Hot Dog! #11: Tool Time! – Anh Do

Illustrations – Dan McGuiness

Hotdog and his friends, Lizzie and Kev, desperately want to go to Grizzney Land, but they don’t have any money to pay the admission fee.

There’s no problem these friends can’t solve, though. They decide to earn the money themselves by starting their own business. Some jobs are harder than others but the friends persevere and finally the big day arrives. It’s time for some fun!

While the usual teamwork and good attitudes from the three friends were on show throughout this book, it wasn’t one of my favourites of the series. The jokes weren’t quite as groanworthy as usual and I found myself wishing they were. 

I wasn’t quite sure how changing some rusty screws for new ones could magically make a gate that was seriously decrepit look brand new. I guess these friends are much more handy than I gave them credit for.

I enjoyed the time spent at Grizzney Land and definitely want to try out the Bear-O-Plane.

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Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

Hotdog and his friends want to go to GRIZZNEY LAND, so they need to make money FAST! They decide to fix things with their tools! Will they nail it? Or will it be one AXE-ident after another?

Worst Week Ever! #1: Monday – Eva Amores & Matt Cosgrove

Justin Chase is about to have a really bad week, starting at 5am. Who wants to be awake that early on a Monday? Not Justin, that’s for sure. Yesterday was a big enough day; his mother did marry a vampire after all.

Today is shaping up to be even more hectic. 

His mother and her new (possibly undead) husband are dropping Justin off at his father’s house on their way to their honeymoon. Justin’s father is on a new health kick (we’ll see how long that lasts) and is now only eating green things. That’s bad news for Justin, who can’t find any other colours in the fridge. His Nan lives with his father and you’re going to love her: she swears, crochets and drinks tea.

Justin’s cat, who is essentially a ball of furry attitude (cattitude?) is newly missing, presumably abducted by aliens. 

That kind of far-fetched, OUTLANDISH thing only really happens in PREPOSTEROUS kids’ books. 

You know, like this one.

And if that’s not enough, Justin’s being chauffeured to Day 1 of his brand new school in style. Sort of. His father drives an oversized toilet. 

’What the actual WHAT?!’ 

Besides scoring detention on his first day and having to endure Maths Monday, Justin also meets his archnemesis and makes a name for himself at school.

Kids who aren’t particularly squeamish (those with emetophobia may want to avoid this one) will love this book. Naturally, because this series was written during lockdown, toilet paper plays a fairly significant role (roll?) in this book. There are cringeworthy embarrassing moments, toilet humour and the promise of even more terrible and terribly funny things to come. Justin will be here all week!

The writing is fun but it’s the illustrations that really bring the horror story that is Justin’s Monday to life. 

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I loved the pages that the censors decided were too graphic to be seen, especially the one featuring the guinea pigs. 

Be on the lookout for The Pluminator. 

I’m most looking forward to getting to know Justin’s next door neighbour, Mia, whose own illustrations are not to be missed. I’m ready to call my favourite character of the series: Nan. She hasn’t had much page time yet but she’s got so much potential.

I’m keen to continue this series. Tuesday is school photo day and plenty can go wrong there, the kind of wrong that could easily haunt Justin into his adult life. It’s also the day of the Super Science Spectacular so I’m expecting some impressive explosive moments.

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Rating: 5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

Have you ever had a bad week? Justin Chase sure has, and this is it!

His mum has just married a vampire. His dad is driving a giant toilet on wheels. His cat has probably been abducted by aliens. A psychotic bully is making his first day at a new school miserable. And right now, he’s hanging off the edge of a ten-metre-high diving tower in front of his entire class, wearing nothing but rapidly disappearing crocheted swimmers.

And it’s only Monday!

WeirDo #17: Spinning Weird! – Anh Do

Illustrations – Jules Faber

While Miss Franklin is busy channeling her inner Kate Winslet circa 1997, Weir’s class will be getting to know a substitute teacher. It’s good timing, too, because Weir’s basketball team, the Lions, are about to play against the Hyenas and they need all the help they can get. Fortunately, Weir’s new substitute teacher has a thing or two to teach the team. 

Meanwhile, Granddad is having a difficult time.

Of course, there were the requisite dad jokes and others that travelled so far in the direction of bad that they became groan funny. My favourite basketball joke was: 

Why do basketballers like cookies?
Because they can dunk them! 

The Do’s visited somewhere Nelson from Ninja Kid spends a lot of his time. Weir’s dad lends a hand in his own unique way, which also had me wondering if I was going to get to see Nelson’s Grandma. While my anticipated Ninja Kid crossover never happened, I want to believe Nelson, Kenny and Grandma were there, just off the edge of the page.

Be on the lookout for a shark who’s very happy about its potential meal, lots of dribbling and Jedi Weir.

Bonus points for the positive disability representation.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

LET’S GO, LIONS!

Weir and his basketball team REALLY want to WIN! But Bella and Henry’s ALLEY-OOP is more of an ALLY-OOPS! Toby’s DUNK is more of a CLUNK! And Weir’s free throw is more of an OH NO!

Can their new teacher Miss Carroll help out?

It won’t be easy … but it will be funny!

Malice’s Adventures in Underland #1: Malice in Underland – Jenni Jennings

Illustrations – Hannah Peck

Malice Malign and her family live in Malignant House, which has a skeleton in nearly every closet. The Maligns are Topunders, magical people who can live in Topside amongst the living or in Underland with the ghosts, but they don’t truly fit anywhere.

They’re a bit too alive for Underlanders and a bit too mischievous for the Topsiders.

Malice’s parents love being representatives of Underland, a “land of sorcery, spooks and skulduggery”. They run the Malign Haunting Agency, which takes some of Underland’s most troublesome ghosts and uses them to haunt houses Topside.

Malice was originally concerned about telling her best (only) friend, Seth, about her family but Seth loves talking to Malice’s ghost Grandad and thinks ordinary is overrated.

“I really enjoy your family’s weirdness.”

When ghosts begin to disappear, Uncle Vex, a private investigator in Underland, asks for Malice’s help. Now that her own Grandad has also disappeared, Malice is on the case.

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Malice can talk to nighttime creatures, but has a special affinity with moths. Ma and Pa don’t understand Malice who, like Grandad, was born without the menacing-mischief gene. They disapprove of the things Malice likes, including reading and bathing regularly. Thankfully she has Grandad, who I absolutely adored. His brand of mischief is harmless fun.

Seth’s enthusiasm about all things weird was contagious. I hope he has a bigger role in the next book. I think he’s going to be my favourite character in this series.

This was a fun book. I enjoyed exploring both the Topside and Underland. All of the locations were easy to imagine and even the minor characters were interesting. I’ll definitely be continuing this series.

“And there’s nothing whatever the matter with being unusual!”

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

Meet Malice Morbid Malign.

She’s from Underland, land of sorcery, spooks and skulduggery.

But, she and her family live in Topside and mischief is their business … And the business of mischief is a very serious matter!

The Malign family hate books, they hate bathing, and they especially HATE helping.

But when grandad ghosts mysteriously start disappearing, including her own beloved grandad, Malice has no choice but to help. She partners up with her Uncle Vexatious, to solve the case of the missing grandad-ghosts.

Hot Dog! #10: Beach Time! – Anh Do

Illustrations – Dan McGuiness

It’s been raining for weeks and Hotdog, Kev and Lizzie have already exhausted all of the usual rainy day activities. They’ve even read a good book! 

Finally the sun comes out so the friends decide to go to the beach, but everything seems to be going wrong. Kev has a toothache, Hotdog has an earache and Lizzie has a sore finger. Still, they’re determined to find a way to get to the beach to have some fun.

Poor Kev just wants to eat something, Hotdog is focused on catching a wave and Lizzie learns a new, very useful skill. Along the way we meet some new characters, including a Molar Bear. 

This is a real feel good series. No matter what goes wrong, Hotdog, Kev and Lizzie remain positive and figure out solutions together. I definitely would have loved these books as a kid.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

After weeks of wet weather, the sun is out!

Hotdog and his friends are busting to get to the beach for some hot fun in the sand and surf!

But will a toothache, an earache and an epic splinter RAIN on their plans!

WeirDo #16: Tasty Weird! – Anh Do

Illustrations – Jules Faber

Spoilers Ahead! (in purple)

There’s a new student in Weir’s class, Sue, who may give him some competition as the funniest kid. There’s also another competition that the entire class are preparing for: a cooking competition.

Competing in teams of two, the winners will represent their class at the District Finals. The ultimate winner gets to go to Queen Bubblegum’s Lolly Factory.

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I couldn’t help but think of Willy Wonka when I met Queen Bubblegum. Both sugar barons have similar ideas for making candy even sweeter by designing rooms in their factories that would delight children and adults alike.

Mr Wonka has his chocolate river; Queen Bubblegum has her chocolate slide. Mr Wonka has his not quite ready chewing gum meals; Queen Bubblegum’s bubblegum also seems to taste great but doesn’t appear to turn anyone violet.

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Even the ultimate prize was eerily similar. Oh, who am I kidding?! It was exactly the same!

I was pretty convinced that Queen Bubblegum reminded me of Lady Gaga until I came across another illustration that made me wonder if she was also channelling someone else.

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Change that bouncy ball with handles* into a wrecking ball and that rope into chain and you’ve almost got yourself a Miley Cyrus music video.

You know how you’re supposed to be less likely to buy a whole bunch of junk food when you go grocery shopping if you’re not hungry when you enter the store? I’m going to borrow that advice and adapt it only slightly: You may not want to read this book on an empty stomach or imagining so many sugary goodies may well have you searching your cupboards for some goodies of your own to quell your cravings.

Like all WeirDo books, there were plenty of Dad jokes and puns to be found and Jules Faber continues to bring them to life. This series might be written with kids who are 7 to 10 years old in mind but I’m going to continue to order them as soon as my library purchases them. I might roll my eyes at some of the jokes but I always do it with a smile. I wish this series had been around when I was a kid.

*If Wikipedia is to be believed, a bouncy ball with handles is called so many things, including [take a deep breath …] space hopper, moon hopper, skippyball, kangaroo ball, bouncer, hippity hop, hoppity hop, sit and bounce, and hop ball. Don’t say I don’t teach you really useful useless things.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

The Cook-Off is on! 

Weir and his friends have their eyes on the prize – a trip to Queen Bubblegum’s LOLLY FACTORY! Will the battle be a piece of cake?! 

It won’t be easy … but it will be funny!

Ninja Kid #7: Ninja Toys! – Anh Do

Illustrations – Anton Emdin

It’s time for the Duck Creek Science Fair. Kenny has been working so hard at not eating his invention that he ate Nelson’s instead. It’s lucky that Grandma is the world’s best inventor and it’s not like she specifically said not to take her brand new invention to school without her permission.

The Glove of Life has the ability to give life to toys, although like all of Grandma’s inventions there are still a few kinks that need to be figured out. Naturally the evil Dr Kane finds a way to use this invention for evil.

It’s up to Ninja Kid and H-Dude to save the day. It’s a good thing too because it was their actions that allowed Dr Kane to get his hands on this invention-turned-weapon in the first place.

I had a couple of favourite things in this book: Kenny’s stuffed sloth, Speedy, was my favourite newly alive toy and Billy Bob’s ice cream maker was my favourite invention.

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There were some cameos from other Anh Do series in this book. Usually I like this sort of thing when it’s subtle, e.g., a character pictured reading another book the author has written. There was nothing subtle about the cameos in this book, though. They felt more like advertisements to me and I wasn’t a fan.

Besides my personal distaste, they also raised questions for me of whether the kids reading this book would even understand the references. The series whose characters found their way onto these pages seem to be targeted at an older audience than the Ninja Kid series so, while it could be used as an introduction to those characters, I expect many Ninja Kid readers wouldn’t have read any of the Wolf Girl, Rise of the Mythix or E-Boy series yet.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

Grandma has invented the COOLEST thing ever – a GLOVE that can bring toys to life! But when the glove is stolen, Nelson and Kenny have to find a way to get it back … before a CRAZY TOY ARMY takes over the WHOLE TOWN!

Ninja Kid #6: Ninja Giants! – Anh Do

Illustrations – Anton Emdin

It’s time for Duck Creek’s Halloween Fair and Nelson and Kenny have been eating all their vegetables and working out to prepare for it. Last year they weren’t tall enough to go on the scariest rides but they’re determined to be able enjoy them this year.

It’s a good thing Grandma has a brand new invention, a size converter, which she cautions the boys not to use because it still has some kinks.

Like accidentally making you smaller when you wanted to be taller. This comes with a unique set of problems.

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It wouldn’t be a Ninja Kid book if evil Dr Kane didn’t show up in his helicopter, ready to implement his latest dastardly plan to run everyone out of Duck Creek.

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This looks like a job for Ninja Kid and H-Dude!

‘Ah, maybe they’ve got other problems to deal with’

Ninja Kid and H-Dude may look more adorable than they ever have before …

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but they’re still ready to take on Dr Kane and save Duck Creek again.

Grandma, as usual, was the highlight of the book for me. Readers who have been following this series from the beginning are being rewarded for their patience; we’re closer than ever to finding out exactly what happened to Nelson’s father.

Anton Emdin’s illustrations are staying true to the style Jeremy Ley introduced in the early books. The details are fun, the Halloween costumes are imaginative and the fair definitely looks like somewhere I would want to spend Halloween.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

The fair is in town! Nelson and Kenny want to go on ALL the rides! But after testing Grandma’s new invention, they’re suddenly TOO SMALL to go anywhere! Luckily, Nelson and Kenny have a plan to get TALLER again … way, WAAAAY TALLER!

The Baby-Sitters Club Graphic Novels #5: Dawn and the Impossible Three – Gale Galligan

Text – Ann M. Martin

Colour – Braden Lamb

It’s the BSC adventure where Dawn gets away with being super judgy about how a BSC client lives her life. Single parent, Mrs Barrett, is desperately trying to keep her family afloat – caring for three kids under 10, job hunting, managing a messy divorce. So what if the house is kinda messy? Okay, so it’s very messy but the poor woman is dealing with a lot. Let’s cut her some slack.

Usually I try to read the graphic novel as soon as I’ve finished the book. I was unable to jump the library queue so the people who actually reserved this graphic novel before me got to read it first (shock horror!) so it’s been several weeks since I read the book. I still remember the basics fairly well but the differences I would usually point out between book and graphic novel have faded from my mind. So I’ll just focus on the two big ones.

Book: Mallory is more than capable of helping out but she’s still counted as one of the kids the BSC babysit.
Graphic Novel: The beginning of the graphic novel marks the first day that Mallory is a BSC Junior Member. The BSC meeting that afternoon is when the great interrogation of Mallory’s knowledge of anything even remotely related to babysitting takes place.

My currently unresolved question: How is book #14, Hello, Mallory, going to be adapted to a graphic novel if the main plot point has already happened?

Book: Mimi is all good.
Graphic Novel: Janine is helping Mimi with her flash cards.

I’m guessing this is different because book #7, Claudia and Mean Janine, was graphic novel #4. Why has this series been adapted out of order?

I’ve actually been avoiding reading #7 because I’m not ready to face the rest of Mimi’s story yet. I’ll try to summon some brave in the near future.

On a happier note, I finally got to see the bizzer sign, which the Pike kids invented, in action. It was worth the wait, although (just between you and I) it doesn’t look quite as trauma inducing as I’d hoped.

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Rating: 4 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

Dawn Schafer is the newest member of The Baby-Sitters Club. While she’s still adjusting to life in Stoneybrook after moving from sunny California, she’s eager to accept her first big job. But taking care of the three Barrett kids would be too much for any babysitter. The house is always a mess, the kids are out of control, and Mrs. Barrett never does any of the things she promises. On top of all that, Dawn wants to fit in with the other members of the BSC, but she can’t figure out how to get along with Kristy. Was joining The Baby-Sitters Club a mistake?

The Baby-Sitters Club Graphic Novels #6: Kristy’s Big Day – Gale Galligan

Text – Ann M. Martin

Colour – Braden Lamb

This is my first Gale Galligan BSC graphic novel adaptation. I’ve already read three of Raina Telgemeier’s adaptations so it was almost impossible not to compare the two. I love Raina’s style and had wanted her to continue adapting the entire series.

I like Gale’s style as well so it was more a matter of me getting used to seeing the babysitters looking different. Gale dyes a section of Claudia’s hair, just like Raina did. However, Gale has also given Stacey a haircut, which didn’t sit with me as a BSC purist that well, even though it looks cute.

While the plot remains the same, I noticed many more minor differences between the book and this graphic novel than I have with Raina’s adaptations. I’m not mentioning all of the differences here as there are too many, but here are some of them.

Book: Watson’s mansion has three floors and an attic.
Graphic novel: The illustration of Watson’s mansion shows two floors and an attic.

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Book: Mallory isn’t a member of the BSC yet.
Graphic novel: Mallory is mentioned as the sixth member of the BSC.

Book: Watson’s parents being religious is not mentioned.
Graphic novel: Kristy’s mother talks about Watson’s parents being religious as one of the reasons why she and Watson need to get married before the Thomas’ move to the Brewer mansion.

Book: Kristy mentions having two windows in her childhood bedroom.
Graphic novel: I can only see one window in Kristy’s childhood bedroom in the illustrations.

Kristy arrives late to a BSC meeting and asks if there are any calls.
Book: Sam’s prank call was, ‘Hello, this is Marmee March. I need a sitter for Amy tonight, someone who has experience with little women.’
Graphic novel: Sam asks for a sitter with ‘experience with lots of smelly farts.’
The book version was better.

Book: Claudia searches for junk food under her bed.
Graphic novel: Claudia finds some junk food on a shelf in her closet.

Book: Claudia says Trevor is probably dating his poetry by now.
Graphic novel: Claudia says Trevor is probably dating his guitar by now.

Book: Sam and Kristy have their talk about David Michael’s Citizenship Award on the back porch.
Graphic novel: Sam and Kristy have their talk about David Michael’s Citizenship Award in the kitchen.

Book: Mallory isn’t a member of the BSC yet so she’s not babysitting with them.
Graphic novel: Mallory gets put in Kristy’s babysitting group.

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Book: Nannie’s Pink Clinker has a pink plastic flower attached to the antenna and a stuffed koala hanging from the rearview mirror.
Graphic novel: The pink plastic flower and the antenna are missing and stuffed koala is now some fuzzy dice. There’s a heart on the bonnet that I liked. The Pink Clinker looks closer to red than pink to me.

Book: When they’re cleaning the house, Charlie has the floor cleaner, Sam has the vacuum cleaner, Kristy has paper towels and Windex, and David Michael has rags and furniture polish.
Graphic novel: When they’re cleaning the house, Charlie is vacuuming, Sam is cleaning the windows, Kristy is tidying, and David Michael is dusting.

Book: Stacey calls Mary Anne from the movies using a pay phone.
Graphic novel: Stacey calls Mary Anne from the movies using her own phone.

Book: David Michael gets his hair cut by Mr Pratt.
Graphic novel: David Michael gets his hair cut by Mr Gates, the one who’s previously made him look like an owl.

Book: In the practice wedding performed by the kids, ‘holy matrimony’ becomes ‘holy moly’.
Graphic novel: In the practice wedding performed by the kids, ‘holy matrimony’ becomes ‘holy guacamole’.

Book: When Karen explains why having white flowers at the wedding are a disaster, it’s because white magic will mix with Morbidda Destiny’s black magic.
Graphic novel: When Karen explains why having white flowers at the wedding are a disaster, it’s because evil witches use white flowers in their magic and Morbidda Destiny will be able to sense them from next door.

Book: Kristy’s rehearsal dinner dress is white with woven silver designs.
Graphic novel: Kristy’s rehearsal dinner dress is green and blue.

Book: Kristy’s bridesmaid shoes are yellow.
Graphic novel: Kristy’s bridesmaid shoes are white.

Also, the clothes the kids wear in their practice wedding are different and the kids are positioned differently in the photo that’s taken of them on the couch. Karen freaks out at the wedding a little later than she did in the book and it’s Karen who accepts Mrs Porter’s present, not Watson. I can’t imagine Karen touching anything Morbidda Destiny has touched for fear of her magic.

I liked Claudia’s drawing lesson, where she explains how to draw simple roses, although I haven’t attempted them myself because I’m extremely artistically challenged. My stick men don’t even consistently look like stick men.

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My favourite illustration shows some of the wedding scenes.

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Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

Kristy’s mum is getting married, and Kristy is going to be a bridesmaid! The only problem? Fourteen kids are coming to town for the wedding. Kristy, Claudia, Mary Anne, Stacey, Dawn and Mallory think they can handle it, but that’s before they spend a week changing diapers, stopping arguments, solving mix-ups, and planning activities. It’s the biggest job the BSC has ever had, but they’ll work together to make sure Kristy’s big day is a success!