Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Gone to the Dogs

I took my family to the state fair last weekend. We had a great time walking through the animal paddocks looking at cows, sheep, chickens and so much more. So I am going to stay with animal inspired reviews for a little longer.

“LaRue Across America: Postcards from the Vacation”

By Mark Teague
For Ages 4 – 8
Ike LaRue fans cheer! He's back on an eventful trip across the country with none other than Mrs. Hibbins' cats. Rated 4 (pets, travel, imagination)

We catch up with Ike as he and his owner, Gertrude, are preparing for a vacation cruise. All goes awry when their neighbor Mrs. Hibbins is hospitalized. Gertrude volunteers to watch her cats, cancels the cruise and begins a cross-country road trip instead. Sounds like a good idea with two cats and a dog, right?

Ike sends postcards from the road, that tell his melodramatic version of events. At each stop he implores Mrs. Hibbins to allow him to send the feisty kittens’ home. But it is not meant to be. His exaggerated memories are brought to life in black and white and contrasted against the colorful realities of roadside America. As fate would have it the family roadster breaks down in Death Valley, CA where they meet a cruise captain. They end up cruising back home. Teague creates a fantastic romp across America in this fourth adventure with Ike LaRue.
What’s good: Masterful illustration style, sense of humor and smart story.
What’s bad: Slightly choppy pacing.


By Patrick Carman
For Ages 9 - 14
Think "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" set in a hotel and throw in some ducks. Rated 4 (mystery, preteen, mild peril)

Eccentricities, mystery and zaniness abound in this creative adventure that longs to be placed on the shelf next to “James and the Giant Peach,” "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" or just about any other book by Dahl. Leo is a 10-year-old boy who works with his father as the maintenance crew of the Whippet Hotel in New York City. The Whippet is no ordinary hotel. Owned by the highly eccentric Merganzer D. Whippet, it is filled with strange rooms, creatures, flaky staff, odd guest, and ducks of course. According to Merganzer, they are very useful creatures. Unfortunately Merganzer is gone and nothing is as it should be.

When a mysterious box and message show up, Leo learns that he has four days to discover four hidden boxes and save the hotel. From what, he does not know. That’s when the really odd stuff begins. Leo’s adventures take him to hidden floors, hidden rooms, hidden elevators and much more. Ghosts, fire-breathing dragons and flying goats make appearances during the search for boxes. There is a sense of danger but no real threat. A disgustingly mean hotel manager, an incredibly bratty hotel guest and a true friendship round out the tale. This book has everything, including depth to the characters. My kids had me read it with them twice during the first week we had it. And we enjoyed it both times.
What’s good: Extreme imagination and pure fun.
What’s bad: Old plot presented in a new fashion.