Friday, November 22, 2013

Guy Friday-- Elementary Guys

There's just something about middle grade books that sets them apart. Makes sense, but until I get a big batch of books that aren't middle grade, I tend to forget the difference. Elementary students are much more concerned with making teachers happy, and are much more interested in potty humor, whereas high school students are painfully philosophical. Here are a few titles I picked up that are more on the elementary side of the Pilkey Line.

15818222 Watson, Tom. Stick Dog. 
January 8th 2013 by HarperCollins

Stick Dog lives under a bridge and is quite happy there. He hangs out with his dog friends, Mutt, Poo-poo and Karen. When the group smells hamburgers cooking in the park, they make plans to steal them, and have many humorous attempts to get them from the family. These include some spats with squirrels, thinking Karen is missing and planning a memorial to her, and stealing potato chips out of a trash can. Will Stick Dog and his friends ever get the hamburgers? The sequel, not surprisingly, is called Stick Dog Wants a Hot Dog. (8 October 2013).
Strengths: This is a notebook novel, although we are dutifully warned that the pictures are awful and that the artist can't draw. I will put this in the library because I can never have enough notebook novels.
Weaknesses: The whole plot is centered around the dogs getting the hamburgers. No character development, not much of a plot, and a deus ex machina ending. Clearly, I am not the target demographic for this title.

17469927Harley, Bill. Charlie Bumpers vs. The Teacher of the Year
September 1st 2013, Peachtree Publisher

Charlie is concerned when he hears that he has been assigned to Mrs. Burke's  fourth grade class, since he accidentally hit her with his shoe the year before. Also, she has a lot of rules and is insistent that everyone keep their desks clean, and Charlie is always a mess. Charlie doesn't want to run afoul of Mrs. Burke, but he manages to get in trouble right and left. He doesn't like his white tennis shoes, so he colors them with black marker. He is kind to the new student, Hector, who comes from Chile, but he climbs on his chair and falls, wastes a lot of toilet paper and creates a mess, and throws another shoe, this time to retrieve a soccer ball that students are not supposed to have out of the gym. In the end, though, he has a talk with Mrs. Burke and finds out that the two of them can get along.
Strengths: This reminded me strongly of Carolyn Haywood's Eddie books; well meaning child who just is constantly messing up. The pictures are fairly charming, and I can see this being well liked by first through third graders. There is a sequel coming out in the spring, Charlie Bumpers and the Really Nice Gnome. A good purchase for elementary libraries.
Weaknesses: Since middle school students are far more interested in gaining the approval of their classmates than of their teacher, this is not one I will buy.

17605480Urey, Gary. Super Schnoz and the Gates of Smell.
1 September 2013, Albery Whitman.

Andy Whiffler was born with an enormous nose because his mother's doctor mixed up her prenatal vitamins with a nasal steroid. When he moves to a new school, he is picked on mercilessly by his classmates, who call him Schnoz and make fun of him. Things change when their school is closed by a huge stink, and they are in danger of having to spend all summer in school. Schnoz finds out that his large nose has hidden powers-- he can use it to fly (using the same principle as the Flying Nun's wimple), and if he sniffs cayenne pepper, he can let out explosive sneezes. It turns out that Environmental Clean Up company is not in his school to remedy the situation, but is instead  trying to harness the horrible black goop under the school to make other places smell bad so that they can get paid to clean it up.
Strengths: Lots of weird, gross humor, with Andy reveling in smelling dirty diapers and rotten food. Some action, fending off the ECU. Plentiful illustrations.
Weaknesses: The illustrations and story line made me think that it was a lot like a Cartoon network show. Again, I am not the demographic for this.


  1. Oh, Karen, I have been thinking of you so often since I heard your news. I continue to send healing thoughts, and to be inspired by your strength. Please know that you have a community outside of your town and school that cares about you, too.


  3. I was so sorry to read your terrible news, Ms Yingling. You have so generously shared your knowledge and expertise with your blog readers, it is hard to know that you and your family have to face such suffering. I wish that good had been rewarded with good, but that's not how it always is in life. My thoughts are with you and I hope that you will find peace.

  4. Anonymous9:27 PM EST

    Thinking of you this week as you continue your journey. Take care of yourself. Be well, my friend.