’t know “I replied, ‘but I know the neighbours’ children will be watching, so that is 3.”I was stunned when we were getting thousands of hits. We are thinking of maybe doing it again for a YouTube channel. Watch this space!

JR: Will the videos be up for a while?

JDC: Hope so!

JR: Since we’re a site dedicated to children’s books, what was your favorite childhood book?

JDC: Pookie! By Ivy Wallace. I read them all as a child and have been collecting them for my Granddaughter. I loved them, they are out of print now, but I managed to find a first edition. Pookie got me through some very difficult times in my childhood.

                                                                                                                                     Pookie by Ivy Wallace

JR: With so many people saying that Wonka was their favorite childhood movie, do you have a favorite childhood movie?

JDC: In search of the Castaways, starring Hayley Mills. My childhood heroine!

                                                                                                                               In Search of the Castaways

JR: I enjoyed that one as well! You currently work in a cancer center as a psychotherapist. What made you decide to transition away from acting to pursue that field?                      

JDC: It was time to do something more meaningful.

JR: That’s very admirable. How can people follow you on social media?

JDC: My Facebook page is the best way, Julie Dawn Cole, the original Veruca Salt.

Twitter – @realverucasalt

JR: Julie, I’d like to once again thank you for joining us. This has been a real treat, and you’re welcome back anytime!

JDC: Thank you!

 

Again, I highly recommend checking out Julie’s memoir, I Want it Now! There were so many great behind-the-scenes stories from Willy Wonka, and Julie included perosnal letters and pictures from the time, which made you feel like you were there. 

Check it out:

Julie’s site, where you have an opportunity to have it personalized: https://www.juliedawncole.co.uk/

IndieBound:

B&N:

Family Book Club: Middle Grade Books That Can Be Enjoyed by ALL

As I write this I am preparing to leave New York where we’ve been for the summer and return to London (where we live during the year) in time to quarantine for 14 days before school starts. I am kind of freaking out about what I am going to do with my kids in quarantine, but probably like most people with children or who are around children, the theme of this summer has certainly been “unstructured time.” My kids are currently 15, almost-12, 9.5, and almost-6. And thinking back to lockdown, one of the things that worked well was spending some time a few days a week listening to an audiobook while we colored or just relaxed. Okay, the 15-year-old did not involve herself in this, but for the rest of us it was nice. And when I would be reading a middle grade book to the 11 and 9 year old before bed, she would often casually come in and listen, or if we were discussing a book she’d read or I’d read to her when she was younger, she would happily weigh in.

How about a Family Book Club, in whatever shape that might look like to you?

So, for other people struggling with how to fill the last weeks of kids’ summers with something other than screens and devices, I thought I’d make a list of middle grade books that family members of different ages and genders would all enjoy reading (or listening to) and could then discuss.

I’m thinking middle grade books that work on a number of different levels—understood even by little ones not quite reading chapter books to themselves, hit the sweet spot of middle grade readers (either to be read out loud to or to read themselves), might interest your teen if they’ll deign to participate (boredom works in interesting ways), and sophisticated and nuanced enough to be truly enjoyed by adult readers too. 

Because of Mr. Terupt by Rob Buyea—this moves quickly because of short chapters narrated by different voices. The classroom dynamics are realistic and I found it wise in a way that I, as an adult, have taken the subtle lessons, for example how to handle a “girl wars” bully. There are now 3 additional sequels.

 

Because of Winn Dixie by Kate DiCamillo—written deceptively simply, this one is funny and moving and heartwarming—an all-round winner for everyone every time I’ve read it. I’d say ANY Kate DiCamillo is a good choice for family book club: as Ann Patchett writes, some people like the magic animals ones (her) and some the realistic childhood ones (me) but they all “crack you open and make you a better person.”

  All of a Kind Family by Sydney Taylor—written in the 1950s about a Jewish family on the Lower East Side in the early 1900s, this one just never, ever, feels dated. We are working our way through the sequels now.

 

 

Fudge books, in particular Superfudge by Judy Blume—laugh-out-loud funny and relatable about 6th grader Peter and the antics of his irrepressible 5-year-old brother Fudge. (My teen daughter’s suggestion was Otherwise Known As Sheila the Great).

 

Fortunately The Milk, by Neil Gaiman—madcap storytelling that’s fun for all ages.

 

Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White—honestly, I hadn’t read this since I was a kid and pretty much remembered nothing from it. Reading it to my almost-6 year old this summer, the writing blew me away as well as the story. Garth Williams’ illustrations are a delight for everyone. A classic for a reason.

 

The Ramona books by Beverly Cleary—again, funny and relatable situations that make moving drama out of everyday circumstances and relationships. These have been a big hit over and over again and provoke great discussions about relationships and difficult situations. My personal favorites are Ramona and Her Mother and Ramona Quimby, Age 8.

 

All of the above are available as audiobooks too. And speaking of audiobooks, a special mention for How to Train Your Dragon by Cressida Cowell narrated by David Tennant because on the SCBWI British Isles Facebook group someone queried if people had recommendations for an audio book for a long car ride with an 8-year-old that everyone else in the car would enjoy, and this was the overwhelming favorite.  

An important note:

When I looked at my list above I realized that it had no real diversity or POC in it. While many of the books we’ve enjoyed as a family do (see below), I couldn’t think of one that worked as well with my criteria of working for young children too—please, if anyone has any suggestions please add them in the comments.

 

Books next on my own family to-read list that I think will work well:

George by Alex Gino

Wonder by R.J. Palacio

The List of Things That Will Not Change by Rebecca Stead

Babysitter’s Club, the original books by Ann Martin—I loved this piece in the New York Times recently about boys reading these and my sons have devoured the graphic versions, not to mention that all of us are LOVING the fabulous Netflix series. Thought this might work well for us in audio. The first 5 are narrated by Elle Fanning.

 

Family Book Club for Middle Grade Readers and Up:

Graphic novels abound with moving stories and are great for reluctant readers or for kids ready for sophisticated themes but aren’t at a reading level for more advanced MG novels. They don’t work as well for the littlest members of the family, but if that’s not your situation, these books sparked lots of conversation and good book discussion in our family recently.

New Kid by Jerry Kraft —code switching and discomfort in either world when middle schooler Jordan changes schools, but instead of art school where he’d wanted to go, his parents send him to a prestigious academic school where he is one of the few kids of color. My kids have each read this several times and have asked a lot of questions sparking great discussion.

 

When Stars Are Scattered by Victoria Jamieson and Omar Mohamed—family love, education, and a Somali refugee’s story as told to graphic novelist Victoria Jamieson. Both my sons devoured this. My 9-year-old described it as about “a boy with a brother who can’t speak. Really sad but really good.”

 

Other MG books on my (older) Family Book Club list:

One Crazy Summer trilogy—The first book, the story of 3 sisters joining their estranged mother in tumultuous 1960s San Francisco, has been a big hit with all my kids over the years and coming late to the party I’ve just discovered that there are two sequels which I can’t wait to try.

The Length of a String by Elissa Brent Weissman—“Imani is adopted, and she’s ready to search for her birth parents. But when she discovers the diary her Jewish great-grandmother wrote chronicling her escape from Holocaust-era Europe, Imani begins to see family in a new way.” I can’t recommend this book highly enough—I think my boys will be ready for it this year and really look forward to reading it with them. I also gave it to my older daughter’s best friend who loved it and I hope my daughter will read it too!

High-Rise Mystery by Sharna Jackson—this just won the prestigious Waterstones Book Prize in the UK and I’m excited to read it with the kids. 

If mysteries are your family’s thing, check out some of these.

 

Turtle Boy by M. Evan Wolkenstein. I just finished this and want to hand a copy to everyone I know. In a portrait of contemporary Jewish life, this book explores self-image, grief and friendship and is a wonderful, wonderful, thoughtfully-written debut.

Middle Grade for All

In truth, minus needing to encompass a little one’s needs, to me the perfect Middle Grade book is written in a way that absolutely resonates on many levels and to many ages. My list includes a lot of obvious ones–classics and award-winners. But there are thankfully untold numbers that are amazing for a Family Book Club. In addition to the ones mentioned above, here are some suggested by friends of mine who said these worked well for different-aged readers in their families:

Where the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin

Book Scavenger by Jennifer Chambliss Bertman (for fans of The Westing Game)

All Four Stars by Tara Dairman

Look Both Ways: A Tale Told in Ten Blocks by Jason Reynolds (have just ordered this for myself)

Born a Crime: Stories From A South African Childhood by Trevor Noah, adapted for young readers edition

And Finally, In Her Own Words:

One of my favorite middle grade readers, who was in a neighborhood mother-daughter book club with her mom, recommends these (and her mom endorses them too 🙂

The Way to Bea by Kat Yeh

Fish in a Tree by Lynda Mullaly Hunt

A Drop of Hope by Keith Calabrese

Al Capone Does My Shirts by Jennifer Choldenko

Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt 

Orphan Island by Laurel Snyder

 

Happy Reading, Everyone!

Let me know how you get on with any of these, and please write more Family Book Club suggestions in the comments. With fears of a second Covid-19 wave and another lockdown looming (and who knows what will be with school), we all might have a LOT of time on our hands. But I can think of worse things than spending it reading and discussing great children’s books. Stay safe and Happy Reading! 

 

All books can be bought on MUF’s Bookshop.org affiliate program or wherever fine books are sold.

Birds of a Feather: 10 Books About Pigeons, Geese, Chickens, and More!

In early April, two weeks after New York went into lockdown, a pigeon landed on my terrace. This is not news. New York is known for its abundance of pigeons, and this was not the first avian interloper to squat on my property. But this particular pigeon, which my daughter lovingly named Pidgy—was not your average bird.

Meet Pidgy

As you can see, Pidgy had one leg protruding from her back. This caused her to topple over in strong winds, and when fighting off the advances of some of the pushier male pigeons. Naturally, my heart ached for her. She seemed so vulnerable, and so alone. So, I did something that no self-respecting New Yorker would ever do. I fed her.

 

Pidgy: Family Member… and Social Media Star

It didn’t take long for Pidgy to make herself at home. I assumed she was only in it for the birdseed, but it soon became apparent that Pidgy wasn’t your typical feathered freeloader. Before long, she was spending her days on our terrace, camped out in the shade of a willow tree or perched precariously on the picnic table. When she wanted to be fed, she cooed. Sometimes, she cooed for no reason. I think it was her way of saying, “Thanks for taking me under your wing!”

 

Truth be told, I was the grateful one. Pidgy was more than a foster bird. She was a bright light in the dark days of quarantine, sitting by my side while I worked on my manuscript, wrote in my journal, or read a book. She sat with my husband, too, and with our daughter and her boyfriend, when they came home from college. Everyone loved Pidgy. My daughter loved her so much, she started an Instagram account for her.

Bye, Bye Birdie

Two months and five bags of Wagner’s Classic Bird Seed later, Pidgy flew the coop. My husband is convinced that she built a nest in Carl Schurz Park and is now sitting on her eggs. I hope he’s right. I would love nothing more than to be reunited with Pidgy someday, and to meet her babies. In the meantime, I will console myself with some wonderful children’s books about birds. Oh, and Pidgy, if you’re reading this…?

This one’s for you.

 

10 Children’s Books About Birds

Coo by Kaela Noel

Ten years ago, an impossible thing happened: a flock of pigeons picked up a human baby who had been abandoned in an empty lot and carried her, bundled in blankets, to their roof. Coo has lived her entire life on the rooftop with the pigeons who saved her. It’s the only home she’s ever known. But then a hungry hawk nearly kills Burr, the pigeon she loves most, and leaves him gravely hurt.

Coo must make a perilous trip to the ground for the first time to find Tully, a retired postal worker who occasionally feeds Coo’s flock, and who can heal injured birds. Tully mends Burr’s broken wing and coaxes Coo from her isolated life. Living with Tully, Coo experiences warmth, safety, and human relationships for the first time. But just as Coo is beginning to blossom, she learns the human world is infinitely more complex―and cruel―than she could have imagined.

Strange Birds: A Field Guide to Ruffling Feathers by Celia C. Pérez

When three very different girls—Ofelia, a budding journalist; Aster, a bookish foodie; and Cat, a rule-following birdwatcher—find a mysterious invitation to a lavish mansion, the promise of adventure and mischief is too intriguing to pass up. But when they meet the kid behind the invite, Lane DiSanti, it isn’t love at first sight. Still, they soon bond over a shared mission to get the Floras, their local Scouts, to ditch an outdated tradition. In their quest for justice, independence, and an unforgettable summer, the girls form their own troop and find something they didn’t know they needed: sisterhood.

Extraordinary Birds by Sandy Stark-McGinnis

Eleven-year-old December knows everything about birds, and everything about getting kicked out of foster homes. All she has of her mom is the bird guide she left behind, and a message: “In flight is where you’ll find me.” December believes she’s truly a bird, just waiting for the day she transforms. The scar on her back is where her wings will sprout; she only needs to find the right tree and practice flying.

When she’s placed with foster mom Eleanor, who runs a taxidermy business and volunteers at a wildlife rescue, December begins to see what home means in a new light. But the story she’s told herself about her past is what’s kept her going this long. How can she learn to let go?

The Someday Birds by Sally J. Pla

Charlie wishes his life could be as predictable and simple as chicken nuggets. Usually, it is. He has his clean room, his carefully organized bird books and art supplies, his favorite foods, and comfortable routines. But life has been unraveling since his war journalist father was injured in Afghanistan. And when Dad gets sent across country for medical treatment, Charlie must reluctantly travel to meet him—along with his boy-crazy sister, unruly twin brothers, and a mysterious new family friend at the wheel.

So, Charlie decides to try and spot all the birds that he and his dad had been hoping to see together in the wild. If he can complete the Someday Birds list for Dad, then maybe things will turn out okay.

Preaching to the Chickens: A Story of Young John Lewis by Jabari Asim, illustrated by E.B. Lewis

John wants to be a preacher when he grows up—a leader whose words stir hearts to change, minds to think, and bodies to take action. But why wait? When John is put in charge of the family farm’s flock of chickens, he discovers that they make a wonderful congregation. So he preaches to his flock, and they listen, content under his watchful care, riveted by the rhythm of his voice.

Celebrating ingenuity and dreaming big, this inspirational story includes an author’s note about the late Georgia congressman John Lewis, who grew up to be a member of the Freedom Riders, chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, and demonstrator on the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama. Congressman Lewis’s book, March: Book Three won the National Book Award, as well as the American Library Association’s Coretta Scott King Author Award, Printz Award, and Sibert Award.

The Goose Girl by Shannon Hale

Anidori-Kiladra Talianna Isilee, Crown Princess of Kildenree, spends the first years of her life listening to her aunt’s stories and learning the language of the birds, especially the swans. As she grows up, Ani develops the skills of animal speech, but she never feels quite comfortable speaking with people. So, when when Ani’s mother sends her away to be married in a foreign land, she finds herself at the mercy of her silver-tongued lady in waiting, who leads a mutiny that leaves her alone, destitute, and fleeing for her life. To survive, Ani takes on work as a royal goose girl, hiding in plain sight while she develops her forbidden talents and works to discover her own true, powerful voice.

The Last Firehawk: The Silver Swamp by Katrina Chapman

Blaze has been captured by giant birds! Tag and Skyla set off through the Cloud Kingdom to find her, using only their magical map as a guide. They must travel through the dangerous Silver Swamp, where threats are lurking around every corner. Will they be able to rescue Blaze? And will these friends get one step closer to discovering Blaze’s family of lost firehawks? A great introduction to fantasy and quest stories for younger readers.

The Capture by Kathryn Lasky

Pushed from his family’s nest by his older brother, barn owl Soren is rescued from certain death on the forest floor by agents from a mysterious school for orphaned owls, St. Aggie’s. With a new friend, clever and scrappy Gylfie, he uncovers a training camp for the leader’s own nefarious goal.

The Boy Who Drew Birds: A Story of John James Audubon by Jacqueline Davis, illustrated by Melissa Sweet

James Audubon was a boy who loved the out-of-doors more than the in. He was a boy who believed in studying birds in nature, not just from books. And, in the fall of 1804, he was a boy determined to learn if the small birds nesting near his Pennsylvania home really would return the following spring. This book reveals how the youthful Audubon pioneered a technique essential to our understanding of birds. Capturing the early passion of America’s greatest painter of birds, this story will leave young readers listening intently for the call of birds large and small near their own homes.

And finally, the most pigeon-y of all bird books…

Moe Willems’s Pigeon series, including the Caldecott Honor book, Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus!

When the Bus Driver takes a break from his route, a very unlikely volunteer springs up to take his place—a pigeon! But you’ve never met a pigeon like this one before. As The Pigeon pleads, wheedles, and begs his way through the book, readers answer back and decide his fate.

For more books about birds, including Carl Hiaasen’s Newbery Honor Book, Hoot, don’t miss this post from the Mixed-Up archives!