Friday, September 14, 2012

Wonderful Weirdos of Literature Series 2012 - Installment #9

Time for Installment #9 of the Third Annual Bugs and Bunnies Wonderful Weirdos of Literature Series. (New here? Just click the link above, and that should get you caught up nicely. Feel free to click around to the other links you'll find there, but don't forget to come back to this post and continue the fun.)

All caught up? Great! Let's get going, shall we? Last week, our theme for Installment #8 was Classics...And Classic Twists. This week's theme is

Strange Goings-On

To Catch a Mermaid, by Suzanne Selfors
Ages 9-12

Boom Broom is a twelve-year-old with a lot on his shoulders. Ever since a freak twister touched down in Fairweather Island a year ago right in the Broom's front yard, and carried off Mrs. Broom, the family had never been the same. Mr. Broom refuses to leave the attic except for bathroom breaks, or to grab food prepared by the hired cook. The cook is a proud Viking descendant named Halvor who only prepars fish, fish, more fish, and thick black coffee. Mertyle, Boom's little sister, refuses to leave the house, inventing one sickness after another so she won't have to go to school. Boom refuses to let the twister alter his life and tries to carry on, but he still has to deal with his family's eccentricities, and with neighborhood bully Hurley Mump and his equally bully-ish family.

Then one day, Boom is sent out to get fish for dinner. He brings home a very odd fish salvaged from a reject seafood bucket down at the docks. When he and Mertyle discover the fish is no fish, but a real, live merbaby, things start to get interesting...

 The Apothecary, by Maile Meloy, with illustrations by Ian Schoenherr
Ages 10 and up

It's 1952. February. With only a week to prepare, the Scott family makes a sudden move from Los Angeles, California to London, England. As her parents get started in their new jobs writing for a television show, fourteen-year-old Janie Scott finds herself trying to navigate her new school - and not feeling very good about it. But then she meets Benjamin Burrows, a boy with a defiant streak and dreams of becoming a spy someday. 

Benjamin's father is the local apothecary who had given Janie a curious homesickness remedy the day they'd arrived - a remedy which, to Janie's surprise, actually seemed to be working. When she and Benjamin go out on one of Benjamin's self-assigned spying missions, they soon discover that his father is no ordinary apothecary. Just before Benjamin's father goes missing, he charges them with protecting his mysterious book, the Pharmacopoeia, from falling into the wrong hands. But whose hands are those? What secrets does the book hold? And, can it help Janie and Benjamin find his father, before it's too late?

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children, by Ransom Riggs
Ages 13 and up

Jacob Portman loved listening to his grandpa's stories. And when he was just six years old, he decided to become an explorer, figuring it was the only way to have a life even half as exciting as his Grandpa Portman's had been. Soon, though, Jacob came to realize that most of Grandpa Portman's best stories couldn't possibly be true - especially the ones about his childhood. 

Those stories were about awful monsters he said were after him in Poland, where he was born; and about the Welsh children's home he was sent to when he was twelve, to escape those monsters. It was an idyllic place that kept kids safe from those monsters, he'd told Jacob, and that was protected by a wise old bird. Even more fantastic were the photos he'd show Jacob of the peculiar children there - an invisible boy, a levitating girl, a boy with two mouths, among others. The older Jacob got, though, the less he believed Grandpa Portman's stories, until eventually he stopped asking him to tell them.

When Jacob was fifteen, something terrible happened, and his world was turned upside down. Then, when he turned sixteen, Jacob received an unexpected gift from an unexpected giver, which contained an even more unexpected - and mysterious - item within. Soon after that, he found himself halfway across the world, on a remote island off the coast of Wales, where he discovered the ruins of a place called Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children. Jacob did some investigating, and very soon Grandpa Portman's "stories" began to take on a whole new - and ominous - meaning.

The Twits, written by Roald Dahl, illustrated by Quentin Blake
Ages 7 and up

Mr. and Mrs. Twit live in a house with no windows - the better to keep out prying eyes. They're smelly, nasty, ugly, and mean spirited, and they play horrible practical jokes on each other. They smear HUGTIGHT sticky glue on the branches of their Big Dead Tree each night to capture birds for their Bird Pie supper, but consider having Boy Pie instead when they find four little boys stuck to the branch one morning. They keep a family of monkeys in their home, forcing them to do everything upside down, in case their idea for an upside down monkey circus ever comes to fruition. And no one has ever been able to stop them from doing the dastardly things they do.

But one day, a new bird comes around. And the monkeys get bold. And soon, the monkeys and birds work together to turn the tables on those terrible Twits.

Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs, written by Judi Barrett, and drawn by Ron Barrett
Ages 4 and up

In the tiny town of Chewandswallow, the weather came three times a day: at breakfast, lunch and dinner. But what fell from the sky wasn't rain or snow. Juice might fall at breakfast time, followed by some eggs and toast. For lunch, a storm of hamburgers might blow in. Dinner weather might bring lamb chops with peas and baked potatoes.

People watched the weather on morning TV to know what would be on the menu the next day. And if they were going to be outside, they carried a plate, cup, napkin, and silverware with them, so they were always prepared for whatever the weather brought. They even had a system for dealing with any leftovers. Everything was very orderly and well-run.

But one day, the weather changed. Sometimes, only one type of food fell - the whole day. Other times, a full meal fell, but none of it went together, and it ended up very unappetizing. Eventually, the food that fell began to get bigger. And bigger. And bigger. And soon, the town became overrun with giant food, and too much of it - way too much for them to handle. What's a town to do?

* * *

I hope you had fun during Installment #9 of the Third Annual Bugs and Bunnies Wonderful Weirdos of Literature Series, reading about these books with Strange Goings-On. Even better, I hope you go out and find them. And read them. 

Before you go, I'll leave you with this:

Know what's weird? Day by day, nothing seems to change. But pretty soon, everything's different.

             - Bill Watterson (Calvin and Hobbes comics)

Come back next week for Installment #10, for some characters who have their own ways of doing things...

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