7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #243:
Featuring Stephanie Brockway and Ralph Masiello

h1 October 30th, 2011 by jules

(Click to enlarge)

I think I’ve had a copy of Stephanie Brockway’s and Ralph Masiello’s The Mystic Phyles: Beasts (Charlesbridge, July 2011) for nearly four months now, but sometimes I’m just slow here at 7-Imp. Better late than never, right?

Also, better to post this around Halloween anyway. Mystical beasts. Mystery letters. Goblin spiders. Black cats of doom. Really evil bunyips. Strange fires in a creepy house. Cryptic necklaces that strengthen one against attacks. Weird things all-around. Yep, it’s fitting.

This is the story of Abigail Thaddeus, who lives with her eccentric grandmother and very controlling grandfather. Abigail can count her friends on one hand—okay, one finger—and her social life at her junior high school is really difficult, to say the least. But, after a black cat delivers her a note and a key, her life changes forever, launching her on a quest for … well, research. “What I’d like you to do is research,” an anonymous letter (“Your Devoted Friend,” it is signed) says. “You will start with mythical beasts….Find as much information as you can. Educate yourself. Investigate the mysteries, then discern for yourself the fact and fiction.”

The book is designed to look like a sort of scrapbook or journal of Abigail’s: Filled with drawings, journal entries, notes, confessions, details of her days at school and home, and her research, it is composed of original illustrations from Stephanie and Ralph, as well as re-printed photographs and illustrations (i.e., the 1936 photo in Popular Science of the bull made to look like a unicorn by Dr. W. F. Dove at the University of Maine). Young Abigail notes her research findings (pictured above is part of her research on Sea Monsters, including what you don’t see in that spread, “Species of Sea Monsters”), most followed by “My Incredibly Brilliant (But Not Very Scientific) Ideas” about what each creature could actually be: Sea Monsters, as reported by sailors over the years, could in fact have been giant squids, finally discovered in the mid-1850s. Or, my favorite, Bigfoot could in fact be a “worldwide hallucination…One person sees what they think is Bigfoot and runs home to the tell the story. The story spreads. Then other people claim to see it, either because they’re dying to see it, too, or they’re afraid of it, or it’s the first thing that pops into their heads when they spy something strange. Could this really happen on a worldwide scale?”

Dragons, the phoenix, unicorns, centaurs, mermaids, and more: Abigail researches them and reports what she’s learned (cryptozoology, anyone?), and all the while we’re privy to what is happening in her family and at school, as the mystery of why she’s been asked to do this and who her family really might be is revealed. At school, she’s dealing with bullies, mean girls (“the Britneys”), and a crush on Deke, the most artistic boy in school. The tide turns toward the book’s close, things leaning toward wrapping up tidily for Abigail (at least socially), but there is also room for a second title, not to mention many mysteries unsolved. The second title is supposed to be about fairies, a book I hope sees publication. “Is there more to the faerie realm than stereotypical little creatures with wings?” Abigail wants to find out.

Booklist has called this one “lighthearted and suspenseful.” True. It’s also straight-up fun for your older elementary or middle-grade students who enjoy research, particularly those with inquisitive minds and those who enjoy journaling. The illustrations from Bestiary Masielus, which Abigail finds in her library (the purpose of the key from that black cat, we come to find out), were rendered by Masiello in oils, and Brockway handled all the other illustrations in mixed media. These are very busy (every inch gets covered) and engaging spreads, made—as I said—to look like the journal of a young girl with a bright mind.

Here’s to book two, all about the faerie creatures of the world, both good and bad. (Cue music of doom here, as Brockway writes at the very close.) And here are some more spreads from it. You may click each to enlarge. Enjoy.

THE MYSTIC PHYLES: BEASTS. Copyright © 2011 by Stephanie Brockway. Illustration © 2011 by Ralph Masiello and Stephanie Brockway. Published by Charlesbridge, Watertown, MA. Images reproduced with permission of the author.

Note for any new readers: 7-Imp’s 7 Kicks is a weekly meeting ground for taking some time to reflect on Seven(ish) Exceptionally Fabulous, Beautiful, Interesting, Hilarious, or Otherwise Positive Noteworthy Things from the past week, whether book-related or not, that happened to you.

* * * Jules’ Kicks * * *

1) Move over, Lilly. My seven-year-old has some pretty savage new boots, thanks to her grandfather, cowboy at heart.

2) Just in time for Halloween, check out this creepy goodness from Barnes & Noble and The New York Review Children’s Collection: It’s Neil Gaiman narrating The 13 Clocks by James Thurber (well, it’s just an excerpt) — animated by Nola Pictures. Not for the easily-spooked. It’s here.

3) Autumn: Pumpkin farms. Tire swings. Hay rides. Hot chocolate. Corn mazes. Light jackets. Red leaves.

There. That was seven kicks embedded into one. Sub-kicks.

4) I got to see my aunt and uncle from Maine this week, and I lurv them. And my aunt gave me a piece of art she created that is so entirely lovely.

5) Kitty, Daisy & Lewis (with a tip of the hat to Sam Phillips for the introduction):

6) Oh, and The Black Keys’ new song, “Lonely Boy.” I have a dance crush on this guy, whose moves are oddly compelling:

7) I finally watched Trainspotting. Only years 15 years after it first came out. Also, like dude up there dancing, oddly compelling.

* * * * * * *

What are YOUR kicks this week? And what are you gonna be for Halloween? Would you like to see my seven-year-old’s costume? Meet Violet Baudelaire. Here she is telling us that, since her brain is so often filled with images of pulleys, levers, and gears, she never wants to be distracted by something as trivial as her hair:

16 comments to “7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #243:
Featuring Stephanie Brockway and Ralph Masiello”

  1. I can already tell that the Beasts book is going to be popular with my students.
    I must say that Violet is looking spectacular. Happy Halloween!

  2. Ooh, what a cool looking book! Love the cowboy boots (I have a pair of Ariats, but they aren’t a tenth as cool)! 🙂

  3. My 11 year old son has read this book 4 time, and still peeks inside the pages now and then. We loaned our book to friends with 10 and 15 year olds. They liked it so much they bought their own copy! I really liked the cure for deafness, although I haven’t tried it out.

  4. Ooh, love the art in this book and the story.
    Jules, your daughter so lucky to get those boots and her costume is adorable.
    My kicks:
    1. Candy corn (was my mother’s favorite).
    2. Fall leaves.
    3. Foggy mornings.
    4. Ratatouille-eggplant parmigiana.
    5. Fifth graders.
    6. Frosty mornings
    7. Red cabbage and apples. Made for book club last week.

  5. Thanks for the review, Jules!

    Kicks for this week:
    1. Sleeping in a replica of Lincoln’s bed
    2. Toll House cookies
    3. Mystic Phyles review on 7-Imp!
    4. October snow storms…
    5. …accompanied by Christmas music
    6. High school senior falling in love with Tufts University
    7. High school senior finishing college application (BIG KICK!)

  6. Nice boots! :o)


    1. Family.

    2. Bubbles.

    3. Still sitting at the kiddie table during family birthday parties.

    4. Cute kids.

    5. Cute teens.

    6. Friends. Friendship. Couple rings. . . for friends! Hahaha!

    7. Good students.

  7. P.S. Have a Happy Halloween everyone!!! :o)

  8. Margie, same to you!

    Nina, I didn’t know till yesterday that Ariats were considered such great boots. I guess I should get a new pair myself. OH MY, look at the black ones with blue roses on this page: http://www.ariat.com/. Drool.

    Marjie, yes, I remember reading about the cure for deafness, though I’ve already forgotten. Must look up again.

    Jone, Ratatouille-eggplant parmigiana? Mmm. Do tell more.

    Stephanie, was kick #1 for research? Good luck to your high schooler. That’s exciting.

    Tarie, kick #3 is most definitely an underrated thing in life. Happy Halloween to you, too!

  9. Happy Halloweekend to all of the Imps! Have a safe and happy Halloween.

    Hello to Stephanie and Ralph. Thanks for sharing your spooky story + cool illustrations with us! I especially like the manatee (or is it a seal?) in the swimsuit. Three cheers for the inclusion of black cats! I cheer on any and all cats. 🙂

    Jules: Glad that you got to visit with your relatives. Thumbs-up for your not-so-shy Violet. I desperately want the dress the actress wore in the film.

    Hi to Margie, Nina, and Marjie!

    Jone: What a tasty list of kicks!

    Stephanie: Woo hoo to the accomplishments of your college-bound kid! I have a close friend who attended Tufts and loved it.

    Tarie: The power of friendship is a lovely thing.

    My kicks for the past week, in random order:
    1) Working on a film yesterday. I had an absolute blast on set!
    2) When the going gets tough, the tough get going.
    3) Congratulations to a close friend who was recently married!
    4) Tough again. Go again.
    5) Preparing costumes
    6) Cheese
    7) Overcoming obstacles. By climbing them. Yup.

    Off to a musical rehearsal shortly –

  10. Jules,

    Bad things turn into good kicks for me today.

    Bad news: We had a snowstorm here in Massachusetts. Some areas were hit harder than others. My daughter and son-in-law lost their electrical power last night. They may not get power back for a couple of days.

    Good kick: My daughter, son-in-law, and beautiful granddaughter arrived at our house this morning. They will probably be here for a couple of days. I LOVE having them here!

  11. Ohh… this book looks pretty cool!

    And Elaine- we just got back from my in-laws because we had lost our power (we’re in northern NJ). It sure was a good side effect of being without power 🙂

    So kicks..

    1. Our power is back on!
    2. I was at Bookfest in the city yesterday… Leonard Marcus, Jules Feiffer, Norton Juster and on and on and on. So great! Post will be forthcoming 🙂
    3. Katherine’s first field trip
    4. Doing Kicks which makes me look back in my calendar to remember the fun from the week
    5. A warmer forecast on the way
    6. A super lovely and loveable puppy
    7. Fun Halloween costumes

  12. Stacey,

    We went on vacation to Maine in late August with my daughter, son-in-law, and granddaughter–just before hurricane Irene hit. We lost power up there for almost two days and still managed to have a great time.

    Happy Halloween!

  13. Little Willow, I’ll take some pepper jack please. So glad for kick #1.

    Elaine, wonderful news! Enjoy the company.

    Stacey, hubba whoa to kick #2.

    Happy Halloween to all … My comment here makes the 13th one. Mwahahahahahahaha.

  14. Hi! I found your blog on the Mystic Files facebook page. I LOVED the Mystic Phyles! Thanks for the peek at book 2! My sister and I are dressing up like steampunk kids for Halloween 🙂

  15. DUDE, those boots are amazing.

  16. Erik, good plan (for costumes). Hope it went well.

    Adrienne: Right? Right!

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