The Day My Butt Went Psycho! by Andy Griffiths

The Day My Butt Went Psycho coverOriginally published in 2001 by Pan MacMillan in Australia as The Day My Bum When Psycho, this book is well-known and loved and has become a humour classic. It was recommended to me by a high school student who described it as his favourite book; I am so glad he did. Otherwise I would have completely missed out on the delights of Andy Griffiths’ writing.

In case you hadn’t guessed by the title, this book is built around toilet humour. Adults might groan, but kids will laugh out loud. The story centers on twelve year old Zack Freeman and his butt, which has been secretly detaching itself from Zack at night and running around recruiting other butts for the butt revolution. When Zack follows his butt one night, he discovers the enormity of the butt revolution and meets a crack squad of butt-hunters, Silas Sterne and his daughter Eleanor, plus Kicker, Smacker and Kisser, skilled in various schools of butt-combat. The story follows Zack through a series of smelly events in the Brown Forest, the Great Windy Desert, and eventually to the enormous buttcano and a battle against the massive butt army of The Great White Butt.

Scholastic lists the reading level as 3.9 and recommends this book for grades 2 to 5, but I think readers of all ages who thoroughly enjoy a gross-out story will enjoy it. 150 pages of butt puns and fart jokes were a little too much for me, but I did enjoy the book. I have not yet read the sequels, Zombie Butts from Uranus and Butt Wars: the Final Conflict (originally Bumageddon: the Final Pongflict in Australia).

Check out the Andy Griffiths website on Scholastic, or read a short review from Awesome Bookclub. The review from The Bookbag includes excerpts and recommendations for similar reading.

Mini Arthurian

Editor’s Intro: We’ll wrap up our Classics Retold project with a handful of mini blurbs from Rei. I’m sure I’m not the only one whose discovered some new books to add to the TBR list this month. Thanks for following along with us!

Christmas in Camelot coverMagic Tree House: Christmas in Camelot written by Mary Pope Osborne and illustrated by Sal Murdocca
Among their many adventures with their time-traveling Magic Tree House (said to be the property of “Morgan le Fay”), is a story of how the main characters, Jack and Annie, travel back in time to Camelot where they meet King Arthur, Queen Guinevere and the Knights of the Round Table. Something is amiss though — Sir Galahad, Sir Percival and Sir Lancelot, having ventured on a magical quest to the Otherworld, have not returned for many weeks. Travel alongside Jack and Annie as they help find the knights and try to unlock the mystery hidden in the Otherworld.

King Arthur coverKing Arthur by Marc Brown
In this Arthur chapter book, Arthur, Buster, Francine and their classmates from Lakewood elementary are on a field trip to a medieval park to win the Golden Gryphon. Competing against them is Glenbrook Academy. The challenges include maze walking, a tug of war, food eating contests, getting the sword out of the stone and more. During the competitions, Arthur hears some bad news — if they didn’t win at least one of the challenges, they risk getting different teacher — a teacher more strict than Mr. Ratburn. Will Arthur and his friends be able to save their teacher?

Time Soldiers Arthur coverTime Soldiers: Arthur by Kathleen Duey
Book 4 in the Time Soldiers series is Arthur, the story of six neighbourhood kids who can time travel when a time-portal opens in their backyard. In the past, they’ve seen dinosaurs and pirates. This time, when the portal opens, three kids venture into the time of Merlin and Arthur just before his crowning. Instead of having the chance to pull the sword out of the stone right away, fate intervenes and Arthur is put into a jail cell. Can the Time Soldiers help Arthur get out of the cell so that he can fulfill his destiny?

Ten: Lost Things

Another of the best known Arthur stories is the search for the Holy Grail. This week’s Ten highlights other stories which focus on the search for something lost.

Ella Minnow Pea by Mark Dunn
Sometimes things get lost on purpose.
Ella lives in a town founded by the creator of the famous pangram, “The Quick Brown Fox Jumps Over the Lazy Dog.” When letters from the pangram start falling off the founder’s statue, the town leaders decide that any letter no longer appearing on the statue will also be removed from the town’s vocabulary. Continue reading

Ten: For Young Writers Part 3 — Stories about Young Writers

This last For Young Writers post leaves advice (mostly) behind in favour of story. The writers described in these stories may approach the task with eagerness or doubt, teacher expectations, or a deep need of their own to write. What they have in common is a growing understanding of the potential of their own words.

Once Upon an Ordinary School Day written by Colin McNaughton and illustrated by Satoshi Kitamura
On a perfectly ordinary, ho hum day, a new teacher arrives who challenges his students to open their imaginations to music and story. In bare handfuls of words, McNaughton captures a multitude of approaches to creativity, as well as the effects that creativity can have on those willing to give it a try. Continue reading

The Quiet Book written by Deborah Underwood and illustrated by Renata Liwska

The Quiet Book coverWhen do you feel quiet? Deborah Underwood’s picture book suggests a variety of situations in which someone might encounter quiet — for example, while waiting, hiding, or processing a surprise or a disappointment. While the situations included in the book are likely to be particularly relevant to small children (jelly side down quiet; tucking in teddy quiet), most are universal enough to recall experiences of stillness and quiet to the minds of older readers as well. In fact, as you work your way through the book, it seems quite natural to slow and remember feeling this kind of quiet and that, and to feel quieter in the act of remembering.

Renata Liwska illustrates each type of quiet with one or more of a community of childlike animals. A hedgehog checks out his new brush cut. A moose waits to be picked up from school. A rabbit hides from an intimidating relative. Some illustrations are focused — only one or two characters and the necessary props — while others involve detailed backgrounds, suggesting the atmosphere surrounding this particular quiet: a time of day, another activity being missed, a place, or a bit of weather. All are presented with a softness that’s less sweet than cosy.

The Quiet Book is much more experience than story, and I suspect that it would be as useful for inspiring discussion around different experiences and emotions as for preparing a little one for bed. Underwood and Liwska have also collaborated on The Christmas Quiet Book (almost as good) and The Loud Book (which has the opposite effect). All three are well worth experiencing for yourself.

Find more reviews at Crowding the Book Truck and Quill & Quire (thanks especially to the latter for helping me to capture some of the language needed to describe this book).

Catch a glimpse of Deborah Underwood’s and Renata Liwska’s Creative Spaces at From the Mixed Up Files.

Cover image from The Quiet Book, written by Deborah Underwood and illustrated by Renata Liwska. Copyright © 2010. Used by permission of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.

Ten: Defining “Hero”

The topic for this week’s Ten followed my discovery, on following a recommendation, that my library had three different books called Sidekicks — a middle grade series starter, a YA novel, and a graphic novel. Of course I requested all three. As I read these, and the others listed below, I found that while the term “hero” is still popular, almost every story focused on a “hero” is at least partly concerned with what exactly heroism means. Traditionally — according to dictionary.com — a hero is (some mix of) daring, altruistic and courageous, and admired by his or her community for these qualities. Is that really what makes a hero? And what does heroism look like when you’re called on to be the hero? Check out this week’s titles for ten answers.

Sidekicks written by Dan Danko and Tom Mason and illustrated by Barry Gott
A group of kids with promising but undeveloped powers provide their services whenever the League of Big Justice needs a hand. When the League is captured, Guy Martin (Speedy) leads the other sidekicks on a rescue mission. While several characters claim the role of “hero” based more on supposed “powers” than on actual heroic activity, Guy and his fellow sidekicks are brave, resourceful, and willing to use their respective talents to help when needed. Continue reading

Ten: Favourite Rereads

Ingathering by Zenna Henderson
Mum introduced me to Zenna Henderson as soon as I was old enough to be interested, and I gradually collected my own set in my late teens (Henderson published four books of short stories, all of which are rare thrift shop finds now). Ingathering is much easier to get, and combines two of the collections, plus a few extra stories that didn’t appear in the earlier books, so it’s a good place to start. Henderson’s stories, characters, and vocabulary are about as much a part of me as almost anything else I can think of. Discovering someone else who has read them (it’s happened twice, ever, and one of those was via Jo Walton’s Among Others) is rather like discovering an unknown relative — an unexpected someone in the world who shares important bits of my own history.

Devil on My Back and The Dreamcatcher by Monica Hughes
Choosing two is sort of cheating (though there will be plenty more of that before I’m done, so why fret?), but they’re sort of two halves of a whole, and these, more than any of the others, are remembered not only as stories, but as experiences. Devil on My Back is about learning to see and accept uncomfortable truths about a world you’ve taken for granted; The Dreamcatcher is about finding a legitimate place in a community that seems at first not to fit you at all. Both involve high stakes commitments from teenagers to use their knowledge and gifts to make real changes in their world. There’s also a trek on foot through the mountains that I mean to experience for myself at least once in my life. Continue reading