Have Pen Will TravelTitle: Ellie McDoodle: Have Pen Will Travel
Author: Ruth McNally Barshaw
ISBN: 9781582347455
Pages: 170 pages
Publisher/Date: Bloomsbury U.S.A. Children’s Books, c2007
“So now I’m trapped in a steel projectile, hurtling down the highway into the Great Unknown with a bunch of control freaks and snotty-nosed brats. Eric started a fight with Deanna and Tiffie so Aunt Mug is making me sit next to him. I’d rather ride on the roof rack.” (3)

Eleanor McDougal, otherwise known as Ellie McDoodle, is forced to spend a week with her twin 11 year old cousins, her seven year old cousin, her three year old brother, and her aunt and uncle camping in a cabin while her parents go out of town. Just look at how Ellie depicts her cousin Er-ICK! (as a multi-armed dinosaur), and you can see this is going to be a fun trip. From catching frogs to going on a bear hunt, it’s filled with outdoor adventures as Ellie tries to keep her sanity during this trip. Along the way, all the frogs they caught are released during the night, Eric goes missing, and the whole family finds and reads Ellie’s journal. Ruth McNally Barshaw, who lives in Lansing and sets the story in Michigan, also reveals numerous fun games that any kid can play after reading Ellie McDoodle: Have Pen Will Travel. Everyone who has read it has compared it to Diary of a Wimpy Kid, but no one has told me which one they like better. Read it yourself and make your own comparisions.

My library is reading this as a Book Parade book, a competition for third and fourth graders to see how many books they can read in one month. By far, this one is the most popular. There is a sequel (Ellie McDoodle: New Kid in School) from this first time author who lives in Michigan. The drawings are great, and I loved that she explains the rules of the games she plays, most of them popular games but with a twist. Her reactions and exploits are genuine. I would highly recommend this book for any kid who has to go spend time with the “weird relatives”, because this shows that things aren’t always as bad as they seem.

This book was one of the selections for book parade 2009 at my library. Book Parade is a six week reading incentive program held in conjunction with the area schools. Kids in 4-5th grades read as many books from a pre-selected list as possible and answer questions on the book to judge their reading comprehension.