Posts tagged ‘Humerous’


Title: Swindle
Author: Gordon Korman
Narrator: Jonathan Todd Ross
ISBN: 9781436106542
Pages: 252 pages
Discs: 4 CDs, 4.5 hours
Publisher/Date: Scholastic Press, c2008.

“You have been chosen for your special skills to do something that urgently needs to be done. To learn more, come to the Ballroom at 3:30. Don’t miss this. It will be worth your while – $$$” (117)

Sixth-grader Griffin Bing finds an old baseball card in an abandoned home slated for demolition, and sells it to S. Wendell Palamino for $120. Griffin later finds out that the card was worth more, a lot more. Like, possibly a million dollars more. And S. Wendell Palamino is planning on auctioning it off to the highest bidder. Not if Griffin has anything to say about it! Griffin is intent on getting the card back in order to prevent his cash-strapped parents from selling their house. But does the man with a plan have a back-up plan when things go horribly wrong?

Gordon Korman writes a fast-paced heist that asks a major question; is Griffin right? Great for book discussion, Griffin is convinced that he is justified in his attempts to steal the card from S. Wendell for his own personal use because he was lied to about the card’s value. But legally, it is S. Wendell’s now, and Griffin knows it. I’m sure a healthy and probably spirited debate could arise from participants, prompting “What would you do?” Griffin has his reasons for not trusting adults, which make his motivation more palatable to sympathetic readers.

I listened to this audiobook in less than a week, and the pitch perfect pacing wraps you into the story. You get involved, you get outraged, and you get anxious when the heist goes horribly wrong. Listeners know that things are just going too well, and you come to expect that something surprising is going to crop up. Even Griffin himself says at one point “Something unexpected happens in every¬†plan. Now we’ve got that out of the way, and we can work around it.” (151)However the sheer quantity of things that go wrong is astonishing. And while the ending seems to wrap up just a little too neatly for my tastes, it’s a satisfying conclusion. The one thing I would have liked to see is an author’s note, detailing whether or not the card ever existed, and maybe some facts about sports memorabilia.

I’ve included the covers for both the hardcover and paperback editions. I was pleasantly surprised to see Luther (the guard dog) take more of a spotlight in the paperback version.

Alvin Ho: Allergic to Camping, Hiking, and Other Natural Disasters

Alvin Ho Allergic to Camping etc.Title: Alvin Ho: Allergic to Camping, Hiking, and Other Natural Disasters
Author: Lenore Look
Pictures: Leuyen Pham
ISBN: 9780375857058
Pages:170 pages
Publisher/Date: Schwartz and Wade Books, c2009.

In case you missed it, my name is Alvin ho. I was born scared and I am still scared. Things that scare me include: […]
The dark (which mean I have nyctophobia).
The great outdoors. (What’s so great about it?) Lots of things can happen when you’re outdoors:
The end of the world. (1-2)

Alvin Ho is still afraid of… well, everything. He still does not talk at school, climb trees, or sleep with the light off. But when he gets locked in a cardboard box after a magic trick goes horribly wrong, Alvin’s dad decides to take him camping. Just the two of them, alone in the woods, with bears, coyotes, and who knows what else. Needless to say, Alvin is less than thrilled. His older brother Calvin helps him prepare, and so does his Uncle Dennis. But when his little sister Anibelly offers to take his spot, is Alvin saved from the woods?

Fans of the first book need to read Alvin Ho: Allergic to Camping, Hiking, and Other Natural Disasters by Lenore Look. The narration deftly captures the trials of trying to be brave in a world that scares the pants off of you. Alvin Ho continues to get into one scrape after another, with exagerated narration emphasizing the humor found in the smallest things. Like when they take apart the generator to make it work, then put it back together and “when we were done, there were only a handful of tiny thingies that didn’t belong anywhere.” (127) And the step-by-step (by-step-by-step) of instructions on how to put up a tent are definitely told from the kid’s perspective, which I found highly amusing. My mother however, did not find it amusing when I found the need to read it aloud to her, so I think it’s kid-aged version of slapstick comedy. The solution is wonderful, where Alvin relies on a kid just like him to help him save the day, and the triumphant return to civilization is only disturbed by his father’s realization of two things: his kids know how to use his credit card, and he apparently didn’t know what poison ivy looked like.

I Put a Spell on You

I Put A Spell on YouTitle: I Put a Spell on You
Author: Adam Selzer
ISBN: 9780385735049
Pages: 247 pages
Publisher/Date: Delacorte Press, c2008.

Dear Esteemed Members of the School Board:
You stink.
Seriously. You really, really stink.
People should have been fired the morning after the all-school spelling bee. It’s been a whole week now, and NOT ONE PERSON has been fired! No one has even been suspended!(1)

Sixth grader and would-be detective Chrissie Woodward has served as the principal’s student snitch for the entire year. But as the annual school spelling bee approaches, the principal actions are becoming questionable, and everyone is acting weird. Jennifer’s parents are convinced that Marianne Cleaver has the master word list, which will hurt her chances of following in her sister’s footsteps. Mutual, a former homeschooler, has convinced his parents that he has to join public school in order to participate. And Harlan, is anxious to participate, but not to win. And why are two old ladies so interested in the competitors?! Follow along in Adam Selzer’s I Put A Spell On You and see if you can help Chrissie find the answers.

Adam Selzer’s I Put a Spell On You is hillarious, and it has nothing to do with Scrabble, although that’s what’s on the cool cover. Chrissie has some definite attitude, and Selzer conveys it well in his writing. But each of the characters also have their own distinct voice, seperate from one another. And the reasons behind participating are also varried, which is important in my opinion. The little old ladies are a bit of mystery, and although there are more than a few coincidences to wrap it all together, they vary from the realistic to the absurd. The words chosen are a great brain tease, and will probably lead to looking up other absurd words. All in all, an enjoyable read.

Alcatraz Versus the Scrivener’s Bones

Alcatraz Versus the Scrivener's BonesTitle: Alcatraz Versus the Scrivener’s Bones
Author: Brandon Sanderson
ISBN: 9780439925532
Pages: 322 pages
Publisher/Date: Scholastic Press, c2008.

“In the first book in the series, I made some sweeping generalizations about librarians, many of which are not completely true. […]
You may therefore, have assumed that all librarians are evil cultists who want to take over the world, enslave humanity, and sacrifice people on their alters.
This is completely untrue. Not all librarians are evil cultists. Some librarians are instead vengeful undead who want to suck your soul.
I’m glad we cleared that up.” (44-45)

Alcatraz Smedry is searching for his grandfather, who has gone in search of Alcatraz’s father, who has gone in search of… well, no one is quite sure. In any case, Alcatraz’s search leads him and his companions to the famed Library of Alexandria, which has not been destroyed as the librarians would lead the public to believe. Once inside, Alcatraz learns that you can only gain access to the information if you give up your soul, which Alcatraz would really prefer to keep to himself. (He’s selfish like that.) In Alcatraz Versus the Scrivener’s Bones Brandon Sanderson’s exciting sequel, what real chance does Alcatraz have when fighting against an unstopable librarian with only glasses and a cousin who can make themself ugly? More than you might imagine (he is a Smedry after all), but he could really use the bazooka bunny mentioned in Chapter 11. That would really help him out.

While not as riotously funny as the first one, this book delivers plenty of fast paced action to fans of Alcatraz’s hillarious hijinks. There’s wit and sarcasm and clever asides to the readers that some will find fraustrating and others will find fantastic. The clever enginuity of the characters, not just Alcatraz, will have readers racing for more. Australia is just one of the new additions to this colorful cast of characters that I want to see more of in the coming books. Sanderson keeps your attention not just with references to the past edition, but to future books as well, which will drive fans (like myself) nuts as we wait for the third book to arrive October 2009.

I’m going to end with another rememberable quote, as only Alcatraz can describe life:

I fumbled for a response, my mind fuzzy. (Girls, you might have noticed, can do things like this to guys. It’s a result of their powerful pheromones. They evolved that way, gaining the ability to make us men fuzzy-headed, so that it would be easier for them to hit us on the heads with hardback fantasy novels and steal our cheese sticks.)

A Crooked Kind of Perfect

Crooked Kind of PerfectTitle: A Crooked Kind of Perfect
Author: Linda Urban
Narrator: Tai Alexandra Ricci
ISBN: 9780739359617
Discs: 3 CDs, 3 hours 17 minutes
Pages: 211 pages
Publisher/Date: Random House/Listening Library, c2007.

“I was supposed to play the piano.
The piano is a beautiful instrument.
People wera ball gowns and tuxedos to hear the piano. With the piano, you could play Carnegie Hall. You could wear a tiara. You could come out on stage wearing gloves up to your elbows. […]
I play the organ.
A wood-grained, vinyl-seated, wheeze-bag organ.
The Perfectone D-60. (1-3)

In A Crooked Kind of Perfect by Linda Urban, Zoey Elias dreams of playing Carnegie Hall one day like her all time favorite pianist Vladimir Horowitz. But when she asks her dad for lessons, he signs her up for lessons with Lester Rennet, music teacher and motivational speaker who teaches on paper keyboards. When she finally convinces her dad that she needs a real piano, he goes out and buys an organ. This is the same dad who bought 432 rolls of toliet paper at one time and has earned dozens of “degrees” from online universities because he’s afraid of leaving the house. While this is going on, her workaholic mother is gone a lot, so classmate Wheeler Diggs follows Zoey home from school and eats her mom’s dinner. And her best friend has decided that Zoey is no longer her best friend. How is Zoey ever going to be ready for the Performa-Rama with all this going on?

This summary, even to me, sounds like a hodge podge of characters that shouldn’t fit. But first time author Linda Urban makes it work beautifully. Zoey’s dad, while strange, seems like a frustratingly cool father to have, with her mother being the realistic one of the group. The book was recognized by the Michigan Library Association and won the Mitten Award in 2008, although I missed her when she spoke at their Spring Institute this past April. It apparently also won a Cybil award. Tai Alexandra Ricci narrates beautifully, elliciting inflection that is unique, even when she is saying the same sentence or word several times in a row.

“Hear that? Do that part again.”
I do it again.
I do it again.
I do it again.
I do it again.
“Once more.”
I do it again. (81)

There’s a dry wit that Urban conveys extremely well, especially regarding the exasperation at practicing songs you don’t like on an instrument that you hate. Wheeler Diggs is probably the least quirky of all the characters, and seems to ground the story, even though it isn’t about him. But even he has a few surprises that readers don’t expect, and they work, especially him baking cakes with Zoey’s father. Although I’m torn whether Zoey and Wheeler should end up dating (if there ever was a sequel), it’s definitely a sweet friendship for both of them. We’re rooting for everyone at the end. The story rings true, even though we can’t picture anyone we know with enough toliet paper to last for years.

Another one that I have to add to my list of favorites for this year, and that I’ll be raving about to readers.

The Name of This Book is Secret

Name of This Book is SecretTitle: The Name of This Book is Secret
Author: Pseudonymous Bosch
Narrator: David Pittu
ISBN: 0545053412
Discs: 5 CDs / 6 hours 22 minutes
Pages: 360 pages
Publisher/Date: Scholastic Audiobooks, c2007.

“Well, it wouldn’t be the best way to get help, would it?” asked Max-Ernest, a little more slowly than usual. “I mean , he could have just called someone–like the police. Or the fire department. But I guess maybe if he didn’t want everyone to know. Like if it was only for a certain person –”
“Whoever it was for, we’re the ones who read it,” Cass pointed out. “That means we have to help him.”
“But he’s dead!” (46-47)

Cassandra’s uncles, who run an antiques store, receive a package from an real estate agent who is handling the death of a reclusive magician. This package, inscribed as the Symphony of Smells, is filled with vials that smell like peanut butter, licorice, or other things. But there’s also a call for help, which Cass feels obligated to answer. Max-Ernest, a boy who talks too much, becomes an undesired collaborator. But when Cass encounters Dr. L and Ms. Mauvais, and a classmate with unusual abilities goes missing, Cass smells disaster. Unfortunately, Cass thinks disaster is everywhere, and no one believes her, so she’s forced to set off on her own.

If you liked Lemony Snicket series, you’ll like this new series by Pseudonymous Bosch, which starts with The Name of This Book is Secret. It’s narrated in the same dry, sarcastic nature, with the doom and gloom laid out so heavy that it’s hilarious. Max-Ernest reminds me of an annoying cousin or younger sibling, who you’re forced to put up with even though you’d rather not have to work with them. Cass’s ingenuity and view of the world is refreshing. The cliff hanger teaser of an ending guarantees that children will be clamoring for the sequel, If You’re Reading This, It’s Too Late. It’s already out.

Legend of Spud Murphy

Legend of Spud MurphyTitle: Legend of Spud Murphy
Author: Eoin Colfer
ISBN: 0786855010
Pages: 95 pages
Publisher/Date: Hyperion Books for Children, c2004.

“Don’t make us join the library,” Marty begged. “It’s too dangerous.”
“Dangerous? How could a library be dangerous?” Dad asked.
“It’s no the library,” Marty whispered. “It’s the librarian.”
“Mrs. Murphy?” said Mom. “She’s a lovely old lady.”…
“She has a spud gun under her desk,” added Marty. “A gas-powered one that takes an entire potato in the barrel. She shoots kids with it if they make a noise in the library. That’s why we call her Spud Murphy.” (8-12)

Will and Marty Woodman are the oldest of five brothers. When their parents get tired of the yelling and the war paint, they send Marty and Will to the library for a more educational use of their time. While there, they get banished to the children’s carpet, where one step off sends Mrs. Murphy to their side. Eventually they start to enjoy the books that they find, but what happens when they’ve read all the books in the children’s section? How will they pass the six hours every week, without facing the wrath of the spud gun?

It’s an amusing short story and a very fast read. I wish there was a little more to the story itself, especially considering the depth and drama contained in the Artemis Fowl series. The characters are predictable to me at least, with the “and they all lived happily ever after” ending. Mrs. Murphy’s handling of the two kids however is wonderfully funny. When Marty mixes up the books, Mrs. Murphy tells him “You get these in order by the time your mother comes to pick you up, and maybe I won’t have to tell her how you set off the fire alarms. … I know you didn’t, and I’m sure your mother will believe that. Unless, of course, you’ve been in trouble before.” (42) This is definitely what we see happening at my library, with parents dropping their kids off and kids thinking we are out to get them. Definitely relatable characters for the younger set, but the teens from Artemis Fowl following will be disappointed.


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