Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Penny C. Monster, Interview

Tuesdays with Morzant: Getting to Know a Reader

MORZANT: Zulko, humans. I’m here on the beach awaiting Penny’s arrival. She’s agreed to an interview. I’ve known her a long time and I tend to take for granted much of what I know about her. Nonetheless, I’ll endeavor to ask probing questions so you can get to know her as well as I do. From her advocacy for lamprey literacy to her fear of raindrops, she is a fascinating being. There she is now. I’m over here, Penny! By the sand model of the Great Wall of China. The other end! Here!

PENNY: Hi, Morzant. Wow. This is really, really, really big. It must have taken forever to build.

MORZANT: On the contrary. This version came together in a fraction of the time as the first two.

PENNY: You’ve built three of these?

MORZANT: Six, actually. It took me two tries to formulate a building compound with the ideal sand-to-water ratio given the current temperature, level of humidity, and wind direction. The third wall was sound; however, I realized belatedly that a critical miscalculation had resulted in a model that was not to scale. Obviously, I couldn’t allow that version to stand. The fourth wall was flattened by a petulant beachcomber in need of a nap. The young human seemed heartened by his violent rampage, so much so that I found it difficult to resist trying it myself.

PENNY: Meaning what?

MORZANT: I kicked the fifth wall to smithereens. Which brings us to number six. I can hardly wait to see how the seashell reinforcements hold up. What time does the tide come in? Actually, nevermind that. We’re here to talk about you. Let’s start with your origin. Where were you born?

PENNY: In Lake Michigan, but my family moved around a lot when I was growing up. Lake Athabasca, Lake Bled, Loch Lomond, the Fleet Lagoon. It can be hard to make new friends. Maybe that’s why I’ve always liked to read. It’s hard to be lonely when you’re reading.

MORZANT: Aside from your rather long tail, you resemble a plesiosaur. Most Earth scientists believe the plesiosaur became extinct long ago. Do you believe you’re a remnant of that prehistoric creature?

PENNY: Being called a “remnant” isn’t very flattering, Morzant. I'm not a leftover carpet sample. I don’t know if I’m a descendent of those plesio-whosits, but I’m not a one-of-a-kind. There are lots of us out there, whatever we are.

MORZANT: Really? Are you related to the famous Loch Ness Monster?

PENNY: No, but my great uncle Bill went out with her a few times before he met my great aunt Georganna. I’m glad he ended up with Great Aunt Georganna instead. She’s the one who gave me my first book.

MORZANT: What was that book?


MORZANT: Ah. So that’s when it began.

PENNY: When what began?

MORZANT: You’re incomprehensible attraction to the horror genre.

PENNY: THE MONSTER AT THE END OF THIS BOOK isn’t a horror story. It’s an early reader with Grover. He’s a Muppet. And what do you mean “incomprehensible”? Lots of readers love scary books.

MORZANT: I’m quite aware of that bizarre truth regarding Earth readers. I’ve actually devoted much of my study of Earth literature this month to those readers with a predilection for the macabre.

PENNY: And what did you find out?

MORZANT: Nothing. I have found no explanation whatsoever as to why anyone would purposely read a book in order to become frightened. Perhaps you can enlighten me.

PENNY: Being scared is thrilling. Like riding a roller coaster. You’ve ridden a roller coaster before, haven’t you?

MORZANT: And risk retinal detachment and whiplash? I should say not.

PENNY: Forget roller coasters. You’ve read a scary book before, right?

MORZANT: I read THE ENEMY by Charlie Higson. It can’t be considered scary specifically to me, though, since the book’s zombies attack humans rather than visitors from the planet Zeenton.

PENNY: That counts. Did you like it?

MORZANT: I was enthralled when I thought it was a historical account of a plague. I was disappointed to learn that it’s fiction.

PENNY: It wasn’t a relief to find out that there aren’t zombies in real life?

MORZANT: It was to Mortimer. Even so, he insisted on sleeping with the lights on for two weeks.

PENNY: Maybe you should try a good ghost story instead. Zombies aren’t very subtle, you know? What you need is an old-fashioned, creepy ghost story.

MORZANT: Thank you for trying, Penny, but I just don’t believe I’ll ever understand the allure of the horror novel. We should get back to our original topic—you. If you were to write a horror novel, what would it be about?

PENNY: It would have to have ghosts, definitely. Vengeful ghosts on a rainy night, with lots of thunder and lightening. And there would definitely be newts.


PENNY: Newts are terrifying, don’t you think? There would be swarms of newts. Oh! Even better—ghost newts! Vengeful ghost newts.

MORZANT: What enraged these phantom newts?

PENNY: Um. Hmm…I know. Some kid picked them all up and made their tails fall off. And it really ticked them off. So when they come back as ghosts—

MORZANT: How would they become ghosts? Newts don’t die when their tails fall off.

PENNY: Well, then they live out their lives, humiliated because they have no tails. Then when they die, they come back—

MORZANT: But the tails would grow back. Your mishandled newts would experience no humiliation due to tail loss. Come to think of it, I'm not entirely certain newts are autotomic.

PENNY: What?

MORZANT: Autotomy is an amazing feat of nature whereby a being can disengage an appendage when attacked. Lobsters can shuck a claw and some lizards can shuck a tail. As a matter of fact, if you were to shake my hand too vigorously—

PENNY: Okay. How about this? The kid purposely cuts off the newts’ tails.

MORZANT: Compelling. Perhaps he’s a scientist intrigued by the regenerative properties of newts. He dismembers them so he can study them as their limbs grow back. That’s appropriately gruesome for this type of story.

PENNY: Newts can do that?

MORZANT: Certainly.

PENNY: I told you newts are terrifying.

MORZANT: As I tried to say earlier, I myself share that ability—

PENNY: How perfect for a horror novel! Forget the ghost part. The newt swarms just keep coming after you. Even if you chop them up, they can’t be killed.

MORZANT: Zombie newts? I’m not sure that’s scary. Maybe zombie leeches. No, leeches would make better vampires. Would zombie crocodiles constitute a redundancy?

PENNY: Forget newts and zombies. My book would have a haunted ship that sails the ocean, appearing only on nights of a new moon to take on new crew members. So they’d recruit new members by making ghosts out of unsuspecting sailors. Or scuba divers. Or maybe marine biologists.

MORZANT: That’s erie. What then?

PENNY: Then the sea monsters come to save the cruise ship passengers—yeah, it’s a cruise ship being attacked—the sea monsters save the cruise ship passengers from the ghosts on the haunted ship.

MORZANT: Sea monsters have the power to defeat ghosts? How so? Ghosts are immaterial manifestations.

PENNY: I don’t know. They just do. Anyway, it would be plenty spooky. With a happy ending of course.

MORZANT: A happy ending?

PENNY: Sure. I like happy endings. You know, now that you’ve made me think about it, I’d say part of the fun of a scary story is getting goosebumps from being scared, but knowing when you shut the book you’ll be back in your relatively safe world where there are no zombies or ghosts. Only newts and raindrops.

MORZANT: Speaking of which…

PENNY: What? Did you feel a raindrop? Is there a zombie newt? I’ll see you later, Morzant!

MORZANT: Wait! We’ve barely begun. I haven’t had a chance to ask you what your middle initial stands for. Is it Callidora? Clementine? Wait, Penny! Watch your tail! My wall!

Oh, well. Good-bye for now, humans. This concludes a partial interview with Penny Cecilia? Monster. Please come back next week when I'll try to steer the conversation away from the topics of zombies, ghosts, and newts.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010


A Book Review by Violet

I’m Violet and I love Knuffle Bunny.

Knuffle Bunny is a stuffed bunny that belongs to a little girl named Trixie. The book Im reviewing today is the third book about Trixie and Knuffle Bunny. Trixie is a nice girl but she is careless. Shes always losing poor Knuffle Bunny.

Trixie loses Knuffle Bunny in the first book, KNUFFLE BUNNY: A CAUTIONARY TALE (Hyperion, 2004).

Trixie loses Knuffle Bunny in the second book, KNUFFLE BUNNY TOO: A CASE OF MISTAKEN IDENTITY (Hyperion, 2007).

Do you know what Trixie loses in the third book, KNUFFLE BUNNY FREE: AN UNEXPECTED DIVERSION (Balzer & Bray-HarperCollins, 2010)? I will give you a hint: It has floppy ears and is not a wallet.

In the third book Trixie loses Knuffle Bunny! Trixie and her parents and Knuffle Bunny go to Holland to see Trixie’s grandparents. Holland is a long, long, long way away so they have to ride in a plane to get there. During the long, long, long trip Trixie loses Knuffle Bunny but she doesn’t notice Knuffle Bunny is missing until she’s at her grandparents’ house drinking chocolate milk. I don’t know why she notices Knuffle Bunny is missing when she’s drinking chocolate milk. She wasn’t drinking chocolate milk in the other books when she noticed Knuffle Bunny was missing. But chocolate milk isn’t the important part.

The important part is that Trixie is upset because she left Knuffle Bunny on the plane and they can’t go get Knuffle Bunny because the plane has already gone up, up, and away. Trixie misses Knuffle Bunny so much. But then she imagines Knuffle Bunny traveling on the plane to lots of different places and playing with lots of other kids and making those other kids happy. That makes Trixie feel better.

When it’s time to go home Trixie and her parents get on the plane and there’s Knuffle Bunny. That means Knuffle Bunny probably never got off the plane to play with lots of other kids in lots of different places. Knuffle Bunny was probably in the plane reading magazines and eating peanuts the whole time.

Trixie is so happy to have Knuffle Bunny back. But then she gives Knuffle Bunny to a baby in the seat behind her because the baby is crying and Trixie wants to make the baby happy. Trixie may be a careless girl but she is also a nice girl.

The art is really good in these books. Trixie and her parents and Knuffle Bunny and all the other people and animals in the books are drawings. They look like cartoons and I love the expressions they make and the colors of their clothes and the color of the inside of Knuffle Bunny’s ears which is purple. I like that because purple is my favorite color.

The parts of the pictures that aren’t Trixie or her parents or Knuffle Bunny or the other people or animals are photographs.

Since this review is about the third book Ill tell you my favorite pictures in that book. I have two favorite pictures and the first one is when Trixie is on the plane and she is reading. She is reading an Elephant and Piggie book and thats funny because the author of KNUFFLE BUNNY FREE is also the author of the Elephant and Piggie books. And you can see the pages in Trixie’s Elephant and Piggie book and Elephant is saying “No!” and Piggie is saying “Yes.” Elephant and Piggie are funny. I love Elephant and Piggie. But that’s enough about them because this review is about Knuffle Bunny.

My second favorite picture is when Trixie goes to tell her dad that Knuffle Bunny is missing. It’s a funny picture because her dad looks like “Oh, no! Not again!” But it’s also sad because Trixie is upset that Knuffle Bunny is missing. But it’s mostly a funny picture.

And I just remembered I have one more favorite picture. It’s okay to have three favorites because this is the third Knuffle Bunny book. The other picture I like best is when Trixie tries some coffee and she doesn’t like the taste so she makes a funny face.

I may not have a stuffed Knuffle Bunny like Trixie, but I have three Knuffle Bunny books that I will never lose or give away because I'm Violet and I love Knuffle Bunny.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010


Tuesdays with Morzant:
Mortimer Reviews Two Books

MORZANT: Zulko, humans. Many of you have queried about Mortimer. More specifically you wonder how Mortimer and I work together given that Mortimer doesn’t speak Zeentonian or English and I don’t speak his language of squeeps and rut-rut-ruts. When a close relationship develops, such as that between research partners, communication often transcends spoken language. However, there are times when verbal expression is useful, critical even. There are times when one must call for a fire extinguisher, request a delicious pumpernickel smoothie, or, in the case of my study of Earth literature, read a book aloud to a guinea pig who doesn’t speak Zeentonian or English. For those occasions I invented the CPT, the Cavia porcellus translator. How I developed the CPT with the assistance of Oliver and his telepathic abilities is a story for another Tuesday. But this week, you’ll witness the CPT function as Mortimer reviews the comics GUINEA PIG, PET SHOP PRIVATE EYE #1: HAMSTER AND CHEESE and GUINEA PIG, PET SHOP PRIVATE EYE #2: AND THEN THERE WERE GNOMES by Colleen AF Venable, illustrated by Stephanie Yue (Graphic Universe-Lerner, 2010). Whenever you’re ready, Mortimer, please begin your evaluation.

MORTIMER: Right. These are the first two in a series of comics about animals who live in a pet shop. The pet shop owner, Mr. Venezi, doesn’t know much about animals. He has signs on the animals’ cages to tell what kind of animals are inside, but the signs are wrong. The hamsters’ cage is labeled “koalas” and the mouse cage says “walruses.”

MORZANT: Forgive me for interrupting, Mortimer, but I just realized that I have not yet recorded your reaction to these books. If you don’t mind, I’ll do so now. What was your reaction to Mr. Venezi confusing the hamsters with koalas?

MORTIMER: It made me laugh.

MORZANT: I see. Using Levity Assessment Units Given for Humor, how would you rate your level of amusement at Mr. Venezi’s ignorance of common Earth species?

MORTIMER: Seventy-two LAUGHs.

MORZANT: That high? Impressive. Please continue.

MORTIMER: The only animal who has a sign with a correct label is the guinea pig. Her name is Sasspants. One day the “G” falls off the word “PIG” on her sign, so the sign says “GUINEA PI.” That makes Hamisher, a funny hamster, think that Sasspants is a P.I.

MORZANT: For those of you who don’t know, P.I. stands for “private investigator.” That’s a sort of detective. How funny is the hamster at that moment?

MORTIMER: Eighty-one LAUGHs.

MORZANT: And his overall funniness in both books?

MORTIMER: One hundred and twelve LAUGHs.

MORZANT: That’s one of our highest LAUGH ratings to date.

MORTIMER: In the first comic, HAMSTER AND CHEESE, Hamisher wants to hire Sasspants as a private investigator to find out who has been stealing the sandwich that Mr. Venezi brings every day and leaves beside the hamsters’ cage. Mr. Venezi thinks the hamsters have been taking his sandwich and he warns them that if it happens again, he’s going to kick them out of the pet shop. Hamisher wants Sasspants to prove that the hamsters are innocent. Sasspants doesn’t want anything to do with solving the mystery. She just wants to read. She gives in, though, because Hamisher won’t leave her alone. She and Hamisher talk to all the animals in the shop to see if they saw anything suspicious at the time the sandwich was stolen. Hamisher sketches some suspects based on what the goldfish saw. The goldfish register ninety-five LAUGHs.

MORZANT: And how masterfully crafted was the mystery? By the way, we really need to come up with a clever acronym for this measurement.

MORTIMER: It was good. I was fooled by the red herrings.

MORZANT: I don’t believe there are any red herrings in either book. There are goldfish, but I’m quite certain there aren’t any red herrings at all.

MORTIMER: Red herrings aren’t fish. They’re suspects in a mystery story who didn’t commit the crime. Like the parchment with oranges who dance on silly felt boomerangs.

MORZANT: You’ve lost me. But I’m sure our Earth friends know what you’re talking about.

MORTIMER: Using Hamisher’s sketches and her guinea pig genius, Sasspants solves the mystery. She sets a trap for the real sandwich stealer and saves the hamsters. It was a surprise to me that the sandwich stealer turned out to be the rice pudding thrown on hot green pavement.

MORZANT: Oh, dear. I believe the CPT is malfunctioning. Let me make a few adjustments.

MORTIMER: In the second book, paper clip hold the pickles in the library of soap.

MORZANT: Well, that certainly didn’t help. The batteries must be dying.

MORTIMER: Hamisher thinks there’s a ghost in the pet shop, so he convinces Sasspants to unravel squash pajamas coffee cup begonias.

MORZANT: This won’t do. I guess I'll have to finish the review myself. However, I’m uncertain as to whether the recommendation of an alien from Zeenton means much to human readers.

MORTIMER: Polka dot turnips great white shark pogo stick.

MORZANT: There’s no help for it, and so, here I go. Sasspants is called upon once more to solve a mystery in the pet shop. The mice are disappearing and Hamisher is convinced there’s a ghost afoot. The same cast of characters is present: the ever clueless Mr. Venezi, Sasspants with her common sense and keen analytical mind, a bowl of harebrained goldfish, two vain chinchillas, a shifty snake, a parrot, a turtle, and of course Hamisher, the helpful, humorous, endearing, albeit alarmist, hamster. There are also some new characters and variations that contribute to the story's mystery and humor. LAUGHs are based on Earth humor, so I can’t accurately assign a LAUGH rating to AND THEN THERE WERE GNOMES. If only the CPT were functioning properly.

MORTIMER: Glue cavity dandelion ruckus. Queasy! Blue! Carbonated?

MORZANT: In any case, the writer managed to convince me of a particular reason for the disappearance of the mice only to ultimately reveal an altogether different cause. This was one of Mortimer’s so-called red herrings, I suppose. And yet, the mistaken solution was entirely plausible in that all of the clues provided in words and in pictures supported it. I hesitate to describe those clues to you here for fear that doing so would detract from the fun of trying to puzzle out the mystery on your own. For me, even more enjoyable than trying to solve the mystery, was reading the informative afterward. It provides many interesting facts about the animals on which the fictional characters are based. One last point…I would be remiss were I not to mention the books' illustrations. The artist skillfully rendered these delightful characters both expressively and comically. Don’t you agree, Mortimer?

MORTIMER: Centrifuge. Wallpaper yardstick nylon.

MORZANT: Hmm. I’d better check the CPT's calibration. Good-bye for now, humans. I do hope that the CPT's untimely failure won’t deter you from reading the two comics in the GUINEA PIG, PET SHOP PRIVATE EYE series. I didn’t need the CPT to understand how much Mortimer enjoyed them. We're both looking forward to the third book, THE FERRET'S A FOOT, which will be out in January 2011.

Monday, October 11, 2010

INTERRUPTING CHICKEN by David Ezra Stein (Picture Book)

A Book Review by Oliver

(with a little help from Violet)

Hi. I’m Violet. Remember me? I’m going to help Oliver do his first book review since I’ve gotten so good at book reviews and he hasn’t done a book review before. He’s shy. He doesn’t talk much. He’s telepathic so he usually thinks to you instead of talking and it kind of tickles so don’t be surprised when he tells you about the book and your brain tickles. Ready Oliver? Oliver? He’s being shy. It’s okay, Oliver. Tell everybody about INTERRUPTING CHICKEN by David Ezra Stein (Candlewick, 2010).

OLIVER: It’s a picture book about—

VIOLET: Hee, hee. Did you feel that? I told you it tickles! I’m sorry Oliver. Go ahead and tell them about how the little red chicken asks Papa to read her a book at bedtime and how before he does he makes the little red chicken promise not to interrupt.

OLIVER: Okay. The first book Papa reads is Hansel and Gretel. I like that story.

VIOLET: Me, too! And in INTERRUPTING CHICKEN we get to see the little red chicken’s Hansel and Gretel book and the pages that Papa reads from. But Papa doesn’t get to read very much because the little red chicken gets so excited and worried about Hansel and Gretel being at the witch’s yummy house that she yells “Don’t go in! She’s a witch!” and warns Hansel and Gretel not to go into the yummy house because the lady in the yummy house is a witch. So the little red chicken changes the story and Hansel and Gretel are safe and the witch is mad because she won’t get to eat Hansel and Gretel. And Papa is a little frustrated because the little red chicken interrupted while he was reading to her and she promised she wouldn’t interrupt.

OLIVER: Uh-huh. Then Papa tries another book.

VIOLET: That’s my favorite one. It’s Little Red Riding Hood and it’s so funny when the little red chicken interrupts to tell Little Red Riding Hood not to talk to the big bad wolf. Wait. That’s not right. The big bad wolf is in The Three Little Pigs. This is just the regular bad wolf. But anyway the little red chicken retells the story so that Little Red Riding Hood doesn’t talk to the bad wolf and that sure makes the story short because then the bad wolf never goes to Grandma’s house to eat her. The baddies in stories sure get hungry, don’t they?

OLIVER: Uh-huh.

VIOLET: Tell them what happens next, Oliver.

OLIVER: The little red chicken asks Papa to read her another book.

OLIVER: Chicken Little! And just at the part when Chicken Little is about to tell everybody that the sky is falling, the little red chicken says “It was just an acorn.” And that’s the end of that story! There’s a funny picture of Papa who looks so frustrated because the little red chicken has interrupted him again. Isn’t that a funny picture, Oliver?

OLIVER: Uh-huh.

VIOLET: And I like the next picture, too, because the little red chicken is hugging Papa and looking worried because Papa has told her that there isn’t anything else to read to her and the little red chicken needs a bedtime story or she won’t be able to fall asleep. But Papa has a good idea and the good idea is for the little red chicken to tell a story to him. He gets under the covers and waits for the story. Tell everybody what happens when the little red chicken tells Papa a story. It’s really funny, isn’t it?

OLIVER: Yes, it’s so funny. Papa falls asleep and—

VIOLET: —when he falls asleep he starts to snore and the snoring interrupts the little red chicken’s story. Get it? The little red chicken kept interrupting when Papa read her a book and then when the little red chicken is telling Papa a story, he interrupts her. So then the little red chicken gets under the covers and falls asleep, too, and it’s such a funny and good and happy ending. Right, Oliver?

OLIVER: Uh-huh.

VIOLET: You did a good book review. Didn’t I tell you it would be easy?

Thursday, October 7, 2010

THE GHOSTWRITER SECRET by Mac Barnett (Middle Grade)

A Book Review by Bigfoot

Disappointment is a fact of life. Sorry, but there it is. It comes at us from all directions. The teacher assigns math homework over a three-day weekend. A favorite TV show is preempted by a political debate. The best incentive for getting out of bed this morning—a glazed donut—turned out to be stale. And, worse than all those combined, the book sequel you’ve been looking forward to all year is a letdown.

I have a name for that last one. I call it Sequel Anticipation Deflation or SAD*. Here’s how it works:

You read the first book in a series. If you had known how good it was going to be, you might have waited until the rest of the series was published before reading the first book. That way you could read the entire series at once. But you didn’t know. How could you? It’s not every day you happen to pick up one of the best books you’ll ever read. But, too late now. You’re going to have to wait at least a year to read the sequel. And that’s if you’re lucky. It could be even longer. Great. Just great.

It’s a long year waiting for that sequel. True, there are other books. A lot are good, a few are great, but none are quite as satisfying as that book you read by chance, the first in a new series. The next best hope for a repeat of that perfect reading experience is that book’s sequel.

While you’re waiting, an early release of the sequel’s cover taunts you. You curse the author who, during that year, publishes books not related to the series. How dare he write anything else while you’ve been waiting, waiting, waiting!

Finally, it’s here. Book release day. You’ve endured the ultimate test of patience and your reward is at hand. Your expectations are high—they’ve had a year to build—and as you finally hold the sequel in your greedy little hands, you barricade yourself in your room, settle into your bean bag chair, and read. And read. And read…and…are you kidding me? Is this it? A entire year of waiting for this?! It’s nowhere near as good as the first book. Not even close. Is this even written by the same person? Whoever wrote this doesn’t seem to know anything about the first book’s plot or characters. Just like that—whooooosh. All the excitement you carried while waiting for the sequel rushes out of you like air from a balloon.

Sigh. Yes, we’ve all experienced SAD.

And yet, even though I’ve suffered SAD many times, I couldn’t help but be excited, really excited, about the release of the second book in the Brixton Brothers series. If you’ve checked out the MEET THE CRYPTIDS section of this blog, you know THE CASE OF THE CASE OF MISTAKEN IDENTITY by Mac Barnett (Simon & Schuster, 2009), the first Brixton Brothers book, is one of my favorite books. I’ve been looking forward to THE GHOSTWRITER SECRET (2010) from the second I closed the cover on Steve Brixton’s first case.

Turns out I didn’t have to worry about SAD anyway. THE GHOSTWRITER SECRET is just as good as THE CASE OF THE CASE OF MISTAKEN IDENTITY. Like the first book, THE GHOSTWRITER SECRET is funny. It has action. It has danger. It has a mystery with twists and surprises. It has awesome illustrations by Adam Rex. There’s a jewel robbery, fishing net-throwing and gun-toting thugs, arson, and a car chase. Plus, the good guy gets to punch the bad guy in the solar plexus.

If you haven’t read the first Brixton Brothers book, what are you waiting for? You’re in the enviable position of being able to finish the first book and start in on the second book without having to wait a year like I did.

If you have read the first book, you know all about how the main character, Steve Brixton, is obsessed with the Bailey Brothers Mysteries. The Bailey Brothers Mysteries are a series of fifty-eight novels starring Shawn and Kevin Bailey, adventurous brothers with a knack for solving crimes. Those books are Steve’s inspiration to be a detective and THE BAILEY BROTHERS’ DETECTIVE HANDBOOK is his instruction guide. It teaches him everything a detective needs to know, like how to decode the tattoos of villains and escape from kidnappers.

THE GHOSTWRITER SECRET begins with Steve starting his own detective agency. He’s all set with his Brixton Brothers Detective Agency business cards, bedroom-converted-to-crime-lab crime lab, and cocoa powder to dust for fingerprints. Thanks to the article in the newspaper about his first mystery-solving success, he’s getting some clients. He’s thrilled when MacArthur Bart, author of the Bailey Brothers Mysteries, contacts him for help. When Steve goes to meet MacArthur Bart, he discovers his hero has been kidnapped.

Doing his best not to involve the local police, including his mother’s annoying policeman boyfriend, Steve sets out to find MacArthur Bart with assistance from his best friend and very reluctant partner, Dana. All the clues necessary to solve the mystery are revealed to the reader, mixed in with a lot of funny moments and action-filled scenes. If you’re like me, you won’t guess who the true criminal is before Steve does. That’s okay, because it’s still fun to see the clever and surprising way all the clues fit together as Steve explains it all. But who knows? Maybe your detecting skills are better than mine and you’ll have it all figured out. Show off.

Now that I’ve finished THE GHOSTWRITER SECRET, I have begun my long, agonizing wait for the third Brixton Brothers book. Which brings me to this, my plea to Mr. Barnett and his friends and family.

To Mr. Barnett:

Whenever you consider taking a break from writing to go to the movies, floss, weed your garden, or sleep, won’t you please remember the kids anxiously awaiting the next Brixton Brothers book and get back to writing? Think of the children, Mr. Barnett, think of the children. And me, Bigfoot, your biggest-footed fan.

To the friends and family of Mr. Barnett:

Please don’t distract Mr. Barnett with phone calls, visits, or invitations to Thanksgiving dinner. Thank you for your cooperation.

* Variations:

BAD=Book Anticipation Deflation (disappointment with any non-sequel book)

MAD=Movie Anticipation Deflation

DAD=Donut Anticipation Deflation

Saturday, October 2, 2010

HOW ROCKET LEARNED TO READ by Tad Hills and DOG LOVES BOOKS by Louise Yates (Picture Books)

Two Picture Book Reviews by Violet

I’m Violet. I’m a dog and I love to read. Today I’m going to review two picture books. The books are about dogs and both dogs love to read. One book is HOW ROCKET LEARNED TO READ by Tad Hills (Schwartz & Wade-Random House, 2010). The other book is DOG LOVES BOOKS by Louise Yates (Knopf-Random House, 2010).

HOW ROCKET LEARNED TO READ is about a dog named Rocket who learns to read. He doesn’t love to read at the beginning of the book because he doesn’t know how. He just loves to play and nap. Then a bird comes and tells him that she is his teacher and he is her student. He doesn’t want to be her student at first, but then the bird reads him a story that he likes and he finds out that he likes books and he wants to be her student. So Rocket is a student and the bird teacher teaches Rocket the alphabet. All during the fall the bird teaches Rocket the alphabet and reads him stories. But then winter comes and because she is the type of bird who flies south for the winter, she flies south for the winter. I don’t know why some birds fly south for the winter. Probably winter isn’t good feather weather. The poor south-flying birds miss all the fun winter snow. But Rocket doesn’t. He plays in the snow all winter and practices the alphabet by making the ABCs in the snow. He gets to be really good at spelling, too. And then in the spring the bird comes back and they read lots and lots of books together. And you know what? I just thought of something. I bet the bird had to fly south because maybe there’s a dog in Florida who is her student and she flies south to be his teacher during the winter. They don’t have snow to play with in Florida in the winter, so there is plently of time to learn to read.

The other dog who loves to read is called Dog and his book is DOG LOVES BOOKS. I like this dog because he loves to read and his ears are funny. His ears tell how he feels. At the beginning of the book his ears are perky and happy because he is excited and he is excited because he is going to open a bookstore because he loves books. But then his ears get droopy because nobody comes to his store to buy books. A woman comes to buy tea and a man comes to ask for directions. The book doesn’t say where the man is going but it doesn’t matter because that’s not what the book is about. Dog is disappointed that the man doesn’t buy any books and his ears get droopy. Then he remembers he is in a bookstore and finds himself a book to read to cheer himself up and that’s when his ears get happy again. He plays with dinosaurs and kangaroos and space aliens. Only he’s not really playing with dinosaurs and kangaroos and space aliens, he’s just reading about them and that helps his imagination pretend he is playing with dinosaurs and kangaroos and space aliens. And when Dog is done reading, a girl comes in the store and the girl doesn’t want tea or directions, she wants to buy books. Dog is happy because he gets to help her pick out some books and it’s fun when you can help someone find good books. I know that’s true because I’m having fun telling you about these two good books.

I will tell you one more thing about these books. The author of the book about Rocket made the pictures for the book. I love how he made Rocket look soft and fuzzy. I can tell Rocket would be nice to cuddle with during a nap or while reading a book.

The author of the book about Dog also made the pictures for the book. She’s the one who gave Dog his funny, bendy ears and the space alien four arms.

Here is a list of who will like these books:

Dogs who like to read.

Kids who like to read.

Dogs who can’t read yet and know a bird or a kid who will read to them.

Kids who can’t read yet and know a bird or a dog who will read to them.

Dogs and kids who don’t like to read. (When they read these books, they will find out they really do like to read.)


This is the end of my review. Good-bye.