Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Wedgie and Gizmo vs. the Toof and The Pompeii Disaster

Selfors, Suzanne. Wedgie and Gizmo vs. the Toof (#2)
April 17th 2018 by Katherine Tegen Books
ARC provided by Young Adult Books Central

Our friends are back after their exploits in Wedgie and Gizmo. Gizmo has settled in to life with his new family, and has established some routines. His nap schedule is hectic, but he makes sure to spend some time with Abuela, watching television and eating cheese puffs. When Jasmine is bound and determined to enter a pet in the school parade, both Gizmo and Wedgie are pressed into service. Wedgie embarassed himself last year, peeing on the principal and running a bit wild, so Jasmine thinks he needs to redeem himself. This is even harder now that Emiliy has moved in next door with a mini pig called Pinky (Gizmo refers to him as the Toof). Pinky wears a crown, goes to the beauty shop, and does lots of tricks. Jasmine is very concerned that Pinky will win the prize that she feels Wedgie deserves. In the meantime, Gizmo is trying to muster a cavy army in order to complete his plan for world domination, and even manages to order a drone on Abuela's charge card. This certainly spices up the pet parade, which is rather spectacular, if not as disastrous as it was the previous year.

Selfors captures both Wedgie's and Gizmo's voices beautifully. Wedgie rhapsodizing about a muffin he runs away with under the sofa sounds exactly the way I imagine my dog sounded after she managed to run off with an oatmeal cookie. Gizmo is a brilliant Evil Genius, and his plans to take over the world are pretty darn sound-- if you are a cavy. I'm a little sad that we don't hear from Pinkie, because I imagine the mini pig has a very distinctive vocal style as well.

Of course, much of this book is over the top. Gizmo wears glasses, orders things off the internet, and manages to get aloft in a drone at the school pet parade. The ordinary life of Jasmine and Elliot's family is a nice foil for the celebration of evil genius, and every day details about meals, school, and family chores makes a good argument that Gizmo's exploits are absolutely possible.

Jasmine's jealousy over Emily and her pet rings absolutely true, and Elliot's reluctance to get involved in her plots is something that older brothers will definitely recognize. My favorite character is Abuela, who is the only one who really seems to understand that Gizmo is actually a threat. She keeps telling the family "Yeah, the guinea pig ordered a drone on my credit card", but they never believe her. Even more endearing is the fact that Abuela LETS Gizmo order the drone and even unpacks it and makes sure it is available to him when he needs it.

Readers who enjoy Birney's Humphrey books, O'Donnell's Hamstersaurus Rex, or Reiche's I, Freddy will appreciate this series' use of a guinea pig rather than the overworked hamster. I can't think of too many books that include mini pigs, either, and Wedgie is in a class with the movie character Bolt in his insistence that his cape makes him a super hero!

Gutman, Dan. The Pompeii Disaster (Flashback Four #3)
April 3rd 2018 by HarperCollins
Public library copy

After being stranded briefly in 1912, the Flashback Four makes it back to Ms. Z for their next assignment. Since she has collected pictures that could have been taken because photography had been invented, she wants to up the stakes and send the children back to 79 a.d. and the eruption of Vesuvius. Of course, things don't ever go well, the children are mistaken for slaves and hauled off from their target-- taking a photo at the moment Vesuvius erupts. In the meantime, they learn a lot about how the Romans lived.
Strengths: I really like that the group has a mission, and the technology of time travel, as well as the gadgets they use once they get there (Ear buddy for translation would be fabulous, wouldn't it?) in order to communicate and fit in. Gutman has read his Pliny the Younger, and the historical details are good (dormice stuffed with dormice would probably not have been fed to prisoners, but how could you not include them?). This is a fun series for readers who have moved beyond Magic Treehouse and Ranger in Time. In fact, you could do a fun unit comparing the Pompeii versions of all of these!
Weaknesses: I like my time travel to be a little less goofy, and I'm not a huge fan of Julia.
What I really think: I definitely purchase these titles. They aren't wildly popular but see steady circulation, and they're great to have on hand for the students who like time travel books. The Baseball Card Adventures still have a special place in my heart!

1 comment:

  1. Over the top humor? Boys will want to know about this! BTW, doesn't naming the mini pig "Pinky" sound like a reference to the "Pinky and the Brain" cartoons (which featured an evil genius mouse that constantly plotted to take over the world) from the Animaniacs?