Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Review: Whales on Stilts, or, Everyone Loved This Book More Than I Did

Just Released in Paperback: Whales on Stilts! by M.T. Anderson. Illustrated by Kurt Cyrus. Harcourt, 205 (0-15-205340-9) $15; Harcourt, 2006 (0-15-206394-8) $5.95 pb

Absurdist self-referential humor hits Stratenmeyer Syndicate-type series books with a voooeeeep--KPCHKWOW! as ordinary-girl Lily begins to suspect that her father's office is home to a dastardly plot to conquer the world. (Her father, of course, thinks they are only making harmless stilts for whales.) Luckily Lily has the help of her friends Katie (star of the Horror Hollow series and Jasper (star of the Jasper Dash, Boy Technonaut series) to help her defeat the laser-eyed Whales.

Although at times the parody seems laid on with a trowel (after a number of pointless personal meanderings, I found myself wondering if Anderson's actual satiric target might be "Lemony Snicket"), there's no lack of laughs here. The order forms for Horrow Hollow and Jasper Dash books stuck in the middle of the story are great, and I particularly loved one chapter which, coming after ten chapter titles in a row that end in exclamation points, is simply entitled "!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!" Even better, half of the chapter turns out to be one extended, digressive footnote. Even better, the digression is far more interesting than the actual chapter is.

Whales on Stilts is supposedly the start of a new series called M.T. Anderson's thrilling tales, but I wouldn't think there's enough depth here to sustain an actual series. (Then again, I didn't think it of the Lemony Snicket books, either.) (8 & up)

And of course, just to prove me wrong--because everything is about me me me--there's an except from the next book, The Clue of the Linoleum Lederhose. Don't you get chills just thinking about it!