Full title: Kokopelli & Company in Attack of the Smart Pies
Author: Larry Gonick
Publisher: Cricket Books, 2005
You know him; he’s the guy who wrote/drew the Cartoon History of the Universe, The Cartoon Guide to Physics, The Cartoon Guide to Sex, and so many others. To the best of my knowledge, The Attack of the Smart Pies is his first ‘real’ book.
Kokopelli & Company
Larry Gonick has been drawing the comic strip Kokopelli & Company since 1996. It appears monthly in Muse magazine, and is aimed at children aged 10-15. It features the nine new muses, strange and (usually) humanoid beings that whisper helpful hints into our ears, on such subjects as Plants, Animals, Hardware (computer and otherwise), Software, Getting Along With People, Bad Poetry, Tunes and Tricks, Astronomy and Math, and Miscellaneous Factoids.
Attack of the Smart Pies
But now there's a book. As you might expect, it is illustrated, although it is not a comic book. It is written for about the same age group as the cartoons are. It follows the adventures of Kokopelli & Company as they try to help a wandering orphan, Emma.
The Story, In Brief
Feather, muse of plants, has made a rare foray out into the real world to buy a box of his favorite treat, donuts. As usual, his appearance (a lumpy feathered and beaked humanoid) causes some disturbance, but he hunkers down and hopes it will all be over soon. But two strange things are about to happen -- first, a human actually talks to him. A young girl named Emma wants to know what he is -- a super hero? An alien? And more importantly, she wants his help. And muses exist to help people...
Before we find out what's going on with Emma, the second strange thing happens. Pies start falling from the sky. In the resulting confusion, Emma ends up following Feather back to the land of the muses, where no human is supposed to go.
It emerges that Emma is having problems with her foster father, who seems to have gone a bit crazy after his wife died. She wants to run away (and she has), but now she wants some mysterious mementos of her parents that are back in her foster father’s house, and she needs help getting them.
While the book centers around Feather, he isn't the smartest muse (not by a long shot), and he spends most of his time being a cat's paw for Kokopelli (and maybe others?) as things grow more and more confusing. Emma seems to have made friends with Kokopelli, the trickster, who is on the offensive side of the pie war. He seems to be determined to give Urania (muse of astronomy) a pieing that she'll never forget, and will stop at nothing to achieve this nefarious goal (this whole bit is a parody of the humans arms race, which seems a bit odd in a book published in 2005. Passé.)
In the meantime, Emma is finding that her stepfather is more sinister than even she suspected -- but you'll have to read the book to hear about that.
What Tem42 Thinks
I love silly children's books -- Daniel Pinkwater, Quentin Dodd, Margaret Mahy. This is certainly a silly book -- but I didn't love it. It's okay. I read it, and enjoyed it, and I might one day read it again (specifically, if I had a child interested in having silly books read to them). But it doesn't quite sit right.
The characters are interesting, but they slide back and forth between interesting and just plain silly -- too silly, even for me. I like people to realize that the situations that they are in are silly, rather than the people themselves being ridiculous and unpredictable. Of course, that's just me.
There are too many references to science and modern culture dropped in without adapting them properly to the level of silliness of the characters. The author needs to find a groove and stay within it. Larry didn't stay in his groove.
So my conclusion is -- Not recommended reading, unless you know and like Kokopelli & Company. Or if you've read everything else already. Or you like the blurb on the back. Who am I to tell you what to read?