Archive for the ‘Sam Riddleberger’ Category

[LISTENED TO: August 2014] Horton Halfpott

hortonLast summer we listened to Angleberger’s book Fake Mustache, which was one of my favorite audio books ever (until the League of Princes series).  In fact we just re-listened to fake Mustache and enjoyed it even more the second time! I was pretty excited to listen to Horton Halfpott as well because it has two subtitles.  Since we had a long drive ahead of us, it seemed the ideal time to bust out Horton.

And while I did enjoy the book by the end (quite a lot in fact), I found it a little slow going in the beginning.  This book was narrated by Ron Keith, who is British.  There is nothing weird about that because the book is set in Britain.  It is just such a stark change from Fake Mustache (which was so very American) that I think it took a while for us to adjust to the rather stiff and formal (but funny) reading that this book had (compared to the wild and crazy reading of Mustache).  Since the book is a kind of spoof on Dickensian class stories, the narration makes perfect sense.

This entire adventure begins on the day that M’Lady Luggertuck loosens her corset (the narrator apologizes for even talking about an old lady’s underwear, but it is crucial to the story):

There are so many exciting things in this book — a Stolen Diamond, snooping stable boys, a famous detective, the disappearance of a Valuable Wig, love, pickle éclairs, unbridled Evil, and the Black Deeds of the Shipless Pirates — that it really does seem a shame to begin with ladies’ underwear.

M’Lady Luggertuck usually wears her corset very very tight, and she acts like she has on a very very tight corset–there is no happiness to be found in Smugwick manor. But on the day that she asks her maid to loosen the corset a little bit, a kind of shock wave floods through the castle, which seems to encourage everyone to loosen up just a bit.

Everyone, that is except for Horton’s superior, Miss Neversly.  Miss Neversly is a mean mean woman, always ready to hit someone (especially Horton) over the head with a wooden spoon (ouch), always ready to doubt someone, always looking for and never receiving praise from M’Lady Luggertuck.

Horton, by the way is a kitchen boy.  He is not a bad boy at all, just an unlucky boy in a bad situation (see, the set up is very Dickensian, and Angleberger thanks Dickens in his acknowledgments).  Horton’s best friend is a stable boy named Bump. They are also friends with the other stable boys Blight and Blemish.  And the story is certainly sympathetic to these poor lower class individuals. (more…)

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[LISTENED TO: end of August 2013] Fake Mustache

fake mustacheI had seen the cover of this book in the library almost every time I went in.  I loved it but I wasn’t sure if the book was too old for the kids (it’s rated 8 and up, but it turns out there’s nothing too intense that my 5 year old didn’t love it too (she didn’t get it all, but she liked it).  Angleberger is best known for the Origami Yoda series–I haven’t read it and frankly without knowing anything about it, the entire concept of the series baffles me.  But I enjoyed this book so much that I may have to dive into the folded paper series too.

This audio book was read by Jonathan Todd Ross and Jessica Almasy.  And while I liked Almasy, I really enjoyed Ross’s two sections–there was something about is style that really appealed to me.

This is the simple (albeit complicated) story of a boy whose friend buys a fake mustache.  In the town of Hairsprinkle, young Caspar lives with his parents who believe in wholesomeness—in other words, they don’t have a TV.  Nor do they believe in an allowance—material goods are not so good.  But every year Caspar’s aunt gives him a couple hundred dollars to by something frivolous.  And this year, Caspar has his sites set on a man-about-town suit.  Not just any cheap suit, but a very nice tailored, man-about-town suit (this phrase, repeated throughout the beginning of the book cracked me up.  I’m sure my kids didn’t know what it meant but it made me laugh every time it was used).  After buying the suit, he went to the Heidelberg Novelty Store to buy the Heidelberg Handlebar #7—a glorious fake mustache which is made from real human mustache hair (ew).  With suit and mustache, Caspar looked like a short man-about-town.  And the citizens of Hairsprinkle were impressed

The main character and narrator of the story is Lenny Flemm, Jr.  Lenny is something of a loser and his only real friend is Caspar.  Turns out that he himself is responsible for giving Caspar the extra ten dollars that he needed to get that mustache (they had raised the price).  When Lenny goes shopping with Caspar, he is excited not to buy a suit or a mustache but to buy a sticky grabber hand (for $1).  The lady at the desk, Sven, is hilarious (and Ross’ voice for her is dynamite).

That night a bank is robbed—by a short man in a man-about-town suit.  And the next day Caspar gives Lenny his money back, with a lot of interest.  Then another bank is robbed.  And then another.  The next time Lenny visits Caspar’s room, there are stacks of gold bars against the wall. Lenny decides to call the police, but they don’t believe him—Caspar is a boy, they are looking for a man.  But now that Caspar knows that Lenny is onto him, he tries to make trouble for Lenny.

But before Lenny can prepare for this, there is a new player in town—Fako Mustacho—a man who plans to save the town, the country, the world, from itself.  Fako Musatcho is a short man with a glorious mustache and a suit—not a man-about-town suit, mind you, but a different kind of suit.  And it seems that whenever Fako speaks, people automatically listen–including the mayor who agrees to step down because she can’t catch the bank robber.  Except for Lenny who seems to be the only one who can see that Fako is really Caspar.  So, what is a kid with no friends supposed to do?

Call for help from Jodie O’Rodeo, of course.  Jodie is the star of the now cancelled kids show The Jodie O’Rodeo Showdeo. On the show she sang and did trick riding stunts.  Turns out that she can really do them (the stunts, not the singing) and she also knows that Fako Mustacho is a kid wearing a mustache.  By the middle of the book, when Part 2 opens, we hear Jodie’s side of things (in the audio book this is where Jessica Almasy takes over).  Interestingly Jodie and Lenny meet because Lenny is dressed like Jodie O’Rodeo (long story).  Lenny always thought she was cute (and was embarrassed to say so) but the show has been off the air for a few years and Jodie is really cute now.  And she still has her horse, Soymilk.  And she wants to help Lenny save the world! (And she thinks Lenny is cute, even though it’s weird because he is dressed like her).

Once the two begin working together, hijinx ensue and the story gets very exciting indeed.  Whereas Lenny is a man of words, Jodie is all about action, and there is a ton of it (most of it very funny indeed).  By the time they free themselves from Fako Mustacho’s henchmen, Fako has the whole world hypnotized and, since it is an election year, he has them all hypnotized to vote for him as the President of the Unites States.  It’s going to take nerves of steel, great horsemanship and perhaps a sticky grabber hand to stop the plans that are afoot (including the other plan to assassinate Fako should he become president—don’t forget, he is only Caspar in a fake mustache).

This story was so funny.  It is riddled with absurdities and hilarious asides.  The situations are preposterously simple and yet also dangerous.  All throughout there were wonderful jokes, hilariously silly set ups (they fall into a vat of oozing slime) and preposterously funny foolishness—who doesn’t love when no one can see the bad guy but one kid?

I enjoyed this book so much I insisted that the kids only listen to it when I was in the car.  And it did not disappoint.

As I said earlier I loved Ross’ reading.  He was very very funny (and reminded me at times of John Hodgman’s deadpan delivery–absurdity always works best in deadpan).  And his pronunciation of Fako Mustacho made me laugh every single time.   Jessica Almasy’s reading was also really good (I don’t want to give the wrong impression).  It’s just very different—Jodie’s story is more exciting than Lenny’s while it is still funny, it’s not as absurdly funny as Lenny’s (although Almasy does a great job with the different character voices as well).

Here’s trailer for the book (ha).  I feel compelled to point out that the “its” in the trailer should have an apostrophe, but at least they didn’t put one in where it didn’t belong, which is so much more common.  I also didn’t realize the book had illustrations (that’s the trouble with audio books).


I am sold on Angleberger and am not only preparing to read the Origami Yoda books, but I can’t wait to get the audio for Horton Halfpott: Or, The Fiendish Mystery of Smugwick Manor; or, The Loosening of M’Lady Luggertuck’s Corset.  The fact that it also has a crazy subtitle means I like it already.

Incidentally, Angleberger has also written under the pseudonym Sam Riddleberger and I hear that his The Qwikpick Adventure Society is quite enjoyable too.

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