Deb Aronson | Stories overflowing with silliness

Deb Aronson | Stories overflowing with silliness


I have recently read two books that fall into the category of ridiculously silly. With the coming of brighter days, it seemed like a good time to share them. Because of their plots, length and vocabulary, they are geared for the younger end of the middle grade reader range.

"Fabio the World's Greatest Flamingo Detective: The Case of the Missing Hippo," by Laura James, illustrated by Emily Fox (Bloomsbury), features, no surprise, a flamingo detective and cast of other animal characters.

Like famous crime fighter Sherlock Holmes, Fabio the flamingo has a best friend, Gilbert the Giraffe. Fabio is the brains and Gilbert the clueless sidekick, who ends up helping solve the crime.

The story is full of fun characters: a jazz trio of crocodiles, a singing hippo, a rhino named Daphne, who everyone calls General, just back from a safari.

A family of vultures runs the elegant Hotel Royale, where the story is set.

Sadly, the hotel is losing money and guests. Violet, the hotel owner's niece, decides to hold a talent contest to help rejuvenate the hotel.

At the last minute, Fabio is drafted to be one of the judges. During the contest, the hippo, clearly the best singer, is kidnapped, and Fabio, with Gilbert's help, solves the case.

The book is designed to feel Floridian, complete with acid green and hot pink pages scattered throughout. It is a fun romp, and I look forward to reading more Fabio stories.

"Spy Toys: Out of Control," by Mark Powers, illustrated by Tim Wesson (Bloomsbury), is a cross between James Bond and "Toy Story."

A company (Snaztacular Ultrafun) creates toys with computer chips that makes them interactive. But when a computer chip has a flaw, the animal is tossed on the reject pile.

Dan, an ultra-strong teddy bear, and Arabella, a rag doll who likes to fight rather than play or cuddle, are two such toys.

Their friend, Flax, is a retired police bot in the shape of a bunny. They have all been recruited by the government's secret agent organization, run by Auntie Roz.

Our trio uncovers a plot to steal a secret word (custard hippo) that can override all Snaztacular toys, hypnotizing them and making them do terrible things. Luckily our heroes discover the antidote phrase (peppermint terrapin).

When Dan, Arabella and Flax realize that the bad guy (there is always a bad guy) plans to wreak havoc at the opening of Snaztacular's theme park, WOW World, they set out to save the day.

This book, as you can see, is full of silly words, characters and plot devices. It is the third in the series, but your young reader can also enjoy this as a standalone. Adults will probably enjoy some of the humor as well, including this description: "Auntie Roz was an immensely busy woman. She no longer had time to waste saying things like 'Hello,' ...or 'How are those delightful children of yours?' ... These days if she stubbed her toe she got her secretary to say 'Ow!' for her."

If you know a young reader, especially a reluctant reader, who loves a big dose of silliness in their reading material, I suggest you give these books a try.

Deb Aronson is an Urbana-based author whose nonfiction book about famed racehorse Rachel Alexandra is "a girl-power story on four legs."

Sections (1):Living
Topics (1):Books