Books and Recordings

Noodlehead Nightmares

Noodlehead Nightmares
Noodlehead Nightmares "Ready to Go" Author Visit Video

To download an Educator's Guide click here. To read a Conversation with the Creators click here.

Mac and Mac, who love pie and hate making their beds, are hollow-headed. "See in here? Nothing! Zippo! Nada!" Mac explains. That's why they get duped by their friend Meatball and fooled out of their fair shares of apple pie. Slapstick humor, puns and wacky fun abound as the empty-headed duo comes up with outlandish solutions for everyday problems, such as sleeping under their beds to avoid ever having to make them again. Written in a comic-book style, this book will have young readers rolling on the floor, and educators rethinking their approaches to folklore.

"Arnold (the Fly Guy series) teams up with the husband-and-wife storytelling/performing duo of Hamilton and Weiss for a trio of silly, sleep-centric tales drawn from the rich folkloric tradition of the fool (a detailed opening note delineates the themes and motifs that inspired each story). A pair of literal noodle heads, two macaroni-shaped brothers both named Mac, fumble their way through a spooky night sleeping in the backyard, get tricked out of a freshly baked apple pie, and devise a plan to get out of making their beds forever in crisply delineated vignettes. The Noodleheads' goofy schemes and over-the-top reactions to their situations are sure to elicit giggles as the stories unfold in comics-style panels ("I'll eat the pie and you eat the pan," suggests one of the Macs in the second tale). Arnold employs some of his signature visual flourishes to great effect, including bug-eyed characters and an in-your-face palette . . . The punchy storytelling and all-around goofiness will entertain emerging readers and graphic novel fans."

- Publishers Weekly

"Mac and Mac are two noodleheads, literally: they are noodle-shaped boys with nothing inside their heads. As might be expected, the two Macs are not particularly bright, and consequently they get into all types of goofy gaffes. The tubular tots initially decide to sleep outside because they hate making their beds, despite their mother's bribe of a pie. Nighttime sounds scare them so much their legs tangle comically, and ultimately they go back inside. At least now they get pie. However, mischievous Meatball is also out for their confection, and gets it. Finally, one of the Macs loses his pillow and tries to compensate for its loss by bringing all sorts of odd objects, like a wooden chest and some food, into bed with him, with disastrous results. Funny nightmares punctuate each episode. Short chapters with large, brightly hued panels and spacious speech bubbles make this an easy choice for emerging readers. Fans of Arnold's previous work, particularly his Fly Guy series, will recognize his trademark artistic style and gravitate toward this. Opening notes . . . explain the folk origins of each short chapter. Endlessly wacky; fast-moving antics and incessant fretting that would make Chicken Little look mellow give this familiar topic a fresh feel. (Graphic early reader. 5-9)"

- Kirkus Reviews

"Kids moving on from early readers, especially Fly Guy fans, may want to check out Noodlehead Nightmares, Tedd Arnold's new collaboration with Martha Hamilton and Mitch Weiss. In a goofy graphic novel for the chapter book set, Arnold brings his bubbly artwork to a pair of silly brothers with actual macaroni noodles for heads."

- School Library Journal

"Noodlehead Nightmares is a beginning comic about Mac and Mac, two brothers who are literally noodles. Sourced from folklore, the story unfolds in three chapters, each drawn from popular motifs from world cultures across time. Noodleheads is both a goofy romp for young readers and a distinctive book that connects children to a wider culture of storytelling.

In Chapter One, "What a Nightmare!" Mac and Mac opt to sleep outside instead of making their beds, only to get their feet tangled in the dark. Chapter Two, "The Best Dream," sees the noodleheads swindled by their neighbor, Meatball, who cons them out of a pie during a nap. The final chapter, "Bedtime for Noodleheads," sees Mac and Mac deploying some seriously flawed logic to solve their sleep.

Throughout the book, action-oriented images and thoughtfully selected text scaffold readers' confidence. Noodlehead Nightmares' language is primarily simple, straightforward dialogue; when longer words do appear, the text carries readers through on a tide of short, repeated words. Check out this sequence that builds readers up to decipher "untangled," a three-syllable doozy:


When Mac and Mac's legs become tangled, the story uses variation on a theme to empower readers. The authors also introduce words early in the book that anchor later chapters, preparing readers for success with more complex storytelling and wordplay. For instance, in the sequence above, Mac declares, "I have an idea!" In Chapter Two, after mom has baked an apple pie, the noodleheads' friend Meatball turns that phrase into the pun, "I have a pie-sea!," a linguistic leap that could trip up many readers.


In addition to the well-considered text, the book shines with illustrations that balance absurdity with wide-eyed charm. Casting the noodleheads as two children (rather than foolish adults or gullible animals as they can appear in folklore) brings the story closer to home for reluctant young readers and adds gentleness to three old tales that are, after all, jokes at the expense of the main characters. Author and illustrator Tedd Arnold received Geisel honors in 2006 and 2010 for books in the Fly Guy series, and co-authors Martha Hamilton and Mitch Weiss are seasoned oral storytellers. These creators know how to hook an audience with laughs. Physical comedy propels this book's tight, witty plotting, from tangled legs to stolen pies to going to bed wearing hats and mittens.


As a Geisel contender, Noodleheads falters slightly around design; while much of the book uses paneling and speech bubbles that provide just enough white space, some sequences feel overcrowded. Cramped speech bubbles here and there may fatigue new readers, and the final chapter features a dreamscape with a texture similar enough to the waking moments that deciphering the storyline may frustrate readers.

Whether it winds up on the Geisel list or not, Noodlehead Nightmares is a witty, satisfying comic that this librarian will share widely.

- Carrie Wolfson, Children's Librarian, Denver Public Library and member of the 2016 Geisel Committee (Dr. Seuss Award)

"Arnold, Hamilton, and Weiss have crafted a widely entertaining and thoroughly modern rendering of some traditional folklore motifs and figures. The titular Noodleheads, anthropomorphic cartoon sibling noodles Mac and Mac, partake in various adventures, each emerging from their desire not to make their beds. Written in the style of a graphic novel, the book is comprised of three chapters detailing the siblings' ongoing efforts to avoid their nightmares-bed-making. The empty-headed noodles, who have "Nothing! Zippo! Nada!" inside their noodles, play the part of the fool, recalling everything from folklore to Shakespeare. All these elements make for a singularly unique book, perhaps nothing more so than the emphasis on the simple joy of reading. While a reader can certainly ascertain meaning from these stories, the book differentiates itself from many other children's works in its refusal to focus on learning a lesson or an easy moral. The book seems to shout, "Books are fun!" Though geared at intermediate readers, this book will capture the attention of very young children (who may miss some of the themes), with its quirky humor and utter silliness. Older readers will appreciate the wacky plots and the comic-book qualities. Highly recommended." Reviewer: Kellie Deys, PhD; Ages 6 to 10.

- Children's Literature

Fly Guy fans get ready - Noodleheads have arrived! Mac and Mac are noodleheads. Literally. In four short chapters they have some crazy dreams and nightmares and come up with their own solutions for those dreams. First, they sleep outside so they won't have to make their beds - but they have a nightmare and their legs get all tangled up! The next day, they have a contest with their friend Meatball. Whoever has the best dream gets the apple pie! But Meatball has a trick up his sleeve.... Bedtime rolls around again and the Noodleheads have a pillow fight... and lose Mac's pillow! He tries some substitutes, but just gets nightmares. Fortunately, the Noodleheads have a solution for this - and for never having to make their beds again!

Notes at the beginning of the book explain the folklore origins of the tales, which will be of interest to adult readers and teachers. Kids will just have fun laughing at the hilarious antics of the Noodleheads - and maybe get introduced to some fun folktale motifs!

Arnold's trademark bulgy eyes and cartoon characters are a great fit for the foolish stories of the Noodleheads and their nightmares. The art has a scribbly background, which reminds me of Alison Jay's cracked eggshell designs, and gives an interesting texture to the art. The story is arranged in comic panels with bold white dividing lines, large text, and speech bubbles that are easy to follow.

Verdict: Fly Guy fans will be delighted by this new title, hopefully a series, and it makes a great introduction to simpleton/noodle stories. Recommended.

- Jennifer Wharton, Librarian, Jean Little Library Blog