Posts tagged ‘quirky characters’

PANTS IN CHARGE

The Tyler Files #1: Smarty Pants

Written by Brian Rock

Illustrated by Joshua Dawson

Rock has created a clever chapter book that will keep readers chuckling and thinking long after they have finished reading it. Tyler is a fifth grader who experiences a unique problem. One day in school, his pants start talking to him. Tyler and his best friend, Paul, are mystified and neither can figure out how to solve the problem. As Tyler goes through his day at school, his pants’ chatter gets him in trouble at the library, in the gym, and how will he find the time to study for his math test? But his pants help him solve his problems with Rhino, the school bully, and allow him to impress Audrey, the girl he has a crush on. Will Tyler ever get his “smarty pants” to keep his mouth shut?

The author targets this book for readers in the seven to ten age range. It is a beginning chapter in the sense that the chapters are short and the font large. It also contains a few drawings done in Wimpy Kid style. The humor is infectious and appropriate to a fifth grader. I particularly enjoyed the extension activities at the end of the book. Rock asks what readers think about the characters and presents what-if scenarios to encourage further thinking about the plot. He includes fun facts and a few jokes to continue the fun.

I would recommend the book as a beginning chapter book for elementary school readers, but middle-grade students will also appreciate the quirky characters, humor, and coming of age sections of the plot.

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MYSTERIOUS MELANGE

Nick Spool Galactic Private Eye

Written by Clark Graham

NickSpool,pic

Contrary to what the title implies, this book is a collection of short stories. Not all of them are about a detective named Nick Spool. There are nine stories with various subjects. Though they all about strange happenings, I would not classify them as strictly science fiction stories.

In the detective story, Nick Spool is called upon to investigate the murder of Zafir Ermen, who is a Gaululite. The setting is a world in the future which have cities in the sky belonging to different planets. The Gaululites are considered an inferior race. Nick’s discovers that his client, Patsy Lawless, is running a slave business trading Gaululites as servants to governors in sky cities. Nick uncovers the plot and is able to give the information about the murder to Detective Stark. Other stories include the descendants of World War II veterans who discover gold and bury it with the intention of returning after the war, a young boy who senses himself a stranger and turns out to be a descendant of a pre-Egyptian race, and another about an accountant who learns about a strange portal and decides to walk through it, discovering he is about to live a life of luxury in the dwarf colony on the other side. He finds out the life is not all that has been promised.

The stories have appeal for those who like unusual characters in quirky settings. This would be a good book to take on vacation. Nothing objectionable in it for the middle school reader. Readers nine and older will find the tales humorous and easy to read. Quality of the stories vary, but are written well for the most part. I would rate the collection between three and four stars.

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SO SAD

Runaway Smile: An unshared smile is a waste of time (Niditales Book 1)

Written by Nicholas C. Rossis

Illustrated by Dimitris Fousekis

RunawaySmile,pic

Readers who take the time to read the Prologue will discover the secret of this book. Plot is simple: a little boy wakes up one morning and finds that he has lost his smile. Shortly after, the reader is introduced to a set of quirky characters that will definitely make him smile. The boy’s dog, wears glasses, reads Proust and drives a car. A clothes-eating monster lives in the bedroom closet and ants windsurf across the boy’s breakfast cereal, but the boy is steadfast in his search to find the missing smile.

The boy meets several adult characters on his way to school. A workman, a man walking his goldfish, a king being photographed, the greatest salesman in the world, and a clown, each display smiles that they are unwilling to share with the boy. At school, the boy asks his teacher , but she replies that a classroom is no place for a smile and proceeds to pass out a test! By this time the poor boy is completely disheartened. When he gets home, he asks his mother how to find his smile. She reveals the secret.

The sepia toned illustrations in this book are done beautifully; they capture the spirit and humor of the tale. A poem, “Ode to a runaway smile,” included at the end portrays the cleverness and wit of the author. Adults will understand all the nuances of this story. The simple illustration on the cover is a bit misleading as to the underlying story. Young children will enjoy the pictures but probably won’t grasp some of the concepts without adult guidance. I feel the book is best suited for independent readers who enjoy different kinds of books with an unusual plot so I would especially recommend it for ages ten and older.

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