Friday, June 20, 2008

Book Review: Stink and the Great Guinea Pig Express, by Megan McDonald

     When they finally got unstuck, Stink looked at the Great Wall. He could not believe his eyes. The Great Wall was moving. The Great Wall was quaking. "Look!" he said, pointing.
     "Why is it moving?" asked Webster.
     "Maybe it's the wind," said Sophie.
     "Does the wind go wee, wee, wee, wee, wee?" asked Stink.

What do you get when you mix together one determined seven-year-old boy, his two best friends, a kind-hearted pet shop owner, and 101 rescued guinea pigs? A recipe for fun, that's what! Stink and the Great Guinea Pig Express stars Stink Moody and his friends Sophie and Webster. Together with Mrs. Birdwistle, they embark on a fun-filled journey to Virginia Beach and back in "a rattle trap camper full of one hundred and one guinea pigs" which they dub Squeals on Wheels. Their mission: to find good homes for every one of those wiggly piggies.

Just the right size to tuck in a backpack or take along for a car ride, this book's bright orange cover and colorful book jacket showing a camper full of guinea pigs will draw young readers to pull it off the shelf. Megan McDonald's imaginative prose, sprinkled here and there with trivia-like factoids that go along with the story, is perfectly complemented by Peter Reynolds' endearing black and white illustrations. As per usual in the Stink series, each chapter is punctuated by a graphic-novel-style comic at the end, giving the reader interesting, little known facts - this time, all about guinea pigs. 

The author also includes something of a public service announcement at the end of the book, directed right to the reader, explaining that pet adoption is a big responsibility. She directs them to the library to learn more about guinea pig care, and even includes a website to check out for those interested in learning more about guinea pig rescue. Kids will not only be entertained by the antics of the guinea pigs, they'll also be learning about them. But shhhhh! Don't tell them, and they'll never even realize they're having fun that's also educational...

For Teachers and Librarians:
This book lends itself well to several subjects: pet ownership and it's ensuing responsibilities; geography, history and interesting sights in Virginia; animal welfare; activism on a kid-sized scale. Have the kids mark a Virginia map at each place the gang visits. Let them research those places. Maybe they could create a care and feeding chart for guinea pigs, or a "How to Take Good Care of a Pet" booklet. How about discussing treatment of animals in general? Create "Save the Guinea Pigs" posters. There are so many ways to go with this. And of course, there's always reading for fun - and it is a fun book! Which one will you choose?

For Parents, Grandparents and Caregivers:
Considering getting a pet? This is a fun springboard to introduce the guinea pig option, and some of their behaviors, and a little about the time it takes to care for them. If you happen to be traveling to Virginia Beach this summer, you could map out the gang's route there, and stop at each place they stopped. If not, map out a route to wherever you may vacation or take a trip. Pick some spots to stop and explore. Have your own Stink-like adventure! Not traveling or getting a pet? Then lucky you, because the book is still fun to read just for the heck of it - and your little charges will learn a thing or two without even trying...

For the Kids:
Stink is a fun kid. He has crazy ideas that somehow manage to work out, and not always the way he thought they would. He has great friends. He has a sister who likes to tease him, but likes to hear his ideas, too. And somehow, Stink always manages to have these great adventures that are so fun to read about. This time, he travels in a guinea-pig-packed camper all the way to Virginia Beach in search of good homes for each one of those piggies. Will they be able to find homes for all those guinea pigs? Where will they go? What will they see? And, will there be any guinea pigs left over for Stink to adopt? Better go find the book, so you can find out, huh?

Wrapping Up:
Stink and the Great Guinea Pig Express is a charming tale about the big things little kids can do with great ideas, a little elbow grease, and a some help from supportive adults. And, there's guinea pigs. What's not to like?

Title: Stink and the Great Guinea Pig Express
Author: Megan McDonald
Illustrator: Peter H. Reynolds
Pages: 128
Reading Level: Ages 4-8
Publisher and Date: Candlewick, 2008
Edition: 1st
Language: English
Published In: United States
Price: $12.99
ISBN-10: 0763628352
ISBN-13: 978-0763628352