Children's stories, American.
Grades 6 - 9 / Ages 11 - 14.
Alan Mendelsohn pointed to a kid walking across the lunch court eating a sandwich. The waxed paper was sort of waving in his face. He was eating and walking fairly fast toward one of the garbage cans placed every twenty feet. Alan Mendelsohn put two fingers in his mouth, and just as the kid was about two paces away from the garbage can, Mendelsohn whistled. It was the loudest whistle I had ever heard. It traveled in the direction of the kid's head, as though Mendelsohn had thrown a hardball at him. I could almost see the whistle whiz across the lunch court at the kid. The kid looked around with his mouth full of peanut butter and jelly sandwich. He was still walking at the same rate. Turning in the direction of the whistle altered his course just enought to send him smack into the garbage can, which went over. The kid went with it, his legs tangling with the rolling can. He wound up sprawling in a heap of half-eaten sandwiches, wrappers, and banana peels.Are there any 12 or 13-year-old nerds in your life, either at home or at school? This massive paperback is a compilation of five of Pinkwater's novels aimed at the sophisticated middle school reader with a wicked sense of humour, one who is drawn to hilarious leaps of situation and language and who secretly longs for pompous and vacuous people of all ages to meet their downfalls. The five novels are Alan Mendelsohn, the Boy from Mars, Slaves of Spiegel, The Snarkout Boys and the Avocado of Death, The Last Guru, and Young Adult Novel. In Alan Mendelsohn, Leonard Neebles, a rejected junior high student representative of every student's agony about inclusion in an acceptable group, is befriended by Alan Mendelsohn, who claims to be from Mars. Together they master mind control and traveling between levels of existence on different worlds, rescuing the Waka-Wakians from the Nafsulians as they go along. In Slaves of Spiegel, Norman Bleistift and his boss, Steve, are kidnapped by Sargon the Magnificent and his Fat Men from the planet Spiegel who are searching for the "greasiest, heaviest, and most fattening cooking to be found". In The Snarkout Boys, Walter and Winston have mastered the art of "snarking out" (sneaking out in the middle of the night), but they are no match for Rat, a girl who leads them on a wild chase through the city for her "lost" uncle who is somehow involved with Nussbaum, the arch criminal. In The Last Guru, Pinkwater holds all our beliefs about the joys of wealth up to the light and has us chuckling as Harold and his Uncle Roy randomly win millions of dollars and manage to spend it all while rejuvenating society into the bargain. Young Adult Novel leads us into the bizarre world of the Wild Dada Ducks, a group of high school students dedicated to Dadaism, who manage to have an unknown and unwilling freshman elected to be the school president but cannot control the outcome.
"How did you do that?" I asked. The bell rang, ending lunch period.
"I'll show you tomorrow," Alan Mendelsohn said. "Meet you here." And he raced off, doing a neat hurdle over the kid who was still on his hands and knees amid the garbage.
These novels were first published between 1978 and 1982. They are amazingly free of details which would date them and remain very amusing, very bizarre and very much worth reading. They do, however, require a very sophisticated reader with a high level of reading who is willing to plunge joyfully into the flow of weirdness that is the writing of Daniel Pinkwater and emerge snorting with laughter on the other side.
Unfortunately, the packaging of the novels into a two inch thick tome will attract only the most determined of gifted middle school readers whose teacher-librarians make a personal recommendation to individuals whom they know will appreciate this fine writing.
Recommended to all adults who can find a copy, and recommended with reservations to teacher-librarians who have suitable students.
Joan Marshall is teacher-librarian at General Byng School in Winnipeg, Manitoba.
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Copyright © 1998 the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.
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TABLE OF CONTENTS FOR THIS ISSUE - FEBRUARY 27, 1997.
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