Tuesday, December 27, 2022

Two-Headed Chicken

Angleberger, Tom. Two-Headed Chicken
September 6, 2022 by Walker Books US

The two-headed chicken is a brother and sister team, where the brother admits to not being that bright, and the sister is so smart that she invented the Astrocap time travel device. This is helpful in navigating the plethora of alternative universes, which all have goofy properties, and in escaping Kernal Antlers, an enraged green  moose who is bound and determined to catch the chicken, fry them and eat them up! The chickens are as determined to escape as Antlers is to catch them, and the whole book is mainly the back and forth between the adversaries. There are a few other characters, like a fish with a mustache who suffers from an inferiority complex, and Granny Goosefoot, who pops in to tell stories. This frenetic romps takes our intrepid chickens to Olde London, outerspace, and into a monster movie universe, barely escaping being fried each time. Will they ever be able to make peace with Kernal Antlers?

Angleberger is known best for his slightly quirky Origami Yoda series, but a decade ago also published such goofy titles as Fake Mustache and Horton Halfpott, or The Fiedish Mystery of Smugwick Manor, or, The Loosening of M'Lady Luggertuck's Corset. This graphic novel aims at a slightly younger audience who might enjoy the enthusiastic colors and exaggerated humor. This is certainly a story where lots of things happen right away, even though there isn't as much plot as one might expect. At one point, the "reader of this lousy book" tells the chickens "But it better be good, or I'm reading Stuntboy instead!" The chickens panic. "Oh, no! That book has an actual plot! And the pictures are 100 times better!" The pell mell style of the storyline is definitely reinforced by the chaotic pictorial style. 

Thematically, this goes right along with Pilkey's Dog Man books, and will appeal to the same readers. Dog Man is fighting whatever evil he finds, but the two-headed chicken is concentrating on Kernal Antlers. Readalikes also include Trine's Melvin Beederman books and Eaton's Flying Beaver Brothers. I can see this being a popular choice among the elementary school crowd that appreciates a good fart reference as well as never ending knock knock jokes. 

I may send this on to an elementary school. Handing this to a middle school student feels sort of like letting them sit down to a breakfast where I just put the sugar bowl on the table and give them a spoon, even with the gentle pokes against reading comphrehension testing. 

Grabenstein, Chris. Dog Squad 2: Cat Crew
October 1, 2022 by Random House Children's Book
Copy provided by Young Adult Books Central

Fred has enjoyed being an actor playing Duke on the TV show Dog Squad, and is glad to have a home with trainers Jenny and Abby. After filming in Paris, Jenny comes up with the idea to start a new show called Cat Crew to compete with the program currently trouncing them, Seal Team Seven Starring Kevin. Getting cats to act is a bit of a challenge, since the cats currently at the Second Chance Ranch (Clarence, Barney, and Mr. Cookiepants) are more interested in sleeping, and Jenny doesn't like to force animals to do things they don't like. Fortunately, there is a new kitten, named Squeak, who has escaped from the property next door owned by Kitty Bitterridge. Kitty is training a team of Siamese cats to dance with great precision, but her training methods are suspect and the conditions under which the cats are kept are less than ideal. In addition to Squeak, we meet Yakster and Mehitabel, who are trying to break their friend Einstein out of Kitty's facility. Since those three cats are motivated, and consider filming Cat Crew to be practice for breaking Einstein out, they do a great job at filming. Kitty's team manages to win at America's Most Amazingly Talented Animals competition, so her quest for fame and renown is partially satisfied, but Fred and Squeak manage to steal the show, making her angry. Mr. Cookie Pants is a turncoat, running off to join Kitty's team because she has salmon, but the other cats, as well as the Dog Squad, are firm in their resolve to rescue the animals suffering under Kitty's claws. When Kitty starts another show, called Feline Force Five, the future of Cat Crew, as well as the ranch, looks bleak. Will Fred be able to uncover the truth about Kitty and save his comfortable and productive place at Jenny's ranch?

Like the first book in this series, Cat Crew is fast paced, with lots of descriptions of the television show's scenes, which are few of drama and danger... although certified by an expert NOT to endanger any pets at all! There is an emotional buy in with the fate of the ranch hanging on the success of the television franchise. The competing television shows are quite funny, and seeing how all of the programs play against each other is rather amusing. 

The characters are a fun mix of Scooby Doo style villains like Kitty and her chauffeur, Dimitri and the very real and lovable Fred who has overcome a difficult past and just wants a loving home with Jenny and Abby, even if it means he has to work on the television show. The original Duke isn't very nice, and the Second Chance Ranch cats aren't very invested, but Yakster, Mehitabel and Squeak embody the idea of found family and are stalwart in their attempts to rescue the cats. 

While there are lots of dog adventure books, there aren't as many cat ones. This is no doubt because real life cats generally emulate Mr. Cookie Pants and would rather spend their days napping and eating salmon thatn chasing villains up the Eiffel Tower! Watson's Stick Cat is somewhat similar, with some reluctant adventure, and there is always Hunter's lengthy Warrior Cats series for more true-to-life cat adventures. If feline fans can be convinced to read the first book in this series, they will find that cats are able to save the day just as well as Fred and his Dog Crew! 

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