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Kids Listen Activity Podcast, Episode 19:

Buttons & Figs Presents Gorey Nonsense! with Author Lori Mortensen

In this episode, we hear from Buttons & Figs, a podcast for kids about playing with words.  This episode features an interview with author Lori Mortensen, who just released a picture book biography of Edward Gorey titled, “Nonsense! The Curious Story of Edward Gorey.” You’ll get to hear about Gorey’s life, his style and his love of anagrams! You’ll also get to hear how Lori Mortensen does research for her biographies, along with some great advice for how YOU can write a biography too. Listen here
After you listen, do the anagram activity and, like Lori, you can pick a person you want to learn more about, then research and write their story. Details below.
Anagram Activity

Edward Gorey wrote and illustrated over 100 books of his own, but instead of publishing books with his real name, he often mixed the letters of his name up - E.D.W.A.R.D. G.O.R.E.Y. - to make silly new names like: Garrod Weedy and Ydora Wredge


This type of wordplay, when you take the letters of one word and rearrange them to create a new word, is called an anagram.


Here is a video of Lori Mortensen sharing some of the anagram names Edward Gorey used...


What You’ll Need

  • Scrabble tiles or Scissors

  • Paper

  • Something to write with


Anagram Wordplay

If you have Scrabble tiles, search and find all of the letters of your name, first and last, or, if you don’t have Scrabble tiles, simply write out your name using big block letters, being sure to leave spaces between each letter.  Then, cut out each letter of your name.


Begin moving around the letters of your name to try and form new names.  As Lori suggested in the episode, look for letter blends, like STR, and for familiar beginnings or endings of names.  You can also use prefixes, like Mr, Ms, Dr and if you have letters left over after forming a name you like, add an initial or two, just like Edward Gorey would do (E.G. Deadworry!).  The goal is to form a new name using all of the letters of your name. 


After you come up with an anagram of your name, think about what kind of books THAT person would write!  Oddly enough, once you say your new name aloud you'll just KNOW what kind of books THAT person would write!  Try it, you’ll see!


Try and come up with as many new names and book types as you can. Then introduce yourself to the world by recording your new names and sharing them with the hashtag #kidslistenactivitypod or if you’d like the chance to be on Buttons & Figs, leave a message at 623.282.4080. Be sure to give them unique voices too! 


More play:  Select one of the fake names you came up with and think of an actual book title for one of the books that person would write, then design and draw a cover for that book! 


Biography Activity

Picture book biographer Lori Mortensen has written over 100 books for children, many of which are biographies, or stories about other people. 


Pick a person you admire or look up to (it can be someone in your family too!) and, as Lori Mortensen shares in the episode, begin your biography by first doing research. Set out to find out as much as you can about the person you selected. Dig deep and learn as much as you can about that person.  If you picked someone in your family, schedule a time to do an interview (note: if they aren’t living with you, set up a time online!), ask questions about their lives, listen closely, and take notes.  If the person you selected is famous or from history, you can visit your library’s website to find a biography database, or locate an online museum or other reliable online source to learn more.  As you read, write down the parts of their story you really like learning about and gather the turning points of their life.  Be sure to be on the look out for the thread of their story.  Remember, the more you get into a story, the more interesting it becomes.


Once you gather all of the pieces, write their story and share your biography with your family, teachers and friends.  


The Book from the Episode 

Nonsense! The Curious Story of Edward Gorey {public library} by Lori Mortensen.  Published in 2020 by Versify, an imprint of HMHBooks.

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