Book Spotlight: TOTO’S TALE by K.D. Hays & Meg Weidman
Title: Toto’s Tale
Author: K.D. Hays & Meg Weidman
Publisher: Zumaya Thresholds
Publication Date: August 25, 2010
Paperback: 248 pages
Genre: Children’s Middle Grade Fiction
Toto the terrier and his pet girl Dorothy have their world turned upside down by a cyclone that rips their house from ground and spins it into the land of Oz. In this strange place, cats grow way bigger than they should and they speak the same language as Dorothy. So now Dorothy spends her time talking to a giant cat, a walking scarecrow, and a hollow man made of metal.
The five of them follow a brick road to see the Great Lizard who is supposed to give them something. Although Toto is hoping for a pork chop, he will settle for a trip back to Kansas. But when they reach the Great Lizard (who turns out to be a big human head), instead of helping them, he sends them out to kill a witch.
Toto enables them to survive attacks by killer bees and mad wolves, but the annoying monkeys with wings prove too much even for him, and the monkeys are able to carry him and Dorothy to the witch’s castle.
Once there, he realizes the witch is after the shoes that Dorothy picked up when they first landed in Oz. He also realizes that the witch can be destroyed with water. It becomes a race to see if the witch can trick Dorothy into giving up the shoes before Toto figures out how to melt her.
But even if he destroys the witch, they still have to figure out how to get home…
I’d smelled fear on the humans all morning, and the
stink was really getting on my nerves. I mean, we all
knew a windstorm was coming, and it was going to be
rough; but the humans didn’t have anything to worry
about. They’d just go down into The Hole and wait till
it was all over.
It was the chickens who should have been worried.
Their house was so flimsy it was likely to take off
and fly away in the next windstorm. But chickens are
too stupid to think about these things, so they weren’t
worried yet. Meanwhile, Auntem gave off enough
worry scent to cover every living thing in the entire
state of Kansas, and as I said, the smell was pretty
So, yeah, I knew I wasn’t supposed to chase the
chickens, but I couldn’t help myself. When those lamebrained
layers started bragging about which one of
them could fly fastest, I decided to let them prove it.
I took off after Eggy, baring my teeth like I was
going to rip all the feathers out of her tail. It felt
really good to run. It also felt good to get some revenge
on the chickens. Ever since yesterday, when the
nasty old neighbor tried to stab me with a pitchfork
just for digging a little hole in her garden, everyone
here had teased me for running home with my tail
between my legs. They would have done the same
thing—it was a big sharp pitchfork, and the neighbor
is as mean as a wet cat.
The chickens, in particular, had acted like I was
the only one who had ever shown fear in the history of
forever. Now I decided I’d put a little fear in the
chickens so they could demonstrate why their name
means being a coward.
“Squahhhhh!” Eggy yelled as she ran across the
farmyard with me right on her tail. “That giant rodent
is going to eat me!” Her big fat feathered body
bounced ridiculously from side to side as she dashed
around on long spindly legs.
“I thought you could fly,” I barked. “And you know
I’m not a rodent.” I chased her into a corner between
the water trough and the barn.
“I can’t fly in this wind, you fool,” she squawked.
“Excuses, excuses.” I got ready to pounce on her,
but she turned fast and hopped out of the way. Then
she ran straight for the henhouse.
“Oh, no, you don’t,” I muttered as I shot after her.
She would have to pay for that rodent remark.
The other animals always make rude comments
about my size, but I think they’re just jealous because
I get to sleep in the house with the people. I’m small,
yeah, but I’m a lot bigger than a rat. And I have a
much nicer tail.
“He’s coming this—squaaah!—way,” one of the
other chickens shrieked.
They had been pecking in the yard, trying to eat
up all the loose bits of corn before they were blown
away by the storm coming across the plains. Now, instead
of eating, they scrambled frantically to get away
from me, squawking and flapping and looking about
as ruffled as they could possibly get. I loved it. I ran in
circles, snapping occasionally to keep them moving.
Then I saw one obnoxious old hen who had pecked
at Dorothy’s ankle last week. I really did want to bite
her. So, I opened my mouth extra-wide and headed
straight for her big fat chicken butt.
I had to stop when I heard that voice. It was Dorothy,
my pet girl.
“Stop something chickens, Toto,” she said.
With her flat face and small mouth, she can’t
really talk properly, but I still love her. Auntem and
Unclehenry, the other people, are always making her
work when what she really wants to do is roam the
fields with me, chasing grasshoppers and digging for
shiny beetles. She needs me to protect her from work.
If you do too much work, you end up dull and sad like
Auntem, or pinched and mean like the mean neighbor
with the pitchfork.
I want to protect my girl and keep her just the
way she is. I love everything about my Dorothy, from
the smell of her shoes to her sloppy habit of throwing
things everywhere. She throws a stick or ball, and I
have to go pick it up for her. Then, instead of putting
it away, she just throws it someplace else, and I have
to pick it up again. It makes no sense at all, and
sometimes I get tired of cleaning up after her. Still, I
love her, and I’ll do anything she asks.
When I know what she’s asking, that is. I have to
pay attention really hard to understand human
speech, and usually, I don’t bother
Right now, though, even if she didn’t use many
real words, I could pretty much tell what she wanted
me to do just from the tone of her voice and the way
she looked at me, as if she wanted to tie me up like a
shock of wheat and throw me into the barn loft. She
was annoyed, and I could smell a little anger on her,
too. But underneath it all, there seemed to be more
fear than anything else.
Fear of the storm, probably.
With one last look at the fat old hen, I turned and
trotted over to Dorothy. I wagged my tail and hoped
she would pet me for a minute and that I could help
her forget her fears about the increasing wind and the
dark clouds growing like mountains in the sky. Maybe
she would also forget I’d been trying to scare the
chickens and that I’d chewed on one of her shoes this
morning before breakfast. She would forget it all, and
It didn’t happen.
She looked at me for a bit, like maybe she was
going to pet me, but when she bent down, it was just
so she could tuck a loose flap of leather back into her
shoe. That piece of leather is always coming loose and
tripping her, so she really should let me chew it off for
her, but whenever I try, someone always stops me.
“Dorothy!” Auntem barked as she stepped out of
the back door of the house, “Something up something
She can’t talk any better than Dorothy. They
practice a lot—it seems like they’re always barking
about something—but their language is so different
it’s difficult to translate into real words.
Anyway, I guess Auntem had just told Dorothy to
round up the hens, because that’s what she did. She
ran around waving her arms, herding them all into
the henhouse. I could have helped, but somehow I
didn’t think she wanted me to run around after them
So, instead, I trotted over to the barn to watch
Unclehenry bring the cows and the horses inside. He
was having a hard time holding the door open because
the wind blew it closed. He kept turning to look over
his shoulder, as if there were a monster behind him.
But it was just dark clouds and grass bent low under
the weight of the coming storm. The wind moaned
almost like a voice as it gusted along the eaves of the
That sound made me shiver, and I had to admit I
couldn’t wait until it was time to go into The Hole.
The Hole is, well, a hole—dug out under the
house—and since the house is very small, The Hole is
even smaller. It’s not much bigger than the ones I dig
out in the yard to bury my pork chop bones. But it’s
deep and smells of worms and roots, a rich aroma that
reminds me of underwear. It’s a damp, comforting
place much more interesting than the hard dry
ground above. So, I never mind the wind and storms,
because I know they mean a visit to The Hole.
With a loud thud, Unclehenry slammed the barn
door shut and started toward the house with a lantern
and pail of water. Maybe it was time already! I hurried
to get Dorothy so we could go down into The Hole
I couldn’t find her. The henhouse was closed up
tight and sounded and smelled full of hens. I could tell
Dorothy wasn’t in there. She couldn’t have gone into
the barn, or I would have seen her. So, she must be in
the people house. I pushed through the hole in the
screen door, ran inside and headed straight for the
door in the kitchen floor, expecting to see she was on
her way down into The Hole.
Can you tell us how long you’ve been writing and how your journey led to writing your latest book, Toto’s Tale?
Kate: I started writing fiction seriously in 1999 when Meg was a little over a year old. I finally had an idea for a book I thought I could finish! The first draft took about two years, written mostly at night when Meg and her brother were asleep. As the kids got older, it became easier to find time to write for a while, but now everyone’s schedules are so busy that it’s just as difficult to make time for writing as it was when they were small. I’ve written five historical novels and two contemporary mysteries – the historicals under my name, Kate Dolan, and the contemporaries under the pseudonym K.D. Hays. Toto’s Tale is my eighth book and my first children’s book. It’s also my first book with a partner.
Meg: It’s my first book, period.
About the Authors
K.D. Hays and Meg Weidman are a mother-daughter team who aspire to be professional roller coaster riders and who can tell you exactly what not to put in your pockets when you ride El Toro at Six Flags. Meg is studying art in a middle school magnet program. For fun, she jumps on a precision jump rope team and reads anything not associated with school work. K.D. Hays, who writes historical fiction under the name Kate Dolan, has been writing professionally since 1992. She holds a law degree from the University of Richmond and consequently hopes that her children will pursue studies in more prestigious fields such as plumbing or waste management. They live in a suburb of Baltimore where the weather is ideally suited for the four major seasons: riding roller coasters in the spring and fall, waterslides in the summer and snow tubes in the winter. Although Meg resents the fact that her mother has dragged her to every historical site within a 200-mile radius, she will consent to dress in colonial garb and participate in living history demonstrations if she is allowed to be a laundry thief.
Their latest collaboration is a wonderful book titled Toto’s Tale.
You can visit their website at www.totostale.com.