Catching Fireflies

finding magic along the way

What is a Whangdoodle? And why should you care?

One of my most memorable books from childhood was The Last of the Really Great Whangdoodles (1974)by Julie Edwards. I remember our 3rd grade teacher reading it out loud to us, one chapter at a time. We moved that year, from Minnetonka, Minnesota to Knoxville, Tennessee, and I didn’t get to hear the end of it read aloud. Many years later, when I was in my 20s, I found it at a local bookstore. I was so pleased to see it again that I bought it on the spot and came home and read it cover to cover. I still have it.

A whangdoodle, for those of you who have not experienced this book, is the wisest, kindest and most extraordinary creature who rules over a land of equally interesting creatures who have been forgotten by people. One professor, however, remembers them and has been searching for them his entire career. With the help of three children, he is able to get to Whangdoodleland and they meet all sorts of wonderful creatures – the High Behind Splintercat, ten-legged Sidewinders, furry Flukes, Swamp Gaboons, Tree Squeaks, Gazooks,  and the oily and scheming Prock.

Even now, as I write this I have fond memories of how the Whangdoodle could grow new slippers on his feet, and how the travelers stayed in the yarn nest of the high-behind splinter cat.  🙂

Now, a whangdoodle was not only found in this book. Roald Dahl also wrote of Whangdoodles in his books, The Minpins where we are warned of a forest where whangdoodles live, James and the Giant Peach where a whangdoodle is a centipede and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory where Willy Wonka told of saving the Oompa Loompas from whangdoodles. (For more about the work of Roald Dahl, read here.)

When I grew up, I found out that Julie Edwards, was Julie Andrews of the stage and screen. An award-winning actress, she starred in so many musicals and movies that I love – The Sound of Music, The Princess Diaries, Mary Poppins, and many more.

I watched the Sound of Music so many times growing up that I had it memorized! 🙂 Julie Andrews won a Golden Globe and was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actress for her role in 1966.

Mary Poppins was a favorite book and movie while I was growing up. In 1965, Julie Andrews won an Academy Award and a Golden Globe for her role in it.

She also played Eliza Doolittle in My Fair Lady on stage and was nominated for a Tony Award for Best Actress in a Musical. That is one of my favorite roles! She was also nominated for a Tony Award for her role in the stage version of Camelot, another favorite musical.

It goes without saying that Julie Andrews is a respected and wonderful actress and singer. But I don’t think her children’s books have received the same attention. In addition to The Last of the Really Great Whangdoodles, she also wrote Mandythe story of a ten-year-old who runs away from an orphanage to find a place of her own. Other books by Julie Andrews Edwards are Dragon: Hound of Honor, and Little Bo- The Story of Bonnie BodiceaLittle Bo also has adventures in Italy and France, each with its own book.


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