Dad's bedtime story becomes children's book

June 15, 2011 4:14:16 PM PDT
Houston-based Joe Sutton, a successful downtown energy executive, is publishing a children's book based on a story he dreamed up for his children and has been stored away in the attic for 35 years. The resourceful father, then a US Army Colonel, realized an effective way to get his message across to his children was to tell the girls stories with carefully disguised lessons. Meet Wanda. She loves chewing gum. She chews gum all day long: while she plays with her dog Moldy and her little brother Rocky, while she's singing, even during school. And that's OK with her mother, as long as it's sugarless gum.

Wanda's parents have one rule about all this gum chewing: every night before she goes to bed, Wanda has to deposit her gum right in the trashcan. But what happens when Wanda's parents go out to dinner and the babysitter doesn't know the rule? Sometimes even the best child tries to push the envelope. And sometimes the consequences are surprising.

When Wanda goes to sleep with gum in her mouth, the Oblahlahs move in. These colorful little creatures throw such a party in her mouth that she can't chew gum any more. In fact, she can't even talk. Her parents can't help, Rocky and Moldy can't help, even the doctor is at a loss. It's all up to her. As Wanda lies in bed trying to rid herself of the pesky Oblahlahs, following the rules starts to seem like a much better idea than it ever has before.

Wanda's misadventures turned story time into a beloved family tradition. The character he dreamed up personified the young girl who did everything she shouldn't, including chewing her gum all day and night. Sutton's tales of encounters with the colorful Oblahlahs always made doing the right thing seem like the best choice for his daughters.

To Megan's delight, three years ago she came across the vintage Wanda stories with their original illustrations by her Aunt Jane, a fine artist. They were in her parents' attic, intact after the family's 23 moves.

With Megan's encouragement, her father has published "Wanda and the Oblahlahs" to bring the age-old story back to life for the next generation, including Joe's five grandchildren.

Author Joe Sutton will be holding free summer public book readings:

  • Monday, July 18, 2:30 P.M. - Clear Lake City-County Freeman Branch Library 16616 Diana Lane Houston 77062
  • Wednesday, July 20, 10:30 A.M. - Discovery Green, 1500 McKinney St. in downtown Houston. Reading and Foam Party!
  • Friday, July 29, 11 A.M. - 1 P.M. - The Woodlands Children's Museum, 4775 W. Panther Creek Drive #280 The Woodlands TX 77381
  • Tuesday, August 9, 11 A.M. - Barbara Bush Branch Library, 6817 Cypresswood Drive in Spring, 77379

To help support children who may not have loving families to share stories with them, Sutton will donate a significant portion of the proceeds of book sales to Children at Risk. The action-focused non-profit organization is dedicated to improving the quality of life of Texas' children through strategic research, community education, collaboration and advocacy.

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