The former SNL cast member's book, 'The Millicent Quibb School of Etiquette for Young Ladies of Mad Science,' was inspired by her own childhood.
Kate McKinnon has a new book coming out and it's wonderfully weird.
The comedian, actor, writer, Weird Barbie and Saturday Night Live alum is coming out with her first book: The Millicent Quibb School of Etiquette for Young Ladies of Mad Science, which was inspired in part by her own childhood. It will serve as readers' first introduction to a new series for readers aged 8-12, and will be out on October 1 from Little, Brown Books for Young Readers (LBYR), a division of Hachette Book Group, on October 1.
Meet Gertrude, Eugenia and Dee-Dee Porch, outcasts in the snooty town of Antiquarium. In Antiquarium, all girls go to etiquette school and all dogs must be bichon frisés. The Porch sisters live with their uptight Aunt Desdemona, their materialistic Uncle Ansel and their seven snide cousins, all named Lavinia. After they get expelled from etiquette school for insubordination, the girls find themselves under the tutelage of the infamous Millicent Quibb—a mad scientist with worms in her hair and oysters in her bathtub.
Intrigued yet? Read on for an exclusive excerpt.
“Gertrude, Eugenia, Dee-Dee…how do I say this delicately…? We’re considering giving you away.”
The Parquette family was dining on their daily supper. At one end of the grand dining table sat Aunt Desdemona and Uncle Ansel, calmly slicing away at their rabbit loins. Next to them sat Grantie Lettuce, who was sipping pureed rabbit through a straw. Along the sides of the table sat the seven identical Lavinias, and in their laps sat seven identical bichon frises1, distinguishable only by the color of the bows in their hair.
At the other end of the table sat the Porch Sisters.
“I’m sorry,” said Aunt Desdemona, “but this latest incident is the final nail in the camel’s coffin. We have tried to keep you, out of a sense of duty and piety, but I don’t see how we can continue—now that you are convicted arsonists.”
Gertrude coughed. “Yes, Aunt D, I understand. Accidental arson is arson nevertheless—”
"You three committed the ultimate violence!” Uncle Ansel wept. “You destroyed furniture! How could you be so cruel as to destroy innocent couches?”
Grantie Lettuce’s gray head creaked from side to side. “I smell a Silly Sally.”
Lavinia-Anne smoothed the white silken hair of her panting bichon frise. “I’m afraid of them, Mommy.”
“I know, my darling. Hush now.”
“You’re completely right, Aunt D,” said Gertrude, trying to keep her voice from quivering. “I really bit the big one, but I promise it will never happen again. Next time I swear I’m going to stay on the straight and narrow, behavior-wise! I’ll study, I’ll be polite, I’ll be normal.…”
“There will be no next time!” Uncle Ansel cried through a mouthful of rabbit. “There is no other school in Antiquarium that will have you! You’ve been ejected from all of them! You must go!”
“So…you’re kicking us to the curb?”
“Unfortunately, no…we cannot have you embarrassing us by living on the streets like filthy urchins, so we have found you all a placement at an etiquette school…” Aunt Desdemona said, pausing to dab the corners of her mouth with a napkin,“…in Austria.”
Gertrude panicked and stood from her chair. “But…but…this was all my fault! Don’t punish my sisters—just send me, please! I don’t care what happens to me, I just want Eugie and Dee-Dee to be all right. Don’t punish them for my mess-up!”
Eugenia stood with her sister. “If she goes, we all go. I’m dying to live in Europe anyway! We’ll make cuckoo clocks! We’ll see the Alps!”
"I’ve always wanted to meet an Alp,” said Dee-Dee.
“There will be no cuckoo clocks, nor Alps,” said Aunt Desdemona. “We will instead be sending you to a place called Die Versagenschule, which means ‘The School for Failures.’ It is an institute for girls who cannot be corrected by conventional means. There are a lot of Doberman Pinschers there—but not in a fun way.”
Gertrude pictured herself in a prison yard in Austria being chased by Doberman Pinschers—but not in a fun way.
“We’ve already arranged for your boat ticket,” Aunt Desdemona continued. “You’ll leave in the morning. Go now and pack your backpacks.”
Gertrude’s heart thrummed. All was lost. Her innocent sisters were going to be mauled by Doberman Pinschers, and it was all her fault, and now she had to go pack her backpack, and…wait! Eureka! Of course! Backpack! The mysterious invitations—perhaps they didn’t have to go to Austria after all!
“HALT!” she yelled, darting from the table. She zoomed to her backpack and, thinking fast, pulled out the mysterious invitation, then hurtled back to the table and shoved the invitation in Aunt Desdemona’s face. “Look! We actually already got invited to another etiquette school, right here in town!”
Aunt Desdemona peered at the gold cursive. “The Marjory Questions asterisk School of Etiquette for Young Ladies, asterisk? Is this one new? It sounds fake.”
“Um, well, no, it’s actually extremely real!” Gertrude said, though she wasn’t entirely convinced herself. “It’s…state of the art, it has a giant pool of soup, and if you eat with the wrong spoon they push you in, and you boil…? We were basically invited…um, on scholarship.”
Aunt Desdemona’s ears perked up. “Scholarship, you say?” Aunt Desdemona looked to Grantie Lettuce, who nodded her crusty gray head, then she began again. “I must admit, Gertrude, I am intrigued. The School for Failures is extraordinarily expensive, and we do not want to pay for something that probably won’t work if there is still a free option. So that settles it. You’ll go tomorrow.”
That night, the Porches lay awake in their bedroom, which was behind the main house. Well, behind a pond behind the main house. Well, a pond and a tennis court. Well, a pond and a tennis court and a wood chipper and a compost heap. Yes, behind all those things was the Porches’ bedroom. It was a humble shed made of rotting wood, but the sisters loved it more than anything because it was their own, and because they could pursue their hobbies there without scrutiny. Gertrude ran a school for slugs and a hospital for crickets and a rec center for baby birds out of some of the Lavinias’ used dollhouses. Eugenia kept a collection of gems with which to furnish her future Parisian apartment and a collection of powdered chemicals to mix into explosives. Dee-Dee had rigged the whole room with a machine that could pull back the roof at night so they could see the stars, and on her bedside table sat a piece of banister that she claimed sang her lullabies—who were the others to say any different?
“I wonder if Marjory Questions will have a welding torch,” Dee-Dee mused.
“At an etiquette school? Dream on, Doo-Dee,” Eugenia said, hammering away at a chunk of granite. “We are about to be buried once again by boredom, like our mothers in garlic.”
Dee-Dee gazed wistfully at the stars overhead. “Gertie, tell us about the garlic farm again?”
And Gertrude, the oldest sister, keeper of the earliest memories, recounted her usual details about the garlic farm: how the garlics were plump as pumpkins, how the Pookies always made shrimp scampi, how the Pookies loved them all very much. This was all from imagination, of course—because her real memory about the sterile room of cribs was just not very pleasant, and who doesn’t want to make life better for one’s little sisters?
Later, while Eugenia and Dee-Dee slept, Gertrude lay awake with her favorite pet, a slug named Salvatore, as he made lazy figure eights on her forehead.
“Sal?” she whispered. “Do you think there’s any place for us? Me and Eugie and Dee-Dee? Any place on this earth?”
Gertrude crossed her eyes to check in with Sal, who had stopped on the bridge of her nose to rest—but Sal had no answers. He curled up like a kitten on the pillow next to her and fell into slumber—and in time, so did she.
“You three will have to walk today,” Uncle Ansel said without looking up from his morning paper. “I’m bringing the Lavinias in the car because it’s two whole blocks and their feet hurt.”
And so the Porches set out on foot with their backpacks and their lunch boxes, following the route they’d marked in red on an old map of Antiquarium. Together they walked past the firehouse and the butcher, past the church and the other church, past the town fountain and the town pool. As they trudged along, Eugenia huffed, Dee-Dee hummed and Gertrude made up little songs to pass the time:
The itchiest fabric that there’s ever been.
By the time they reached the cemetery on the outskirts of town, the children were drenched in Taffetteen sweat. They’d never ventured so far from the center of town, and they were surprised by how dingy and dead everything looked.
“Is it too late to go to Austria?” murmured Eugenia.
The Porches trawled up the outside of the cemetery, which was lined with ivy and barbed wire. Across the street was a gated archway draped with thorny brown vines. A painted sign on the gate read:
The sisters looked both ways as they crossed the street, even though the only other living thing for miles was a single thin crow mewling miserably overhead.
“This is not right,” said Eugenia. “If this is an etiquette school, then I am a cheese danish.”
“Interesting. I’ve always thought of you as more of a croissant,” said Dee-Dee.
Gertrude couldn’t help but agree with Eugenia, but her feet seemed to have another opinion entirely. She told them to bolt away, back to the comfort of home, but instead they inched forward, almost oozing, farther and farther down the dark cul-de-sac.
The derelict houses of Mysterium Way were each missing something important—one lacked walls; another, a roof; another was just a mailbox nestled amongst a bushel of reeds.
“I think you’re right, Eugenia,” Gertrude whispered. “This is definitely weird. Maybe we should leave?”
Suddenly, the weather turned, and the children found themselves standing in the middle of a dark May thunderstorm. They squinted as they stared up at the house at the end of the cul-de-sac.
Number 231 was a decrepit mansion five stories high, with a looming tower. Sections of the roof had been burned away. Gray wallpaper rattled in the wind like ashen newsprint in a dying fire. Hot rain pelted the open rooms. Lightning cracked, sizzling a crow as it flew past.
Gertrude stared at the front door, which was covered, inexplicably, in barnacles.
A gust of wind blew a branch of blackened holly away from the mailbox, revealing the sign that hung beneath, a sign made of a curious shimmering brown material, with letters in red:
The Marjory Questions*
School of Etiquette for Young Ladies*
As the girls peered closer, they could see that the sign was actually made of hundreds of moths. Suddenly, with a flutter of the moths’ wings, the colors of the sign rearranged themselves, revealing a new sign altogether:
The Millicent Quibb
School of Etiquette for Young Ladies of Mad Science
“I knew it!” Gertrude cried. She grabbed her sisters and turned to run, but by then it was too late.
For there, standing before them, was a lady…
.…no, a creature…
.….a harbinger of doom…
……a person with very crazy hair…
….…the myth, the legend, the fact…
1 . The bichon frise, an animal that is a dog but looks like a cotton ball with eyes, is the official dog of Antiquarium, and by “official dog” I mean “the only legal dog,” according to the Town Codes of Antiquarium, Section 900.4F.
Used with permission from Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, a division of Hachette Book Group
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