The Terrible Two, Smek for President, and other fun – a few book reviews

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The story begins with a cow and ends with a cow. Or maybe a Boov named J.Lo and a girl named Tip. Or possibly a snarky teenager.

Sometimes the desperate, violent, and depressing darkness of dystopian novels is too much for me, and I find myself hoping for something funny or quirky to smooth out all the edginess. It’s a harsh world for the young – I get that – but I need a laugh now and again, and I’m thinking they do, too, maybe even more than I do.

The Terrible Two (Mac Barnett, Jory John, Kevin Cornell) begins with a cow in the middle of rolling hills near Yawnee Valley. (It ends with a cow, too, and there are cow facts sprinkled throughout. What could be better?) Yawnee Valley feels like the middle of nowhere to newcomer Miles Murphy, but it could be the perfect location for a series of pranks. And it just happens that he’s a prankster extraordinaire. There’s a rival prankster, a principal and a bully – just what you need for a great middle grade caper story. There are no spies or superheroes, but there is some danger and excitement, and it’s just goofy fun. Read and enjoy.

Smek for President (Adam Rex) continues the quirky adventures of Tip Tucci and her Boov (alien) buddy, J. Lo. If you somehow missed The True Meaning of Smekday, read it first, and then you’ll speed through this smek presidentsequel and be ready to compare it to the movie adaptation, Home, when it comes out at the end of March. Tip and J.Lo unwisely decide to visit the new Boov homeworld on a moon near Saturn. J. Lo is captured, and Tip has to try to break him out, while also getting involved in the election for HighBoov. (Candidates sidestep tough questions and spin absurd theories so convincingly that you can’t help but make mental comparisons to the people who show up regularly on the national news.) Sound confusing? Not a bit. There is also a wonderful appendix explaining the Boovian sport of Stickyfish, and really, everyone loves a nice appendix or two.

Still need more funny or quirky characters to break up the angst and drama of your TBR stack? Try these:

Timmy Failure (Stephan Pastis) – This series features a clueless young detective named Timmy Failure, his business partner, Total the polar bear, and many excellent supporting characters – Molly Moskins, Rollo Tookus, and Corrina Corrina, to name just a few.

Planet Tad and Return to Planet Tad (Tim Carvell, Doug Holgate) – Based on a column in MAD Magazine, this might remind some readers of Diary of a Wimpy Kid because of its daily entry format. It’s funny enough to read, read out loud to your mom, and read again. (That’s personal experience talking right there.)

Big Nate (Lincoln Peirce) – Whether you’re reading the comics or the chapter books, Big Nate has all kinds of laughs – big, little, gut-busting, chuckles. Like Calvin and Hobbes, adults can appreciate the comics as much or possibly more than kids.

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