Whales on Stilts by MT Anderson, illustrations by Kurt Cyrus 188pp RL 3
Whales on Stilts by MT Anderson is like Monty Python's Flying Circus in book form and appropriate for children... Amazingly enough, this comes from the author of the National Book Award winning work of very serious, copiously detailed historical fiction for teens, The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation: Volume 1: The Pox Party, and it's sequel, The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation: Volume II: Kingdom on the Waves. Or maybe it's not so amazing. MT Anderson is a diverse writer with an incredible ear and this book BEGS to be read out loud. If you want to have some bedtime laughs with your kids, ages 6 and up, this is the book for you! However, the audio version, read by Marc Cashmam, who at times sounds like David Sedaris, is hilarious also, but then you would miss Kurt Cyrus's wood cut style, pen and ink drawings and extra goodies that add so much to this irresistible book.
Do you know how many laugh-out-loud on almost every page funny chapter books there are for children? Not enough! We owe MT Anderson our gratitude for bringing two more books to the shelves of the children's section that are masters of the ridiculous. And, while I cannot write this review without mentioning another great author of the absurd, Lemony Snicket, aka Daniel Handler, I have to say that where Snicket's books parody gothic dramas, among other things, Anderson's "Thrilling Tales Series" parodies the adventure and mystery genres that were popular in children's literature in the 1940s and 50s. The main character of these Whales on Stilts and The Clue of the Linoleum Lederhosen is Lily Gefelty, a plain unassuming girl with overly long bangs who blows them out of her eyes when she wants to see something. Deciding she wants to know more about what her dad does for a living, she goes with him on Career Day. She is surprised to find that he works in an abandoned warehouse, which she knows is abandoned because a sign on it says, "Abandin Warehouse. Stay Out!!! There are probly scorpions!" She is even more concerned when she meets Larry, her father's boss. Although he is wearing a pinstriped suit when she meets him in the break room, Larry is also wearing a grain sack on his head, over which he pours a vat of green brine during the course of their conversation.
Greatly disturbed, Lily is sure her two best friends can help her. Katie Mulligan lives in Horror Hollow, just off Route 666, and has lots of experience with zombies, werewolves and flesh-eating viruses. She even has her own series of books written about her adventures as well as her own fan club. Katie's way of dealing with a problem is to ignore it until it breaks into her house and tries to kill her. Katie seems to be a little bit Nancy Drew and a lot of RL Stine's Goosebumps rolled into one. Lily's other best friend, Jasper Dash, is definitely more of a Tom Swift knock off, talking and dressing right out of the 1920s. Jasper also has his own series of books written about his adventures with titles like Jasper Dash and His Amazing Electrical Sky Train and Jasper Dash and the Villainous Brain Pirates of Chungo. In addition to being an adventurer, Jasper is an inventor and concocts a crazy Rube Goldberg device that includes the use of a mule and a 250 pound roll of wax that he secretly attaches to the copier machine at Lily's Dad's office as a way making duplicates of the duplicates. The trio's investigations lead them to discover that Larry is really part of a pod of whales who are devising laser-beam eye wear and stilts that will allow them to overtake the earth... Will Lily, Katie and Jasper be able to stop this dastardly plan????
The second book in the series, The Clue of the Linoleum Lederhosen, finds the trio heading to the Moose Tongue Lodge and Resort for some R&R only to be disrupted by a convention of Children's Book Heroes including the Manley Boys, the Hooper Quints, the Cutsey Dell Twins and Eddie Wax who talks incessantly about his horse Stumpy. The third book in this newly named Pals in Peril series is Jasper Dash and the Flame-Pits of Delaware.
Readers who liked this book should try:
The Brixton Brothers and the Case of the Case of the Mistaken Identity by Mac Barnett, which is another great parody of kid's mystery novels.