The Mechanical Mind of John Croggin, by Elinor Teele--blog tour

Welcome to this stop on the blog tour for The Mechanical Mind of John Croggin, by Elinor Teele (Walden Pond Press, April 12, 2016).

This is a great book to offer kids who are fans of quirky characters caught in tensely amusing situations!  John Croggin is basically a slave to his aunt who runs the family coffin making business with an iron hand, and who plans to rope his little sister Page in as well.  His mechanically oriented mind has dreams that reach far beyond coffins.  So one day, when the opportunity comes in the form of a travelling circus, he and Page escape.  The circus offers only a temporary shelter, but a kindly baker offers hope of a more permanent home, until John comes up with a scheme for a chicken-poo powered oven that goes horribly wrong and they must take to the road once more....still hunted by their evil aunt!

Today for my blog tour stop Elinor Teele has provided a Q and A with Maria Persimmons, the kindly baker.  Thanks Elinor!  She's my favorite character.

The owner of the Rise and Shine Bakery, Maria Persimmons is a plump and generous woman who smells – I swear on my honor – exactly like cinnamon. For this interview, I met her after the breakfast rush in her kitchen.

 Q. It’s very good of you to spare me some time.

 A. Come in, come in! Come and be welcome! Oh, did I get flour on your fingers? And your suit? And up your nose? I’m so sorry. I seem to wear gluten like a badge of honor. Here, have a chocolate chip cookie.

Q. Thank you. Holy mother of… these are delicious!

A. Special recipe. A little trick or two that I learned from my Dad.  

Q. Does your father still help with the business?

 A. No, I’m afraid he’s passed away. But he was an engineer by trade, just like my friend John. He loved everything to do with cogs and gears and steam and fire. I still have the boat that he made for my bath. It blows bubbles while it turns dirty scum into building blocks.  

 Q. He sounds like a wonderful man.

A. Oh, he was. Quiet and kind. He was the one who encouraged me to start my own business.

At this juncture, Maria asked if we might continue the interview outside in the chicken coop. She needed to collect eggs from her prize-winning Henrietta hens. 

Q. Did you find baking difficult at the beginning?

A. Of course! Everyone does. Here, would you hold this basket for me? John and Page usually help, but they’re tinkering with a top-secret project. 

Baking is like writing a book – you don’t know what works until you’ve tried it. I spent years experimenting with weird recipes and techniques.

And most of my first creations were terrible. Dense, dull, overworked and underproofed. My attempts at cumin coriander custard went straight into the bin. It took me ten or more years to get a simple brown loaf right. 

Q. But you’re better now?

A. Perhaps, a little. But I’m still mucking up every day.

Please ignore Griselda’s expression. She always looks that way when someone is sticking a hand under her bum.  

Q. You don’t mind mucking up?

A. Oh, I mind! Especially when my customers tell me things taste dreadful. I hate creating work people find disgusting. I wouldn’t be human if I didn’t mind.

Q. Yet you still keep at it.

 A. Because I love it. I love the moment when you open the oven door, and the room fills with memory, and you think to yourself: “today, I might have got it right.” I don’t think I’ll ever be a famous chef, but I hope to be a respectable baker.    

Thanks Elinor!

And thanks Walden for the review copy.  Just as a final note, Walden's prepared an Educational Activity Kit for parents and teachers that looks very helpful and interesting in a science meeting writing way, and which does not offer instructions for how to build your own chicken poo oven!


  1. Cute interview, The Mechanical Mind of John Croggin sounds quite amusing. I still want to know more about that coffin business.

  2. Terrific interview!! Well done you!


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