Friday, November 03, 2023

Guy Friday- The Bumble Brothers and Ellis Johnson Might Be Famous

Metzger, Steve and Schatell, Brian. (illus.) 
The Not-So-Secret Clubhouse (Bumble Brothers #2)
October 10, 2023 by Reycraft Books
Copy graciously provided by the author

Twins Walter and Christopher, fresh from their adventures in Crazy for Comics, would just as soon spend the day playing their favorite video game, Swampland, but their parents tell them that they have to go outside. They want to create a secret club, and need to find a place to meet, so head out on their own with just a dollar for snacks. After splitting a doughnut that they buy in town, the two run into Rebecca Wood, who causes Christopher to loose the power of speech. They want her to be in their club, along with Alexander the turtle. At first, they try to set up their club in the middle of a field, but soon move to a nearby grove of pine trees to get away from Frisbee players and other park goers. They create a secret handshake, but are a bit worried when Rebecca asks Jasmine and Akio to join the club as well. Harold, who bullied them in the first book but reformed, is also invited to join. After a tiring afternoon determining passwords and other critical club secrets, the group goes back to the twins' house to finally play Swampland. Mama and Papa Bumble are reluctant at first, but the club members make a persuasive argument for the benefits of video games. Seeing that the kids have spent a good day outside interacting socially, the parents let them play, and Walter and Christopher go to bed that night ready for their next adventures. 
Strengths: The bright graphics and large, easy to read print make this an excellent choice for young readers who want a somewhat goofy, realistic graphic novel. Clubs are great fun to put together, and secret clubs are even better. Walter and Christopher's adventures in their neighborhood are amusing, and their interactions with their peers are positive and constructive. I'll have to hunt down the first book to find out what transpired with Harold! 
Weaknesses: The twins are nine, so I'm not sure what's up with Christopher's one tooth sticking out of his mouth. The illustrations reminded me a bit of James Marshall's George and Martha, which isn't necessarily a bad thing, but the tooth bothered me! 
What I really think: This is a good choice for elementary readers who enjoyed stories like Stromoski, Rick. Take a Hike (Schnozzer and Tatertoes) or Cody's Cat Ninja tales and will also work for emerging middle grade readers who will benefit from the easy-to-read text and realistic story line. 

Amos, Shawn. Ellis Johnson Might Be Famous (Cookies & Milk #2)
October 3, 2023 by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus
Now that his father's cookie business has taken off in 1976, Ellis is enjoying working in the store, and hoping that a trip to the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade to ride on a float will help business pick up even more. Ellis hopes that his father will let him do more at the store, and also perhaps show case his harmonica playing. He's not as big a fan of his father's kazoo playing, but ever since blues great Muddy Waters gave him the nickname Howlin' Johnson, Ellis is determined to make harmonica playing his career when he grows up. The trip to New York goes fairly well, right up until Ellis is ready to play his harmonica on national television, but falls off the rocking kangaroo float! It will take a lot to live this down at school, but Ellis has other problems. His father is quite taken with the TWA pilot, Samantha, who was on their East coast flight, and the two have started dating. Sam has a daughter, Sarah, and she and Ellis conspire to get their parents to stop dating. His grandmother, who helps out a lot, has been very cranky with the customers.  There's also the problem of his uncle, Wishbone, who has been let go by radio station KIRA for refusing to play disco music. Not only that, but Wishbone has taken over the shed that is Ellis and Alex's clubhouse, and has filled it up with his records. Ellis tries to think up strategies to get Wishbone his job back, even trying to bribe kids at school with cookies to call the radio station. This causes problems, as does his pact with Sarah. Sarah isn't bad to have around, even if she goes to school with his crush, Jada, but he still hopes a little bit that his parents will get back together. When Sarah causes a scene in the store, saying she doesn't like chocolate, this leads to a new butterscotch and coconut cookie, and there's already a nut free version in the works for people with allergies. As Ellis' father says, "You're either changing wit' it or going up against it". Will Ellis be able to hang on to his love of the harmonica, embrace the Bee Gees music, and cement his status in the cookie store? 
Strengths: I was a little concerned that Ellis was going to diss the Bee Gees the way that Wishbone did, but he ending up embracing disco music. Whew. The BeeGees are one of my favorites, although iI'm a big fan of Parliament as well; it's great that there is a playlist at the end of the book. The author based this book on his own life, and since he grew up to be a blues musician, it's an interesting look at how he was able to work through his embarassment at the parade and rededicate  himself to the harmonica. Of course, there's plenty of information about cookies, some friend and school drama, and just a generally sunny California vibe that was so much fun! Definitely purchasing this much anticipated sequel!
Weaknesses: The cover seems very generic; I liked the vague 1970s vibe of the first one more. 
What I really think: I bought two copies of the first book, and they were constantly checked out. Middle school students love to read about food, and Ellis is just a charming and goofy character who is very relatable. It seems likely there could be one more book in this series, and I'll definitely look forward to reading it if there is one published!

Ms. Yingling

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