Saturday, April 27, 2019

Cartoon Saturday- Marty Pants, Pug Pals

Parisi, Mark. How to Defeat a Wizard (Marty Pants #3)
October 30th 2018 by HarperCollins
Copy provided by Young Adult Books Central

Marty is still at war with Simon, and irritated beyond belief that everyone thinks the other boy is charming when Marty knows full well his ONLY talent is to draw pictures of a well known cartoon character. When Marty gets in trouble for calling Simon a "monkey washer" and has to apologize, and Marty's dog Jerome eats a paper with Simon's name on it, leaving only the enigmatic word "NOWIS", Marty becomes convince that Marty is actually a wizard who is exerting his evil powers to convince everyone he is wonderful, and sets out to prove this. There are other things going on, like his sister's stressful science project, and Marty gets distracted, even feeling at one point that Simon might not be too bad! When the two boys end up working on a school project together, Marty starts to think that maybe he has misread Simon's intentions... or is that all part of the wizardry as well?

Books where children are well meaning but still get themselves into trouble, like Peirce's Big Nate, are always popular with middle grade readers, who themselves have difficulty controlling themselves in all situations. I once had a student lick the leaves of a flower arrangement on my desk, and when I asked him why, he honestly didn't even know why he had done it. This explains so much of Marty's world, but at least he has some friends, like Roongrat and Parker, as well as supportive parents, to keep him in line a little bit.

This notebook novel has a large number of illustrations than some of this genre, more along the lines of Watson's Stick Dog, Pichon's Tom Gates and Barnett's Mac B.: Spy Kid and than Greenwald's Charlie Joe Jackson series. The pictures themselves are quite pleasing-- strong black lines that can turn goofy at the flick of Parisi's wrist. As an added bonus, there is a flip book of Jerome tumbling down the pages! The pictures are very light, but I knew right away why they were there!

Marty's belief that odd things are happening in his world (In Keep Your Paws Off, he thinks his sister is a werewolf!) might make older readers wonder if he has some sort of developmental disorder, younger readers will love the fact that they are so much smarter than Marty! And who knows-- given Jerome's oddly hornlike ears, maybe Marty isn't imaging as much as I think!

Ahn, Flora. Yay for VayCay! (Pug Pals #2)
January 29th 2019 by Scholastic
Copy provided by Young Adult Books Central

Sunny and Rosy's human packs for vacation, but doesn't take her beloved dogs with her! Instead, they get to visit Grandma and Grandpa, who dote on the pups. Sunny explains that there will be all sorts of head rubs and extra treats, so Rosy thinks this is a good plan. When Grandma takes them out to garden, however, she thinks that the dogs are responsible for tearing up some of her vegetables, and thinks they are naughty! They don't get to go outside as much, and their special barbecue treat is canceled! Oh, no! The dogs know that they didn't damage anything, so they start to investigate who did. In their best detective costumes, they go into the garden while the grandparents are away, and take a closer look at the clues. They meet Clove, a groundhog, who is sympathetic to their task, but are not able to solve the mystery. They spend their days doing yoga, watching movies and eating popcorn, and generally enjoying their new atmosphere, but as their vacation draws to a close, they know they much figure out their problem. They find the culprit right under their noses, and he apologizes. More importantly, the pugs manage to alert the grandparents about the thief without getting him into danger. The barbecue is back on, and the pugs find at the end of their vacation that their harnesses are a bit snug after their surfeit of snacks!

Rosy and Sunny are both exuberant puppies, and the pictures of their antics are delightful! How Ms. Ahn packs so much character into simple line drawings is amazing, and the depiction of dogs in their pajamas, doing yoga or just romping around the garden are delightful.

While it's fairly clear to the reader who is stealing the vegetables, we see all of the events from the pugs' perspective, so we can also understand why they are a bit in the dark. I do love the "dog's eye" view presented here-- we only see the legs of the humans, and occasionally hands that are feeding treats or petting the dogs. It's fun to see the dogs' list of the highlights of their vacation-- making new friends, relaxing outside, snuggling, playing, and of course, treats! That was the only thing that concerned me-- I hope that Rosy and Sunny's human takes them on lots of walks so that their extra treats don't cause any health problems!

This series is a step up for readers who have enjoyed the goofy early reader mysteries of Robert M. Quackenbush (Sherlock Chick, Henry) or Kin Platt (Big Max) but who like a few more pictures than Warner's The Boxcar Children or Roy's Alphabet Mysteries provide. The drawings are so much fun that this could also be a read aloud for a younger child who must leave a pet with someone else, and even my middle school students find these to be a bit of a "vacation" read!

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