No Other Story by Dr. Cuthbert Soup

 The Cheesemans are back on the trail, traveling through time in the hopes of rescuing their beloved wife and mother, Olivia. But time travel can be very tricky. They bounce off the Time Arc and land in Some Times–a place filled with dinosaurs, Vikings, and cavemen, and where the seasons are apt to change without warning.

In this hilarious and zany conclusion to the Whole Nother Story series, Dr. Cuthbert Soup treats his readers to more adventures, more challenges, and more unsolicited advice. Ethan Cheeseman and his children have met numerous quirky characters along their journey. They have escaped from the clutches of the evil people who wish to steal the LVR and use it to perform heinous acts. In this thrilling story, the stakes are as high as they’ve ever been. Not only must they keep the LVR out of the hands of those who want to misuse it, they must find a way back to the exact moment in time before Olivia Cheeseman is poisoned, in order to make their family whole again.

Like the other books in this series, No Other Story is filled not only with hilarious antics, but several tender family moments. What I thought was odd in this book, however, is that Dr. Soup–who has been the narrator for all the stories–has a flashback that makes him part of the storyline.  My girls (11 and 9) found it a bit confusing. If the style of the other books was similar, it probably would have flowed well, but since he only makes an actual appearance in the last book it was distracting.

Despite that little obstacle, the girls and I loved No Other Story. I’m sad to see this series end. I hope Dr. Cuthbert Soup has more stories in store for us.

Rating:  🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

  • Format: Hardcover
  • Publication Date: 9/4/2012
  • Pages: 256
  • Reading Level: Age 8 and Up
  • SRP: $16.99

I received a free hardcover of this book from the publisher. This review contains my honest opinions, for which I have not been compensated in any way.

The Templeton Twins Have An Idea Winner!

 

Sorry I am so late in announcing this. Life has gotten crazy the past couple of months. It’s almost over, though, since the writers conference is Saturday and the Lil Diva’s cheerleading and the Lil Princess’ soccer will be over at the end of the month.

Congratulations goes out to Alice. She won a copy of The Templeton Twins Have an Idea by Ellis Weiner. I’ll email her now.

Thanks to all who participated.

Guest Blogger: Ellis Weiner, Author of The Templeton Twins Have An Idea (GIVEAWAY)

Suppose there were 12-year-old twins, a boy and girl named John and Abigail Templeton. Let’s say John was pragmatic and played the drums, and Abigail was theoretical and solved cryptic crosswords. Now suppose their father was a brilliant, if sometimes confused, inventor. And suppose that another set of twins—adults—named Dean D. Dean and Dan D. Dean, kidnapped the Templeton twins and their ridiculous dog in order to get their father to turn over one of his genius (sort of) inventions. Yes, I said kidnapped. Wouldn’t it be fun to read about that? Oh please. It would so. Luckily for you, this is just the first in a series perfect for boys and girls who are smart, clever, and funny (just like the twins), and enjoy reading adventurous stories (who doesn’t?!).

Hearty Har Har

Do funny books have to have “heart”?  I’m seriously asking.

In entertainment, “heart” is a term of art meaning sentiment, warmth, poignancy, and feeling.  It’s most often used in Hollywood, in script development for television and movies.  “It’s got laughs, but it needs more heart,” is the standard producer’s criticism, based on the assumption that large audiences need to feel something nice in addition to getting laughs.  “We need to care about the hero,” they say, even with regard to the silliest comedies.

In fact, in the arena of big studio movies, you’re not going to get your comedy made without a touching, “redeeming” heart moment at the climax.  No matter how raucous or “wicked” the comedy, the protagonist is going to come to a serious emotional confrontation before it’s all over, either with his/her antagonist or his/her self—even if it’s acted by Will Ferrell playing a completely unself-aware doofus.

There is nothing wrong with this.  It’s not (or, at least, it needn’t be) particularly dishonest, manipulative, or sentimentally phony.  Still, many comedy writers chafe at it, fearing—with cause—that a script heading toward a heart-rich climax will have to pull its comedic punches en route, lest the heart moment seem arbitrary and unearned.

Television provides a little more leeway; you can, and actually have to, provide less heart per episode.  A season of thirteen weekly emotional climaxes can, especially to a modern audience more emotionally sophisticated than ever, seem labored and forced.  Famously, when Larry David and Jerry Seinfeld were creating Seinfeld, David’s controlling aesthetic was: “No hugging, no learning.”  “No heart” was implicit.

But the above examples deal with adult (and teenage) entertainment.  What about books for younger people—for, say, children ages 9-13?  I have no idea whether a climax characterized by heart is necessary or not.

In The Templeton Twins Have an Idea, the climax of the action occurs when the bad guy is (literally) shot down and, with the other bad guy, flees in disgrace.  But the story itself has one more turn, which by any reckoning can be called a “heart” moment.  It deals with the twins realizing why their father felt it necessary to move to a new place.

I wrote that section because it felt like a legitimate aspect of an “origin story,” the first in a series.  And one or two reviewers praised it as “touching.”  I liked that.

But constitutionally, I don’t like heart—or, rather, I don’t mind reading it, but it doesn’t come naturally to me, the way parody and exaggeration does.  So recently, when I wrote the second in the series, I assumed I had to include a heart-ish moment at the end, and did so more out of a sense of obligation than anything else.

The funny part, though, was that, either because I was merely being dutiful (i.e., my heart wasn’t in it), or the story simply didn’t sustain it, my editor asked that it be cut.  As I recall, her hand-written comment about the scene was, “MEH.”  I was quite happy to agree.  What remains is a small exchange between the twins and their father, in which he praises them for doing something nice for a friend.

As heart moments go, it’s a small one.  In fact it barely qualifies.  In any case, I’m not so sure kids need a “touching” moment to help them “care” about the protagonist.  Once they commit to reading a story, they care plenty.  I’ll be interested to hear how readers react to the happy, but relatively heartless, conclusion of the second book.

Visit http://www.scribd.com/doc/94086414/The-Templeton-Twins to read a chapter excerpt from The Templeton Twins Have An Idea.

Stop by and pester the Narrator at http://templetontwins.tumblr.com/

WIN AN AUTOGRAPHED COPY THE TEMPLETON TWINS HAVE AN IDEA!

Simply leave a comment that answers the following question: “Do funny books needs to have a ‘heart’?”.

Please remember to add your email address to your comment, so we can contact you if you win. Contest is open to those 18 years of age or older residing in the United States and Canada. Winner will have 72 hours to respond with a shipping address before a new winner is selected. Prize will be sent directly to the winner from the publisher or its representative. This blog is not responsible for products lost or damaged in shipment. Contest ends at 11:59 PM EST on Sunday, September 30th.

Visit Book Dreaming today at http://shannonkodonnell.blogspot.com/2012/09/the-templeton-twins-blog-tour-giveaway.html for another chance to win a copy of The Templeton Twins Have An Idea!

Be sure to tag #TheTTNarrator and/or @ChronicleKids when you Tweet about The Templeton Twins!

Poopendous by Artie Bennett

If Dr. Seuss decided to write about bodily functions, he probably would have come up with something as zany as Poopendous. Artie Bennett’s first book, The Butt Book, was an uproarously funny book about creatures’ behinds. In his latest endeavor, Bennett tackles different types of poop and their uses.

Okay, the adult in your says, “Gross.” The kid in you, however, is wondering how we’ve come this far without someone writing a book like this. Kids love this topic, so why not make it educational too? From what different types of animal poop is called to its shape or size and to how it is used, kids will be on the floor laughing, not realizing they are learning a bunch of neat information.

Mike Moran provides the vibrant, silly artwork that perfectly matches the crazy rhymes and topic of Poopendous. It’s even hard to say the name without chuckling. Do you want your kids to be eager to read? I bet this book will help.

Highly recommended!

Rating:  🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

  • Reading level:Ages 4 and up
  • Hardcover:36 pages
  • Publisher:Blue Apple Books (March 27, 2012)
  • Language:English
  • ISBN-10:1609051904
  • ISBN-13: 978-1609051907
  • SRP: 16.99

The author provided me with a free PDF of this book in exchange for my honest opinions. I received no monetary compensation of any kind for this review.

Guest Blogger Geoff Herbach, Author of Nothing Special

Felton Reinstein thought he had it all–a great girlfriend, an athletic scholarship in the bag, and football friends he could totally count on. Wrong  Like an elephant storming a house of cards, it all comes crashing down. And it’s Felton’s fault. Turns out his little brother has taken an impromptu road trip to Florida (aka desperate flight from all the talented people) to make a bid for stardom (aka fronting a hotel rock band with escapees from a retirement community). What’s a big brother to do but help pick up the pieces, even if it means giving up all the status, all the glory and once again facing a life of nothing special.

Book Boy Dream by Geoff Herbach

Stupid Fast has been out for almost a year. It’s been really great. I’ve traveled a bit, met lots of writers and librarians and bloggers. Best of all, though, I’ve met “elusive” teen boy readers – both through my blog, email and in person. Good stuff.

I do have some concerns, though.

A really smart 16-year-old from Brooklyn wrote to tell me how much he loved Stupid Fast. He also said, “I hate books, always have.” What? A freshman at a high school I visited the other day told me: “I only like two books. Stupid Fast and this other one I can’t remember.” Okay… I have had similar exchanges again and again in the last year. It reinforces the reason I wanted to write Stupid Fast in the first place: there is a good-sized subset of kids who don’t have enough books to read. I was that kind of kid.

When I was fourteen-years-old, I played sports and played in the orchestra, tried out for plays and did okay in school. On paper I looked like a normal kid, maybe even a pretty high achieving kid.

Here’s the truth, though: I was all crazy on the inside. I was all like: “I should shower again because… is there a weird smell? What are you looking at? I think Kerri and Audrey are laughing at me. I hate them! My shirt doesn’t fit. What’s that smell? I love Jenny. I love her. She hates me! What’s wrong with my shirt? There’s definitely something wrong with my ear. What are you looking at? What’s that weird smell?” ETC.

Crazy. But… here’s the truth: not abnormal.

Having taught writing to college kids for the last six years, I know something for a fact: Almost everyone (male or female) felt like a dork as a teen. They write essays about it. But, boy culture puts a premium on hiding the truth. The girls in my classes are better at expressing it. Many have read books for years that help them make sense of things. Boys, who need the help most, have very few books that address their concerns. A few years ago, my son decided fantasy no longer spoke to him, then he read a few books that did then stopped reading, because he could find nothing that spoke to him.

I had a similar experience. When I was fourteen, I read. A lot. If I hadn’t read Catcher in the Rye my life would’ve been much worse. Holden Caufield’s thoughts were so familiar to me. Even if they were a little terrifying, and he was on the edge, I knew that I wasn’t alone. I began to devour anything with a male protagonist. The more gritty, the more down to earth, the better (this was a big change, because up until that point, I pretty much read fantasy). Vision Quest, The Chocolate War, I am the Cheese, A Separate Peace… But soon, I ran out of material. I read some adult titles, but slowed down and almost stopped.

The publishing industry believes that boys don’t read, so they don’t publish books for them. My anecdotal evidence contradicts this belief to some extent. The boys I’m meeting enjoyed reading books that were meant for them, that directly address their way of thinking – which isn’t always pretty, but isn’t dumb or simple, either.

I’m on a mission, I guess. I want to write good stories aimed squarely at teen boys. In a decade, I want to have dudes come up to me and list ten books they love. The girls I’m meeting are able to do this! Girls are so lucky to have dozens of great books coming every month that speak to their experience.

If you’re a writer, maybe think about writing for boys? If you’re a reader, ask a librarian what’s new that speaks to boys. They’ll know (because there aren’t many titles). Maybe we’ll build a bigger market for these young men who need material so much!

Yeah, that’s my dream.

Blogger’s note: Do you think Geoff has a valid point? Is there a lack of material out there for teen boys? Do you have any recommendations?

Wee Wisconsin boy, Geoff Herbach wanted to play for the Green Bay Packers or join The Three Stooges.  His tight hamstrings left him only writing.  Now he teaches at Minnesota State, Mankato where he blows his students’ minds with tales of football and comedy glory, none of which are true. Visit www.geoffherbach.com.