Friday, August 20, 2010

Book Review: A Whole Nother Story, As told by (The One and Only) Dr. Cuthbert Soup

...the only place you should ever have anyone's name written in indelible ink is on the waistband on your underwear. And then it should be your own name, as having someone else's name on your underwear would be both odd and highly inappropriate.

This is the story of Dr. Ethan Cheeseman, his three "smart, polite, and relatively odor-free children," a snarky sock puppet named Steve, and a psychic, hairless dog named Pinky, as told by Dr. Cuthbert Soup, president of the National Center for Unsolicited Advice. The Cheesemans are on the run from no less than three villainous groups, all bent on swiping Dr. Cheeseman's newest invention: the Luminal Velocity Regulator. But the device is still unfinished. And the person who holds the final key to its operation is co-inventor Olivia, Dr. Cheeseman's lovely wife, and mother to their three children, who met an untimely (and suspicious) end.

For the past two years, the Cheeseman family has kept one step ahead of the bad guys, hastily packing up the family station wagon and moving on whenever said villains get too close: changing towns, changing their names, and meeting a host of interesting, helpful people (some of whom are rather unusual), all while struggling to find the missing piece for the LVR's completion. With its ability to control the speed of light, the LVR has the potential for time travel, which could at last bring back Mrs. Cheeseman. If only they could get it working.

For Teachers and Librarians:
Your students will have a blast reading A Whole Nother Story. Interspersed throughout this family's sometimes funny, sometimes heartbreaking, sometimes thought-provoking story, Dr. Cuthbert Soup bestows upon the reader his own unsolicited - and rather unorthodox - advice.

There is plenty of fun in this book, yet mixed in are plenty of places you can use as springboards to some great discussions, lessons, and projects. You can touch on sci-fi (time travel), paranormal (Pinky the psyhic dog, and a ghost who haunts a bed-and-breakfast the family stays in), contemporary fiction (as the family struggles to live a "normal" life amongst the chaos they've been forced into), or adventure/mystery (the journey the family is on throughout the book, the mystery of Mrs. Cheeseman's death), and all the interconnected subjects therein.

Dr. Soup's advice sections can spark some important discussions - such as the wisdom (or not) of getting a tattoo, nutritious (or not) recipes, and safe driving tips - even though they are presented in madcap and very tongue-in-cheek format. And of course, reading about the family's circumstances can help kids feel not so alone in dealing with issues they may be facing in their own lives: death of a parent, single-parent homes, being a "new kid," moving around frequently.

Most importantly, this book will get your students reading. And reading. And reading. When they're done, they'll be disappointed that there isn't more to the story. But you can happily tell them that, "Oh, yes, there is," because the next book, Another Whole Nother Story, comes out in December 2010.

For Parents, Grandparents and Caregivers:
A Whole Nother Story is a book that you can feel good about putting in the hands of your kids. It's funny. It's family-oriented. It gets kids to see that they can and should trust in themselves, and do what is right. It focuses on the interconnectedness of life: everyone the Cheeseman family meets, they have touched or helped in some way, and those people in turn were able to help the family.

This book has something to catch so many kids' eyes: a roller-skating ghost who provides a helpful warning to the family, the psychic dog named Pinky who lets the family know when the bad guys are near, time travel, inventions, life on the road, baseball, sock puppets, evil villains, and even pirates. And all of it is sprinkled with so many laugh-out-loud moments, neither you nor your kiddos will be able to put it down.

For the Kids:
A Whole Nother Story is a book you just have to get your hands on. The story is told by Dr. Cuthbert Soup, founder and president of the National Center for Unsolicited Advice.

In between telling you about Dr. Cheeseman, his three "relatively odor-free children," and their life on the run to protect a time-traveling invention from falling into the greedy hands of three different groups of bad guys, Dr. Soup gives out all kinds of advice. Like, he advises about whose name one should put on the waistband of one's underwear (NOT someone else's name), or how one should choose a good doctor (NOT the one with dead fish in his waiting room aquarium).

Plus, you gotta love a story with a one-eyed, filthy, talking sock puppet named Steve; a psychic, hairless dog named Pinky; evil government guys with names like "El Kyoo;" roller-skating ghosts who warn you about bad guys; and recipes for squash that end with, "Remove squash from oven and place in garbage disposal. Eat doughnuts."

So, what are you still doing here? Go out and get this book! Shoo!

For Everyone Else:
A Whole Nother Story is a book that you will enjoy whether you're nine, or a hundred and nine. It's funny. It's sweet. It's heartwarming. It's heartbreaking. It will make you laugh out loud, and feel for the characters, and never want it to end. So it's a good thing that Another Whole Nother Story comes out in December 2010.

Wrapping Up:
A Whole Nother Story is not to be missed. If you buy it, you'll be so glad you did. If you borrow it, you'll want to either renew it and read it again, or go out and buy your own copy, or both. Trust me.

Title: A Whole Nother Story
Author: Dr. Cuthbert Soup
Illustrator: Jeffrey Stewart Timmins
Pages: 272
Reading Level: Ages 8-12
Publisher and Date: Bloomsbury, USA Children's Books, January 2010
Edition: First US Edition
Language: English
Published In: United States
Price: $16.99
ISBN-10: 1599904351
ISBN-13: 978-1-59990-435-1

Author Spotlight: Dr. Cuthbert Soup

There is a lot to be said about (The One and Only) Dr. Cuthbert Soup. He is founder and president of the National Center for Unsolicited Advice. He has served as (un)official advisor to celebrities, religious leaders, and heads of state. He travels the globe, giving inspirational speeches to unsuspecting crowds. And, as if all of that were not illustrious enough, he has recently added children's book author to his credentials - with one book already out, and one soon to be published.

Yet, Dr. Soup has achieved these lofty positions in society from rather humble beginnings. Cuthbert Hubert Egbert Soup was born to Philbert and Roberta Soup, at the height of the Great Sausage Famine, in Vienna, Austria. At the age of 23, he dropped out of high school and moved to New York City, procuring employment as a smoke detector at the mall - a rather short-lived position, as he soon found himself replaced by a machine. He then nabbed a gig playing live elevator music, but that opportunity dissolved as well, when he was fired for his trombone hitting elevator patrons.

Deciding to further his education, Cuthbert Soup enrolled in Southwestern North Dakota State University, where he was a football standout for SWNDSU's Fighting Paperclips. In fact, he led the school to a national title, and remains to this day the only student in school history to both start at quarterback and play in the pep band - at the same time. It was after earning his PhD in Unsolicited Advice that he went on to found the National Center for Unsolicited Advice, unofficially dole out wisdom to the high and influential, and give speeches to the unsuspecting masses.

And now, he has added "author" to his resume. His first book, the humorous A Whole Nother Story, was published in January 2010. Dr. Soup was asked in a interview whether he found it "easy and natural" to write humor. "Actually I find it difficult not to write humorously," he said, telling the story of the time he procured his first writing job - another position from which he was summarily fired. The job? Writing obituaries for the local newspaper. "Apparently," explains Dr. Soup, "there is 'nothing funny' about spontaneous combustion."

Dr. Cuthbert Soup lives in a semisecret location, somewhere in North America. He shares his home with his dog, Kevin, and his two pet snails, Gooey and Squishy. When he isn't advising, speaking, or writing, Dr. Soup enjoys cajoling, sneering, fencing, flossing, and practicing the trombone in crowded areas.