Category Archives: books_to_make_you_laugh

So much Discworld news!

Okay, so I’m a few days behind the curve, but that does not diminish my excitement!

Discworld Pratchett Gives Thumbs Up to Discworld Cop Show! From March 11th here:

The main focus of the series will be set in the bustling, highly mercantile, largely untrustworthy and always vibrant city of Ankh-Morpork and will follow the day-to-day activities of the men, women, trolls, dwarves, vampires and several other species who daily pound its ancient cobbles (and, of course, Igor in the forensics department). Terry commonly refers to the City Watch police force series as “the jewels in the Discworld Crown.” These richly developed and highly compelling characters will feature in a ‘crime of the week’ episodic storyline. As each weekly adventure unfolds, viewers will be taken on a ride through Pratchett’s genius imagination, with the author overseeing the creation of the series, where wild and exciting encounters with werewolves, dragons, dwarfs, trolls and golems and the classic heroes and villains, are an everyday occurrence… and where many of these characters even make outstanding crime fighters!

ALSO, scroll down to March 1st for:

There has been one hell of a lot of rumours regarding a Good Omens adaptation over the past few weeks, mostly started by me at the SFX Weekender. So, ladies and gentleman, I can hereby exclusively reveal that – YES – Neil and myself have shaken hands and received groats from Rod Brown sealing a TV deal. An official announcement from Prime Focus will follow in a couple of weeks time. However, I can reveal right now that Terry Jones (yes, the Python) and Gavin Scott (not a Python, but he gets it) are already on the job. It’s been a long time coming, but it’s looking good.

AND, there’s a new Discworld book coming out this fall!

The new Discworld novel from the master sees Sam Vimes investigating a countryhouse murder, and is Terry Pratchett’s fiftieth book.

According to the writer of the best-selling crime novel ever to have been published in the city of Ankh-Morpork, it is a truth universally acknowledged that a policeman taking a holiday would barely have had time to open his suitcase before he finds his first corpse.

And Commander Sam Vimes of the Ankh-Morpork City Watch is on holiday in the pleasant and innocent countryside, but not for him a mere body in the wardrobe. There are many, many bodies and an ancient crime more terrible than murder.

He is out of his jurisdiction, out of his depth, out of bacon sandwiches, and occasionally snookered and out of his mind, but never out of guile. Where there is a crime there must be a finding, there must be a chase and there must be a punishment.

They say that in the end all sins are forgiven.

But not quite all…

Now I need to finish rereading the first three Tiffany Aching books so I can get to I Shall Wear Midnight

Jolted by Arthur Slade

Jolted coverNewton Starker is cursed. Lightning has killed every member of his mother’s side of the family, except for Newton, and his great-grandmother Edith. (Newton’s theory is that she’s too mean to die.)

Newton and his dad live in a lightning proof house. He has a set of rules to keep him safe (Rule one: Check the weather constantly. Two: Check the sky before exiting a building. Three: When thunder roars, run indoors. Four: Beware of cumulo-nimbus clouds. Five: Do not take a bath during a lightning storm….) But the rules didn’t save Newton’s mom. So he’s enrolled at the Jerry Potts Academy of Higher Learning and Survival in Moosejaw, Saskatchewan, hoping that a school that emphasizes wilderness survival, banned neckties from the school uniform because they interfered with outdoor activities (some students were using them to snare ground squirrels) and encourages always carrying a sharp knife will teach him how to avoid the family curse.

But Newton breaks rule number six (Do not under any circumstances become angry. Count to ten. Breathe in. Breath out.), and before he knows it, he’s challenged one of his fellow students, Violet Quon, to a boxing match. And then there’s the matter of a slight mix-up surrounding Culinary Arts and exactly how Newton ended up with a pet pig named Francine, and an approaching outdoor expedition to the Cyprus Hills.

But no matter how busy he gets, Newton had better not forget Rule thirteen: Check the Weather. Check it again.

Jolted is a decidely tongue in cheek sort of story, as you may have figured from the lightning curse, pet pigs, and wilderness survival academies. It’s a quick-moving book with short chapters and plenty of great moments of goofy humour. But underneath it all is a suprisingly bittersweet story about Newton coming to terms with the death of his mom. The ending leaves me expecting a sequel, but Arthur Slade’s latest, the Hunchback Assignments, is definitely a series. (And awesomely steampunk!) Will we see more of Newton? I don’t know…

If you head over to Arthur Slade’s website, you can listen to the author himself reading a clip from the book.

All-Season Edie by Annabel Lyon

All Season Edie cover This book is a year in the life of Edie Jasmine Snow.

Edie lives with her mom and her dad and her older sister Dexter, who mostly she hates (like when Dexter tells her there are spiders in her attic bedroom, and Edie tried to curse her for Halloween using MacBeth as an instruction manual), but sometimes Dexter surprises her by doing something nice, like even though she doesn’t want Edie to go to ballet like Dexter because she’s convinced Edie will embarass her, Dexter tells their mom than Edie should take flamenco instead. And not just because of the mortification factor–she thinks Edie would like it better, because there’s a lot of stomping. And just for the record, Edie LOVES flamenco. But that doesn’t mean that Dexter wants her at her best friend Mean Megan’s Halloween party…

First off, the blurb caused me some needless anxiety–I will tell you straight out, her sister does not die! Her grandfather is sick right from the beginning, however… The splashy green and pink cover has been catching the eye of a lot of pre-teen girls in my library. (I will admit that at first glance, I thought that rubber boot was a cast, and kept waiting for Edie to break a leg.)

This is a really hard book to summarize, since it’s very episodic. The story’s biggest weakness is that there isn’t one strong plot thread pulling the whole thing together. There are some great moments though–like when Edie is dragged along on a Christmas shopping trip to the mall with her mom and sister. No-one realizes Edie’s running a fever, and then she starts to hallucinate that the Greek gods are at the mall too, doing their shopping… Or the argument between Dexter and her parents over taking her little sister along to her friend’s party. The horror! What ties it all together is the family’s reactions to her grandfather’s sickness and death.

The story’s biggest strength was the strong character voices. The emotions and tension between Edie and her ring true remarkably. I say this as an older sister, albeit one with younger brothers. Some things are universal. It’s a fantastic middle school point of view. (Okay, I’m harping on the point of view because the book I read just before this one was published as young adult fiction, but should have been an adult memoir. Anyhow.) This book captures delicate balance of fondness and infuriation between siblings perfectly. Even though it’s episodic, thematically, everything fits together. Give this one to girls who have ages out of Judy Moody, Ramona fans, or any nine or ten year old girl who’s drawn in by the green and pink cover.

Other reviews from (inevitably) CM Magazine, Sheryl McFarlane’s Book Blog and Welcome to My Tweendom.

Word Nerd by Susin Nielsen

Word Nerd coverAmbrose has
– a gift for scrabble
– a talent for saying the worst thing at the worst possible time
– a severe allergy to peanuts.

He also has an overprotective mother, so when the school bullies slip a peanut into his cheese sandwich, and he ends up first in anaphylactic shock and then in the hospital, his mom swoops in and decides that it will be much safer if Ambrose finishes out the school year at home through correspondence courses. Of course, Ambrose may have complicated things by telling his mother that the aforementioned bullies were his best friends. And by telling everyone at school that his family was rich, and spent weekends at their chalet in Whistler, and the only reason he was in a public school was to mix with “normal” kids… you can see why they didn’t take his peanut allergy seriously when he told them it might kill him.

Ambrose and his mother are not rich. They live in a basement apartment–their landlords are Mr and Mrs Economopolous, the elderly Greek couple who live upstairs. The Economopolouses have taken to saving Ambrose from health-food dinners alone while his mother is teaching, feeding him home-made (peanut-free) moussaka and letting him watch The Amazing Race. But then their youngest son, Cosmo, gets out of jail and comes back home to live with his parents.

Ambrose thinks Cosmo is clearly the coolest thing ever. Ambrose’s mom is less than impressed, and bans him from visiting upstairs. Ambrose figures that what she doesn’t know won’t hurt her. And since she doesn’t approve of Ambrose visiting in the same house, it’s a really good thing she doesn’t know when Ambrose and Cosmo start hanging out… and playing scrabble… and join a weekly scrabble club together… and if that sounds complicated, you should see what happens when Cosmo falls in love, his pre-jail buddies track him down and the Scrabble tournament comes up….

This is not just a book for anyone who’s ever done a victory dance when they hit the triple word score with a q or x. Ambrose is a perfect mix of adolescent insecurity and social awkwardness, but ends up being sympathetic never the less. He’s a lot like the plot of the book, a discongrous mix of things (Scrabble! Ex-cons! Peanut allergies!) that come together into something quirky and oddly endearing that’s more than the sum of its separate parts.

Sidenote: Word Nerd is on this year’s Rocky Mountain Book Award shortlist, for grades four to seven and is also on the Ontario-based Red Maple Award list for grades seven and eight, and was the subject of a parent complaint in Hamilton due to, ironically, language. Here’s an account at Susin Nielsen’s blog, and a bit of follow up.

On a more positive note, here are Ten Questions With Susin Nielsen from Open Book Toronto.

Wart by Anna Myers

Book nine of the 48-hour Book Challenge binge!

wart_small You could say that it started when Stewar’s cousin declared that he needed to be popular, but would have to ditch his long-time friends Ham and Rachel to do it. But things really started to change when Stewart and Ham’s art teacher showed up hiding in the supply closet, and had to take some time off. Because that’s when Wanda Gibbs, the subsitute came to town. And now she’s a) stuck Stewart with the nickname Wart, b) is dating his dad, and c) is probably a witch who turns her own son Ozgood into a frog periodically to punish him. She’s helped him get a spot on the basketball team, but is brainwashing his little sister. Thanks to her intervention, the most popular girl in the school is interested in him, but now she’s probably going to marry his dad. What’s a guy to do?

It took me a bit to get into this one, but it was a pretty funny, solid middle school read, all things considered. The plot plays off the is-she-or-isn’t-she-a-witch uncertainty quite well right up until the end, Stewart’s geeky friends are awesome in their right–Ham is kind of clueless skinny kid who’s alwasy eating, and Rachel is the sort of girl who collects esoteric bits of trivia and has an elaborate training system worked out to win a local pet show. And his little sister Georgia will throw temper tantrums on demand for Stewart–until Wanda shows up. Then there’s Wanda’s son Ozgood, who plays big band music lous enough to shake the walls, and says things like “I am undone” when he’s upset. An oddball cast and amusing plot–it’s too bad the cover looks like a do-or-die sports story.

Castration Celebration by Jake Wizner

Book one of the 48-hour Book Challenge binge. Let’s start things off with a bang. (Um. Pun intended. Just read the book, you’ll see.)

castration celebration

Olivia was sitting on top of her new suitcase in the courtyard of Yale’s Old Campus writing in her notebook. She had scrawled the word CASTRATION on the top of the page and was in the process of listing genital-based rhymes. So far her list read: menstruation, masturbation, elongation, lubrication, penetration, simulation, fornication, copulation, urination, ejaculation, insemination.

Olivia’s researching castration. Her sudden interest was brought on by the trauma of walking in on her father, recieving a blow job from one of his graduate students. Max, on the other hand, is very fond of his genitals, in their current fully operational condition. Both teens have a quick sense of humour and flair for rapid-fire banter. When they meet up at a summer arts program, a perfect storm of double entendres ensue. Because Max, prone to brief, intense bouts of true love, has decided that he’s madly in love with Olivia. Olivia has sworn off boys and romance–her state of mind is reflected in her summer project, the musical of the title, Castration Celebration. Add some supporting characters to the mix–Max’s stoner roomate Zeke, who has a flair for musical composition, perky queer girl Callie, Olivia’s ditzy but goodhearted roommate Mimi, and the steadfast Trish, who collaborated with Zeke on a school musical last year–and the stage is set for one very interesting summer.

First of all, forget all vestiges of adult (by which I mean grown-up) taste and decorum, and attempt to connect with your fifteen-year-old self. The humour in this book is… well, juvenile. Risque. Lewd. Crude. Offensive. There’s casual, recreational drug use, toilet humour, realistic use of expletives, and oh yeah, an awful lot of sexual humour.

This book is going to offend a lot of people.

However, let’s face it, it’s a totally realistic, uncensored portrayal of a sizeable portion of teenagers, and so, so true to the target age group. Seriously, if you don’t see a couple of teenage boys turning vampires, menstruation, and oral sex into a running joke as realistic, you’ve never encountered teenage boys in their natural habitat. (Likewise, if the concept of the aforementioned offends you horribly, go find another book instead.) Also, as a species, we find sex funny.

The book is a quick read. It spins together the story of the main cast, interspersed with the script and lyrics of Olivia’s musical, which is in turn a riff on The Taming of the Shrew, which is how the couple in the play meet, reading Shakespeare out loud in English class.

Once you’re past the shock factor of songs like “I’m in Love With Dick,” though, sex in general is treated in a fairly reasonable, healthy fashion. When Max, in a fit of jealousy, takes off and has casual sex with a girl he met on the train, he protests that “it didn’t mean anything.” He’s quickly taken to task by the girls for writing off the girl he was with. The characters are drawn in fairly broad strokes, and blurred together a bit at the beginning, but there are some more serious issues behind the masturbation jokes, like Olivia’s family instability, Max’s neediness, and why, exactly, Zeke wants to spend the entire summer stoned in his dorm room.

This book definitely doesn’t come close to Melvin Burgess’s Doing It, and I wasn’t sure if it was anything more than blatant shock tactics at first, but I think that it will find readers. It will be the kind of book circulated under desks and smuggled from backpack to backpack, and no, it’s not great literature, but it’s got more inherent merit than a Will Ferrell movie (yeah, I know, that’s totally a judgement call on my part). There’s nothing wrong with the occasional junk food reading and odds are pretty good at least one or two readers will pick it up and feel like finally they’re seeing something of their own lives and sense of humour. And maybe then they’ll read Doing It

The inevitable adorableness of Elephant and Piggie

For years, I was convinced that I wanted to be a YA librarian. And as much as I love YA books and our fledgling Teen Advisory Group, and the possibility of teen video game programs at my library (DDR tournament! This February!)… I have come to the conclusion that I love kids’ books too much to give them up altogether.

Case in point: yesterday, I discovered Mog Time: Six Stories About Mog in the new books. I was thrilled, and left it out on the kids reference desk where we usually leave journals and other news-y things to be browsed through. (And no, I still haven’t forgiven Judith Kerr for Goodbye Mog.)

However, that being said, it’s usually hard to get too excited about beginning readers, especially the very early ones, the two or three word per page sort. But not if they’re beginning readers by Mo Willems! Yes! If you know kids’ picture books, he’s the Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus guy! (How much do I want my own talking pigeon?)

If you go and check out his books, you will find a series about Elephant and Piggie. In My Friend is Sad, Piggie tries to cheer up Elephant by surprising him dressed up as cool things, like a cowboy and a giant robot, but what Elephant needs most is his best friend! (And new glasses.) Today I Will Fly! is a story about how Piggie wants to fly, despite Elephant’s misgivings.

First of all, all four books in the series have titles that end in exclamation marks! The characters are deceptively simple line drawings, but like the notorious Pigeon, are amazingly endearing and expressive in their simplicity. And the plot, as straightforward as the art style, will make anyone smile.

Mo Willems is truly excellent. (And so are Elephant and Piggie!)