Thursday, January 24, 2008

A fun read-aloud

Bob is a rat who loves to cook. He also loves to read, which is of course a wonderful thing. Wonderful, that is, until he's so distracted by the allure of a book that he grows careless and finds himself trapped by two hungry cats. Luckily, Bob has read a good many books and knows how to spin a riveting tale. It also helps that the cats (Muffin and Brutus) are as attracted by the smell of his delicious butter cookies as they are by his own ratty self. So when Bob invites them to try his latest recipe, giving them some saucers of milk to accompany the cookies, they agree to listen while he tells them a story. At least until the story's over. Then they will eat him.

The little whiskered Scheherazade comes up very fascinating stories to entertain the cats. There’s one about Bob’s Great-Great-Grandpa Sherman, who adventured up a magical beanstalk when Jack, a very unimaginative sort, didn’t seem to think the climb was worth his while. Other delightfully fractured fairytales include “The Three Rats,” who are fed up with the freeloading Big Bad Wolf (and his wife…and his daughter) and hatch a scheme to get rid of them once and for all; and “The Chimney Troll,” who helps Bob’s Grandma Lois spin straw into gold, and when she pays the price, he gets a lot more than he bargained for!

Between each of these tales are “cookie breaks,” in which the reader returns to the story of Bob and the hungry cats. Muffin is very enthusiastic about Bob’s tales, and is always ready to hear another. Brutus would rather just eat Bob and be done with it -- then he gets caught up in the stories as well. But what will happen to Bob as the book nears the end? This is a perfect bedtime read-aloud. The stories stand on their own, so there is a feeling of conclusion at the end of each one – but also a tantalizing feeling of suspense that builds with every cookie break. I read this over several nights to my 7- and 9-year-olds, and we all agreed that it was a lot of fun.

How to Save Your Tale: If You Are a Rat Nabbed by Cats Who Really Like Stories about Magic Spoons, Wolves with Snout-Warts, Big, Hairy Chimney Trolls...and Cookies Too by Mary Hanson; illustrated by John Hendrix (Wade Books, 2007)

Other blog reviews:
What You Want to Read
Tales from the Rushmore Kid (author interview here, too)
Seven Impossible Things
The Edge of the Forest

And here's another author interview!

Check out Mary Hanson's Youtube book trailer - very fun!

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