Thursday, July 25, 2013

What the Schnoodlewacket Is a Cupcake?

So many books are about cupcakes these days.  What happened, did everyone decide to write about them at the same time?  I don't even know what they are, and since no one seems to cook around here I can't find out.  They look like fat toadstools with fluffy tops.  I wonder if they come in chicken or beef flavor...

The cat keeps walking across the keyboard.  It's hard enough to type without thumbs, let alone when  an annoying cat is in front of your nose.  This is what he is typing:  &%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%*GGG.  I am grumpy now.

Back to cupcakes.  I found "Just Grace and the Trouble with Cupcakes" under Mom's side of the bed.  It is written by Charise Mericle Harper.  When I nosed through it I noticed pictures of a dog, so I decided to keep  reading.  It is like a diary with pictures.  That makes it a little easier for a dog to read, because the words are further apart and the drawings help me to keep my place when my whiskers get in the way.  Yes, I have whiskers, but they are not like cat whiskers.  They are better.
There's a girl dog in the book who came with the name Mr. Scruffers.  That is silly, but it did remind me of my own situation.  I came with the name Princess.  Mom seems to keep telling people, "I didn't name her".  What, is she embarrassed by my name?  She seems to really love me so I try not to let it bother me.  Oops, back to the book!
Just Grace has two exciting things going on - the Spring Fair and a visit from Grandma.  She can't wait for Grandma to meet Mr. Scruffers!  There is a disastrous picnic which leads somehow to delicious cupcakes.  Then Grace and her best friend have a fight over candy and cupcakes and the Spring Fair.  Owen 1 turns out to not be so bad and the Cupcake Mascot turns out to be someone Grace loves.  That's all I'm going to tell you because if you are a girl, even if your name is Mr. Scruffers, you should read this book.  Especially if you like books like "Ivy and Bean" and "Clementine" and "Not-So-Weird Emma".  After you read it please tell me what a cupcake is!

You might think cupcake books are only for girls, but you would be wrong.  I found another book on the couch and it was "Jeremy Bender vs. the Cupcake Cadets" by Eric Luper. First Jeremy does something horrible to his dad's boat.   He has to fix it before his dad finds out, so he needs money fast!  He and his best friend see an ad for a model sailboat race and if you win you get prize money, maybe enough to fix a real boat.  But you have to be a Cupcake Cadet, and a girl, in order to race and win.  You'll never guess who dress up as girls!  Lots of funny situations, and cupcakes too!  I still don't know what cupcakes are but I really enjoyed the book.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Huffing and Puffing or Just a Lot of Hot Air?


From this:

 To this:

Has anyone else noticed that wolves in books aren't as scary as they used to be?  I don't know much about real wolves, other than the fact that they don't eat foods with ridiculous names like "kibble".  They get to eat things called "deer" or "rabbit".  Plus they don't get yelled at when they pee on the rug.

It used to be that book wolves were always scary, like in "Little Red Riding Hood" or "The Three Little Pigs" the way they were originally told.  Now wolves are doing things like eating vegetables or learning to read, maybe even baking cookies for baby chicks (see "The Wolf's Chicken Stew" by Keiko Kasza, a fun book but not one bit scary!).  Maybe you like that better, but maybe you just want to be SCARED and have the hair on your back stand on end!! That can be a fun time sometimes, too.

Here's my wolf-scariness-rating for some books - the more chomps, the scarier it is.

Four Chomps:

"Lon Po Po: A Red-Riding Hood Story from China" by Ed Young
From the glowing eyes on the cover, to the sharp teeth on the fifth page, and then the picture of the wolf in bed on the 11th page, this is spooky stuff!  Even the three girls look spooky, with their scared eyes, just like the cats when I'm getting too close...  (I got help counting the pages, in case you wondered)

Three Chomps:

"Little Red Riding Hood" retold and illustrated by Trina Schart Hyman
Sometimes he looks just a little goofy, but there's a real scare when he springs out of bed to snarf down Little Red, and the picture with the huntsman makes me feel a bit queasy.  Plus there's lots of black cats.  Brrrr!

Two Chomps:

Are these scary?  I'm not the brightest dog on the planet, so I'm not sure.  Parts of them are.  Maybe you are smarter than a dog and can help me figure this out.

"Wolves" by Emily Gravett
Bunny goes to the library, gets a book about wolves.  Bunny starts to read.  Danger, Bunny!  Watch where you're going, check your surroundings, pay attention!...  Oh, too late!

"Wolf's Coming" by Joe Kulka
Tasty animals hear a howl, warn each other that "Wolf's coming!", run for shelter.  Faster, faster, it's getting dark, there's now drool and a large spider, Wolf is peeking through the window...  You'll need to check out the surprise ending for yourself.

One Chomp:

"The True Story of the 3 Little Pigs" by Jon Scieszka
Got one chomp for the picture of the sandwich, and the pigs' butts.

Just Plain Silly:

"The Wolf Who Cried Boy" by Bob Hartman
"Why can't we have Boy tonight?" asks Little Wolf at dinner, but it turns out in these modern times it is just too hard to find Boy to eat, and Little Wolf does not like the foods Mother Wolf is making.  When he smells her cooking Three-Pig Salad it is just too much!  He pretends he sees a boy and by the time Mother and Father are done looking dinner is ruined and they have to have snack food for dinner.  This trick works a few more times, but then Mother and Father find out he's lying!  So they decide to ignore him the next time, and guess what happens?  I'm not going to tell you, but it has something to do with Troop 7.  So don't do any lying and eat what your parents put in front of you.

"Mr. Wolf's Pancakes" by Jan Fearnley
If a wolf asks you to help him make pancakes don't be rude, and if you are rude, don't ask for any pancakes when you smell them cooking, or SNIPPITY! SNAPPITY!

And don't forget "The Three Little Wolves and the Big Bad Pig"!

Friday, July 12, 2013

These Are a Few of Mom's Favorite Things

Remember how I told you I live with two librarians?  Dad does some boring computer library stuff - whenever he tells me about it I just glaze over.  But Mom is the one who brings home all these great books and reads them herself after The-Little-One-Who-Plays-With-My-Ears has finally gone to bed. These are some of her recent favorites:

"Crooked Kind of Perfect" by Linda Urban.  Girl desperately wants piano, gets organ instead.  Learns to play anyway, enters crazy organ contest, meets amazing people and has funny, fabulous time.  Does she finally get her piano?  Read it and find out!

"Eight Keys" by Suzanne LaFleur.  Elise lives with her Aunt and Uncle because her parents died when she was young.  Now she is twelve and mysterious keys are appearing in strange places.  They go to eight locked rooms in the barn.

"Hidden" by Helen Frost.  Darra and Wren end up at the same camp.  Years before Darra's father stole Wren's family car while Wren was in it.  What happened then, and what will happen now?

"One Year in Coal Harbor" by Polly Horvath.  Sequel to "Everything on a Waffle".  Quirky characters fill up this little town that Primrose now calls home.  Will Uncle Jack and Miss Bowser ever get together?  What will happen to Ked the foster child?  One of Mom's all-time favorite authors.

"Ungifted" by Gordon Korman.  Donovan Curtis is horribly accident-prone.  When he mistakenly ruins the Middle School Gym (read the book and find out how) a lucky mistake sends him off to the Gifted School and away from the very angry School Superintendent.  Donovan's story is so funny.   Good read for boys.

"Guitar Notes" by Mary Amato.  Tripp Broody, the disgruntled, rebellious guitar player, exchanges notes in a shared music practice room with Lyla Marks, the "perfect" cellist.  An unlikely friendship develops.  Good read for boys.

"One for the Murphys" by Linda Mullaly Hunt.  Carley Connors leaves what she knows for a foster family.  Emotional and affecting, with no easy answers.

"Three Times Lucky" by Sheila Turnage.  Mo was found floating down the river during a hurricane.  She is raised by the Colonel and Miss Lana in the tiny town of Tupelo Landing, NC.  Detective Starr comes to town, there is a murder, and the trouble begins.  Lots of eccentric characters make this a touching and funny story.

"My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece" by Annabel Pitcher.  An unusual book, beautifully done.  Jamie's family falls apart after one of his older twin sisters is killed in a terrorist attack.  Five years later Jamie hardly remembers her and feels guilty for not feeling the pain the rest of the family is feeling.  When he meets Sunya she is like a ray of sunshine, but she is muslim and therefore his family's "enemy".  Cathartic end that made Mom cry and cry.

"The Bully Book" by Eric Kahn Gale.  Eric Haskins is "chosen" as the 6th-grade Grunt, or victim.  It turns out there is a Bully Book and Eric is the first Grunt to try to stop the cycle.  Find out how he makes it through the year and ultimately outsmarts the book.  Good book for boys.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Recipe for Happiness

First, sidle up to a human who is too lazy to sit at a table but instead is sitting on a low couch and eating while watching Spongebob.  Wait for the right moment....  Gotcha!  All the meat off a lemon-pepper rotisserie chicken leg is yours!!  Next, dig around with your nose for some good books from the library pile.   After all, if they're just going to sit on their tail-ends watching TV you might as well read their books.

What I found in the library pile were two dog books:

"Down Girl and Sit: Smarter than Squirrels" by Lucy Nolan was the first one I read.  Ha, ha, so funny!  Also, it was easy to read, and would be great for humans just graduating to chapter books.  The pictures, by Mike Reed, were really good - my favorite one was of Down Girl eating an entire pie off the table.  That one was in the chapter called "I Ate It".
Down Girl lives next door to Sit, and behind them is the evil creature called Here Kitty Kitty.  The two dogs are constantly having to take care of their humans, who don't seem to know what they're doing.  Like one time they went off and forgot to take the dogs!  After many leaf piles, a muddy creek and the park with the squirrels Down Girl and Sit finally find them at an outdoor place with tables and lots of doughnuts!  I won't tell you what happened, but it did involve a whole bag of doughnuts.
Down Girl and Sit are two of the happiest dogs I've ever read about.  What's their secret?  In Down Girl's own words: "The secret to our success is simple.  We are smarter than squirrels."
This is the real Roo with Harry Horse!

The second book is a perfect fantasy adventure for a summer read, "The Last Castaways" by Harry Horse.  Lots of little pictures make it special.  The story is told in letters and ship's log entries.  Grandfather and his dog Roo have declared an end to their adventuring ways but then they are invited on a seaside vacation in Saltbottle.  Roo ends up being the winning bidder at an auction for a ship because the auctioneer's glasses get steamed up and he thinks Roo is an old lady in a fur coat.  The ship belongs to their old friend the captain, and all three set sail to find The Door to the Sea and the legendary King Cod.  One storm later Roo and Grandfather find themselves adrift and then washed up on a deserted island.   Which turns out not to be deserted after all, but you'll have to read this book to find out about the old man with the straggly beard, and about the gramophone and the Mouse Family singers, and what role the walrus named Poopy plays in this amazing adventure.  This book would make a fabulous family read-aloud or would be great for ages 7-10.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

"Road Trip" Revelations

It was hard not to be drawn to Gary Paulsen's "Road Trip", as it was on a table next to a plate of sausage and potatoes.  While I tried to get my nose onto the plate, which was just a little out of reach, I noticed that this book had two dogs on the cover, although one seemed to be upside-down.  I don't get that at all, the drool would all go the wrong way!

Gary Paulsen wrote this book with his son, Jim, who I guess is not even a writer.  He sure did a good job, because the book is definitely up to my high standards.  The main characters are a teenage boy and his father, and they are on a road trip to get a Border Collie puppy who needs a home.  The dad is most decidedly unpredictable and things start going wrong right away.  Two wrongs don't make a right, but maybe a lot of wrongs do because this road trip snowballs into an adventure that will not be forgotten.

A man and his son and the family dog in a truck become a "family" that soon includes a tattooed friend trying to turn his life around, a lonely mechanic willing to take a chance, and a smart, tough girl getting away from a bad thing.  Oh, and the truck breaks down and they end up traveling in a big refurbished school bus, which seems to be always driving over the speed limit.

People only show the parts of them they want others to see.  I bet you have things you hide inside, even from your parents and best friends.  Can you ever really know another person the way you know yourself?  You people need to stop blah-blah-blahing and be still.  Take time to use your senses.  Smell the other human, watch for body language, really listen with your fur-free ears.  This school bus is full of people who are caring about each other, but they are hiding their problems and misreading the people around them.  The one who understands it all is Atticus the dog, and every few chapters he gets to have his say and let the reader in on the truth of what is going on with these people he loves.

Gary Paulsen sure knows dogs, and he also knows how to tell a good story that is funny and triumphant all at the same time.  This one is extra special because Jim helped write the story and because there are bits of sausage on the spine