Read lobster: Local dad and son write a dinner dilemma

Red all over: Windsor Terrace authors Finn and Michael Buckley will read from their picture book “Lenny the Lobster Can’t Stay for Dinner,” at Books Are Magic in Carroll Gardens on April 6.
Photo by Trey Pentecost

Call it a family-style serving of lobster tale.

A Windsor Terrace author teamed up with his preteen son last year to write a pick-your-own-ending picture book about a dapper crustacean who finds himself in hot water. Writer Michael Buckley, who will read from “Lenny the Lobster Can’t Stay for Dinner” at Books Are Magic in Carroll Gardens on April 6, alongside his now 11-year-old co-author Finn, said that the published story came from a game the pair played, in which the elder Buckley would give his son a silly title and ask him to pen an accompanying story.

“When we were doing it, we didn’t think it’d be a book,” said Michael Buckley, who is a bestselling author for his “The Sisters Grimm” and “N.E.R.D.S.” children’s book serials. “I thought it was so cute that I got my phone out and videotaped myself reading it, and a couple days later we had some phone calls from publishers to turn it into the book.”

The story follows the titular lobster, who is delighted to be invited to a fancy dinner party — until he realizes that he is slated to be the main course. Readers can choose whether Lenny lives or dies — but if young carnivores pick the fatal option, the book directs them to go back to a version where Lenny makes a break for it — a change the dad-and-son duo said they made after editors panned the original ending for being too grim.

“The first draft was kind of dark,” Finn said.

“Lenny initially decided that he was going to burn the house down, and then eats the people who invited him to the party,” Michael added. “We had to make it more friendly, so we made it that Lenny has a chance to escape.”

The younger Buckley prefers the new version, he said, and he now refuses to eat lobster, in solidarity with his pincered protagonist.

“I like the ending where he lives — I sort of feel bad for lobsters now that we created an adventure for one,” Finn said.

The youngster wrote all the jokes and made most of the edits, according to his dad, who focused on the structure of the story. Working with Finn helped him see his son in a new light, said the more established writer.

“It was sort of awe-inspiring to watch these ideas come out of his head,” Michael said. “When it was over, it was less like I had written a book with my son, and more like I had written a book with another author.”

The pair are already working on their next book, “My Pet Pickle,” which Finn pitched to their publisher on his own.

“Finn talked himself into a two-book deal — he pitched an idea that I didn’t know much about, and the editor loved it,” said Michael.

Story time with Michael and Finn Buckley at Books Are Magic (225 Smith St. at Butler Street in Carroll Gardens, www.booksaremaic.net). April 6 at 11 a.m. Free.

Reach reporter Julianne McShane at (718) 260–2523 or by e-mail at jmcshane@schnepsmedia.com. Follow her on Twitter @juliannemcshane.
Dapper: Lenny the Lobster puts on his hat and prepares to go to a dinner party, in a scene drawn by Catherine Meurisse, and written by 11-year-old Finn Buckley and his father Michael Buckley.
Catherine Meurisse

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