Whales On Stilts!
Whales On Stilts, by M. T. Anderson (who wrote some teen novels renowned for their scariness) is an uncommonly layered book, with some nice parody of nostalgia that the adults will find funny and some cheesy humor that I liked, even though I’m supposed to be more sophisticated than that. (Yes, the headline made me get it. I mean, whales on stilts?) You’ve got your typical shy heroine whose father works at ACME Inc. (Ok, so I forgot the name. It’s your typical stock workplace.) He, of course, is completely clueless to the fact that his boss is A WHALE and is planning to unleash an army of WHALES ON STILTS to take over the world. Spoiler alert. You couldn’t have guessed that, could you?
Helpfully, she has some friends who just happen to have their own book series. Imagine that. They can help her thwart the evil WHALES ON STILTS. (Yes, I have to capitalize that every time.) These characters are great parody vehicles. I mean there’s your 50s era character who nobody cares about anymore, and the girl who fights paranormal creatures (Goosebumps, anyone?). This book is a parody of books, it’s an homage to books, but somehow it isn’t obviously derived from any books.
I love the fact that there are ironic nuggets in here that parents would like if they found themselves so bored that they started reading their kids’ books. Talk about being aware of your audience. This book is pretty genius.
As for the humor, I shouldn’t love it, but I do. There’s irony, there’s complete ridiculousness and there’s extreme cases of cluelessness. I never thought I’d write this, but it’s comparable to the Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy. Not nearly as wonderful, of course. But really, really good.
The characters are not regular, except for our “main” (Please! The other characters are worlds better!) character. She’s our stock believe-in-yourself-and-your-dreams-will-come-true girl. Why does there always have to be a moral? The Hitchhiker’s Guide didn’t have a moral. (Ok, so it did: Life Sucks or When The Vogons Destroy The World, Drink Plenty Of Beer.) The other two characters are nearly perfect captures of kids’ books’ heroes. They’re great characters.
Whales On Stilts is a great book that parodies kids’ books nicely. It has some great humor, but unfortunately, it also has a moral. I can never escape. Anyway, this book is good enough for 3 checks. Kids will like it and adults might like it. Read it.