Tag Archives: Lane Smith

Return to Augie Hobble

Author/Illustrator: Lane SmithReturn to Augie Hobble

My rating: 4 of 5

To Augie Hobble, Fairy Tale Place off Route 66 is home. His parents have run the bedraggled attraction for most of his life–he even helps out around the place after school and on weekends and breaks! This summer, his life is more than a bit chaotic, though, as he deals with the joys of summer school. And for a failed Creative Arts project, no less! Augie’s just got to decide on something to do as a replacement, but he can’t pick. Not to mention, he is still on the bad side of the school bullies, AND there’s what appears to be a werewolf on the loose. Impossible, right? But Augie’s convinced otherwise, and his obsession with wolves is making it even harder to finish his school project. If only his best friend Britt were there to share all the craziness.

I’ve read any number of books illustrated by Lane Smith–all excellent–but I think Return to Augie Hobble is the first I’ve read that he’s written. It was quite interesting–quirky, funny, dark at times, and always unexpected. The characters were unique and interesting, although not stellar; certainly appropriate for a middle-grade adventure/slice-of-life, which this is. It was strange reading this in that it’s hard to tell exactly what it is. I mean, it starts out as a slice-of-life story about school, family, bullies, and the diminished-yet-remembered glamour of Route 66. But then more elements of adventure and fantasy get unexpectedly thrown in, until by the end it’s outright paranormal. Yet even at the end, it retains the binding elements that were introduced at the beginning also. I guess what I’m really saying is that the fantasy part threw me because I wasn’t expecting it–so if you do read this, be prepared. One of the more interesting factors of this book was the art–of course. Smith does a great job incorporating “photographs” and “journal pages” as a part of the story, weaving them in rather than just keeping them as supplemental illustrations. All in all, Return to Augie Hobble is a solid, interesting story, particularly for middle-grade readers.

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Half-Minute Horrors

Editor: Susan Rich

Do you love the sort of short, startling stories that are best told late at night around a campfire? Or maybe you’re the sort that doesn’t really think it’s possible for a story to be properly scary in only a page or two, but you’d like to see them try. Regardless, this collection of one- to two-page short stories is sure to horrify–and possibly change your outlook on closets, lasagna, and strawberry bubble bath forever!

Half-Minute Horrors was a lucky find at a used bookstore for me–I’ve never seen it anywhere else. This collection features (extremely) short stories (and a few comics) by some of today’s leading authors and artists. The variety is impressive, yet they all prey on our deepest fears, utilizing surprise, disgust, and the ever-useful twist to create stories that are sure to leave the reader, well, horrified. Yet even while being certifiably creepy, these stories are honestly appropriate even for elementary-age children–as long as they don’t get freaked out too easily or have nightmares. I definitely enjoyed this collection, and would recommend Half-Minute Horrors to anyone who likes scary stories–especially if you don’t have much time to enjoy them.

Featured Authors/Illustrators: Lemony Snicket, Jerry Spinelli, Kenneth Oppel, Richard Sala, Erin Hunter, James Patterson, Sonya Sones, Tom Genrich, Michèle Perry, Angela Johnson, Jon Klassen, Arthur Slade, M. T. Anderson, Yvonne Prinz, M. E. Kerr, Adam Rex, Dean Lorey, Sarah Weeks, Gloria Whelan, Holly Black, Faye Kellerman, Lisa Brown, Pseudonymous Bosch, Nadia Aguiar, Sienna Mercer, Jack Gantos, Stephen Marche, Brad Meltzer, Lane Smith, Carol Gorman, David Rich, Jenny Nimmo, Margaret Atwood, Mariko Tamaki, Brian Selznick, Francine Prose, Ayelet Waldman, R. L. Stine, Adele Griffin, Aliza Kellerman, Mark Crilley, Allan Stratton, Sarah L. Thomson, Katherine Applegate, Avi, Gail Carson Levine, David Stahler Jr., Carson Ellis, Tui T. Sutherland, Abi Slone, Joseph Delaney, Alan Gratz, Brett Helquist, Josh Greenhut, Neil Gaiman, Lesley Livingston, Jon Scieszka, Vladimir Radunsky, Alison McGhee, Daniel Ehrenhaft, Melissa Marr, Chris Raschka, Stacey Godenir, Dan Gutman, Alice Kuipers, Frank Viva, Libba Bray, Joyce Carol Oates, Jonathan Lethem, Michael Connelly, Lauren Myracle, Barry Yourgrau, Aaron Renier, Gregory Maguire

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Lulu Walks the Dogs

Author: Judith Viorst

Illustrator: Lane Smith

Following her adventures with the Brontosaurus (see Lulu and the Brontosaurus), Lulu is, well, a less obnoxious child, at least. But she still wants what she wants when she wants it, so when her parents tell her absolutely no, they can’t afford what she wants and she’ll have to work to get it herself, Lulu finds herself in a bit of a quandary. Still, she’s nothing if not stubborn and determined. A little advertising and asking around gets her a job walking three of the neighbors dogs. Now if only she had the slightest idea how to manage dogs. And if only the one person willing to teach her weren’t the neighborhood’s worst do-gooder ever!

I found Lulu Walks the Dogs to be quite entertaining. It’s really more of an easy reader/early- to mid-elementary level, but it’s a fun story for any age. I can relate to Lulu in her distaste for Fleischman the goody-two-shoes who only wants to help–I’m the sort who can never get through Little Lord Fauntleroy because I want to puke! But in spite of having a bratty main character, Viorst brings out ideas like working together and being polite even when you don’t feel like it–or even like the person you’re trying to be polite to. It also brings up the idea of entrepreneurship, which you don’t see much of at this reading level–I have mixed feelings about this, as I think commercialism and mercenary ideas are too prevalent in society anyhow, but I do think it’s important for kids to learn to work for things they want. It’s a good discussion book in that regard. Plus it’s just plain fun, between the author’s tongue-in-cheek style and Lulu’s distresses with the dogs. The art’s fun and fitting too–Lane Smith is fantastic! Lulu Walks the Dogs is an entertaining and unusual story that’s definitely on my recommended list.

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The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales

the stinky cheese manAuthor: Jon Scieszka

Illustrator: Lane Smith

My rating: 4 of 5

Take everything you know about fairy tales, turn it on its head, and give it a twist, and you might end up with something rather like this book. Jon Scieszka has taken a collection of well-known, moralizing, and (frankly) rather dry traditional stories and has transformed them into a patchwork of zany, amusing and . . . well, fairly stupid tales. Lane Smith’s off-beat, collage-like illustrations complete this collection perfectly oddly. I know these stories are really written for children–and I think most children will love them–but the appeal of these stories is actually much broader. Check them out . . . both for yourself and for the kids in your life.

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Lulu and the Brontosaurus

lulu and the brontosaurusAuthor: Judith Viorst

Illustrator: Lane Smith

My rating: 5 of 5

Lulu, vol. 1

Lulu is a brat, there’s no way around it–a brat who gets whatever she wants. But when she decides she wants a pet brontosaurus for her birthday, her world gets shaken up a bit. After the shock of hearing “no” for once, Lulu decides to set out to find a pet brontosaurus for herself. What will she do when the brontosaurus decides he wants a little girl for a pet?

This is an adorable, creative chapter book. The story is cute and original. Throughout, Viorst makes excellent use of repetition and themes with variations. The ending(s) are also a fun twist. Smith’s illustrations complement the story marvelously, and the fun layouts and font combinations add just the right touch. Lulu and the Brontosaurus is a satisfying read that I would recommend, particularly to beginning readers.

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Knights of the Kitchen Table

knights of the kitchen tableAuthor: Jon Scieszka

Illustrator: Lane Smith

My rating: 3.5 of 5

Time Warp Trio, vol. 1

Joe and his friends, Fred and Sam, never intended to leave Joe’s birthday party. Or to end up in Arthurian England. They just weren’t careful to avoid idle wishes around his Uncle Joe’s present. And everybody knows idle wishes are dangerous . . . don’t they?

I have to admit, I only picked Knights of the Kitchen Table up because I’d read Jon Scieszka’s story in The Chronicles of Harris Burdick and enjoyed it. I’m glad I did. I’d walked past it and the many other volumes in Scieszka’s “The Time Warp Trio” series innumerable times, thinking the spines looked too dull to bother with them. The spines lie. Knights of the Kitchen Table is distinctly written for the elementary-school-boy demographic, but would be an enjoyable, quick read for anyone–it’s only around 50 pages long, and the print’s fairly big. I recommend that you check it out and see for yourself.

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