They can’t all be home runs…

The last two books I read seemed designed to tickle a reader’s funnybone, but mostly just got a few chuckles from me.  First up is Horton Halfpott OR The Fiendish Mystery of Smugwick Manor OR The Loosening of M’Lady Luggertuck’s Corset by Tom Angleberger.  Angleberger says he was influenced by Charles Dickens, and I can see that.  As I read, I kept thinking about Roald Dahl and Lemony Snicket, both of whom are favorites of mine.  But Horton Halfpott didn’t quite measure up, though I think the really big readers of Dahl or Snicket will be the folks I recommend this book to once they run out of titles by those authors.  Horton is the unfortunate servant of some ridiculous aristocrats who becomes embroiled in adventure, romance, and other rather unusual pursuits (for an impoverished dishwasher, anyway) and is surrounded by a cast of silly people.  I kept trying to love this book, but maybe it was my comparisons to other favored reading fare that left me wanting something sharper, wittier, and less predictable.  Angleberger also wrote The Strange Case of Origami Yoda, which was a classroom favorite this past year–maybe I should have started with that.

My second read was a book I went into with fairly low expectations.  Cahoots, written by Karla Oceanak and illustrated by Kendra Spanjer, is a “comic novel” about Aldo Zelnick, the third in a series about about this video-game loving, rather pessimistic kid who likes to sketch (the first two are Artsy-Fartsy and Bogus).  This book was pretty good, with lots of rich figurative language, and engaging main character, and a reading level that will make it perfect for many a struggling/reluctant reader.  Aldo is “wasting” his summer on video games and television, so his family kind of tricks him into a tech-free vacation on an old-fashioned farm.  Aldo is horrified, and ends up in one scrape after another as he negotiates farmwork, family, and the ghost of his great grandfather.  I’ll be picking up the first two in this series and expect they will see a lot of use at the beginning of fifth grade.

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