If there is anything I've learned in 20 years of teaching, it's that children crave structure and clearly defined limits. Although, once adults draw that line in the sand you can bet a little toe - or two - will carefully cross it to test the boundaries while watching with eyes askance.
Children want to know if the adults in their lives mean what they say. The wee ones need to determine for themselves which much is too much or if, as my mother once assured me, "This is the real that's it". These Red Riding Hoods want to know the consequences of veering from the path. And, more importantly, will we still love them when the dust settles?
Naughty Mabel by Nathan Lane and Devlin Elliott is all about testing the waters and walking the line between naughty and nice. The free-spirited protagonist, a dramatic and rascally French bulldog named Mabel, is a lot like a bubbly first grader (except first graders generally don't eat underwear!).
The tension that premise presents is used to hilarious effect in this beautiful children's book.
It was our great joy to welcome Mabel's creator, Tony-nominated Broadway/Off-Broadway and West End producer Devlin Elliott, as our latest Broadway Books First Class visitor.
Devlin's reading was full of charm, humor and patience while capturing every nuance in the text (he wrote it after all) and highlighting Mabel's antics in the wild, energetic illustrations by Dan Krall.
The laughter of children is a beautiful thing to behold and we all got caught up in this adventure. Mabel can give my beloved Curious George a run for his money with her capacity for lovable mischief.
After the reading the children asked Devlin, "What's next for Mabel?". He surprised us with a mock-up draft of the second book in the series, Naughty Mabel Sees It All. Although the book will not be published until October we had a top secret reading.
This book was met with even more laughter and excitement than the first one (if that's possible). There are also fun tidbits for the adults so everyone can enjoy these chestnuts time and again through repeated readings. Devlin told us that there are great things in store for Mabel so keep your eyes peeled (hint: it involves Nickelodeon).
Next, we asked Devlin some questions about his life in the theater. He was an actor at one time but these days is more involved in producing. The role of producer, he shared, allows him to bring stories to people.
We bought some gourmet dog treats for the real Mabel (she would accept nothing less, I'm sure) to say, "Thank You!" before Devlin graciously signed books for the children with the message, "Stay Naughty" (with a happy face).
One-by-one our students proudly took their autographed books to the rug and started reading. We didn't ask them to do this. They just did. As they turned the pages we saw them laughing and pointing together at Mabel getting a bath or passing gas (C'mon, that's funny!).
In the end, they were comforted to know that, naughty or nice, there will always be someone there to love them...
So go ahead, call me Naughty Mabel.
My parents do, but that doesn't mean
they love me any less. And I couldn't
love them any more.
Devlin Elliott surrounded by his "Naughty" fans in First Grade
Broadway Books First Class