Whales on Stilts! (Pals in Peril Tale Series #1)

Whales on Stilts! (Pals in Peril Tale Series #1)

4.0 6
by M. T. Anderson, Kurt Cyrus

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In Whales on Stilts, a madman has unleashed an army of stilt-walking, laser-beaming, thoroughly angry whales upon the world! Luckily, Jasper Dash and his friends Katie Mulligan and Lily Gefelty are around to save the day.


In Whales on Stilts, a madman has unleashed an army of stilt-walking, laser-beaming, thoroughly angry whales upon the world! Luckily, Jasper Dash and his friends Katie Mulligan and Lily Gefelty are around to save the day.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
*"Armed with an array of adjectives, non-sequitors, bizarre asides, irrelevant footnotes, and running gags, Anderson sends up decades of children’s book series, and creates a hysterical tale of his own."
Publishers Weekly, starred review

*"Goosebumps fans and readers who get Lemony Snicket’s brand of humor will be rolling in the aisles."
Booklist, starred review

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
Publishers Weekly
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.
Children's Literature
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.
—Susie Wilde
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.
Kirkus Reviews
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)

Product Details

Beach Lane Books
Publication date:
Pals in Peril Tale Series, #1
Product dimensions:
6.20(w) x 7.46(h) x 0.81(d)
760L (what's this?)
Age Range:
10 - 14 Years

Read an Excerpt


On Career Day Lily visited her dad’s work with him and discovered he worked for a mad scientist who wanted to rule the Earth through destruction and desolation.

Up until then life hadn’t been very interesting for Lily. There had not been very many mad scientists. She lived in a small town called Pelt. There was a supermarket and a library, and several mini-malls with discount clothing outlets. The highway went through, and people were pulled over by the police if they drove more than five miles above the speed limit. It was that kind of town.

Most people didn’t know that Lily herself was interesting. She watched things a lot, and thought about them a lot, but she didn’t say much, except to her closest friends. She hid behind her bangs. When she needed to see something particularly important, she blew on her bangs diagonally upward, either from the left or the right side of her mouth. Her bangs parted like a curtain showing a nose-and-chin matinee.

Lily believed that the world was a wonderful and magical place. She believed that if you watched carefully enough, you could find miracles anywhere. The town’s baseball team had a secret handshake that went back to the time of the settlers. A professor down the street had a skeleton hanging in his vestibule. Behind the dry cleaner, some ladies held newt races. There were interesting things like this everywhere, waiting to be noticed. Though Lily thought that she herself was too quiet and too boring to ever do anything interesting, she believed that if she just was watchful enough and silent enough— so silent that no one could even tell she existed—she would eventually see marvels.

Of course, she didn’t expect that she would see any marvels at her dad’s work on Career Day. She didn’t know what he did at his job, but it didn’t sound unusually exciting or flabbergasting. She thought it would be nice to know what her father did—that way she could understand a little bit more of what her father and mother talked about at dinner—but she certainly didn’t suspect that the visit to her dad’s work would eventually lead to daring escapes, desperate schemes, brilliant disguises, and goons with handguns.

No, frankly, it would have been hard to figure that out, based on what she’d heard about her dad’s work from little things he said. For example:

  • “I’m going to be home late from work.”
  • “I’ll stop and get those shirts from the cleaner. It’s on the way home from work.”
  • “A guy at work had his wisdom teeth removed as an adult.”
  • “I spilled it on my pants at work.”

There was not much that suggested hidden lairs. Terrifying invasions. High-tech weaponry. That also goes for statements like:
  • “I spent the whole day at work circling number threes for the Dorsey account.”
  • “I’ll take the day off work to do the mopping.”
  • “At work we could really do with some air-conditioning.”

Or even:
  • “The vending machines at work just got these little packages of muffins. Eighty-five cents. I could eat a whole package at once.”

There really was not much to suggest that this would be a day unlike any other in Lily’s life. When Lily got into her dad’s car on the morning of Career Day, ready to hang out in his office, she was interested but not exactly expecting something thrilling.

Her dad drove for a while, eating cinnamon toast with one hand.

“I don’t even know where you work,” said Lily.

Her father gestured with his toast. “Edge of town,” he said. “Abandoned warehouse.”

“Abandoned?” she said.

“Yeah. Mmm-hmm.” His mouth was full.

She asked, “What do you do?”

“Very complicated,” he said. “Very.”

The abandoned warehouse sat near the bay between a business called Nullco and a factory that made industrial filling. There were old chain-link fences around everything. Lily’s dad parked in the lot. They got out and walked over to the abandoned warehouse. It was made of old bricks, and all the windows were black with soot and broken. There was a big spray-painted wooden sign that said:

Lily’s dad lifted the sign and turned an old pipe that stuck out of the wall. A secret door slid open. He walked in.

Inside there was a desk with a receptionist. The receptionist said hello to Lily’s dad and gave a big smile. “Good morning, Mr. Gefelty,” she said.

“Good morning, Jill,” he said. “How are things today?”

“I’m okay, I guess,” said the receptionist. “Except I’m having pains in my knees from doing something stupid with a big round of cheese.”

“I’m sorry to hear that, Jill,” said Lily’s dad.

He showed his badge, and the receptionist clicked a button that let them through a door.

They walked into 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.”

The guards stood with big guns next to all the doors, watching everything and frowning.

Lily rushed to catch up with her father. She grabbed at his sleeve. She whispered, “What do you make here?”

“I don’t know,” he said. “I’m in Sales and Marketing.”

“Dad, you must know. There’s something weird going on here.”

“What’s gotten into you?”

Careful to keep walking, she whispered, “This is like some sort of mad scientist’s laboratory. What do you really make here?”

“Oh,” said her father, laughing. “A ‘mad scientist’s laboratory’? Nothing quite so sinister. I think your imagination has gotten the better of you. No, honey, it’s all completely aboveboard. But it’s kind of complicated to explain.” He patted her arm. “Keep walking. The guards’re looking antsy.”

They reached a staircase and started up. Lily lingered behind, looking back at the lab.

“What’s wrong?” her dad asked.

Lily blew the hair out of her face and looked straight at him.

“Oh, come on, honey,” he said. “It’s not really as suspicious as it seems. We’re a midsize company devoted to expanding cetacean pedestrian opportunities.”

She looked confused.

He smiled. “We make stilts for whales. See? Nothing suspicious.”


Her father stuck his hands in his pockets and jogged up the steps, whistling. The tune was “How Much Is That Doggy in the Window?”

“Dad ...?” she protested, but her voice was too soft, and he was already a flight above her.

© 2005 M. T. ANDERSON

Meet the Author

M.T. Anderson is the author of the Pals in Peril series; The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, which won the National Book Award; The Game of Sunken Places; Burger Wuss; Thirsty; and Feed, which was a finalist for the National Book Award, a Boston Globe-Horn Book Honor Book, and the winner of the Los Angeles Times Book Award for Young Adults. He lives in Boston, Massachusetts. Visit him at MT-Anderson.com.

Kurt Cyrus has illustrated numerous picture books, including Buddy: The Story of Buddy Holly by Anne Bustard; Mammoths on the Move by Lisa Wheeler; and his own Turtle Rex and Hotel Deep: Light Verse from Dark Water. He lives in Cottage Grove, Oregon.

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Whales On Stilts 3.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 10 reviews.
RabidRonnie More than 1 year ago
I enjoy children's books, because they tend to be able to support a thinner, more ridiculous premise than adult books and still be entertaining rather than simply ludicrous. Whales on Stilts is about as thin a premise as one can ask for, and M.T. Anderson executes it beautifully. With an over-the-top storyline and laugh-out-loud dialogue and description, this book was a quick and highly entertaining read. I read it twice in one day, going back and drinking in all of the funny bits that I had overlooked the first time. Recommended for kids and also for any adult who enjoys a simpler read with a touch of the ridiculous.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Pretty good. A little corny but pretty good. Super funny too! Larry was kind of weird though. For kids 7-12.
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Guest More than 1 year ago
Altough this story was filled with plenty of action, my favorite part about it was the humor and comedy. This book cracked me up tons of times. A wonderful read for people who love comedy, Whales on Stilts is stunning and easy to read. I must admit, however, that the second book in the series, The Clue of the Linoleum Lederhosen, is not the least bit funny and horrible.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I had heard that this was a cute story and the title had me curious. I read this story and with the first 100 pages, it was the most ridiculous storyline. I then jumped to the end of the book and didn't even make it through the last chapter. I won't ever wonder what I missed in the middle of the book. WOW
Guest More than 1 year ago
M.T. (Tobin) Anderson has unleashed a new series with an insane plot that's to be admired. This whole book, including the illustrations, is creativity that few of us can achieve. When will the movie be out?
Guest More than 1 year ago
If the title doesn't capture you, nothing will! I can just picture whales walking around town on stilts. Hilarious! ¿¿¿ Author Anderson's witty writing style made me laugh all through the book. Excellent entertainment by a super talent!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Jaspher returnes and with lilly and katie they go on many adventures