Tag Archives: Daniel Pinkwater

Yobgorgle: Mystery Monster of Lake Ontario

Author: Daniel Pinkwater

My rating: 4 of 5

Getting left with his Uncle Mel for 6 weeks over summer break wasn’t too bad–other than trying to survive solely on junk food. But then, when Uncle Mel got dragged away to Rochester for a 2-week training session for his work, Eugene got dragged along as well and found himself going mad with boredom . . . that is, until he saw a documentary movie with his uncle about a man searching Lake Ontario for a monster called the Yobgorgle. That’s when Eugene has the bright idea to get in touch with this guy, Ambrose McFwain, who (let’s face it) is rather mad but also quite interesting, and who hires Eugene as his assistant on the spot. The summer’s about to get a lot less boring and a lot more wacky.

Daniel Pinkwater is one of those underappreciated authors who can take the absolute zaniest things and make something absolutely captivating out of them. Yobgorgle is a tall tale about a kid and an inept monster hunter that gets taller the longer it goes. All told in first-person from a twelve-year-old’s point of view. And Pinkwater nails the twelve-year-old part impressively; there’s a dry, cutting observation to the way Eugene views the world, with none of the filters and social niceties that adults use in their way of expressing themselves. No, Eugene tells it like he sees it, for better or for worse. And the situations he finds himself in just keep getting more and more spectacularly strange as he goes. It’s all very funny and engaging. It’s also interesting to read this book today; it was originally published in 1979, and it’s telling. There are so many little cultural snippets that loudly proclaim that this is a story of a bygone era . . . the clothing, the emphasis on vending machines (Uncle Mel’s job is working on them), but perhaps most of all the way a twelve-year-old kid is able to just roam around Rochester, New York on his own. It’s an interesting peek into the past, although with the specifics of this book, it’s a past that never was. Still, another zany, all-ages-friendly offering from an amazing author; Yobgorgle definitely goes on my recommended list.

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Ned Feldman, Space Pirate

Author/Illustrator: Daniel PinkwaterNed Feldman, Space Pirate

My rating: 3.5 of 5

One day, while his parents are out, Ned Feldman notices a noise beneath his kitchen sink. Upon investigating, he finds a strange little man claiming to be a spaceship captain–also claiming that his spaceship is occupying the same space as Ned’s kitchen sink! He invites Ned to come in and take a quick trip with him. And what do you know, it actually is a spaceship–a pirate spaceship, although the captain is not exactly the most scary pirate around. Ned and Captain Bugbeard encounter all kinds of interesting things in space, even giant chickens and a yeti!

Ned Feldman, Space Pirate is one of Daniel Pinkwater’s older adventures for younger kids. And I must say, it’s classic Pinkwater. The story is absolutely, ridiculously off-the-wall in the best possible way. The characters and situations are so absurd that you find yourself just accepting them in spite of yourself . . . it’s that kind of story. But definitely a fun read. Also, it’s nice in that it’s written for elementary-age children and would be appropriate for a younger reading level. Pinkwater’s illustrations fit the quirky style of the story perfectly, making the story even funnier than it already is. I would absolutely recommend Ned Feldman, Space Pirate for anyone who enjoys zany adventure stories, and especially for younger children and for anyone who already has enjoyed other books by Daniel Pinkwater–he really is a fantastic author.

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The Hoboken Chicken Emergency

Author/Illustrator: Daniel Pinkwaterthe hoboken chicken emergency

My rating: 4 of 5

When Arthur is sent to pick up his family’s turkey for Thanksgiving, things get a bit out of hand . . . He ends up coming home with a live, 266-pound hen instead! That would have made quite the Thanksgiving dinner, only  Henrietta (as Arthur quickly dubbed her) grows on the family and Arthur decides to keep her as a pet–trains her to do tricks and everything. Unfortunately, keeping a giant chicken isn’t quite so easy as keeping, say, a dog, and Arthur’s father soon demands that Arthur return Henrietta to where she came from . . . which is sad, but understandable . . . except that Henrietta escapes and tries to return to Arthur–running loose all through Hoboken and causing mass chaos wherever she roams.

Daniel Pinkwater is an expert at writing funny, quirky stories that are truly a treat to read. The Hoboken Chicken Emergency is one of those. It’s written on probably a late-elementary- to middle-school level, but personally I think it would be fun for anyone of any age, as long as they’re able to appreciate Pinkwater’s sense of humor (yes, some folks might have a problem with that). The whole tale is absolutely an absurd tall tale from start to finish. But it’s also a cute story of family and pets and understanding that has some good takeaways. It’s also interesting to read something written in the 70’s, even as a tall tale, just to see how much culture and society has changed in that time–kind of depressing, but fun to get a slice of that time. The classic illustrations are priceless as well: black and white and kind of, well, lumpy, but expressive and very fitting for the story. For anyone who loves a good laugh and a good yarn, I think The Hoboken Chicken Emergency would be a great choice–and of course, check out the sequel, Looking for Bobowicz.

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Looking for Bobowicz

Author: Daniel Pinkwater

Illustrator: Jill Pinkwater

Nick’s parents moved the family from the suburbs to Hoboken so Nick could get the “urban experience” while growing up. I’m not sure he got the life of an average city kid, but her certainly got an experience! He’s really not thrilled about the cramped housing, oppressive heat, and rapid theft of his bike, not thrilled at all. Then he meets two kids who live in the building next door–Loretta Fischetti and Bruno Ugg–who are unusual but nice, plus they share his passion for Classics Comics. Along with his new friends, Nick encounters a mysterious phantom, adults who keep secrets, talkative hobos, pirate radio, and a newspaper story about a rampaging giant chicken . . . a giant chicken that might still be in town.

I love Daniel Pinkwater’s writing–I never know what weird direction it’s going to go in next! Looking for Bobowicz is this off-the-wall kids adventure comedy that is wonderful in its zaniness and unpredictability. The story and characters are great–in an extremely quirky sort of way. But I think it’s all the odd, random details that absolutely make the book. As tall tales go, Looking for Bobowicz is certainly a fantastic one–much along the lines of his Adventures of a Cat-Whiskered Girl, although perhaps slightly less philosophical, maybe. His wife’s black-and-white illustrations are the perfect off-beat match to the story. Highly recommended, if you don’t mind going with the flow.

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Mrs. Noodlekugel

Author: Daniel Pinkwater

Illustrator: Adam Stower

Maxine and Nick have just recently moved into a high-rise apartment building, surrounded by . . . other high-rises. So it’s with great surprise that they discover a small, individual house set in a small, green yard nestled behind their apartment building. Some well-placed questions lead to the knowledge that the house belongs to Mrs. Noodlekugel, who may or may not be a witch, and who may or may not hate children. It also leads to their being forbidden to go to her house or bother her in any way. With an ultimatum like that, what child wouldn’t sneak out to see her? The siblings are greeted at Mrs. Noodlekugel’s porch by her talking cat . . . and the encounter gets weirder from that point.

Reading Mrs. Noodlekugel was an interesting experience for me. I first discovered (and found I loved) Daniel Pinkwater when I read Adventures of a Cat-Whiskered Girl, which is written for a young-adult audience. Mrs. Noodlekugel is more focused on an early-elementary readership–actually, I’d consider it an easy reader–yet it is filled with the same funky, whimsical oddness and sense of fun as the other book. It’s a fun story with fun characters, and while the happenings are extremely odd and unlikely (read: impossible), the story is all relatively safe and sedate in an enjoyable fashion. The art is cute and fun also–black and white and ever-so-slightly old-fashioned, but amusing also. I would definitely recommend Mrs. Noodlekugel to children (and teachers and parents of children) who are just getting more comfortable with reading and are looking for something interesting but not too taxing. But I think it’s a cute story, even for older, more accomplished readers.

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Adventures of a Cat-Whiskered Girl

Author: Daniel Pinkwater

Unwilling to stay bored in her own plane of existence, Audrey hops on a bus and travels to what is presumably our own plane of existence. After a while, she catches a ride to New York, but due to various circumstances, only makes it as far as Poughkeepsie, where she finds a job in a bookshop dedicated to extraterrestrials . . . where her cat-whiskered appearance is a selling point as the shopkeepers are convinced she’s an extraterrestrial herself, despite her best attempts to explain her origins. While in Poughkeepsie, Audrey meets others who make her seem nearly normal: a mountain dwerg who thinks she’s crazy, a professor who actually is crazy (but only part of the year), and a creature who makes everyone else cringe in fear but who looks like an adorable puppy to Audrey, to name a few. Not to mention the fact that everybody thinks Audrey is another cat-whiskered girl who apparently lived in the area, like, a hundred years ago!

I admit, I originally picked this book up because of the title–I mean, who wouldn’t want to read the Adventures of a Cat-Whiskered Girl?! When I saw the Neil Gaiman & Cory Doctorow recommendations on the back, I was doubly hooked, and I certainly wasn’t disappointed in what I read. Reading this book feels like joining a secret society or something niche like that–it’s super weird in the best way possible, with all kinds of things that don’t make sense at all, only they actually do. And the characters are such a zany mixed up bunch–they’re super fun to meet along the journey. Seriously, Adventures of a Cat-Whiskered Girl is a trip you won’t soon forget–I highly recommend checking it out!

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