“As a young parent I tried every which way to get my daughters to mind their mom and me. One of the challenges was to get them to toss out their chewing gum at bedtime,” said Sutton, the grandfather of five. “One approach that worked well was to tell the girls stories with carefully disguised lessons.”
Sutton, a successful Houston-based energy executive, says 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. The tales, ranging from encounters with the obstreperous Oblahlahs to the weird green man, always made doing the right thing seem like the best choice.
His eldest daughter, Gretchen (Sutton Setrum), remembers asking her Dad repeatedly to tell her the Wanda story as a child. “What an imagination he had! I did chew gum all of the time
and I believe he came up with the story to deter me from chewing gum at night,” said Gretchen, whose daughter, Mallory, 12, has fond memories of her granddad’s bedtime stories as well.
“My father was blessed with the gift of story telling and as far back as I can remember he always put us to bed with a story or two,” said Megan (Sutton-Reed), now married and the mother of two sons, Brady and newborn Braxton. “I remember asking to hear the ‘Wanda’ story on several of those evenings and when friends would spend the night, they, too, would ask to hear the story,” she reminisced. “I also recall a small tray beside my bed that I would put my gum in before I went to sleep. I didn’t want to get the ‘Oblahlahs!’”
To her delight, three years ago Megan found the vintage Wanda stories with their original illustrations by her Aunt Jane. They were in an old shopping bag in her parents’ attic, in tact after 23 moves. With Megan’s encouragement, her father decided to publish “Wanda and the Oblahlahs” to bring the age-old story back to life for the next generation, including his own grandchildren, Mallory, Delaney, Brady, Jackson and Braxton. The book will appeal to parents and grandparents who will find that Wanda’s antics do more to illustrate the importance of minding than any amount of parental nagging. Most importantly, Wanda reminds readers of the power of shared stories to create strong families.
“To this day, my father is still a gifted story teller. He continues the tradition by telling my five-year-old son, Brady, the ‘Wanda’ story and it is by far one of his all-time favorite stories,” added Megan.
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 the book sales to Children at Risk: Speaking Out and Driving Change for Children. 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.
“Wanda and the Oblahlahs is an instant classic bedtime story that teaches children a simple truth…listen to your parents!,” said Dr. Bob Sanborn, Children at Risk President and CEO. “It is a whimsical tale that will delight children of all ages. Not only that, but it will also benefit the work of CHILDREN AT RISK and all that they do to change the lives of children across Texas. We could not be more proud to partner with Joe Sutton on this exciting endeavor.”
Wanda and the Oblahlahs will be available for purchase this summer at www.brightskypress.com and in fine Houston-area bookstores in September 2011.
Monday, July 18, 2:30 P.M. - Clear Lake City-County
Freeman Branch Library 16616 Diana Lane Houston 77062 (281) 488-1906
Wednesday, July 20, 10:30 A.M. - Discovery Green, 1500 McKinney St. in downtown Houston. Reading and Foam Party! (713) 400-7336
Friday, July 29, 11 A.M. - 1 P.M. - The Woodlands Children’s Museum, 4775 W. Panther Creek Drive #280 The Woodlands TX 77381 (281) 465-0955
Tuesday, August 9, 11 A.M. - Barbara Bush Branch Library, 6817 Cypresswood Drive in Spring, 77379 (281) 376-4610
Thursday, September 22, 10 A.M. - Blue Willow Bookshop, 14532 Memorial Drive, Houston 77079 (281) 497-8675