Archive for the ‘Mac Barnett’ Category

[LISTENED TO: March 30, 2013] Knucklehead

knuckleheadWe were looking for a good audio book for the kids and I stumbled upon this, an autobiography from Jon Scieszka.  We love Scieszka’s books (Stinky Cheese Man and the Time Warp Trio among others) and figured that this autobiography had to be good for a few laughs too.  And we were very much correct.

This is a funny book about what it was like to grow up as the second oldest of six brothers in Flint, Michigan.  It’s not really about being an author (although he does talk about where he gets ideas), it’s really about his childhood.  Most of the anecdotes in the book are things that he and his brothers got up to and how his father used to affectionately call all six of them knuckleheads.

The book has almost 40 chapters, all of them very short (as befitting the author of books for reluctant readers).  And each one has a pretty good set up and punchline.  Like how the older brothers used to tease the youngest ones or how Jon and his brother burnt a dry cleaning bag because it dropped little plastic bombs onto a battlefield–in the basement.  Or how he and his brother peed on the space heater because they thought that would put it out (that seems suspect, but it could have happened. (more…)

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[LISTENED TO: December 2012] It Happened on a Train

brixton3After the raging success of Brixton Brothers Books 1 and 2 we were thrilled to get to Book 3.

Twelve-year old Steve Brixton has given up on being a detective.  His hero, the author of the Bailey Brothers mysteries has proven to be a thief and a liar and he wants nothing to do with the man anymore.  So he has bundled all of his Bailey Brothers books–his favorite books in the world–and put them in the trash.

His chum, Dana, is not that upset about the closing of the agency, especially since he has now been dating a girl named Dana (“other Dana” as Steve calls her).  Other Dana has gotten Dana into a book series about wizards and dragons which Steve simply cannot believe.

This 3rd novel proves to adhere well to the title–it does all happen on a train.  Well, most of it anyhow.  The boys have been invited to the Model U.N. meeting in San Diego.  After last book’s fake debate club ruse, Steve’s mother is very suspicious of the Model U.N., especially since no one has ever heard of it.  [It turns out that my school had a model U.N., but most of us had no idea what they did either–imagine my surprise to see that very organization appear in an episode of Community!]  The story checks out and Rick (jerk) takes this as an opportunity to bond with Stevie Brix (what, you don’t get it) by tagging along for the nine-hour train ride.

Before the train ride gets underway, Steve is approached by a surfer dude who is looking for help.  Steve hears the man’s case but tells him that he has retired (a recurring joke).  It took us a while to get to the end of the story and we had all but completely forgotten about this plot point by the time we got to the end.

Anyhow, on the train, Steve winds up talking to a girl, Claire, whose uncle is a private detective.  The girl is nice but thinks it doesn’t make sense that 12-year-old Steve is retired.  Steve is annoyed by her, and has mixed feelings about her.  But he sees that she has left her book behind, so he finds her to give it back.  But she is nowhere to be seen. (more…)

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[LISTENED TO: November 2012] The Ghostwriter Secret

brixton2We enjoyed Brixton Brothers Book 1 so much that we couldn’t wait to listen to Book 2.  And it did not disappoint.

Steve Brixton (who is 12) has set up his own detective agency (after the massive success of his first case) and his chum Dana is actually kind of on board with it this time.  Of course, his mom’s boyfriend Rick (jerk) thinks it’s all for laughs and he chuckles at Steve’s business cards.

With the agency all set up, all Steve needs is a case.  Which he quickly gets.  A local billionaire has had his diamond stolen and he wants Steve to help (he heard all about Steve’s success in Book 1).  Rick makes a joke about a bird stealing it (that was a plot in Book 1), but Steve knows that isn’t the case here.  The diamond is an incredibly expensive and valuable diamond which the billionaire keeps on display in his house (under intense security).  And yet somehow, the thief got in.  And the security system must be broken because the alarm keeps going on and off.

Steve quickly solves that case and the billionaire asks Steve to hold onto the diamond until they can catch the crook (Steve figured out HOW it was done, but is leaving it up to the police to figure out WHO did it).

Steve gets a ton of cash to hold onto the diamond, but he’s bored by the case.  He wants some excitement as a detective.  And then he gets a letter–from none other than MacArthur Bart!  Bart is the author of Steve’s beloved Bailey Brothers mystery stories (which he has read hundreds of times and has based all of his sleuthing skills upon).  Steve has been writing to Bart for years, telling him how much he loves the books with no response.  Once he set up the agency, he wrote to Bart telling him about the cases.  And now, finally, Bart has written back.  But it’s not a thank you letter, it’s a request for help.  Bart thinks someone is after him! (more…)

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[LISTENED TO: October 2012] The Case of the Case of Mistaken Identity

I found this book because I was looking for audio books for my kids.  When we take longish car trips, they absolutely love audio books (which is pretty frikkin awesome by itself).  Anyhow, I was browsing the shelf and saw this title.  Clark and Tabitha enjoy A to Z Mysteries, so I thought this might be a bit more stimulating (it says it’s for 8-10 year olds, but Tabitha (5) enjoyed it and I didn’t find it too harsh for her).

I had never heard of the author [that is not true…more on that later], but the back of the book had accolades from Jeff Kinney, Dave Eggers and Jon Scieszka a triumvirate of trustworthy praise.

The audio book was read by Arte Johnson (yes, that Arte Johnson).  I don’t know if it was Arte’s delivery, but I enjoyed this book more than anything I have read in a long long time.  I wonder if the book would have been as enjoyable had I read it–I assume so because it was really fantastic, but it was a lot of fun listening with the whole family.

So this story is about 12-year-old Steve Brixton, a regular kid who happens to love the The Brighton Brothers Mysteries, a classic series of adventures (think Hardy Boys) in which two brothers get into scrapes and situations, take out thugs using their combination of brawn and brains and solve the mystery.  Steve loves them so much he has written down all of their suggestions for successful sleuthing which he keeps in his Secret Book Box.  He also got the Detective License for 12 box tops and $1.95.

He and his chum (all good detectives should have a chum) Dana have plans for the weekend until their teacher assigns them an 8 page research paper due on Monday.  Topics are randomly assigned and while Dana gets “detectives,” Steve gets “early American needlework.”  Miss Gilfeather suggests that it might be more interesting than he fears.

And boy is she correct. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: My Volkwagen Jetta hates The Beatles.

Lately, I have been playing some Beatles discs in my car.  And my Jetta clearly hates them.

First it was Please Please Me, when the entire CD player shut off mid-song.  It had lost all power.  I had to bang on it for about 5 minutes before it came back on.

The player played other discs fine after that.  Then, last night I played A Hard Day’s Night and half way through the disc it shut itself off again.  This time I was able to power it back on, but it wouldn’t play the disc anymore.  I ejected it and put in a new disc which worked fine.  When I put A Hard Day’s Night back in, same spot on the disc (“Can’t Buy Me Love”), and the player was totally off: no power at all.

A bit more pounding on the face and it came back on, and today played a Rheostatics disc with no trouble.  I guess I’ll not be listening to The Beatles in the car again.  Is it because the Beatles recorded versions of their songs in German but they weren’t included on the disc?

[READ: May 8, 2010] The Clock Without a Face

This review is about my first read of this book.  When I get to the end you’ll realize why there will have to be a second read and updated review.

This is an amusing tale.  And also a confounding (and evidently very real–see the bottom paragraph!–) mystery. (more…)

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