In which Annie (high school teacher, mother of two young girls and a younger boy) and her aunt Deborah (children's bookseller, mother of two young women in their 20s) discuss children's books and come up with annotated lists.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Family Literary References

Dear Annie,

We've left the hammocks of Maine and are back in DC, at least for a few days -- until we see you at yet another amazing cousin wedding on Friday. 

While the four of us were together, we realized how many times we use little phrases among ourselves that come from books we read years ago.  I think many families have these mutual reminders of things that resonate in books.  Here are some of ours:

"Wick-ee, wick-ee!"
 Not your usual conversational gambit, but it comes up surprisingly often around here.  It's from a long-out-of-print reader called Webster and Arnold and the Giant Box, by P.K.Roche.  It has to do with resisting an overly-controlling older sibling:
"You will be Rocket Mouse," said Arnold. "And I will be Chief.  Now let's get ready to blast off."
"Okay, said Webster.  What does Rocket Mouse do?"
" Rocket Mouse helps the Chief," said Arnold.  "Sh-h! Here's the countdown."
"But what do I do?" yelled Webster.
"Nothing!" yelled Arnold.  "That's what you do! 10...9..."
"Listen," said Webster.  "What is that funny noise?"
"Sh-h!" said Arnold.  "There is no funny noise.  8...7..."
"The rocket is going wick-ee, wick-ee," said Webster.
"The rocket is not going wick-ee wick-ee, said Arnold.  "6...5..."
"I think the rocket is going to explode," said Webster.
"No," said Arnold.  "It is not going to explode.  4...3... "
Webster listened closely.  "Yes," he said.  "I feel sure it is going to explode.  The wick-ee is getting louder."
"It is not!" yelled Arnold.  "The wick-ee is not getting louder!  2...1... blast --"
"WICK-EE!  WICK-EE!  KA-POW!" yelled Webster.  "The rocket is exploding!"
"That does it!"  shouted Arnold.  "I'll never play with you again!  Never! Never! Never!"   And he stamped out of the box.
They eventually reconcile and keep playing, of course. And we keep using wick-ee wick-ee when we hear something that sounds a little off, or during a countdown, or when Ka-pow on its own just isn't quite enough.

"Carry me, carry me!" (in whiny tone)
From one of our favorite Christmas books (also out of print, alas): Angel Mae, by the excellent Shirley Hughes. Mae is a pre-schooler who lives in a walk-up flat with her very pregnant and frequently tired mum:
"Mae got tired too.  She wished she could be carried like a shopping bag.
'Carry me, carry me,' she moaned, drooping on the banisters at the bottom step.  But Mum couldn't carry Mae and the shopping.  Mae was much too old to be carried anyway."
Even when your children are taller than you are, they can get great satisfaction in expressing fatigue with Mae's eloquent moan.

"Don't call me darling -- I'm a driving instructor."
A great line from Saffy's Angel, and one which we've used more in the post 16 year-old years.  It's said with a British accent.

"Sorr-eee, Harr-eee" (British, accent on second syllable)
This is from the great Jim Dale recordings of the Harry Potter books -- a phrase Hermione uses in sing-song inflection throughout all seven books.  Used when apologies come up.  This one escapes my lips most frequently when I'm in public, leading to the occasional funny look.

Another of the joys of reading a lot with one's children.




  1. I know this post is nearly four years old, but I stumbled on it and couldn't resist commenting. All my kids (all grown now) loved "Webster and Arnold and the Giant Box" (OK, so did I!) but amazingly we never bought it; the library was too convenient. To this day, we still say "Wickee wickee kapow!"

    Well, I'm determined to find a copy now and buy it. (That search is how I came upon your wonderful blog.) Who knows when we'll have grandchildren to read it to? Every generation should be listening for that wickee-wickee!

  2. Hey, Rick -- It's a pleasure to hear from you. Odd you should post right now. Only two days ago I was texting "wickee-wickee" to my 24 year-old daughter as she ran to the bus stop. She caught the bus, texting back, "Blast off!" -- she's the older sibling, after all.

    The book seems still to be on Try

    Good luck!