On Career Day, Lily finally meets her father's boss, Larry, just an average guy who hides his face under a sack, has a rubbery tail peeking out from his suit, and periodically dumps buckets of brine over his head. Right. Although Lily's dad is clueless ("He has a skin condition, Ms. Nosy"), Larry is actually the leader of evil, laser-eyed whales who plan to take over the world wearing stilts-unless Lily can stop them. These dastardly sea creatures will leave kids laughing in their wake, thanks to deadpan prose, a ludicrous plot, and campy illustrations, all with the exquisite absurdity of a Monty Python skit. (ages 8 to 12)
Child magazine's Best Children's Book Awards 2005
An intrepid trio must defeat an insidious plan to use whales (equipped with metal stilts and laser-beam eyes) in a takeover of the state capital-and then the world!-in this highly wacky novel. Anderson (The Serpent Came to Gloucester, reviewed above) sets a comic tone from the start: "On Career Day Lily visited her dad's work and discovered he worked for a mad scientist who wanted to rule the earth through destruction and desolation." Lily's father, like all the adults in the novel, is blissfully unconcerned about the ludicrous events going on around him (e.g., his boss, Larry, wears a grain sack over his head and extends a blue, rubbery hand when he meets Lily). Her father dismisses the heroine's fears when Larry pronounces that he plans to literally "take over the world" ("Honey, sometimes adults use irony. They don't really mean what they say"). Introspective, shy Lily then turns to her two more brazen friends, each the subject of a successful children's book series (the book's humor is very self-referential-for instance, awkward Harcourt writers follow them around asking for details of their exploits). Armed with an array of adjectives, non-sequiturs, bizarre asides, irrelevant footnotes and running gags, Anderson sends up decades of children's book series, and creates a hysterical tale of his own. Cyrus's meticulously rendered black-and-white illustrations riff on comic books and '50s-era advertisements, escalating the humor factor in this highly accessible volume. Ages 10-up. (Apr.) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Tacky title? The title speaks volumes about this madcap. Lily Gefelty's father works at a boring job, brings home boring office news, and life itself seems boring until Lily visits him at work. She discovers he works in a secret lab fully involved in a strange project. Led by a peculiar, huge, hooded man named Larry, everyone in the office is mass producing stilts. When Lily guesses this is the means to an invasion and take-over by whales, she quickly involves her two friends in saving the world. We meet Jasper Dash, Boy Technonaut, who invents gadgets, and Katie Mulligan, the star of a series of books where she protects the world from weregoats and earwigs. Will the plain and boring Lily be able to pull it off? Will the author? The book slips into insane annotations, takes graphic excursions off the plot path, and introduces more bizarre elements than you can believe. Anderson, long on creativity and short on typical conventions, has created a novel for younger readers who will laugh at the wildness of words and antics from beginning to end. 2005, Harcourt, Ages 8 to 11.
School Library Journal
Gr 4-6-A story written with the author's tongue shoved firmly into his cheek. Lily Gefelty's father works for a mad scientist who wears a sack over his head. When she overhears him say that he wants to take over the world, her oblivious father assures her, "Honey, sometimes adults use irony. They don't really mean what they say." Nonetheless, the 12-year-old calls on her two best friends, Katie Mulligan, the star of the "Horror Hollow" novels (think "Goosebumps"), and Jasper Dash, also known as the Boy Technonaut (think "Tom Swift"), to investigate. The trio soon learns that Larry does indeed plan to conquer the world using mind-controlled whales on stilts with laser-beam eyes. No adult will believe them, so it's up to the kids to save the Earth. Readers who have graduated from Dav Pilkey's "Captain Underpants" (Scholastic) or who know their Lemony Snickets (HarperCollins), should love this first title in a new series. It's full of witty pokes at other series novels and Jasper's nutty inventions.-Walter Minkel, New York Public Library Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Anderson's mind is a very strange place, and this almost indescribable wackiness is further proof. In a grand send-up of all that is series books, it echoes Nancy Drew, the Hardy Boys and those with cliffhanger chapter endings; references Godzilla movies and offspring; talks to, at and around the reader and is generally awfully funny (and we do mean awfully). Our heroine is ten-year old Lily, whose dad works in an abandoned warehouse making stilts for whales. His boss, Larry, seems to be blue and kind of whale-like, although he has a lot in common with Dilbert's boss, too. It's pretty obvious that there's a nefarious plan at work, so Lily enlists her two best friends, Jasper Dash, Boy Technonaut, and Katie Mulligan of Horror Hollow, who, like Jasper, already has a book series chronicling her adventures. The three figure out that the whales are about to take over the world, and they save it amid many explosions, catastrophes and asides from the author. Promises-or threatens-to be a series of its own. It doesn't get any better than this. (Fiction. 9-12)
From the Publisher
“Readers . . . will be rolling in the aisles.”--Booklist (starred review)
“Armed with an array of adjectives, non-sequiturs, bizzare asides, irrelevant footnotes, and running gags, Anderson sends up decades of children's book series, and creates a hysterical tale of his own . . . Highly accessible.”--Publishers Weekly (starred review)
Read an Excerpt
Whales on Stilts M. T. Anderson's Thrilling Tales
By M. T. Anderson
Harcourt Children's Books Copyright © 2005 M. T. Anderson
All right reserved.
They walked through a laboratory. People in lab coats were holding test tubes over flames. There were beakers and lasers and so on. Bunsen burners and alembics and computers. You know the drill. Everything looked incredibly top secret. Lily was blowing her bangs out of her face as quickly as she could. She glanced at everything they passed. She was amazed.
"What is this place?" said Lily. "Dad?"
Lily's dad looked bored. "Research and Development," he said.
She looked around again. He took her wrist and dragged her forward. "Come on, honey," he said. "They don't like people to look at what they're working on. After a minute, the guards start shooting. First near your feet, then at your knees."
Excerpted from Whales on Stilts by M. T. Anderson Copyright © 2005 by M. T. Anderson. Excerpted by permission.
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