Whales on Stilts!
by M. T. Anderson
This is a young adult humor/science fiction/adventure novel, and one of the better ones. It is intended for ages of about nine and up, but can certainly be enjoyed by both those younger and those much much older.
Lily Gefelty is an average girl. She looks average, she lives an average life, and her father is, as it turns out, exceptionally average. She learns this last fact on Take-Your-Daughter-To-Work Day, when he takes her through a secret door into an abandoned warehouse, through a secret lab guarded by men with large guns ("keep moving honey, they start to shoot if you get too nosy"), and into a plain, boring office... where he sits and does paperwork all day. All day. During a brief break in the coffee room, Lily learns that there is a bit of dissatisfaction among the employees over the coffee creamer situation, that her dad also has boring coworkers, and that his boss is a mutant sea creature who is planning to take over the world. A fact of which her dad is completely oblivious.
"Sweetpea, don't let your imagination go crazy. We're just a cetacean prosthesis company in an abandoned warehouse."
Okay, well, Lily isn't completely helpless. She does have two friends that might be helpful in this situation: Katie Mulligan, who just happens to live in Horror Hallow, a neighborhood where vampire/werewolf/mind sloth attacks are so common that Katie has her own series of YA mystery/horror books written about her life; and Jasper Dash, Boy Technonaut, who at age 11 already has a PhD in Aegyptology, and whose inventions are marvels of engineering -- unfortunately he is somewhat out of touch with modern technology, and his inventions range from clockpunk to dieselpunk. The threesome set off to discover 1. why stilts?, 2. why whales?, 3. taking over what now?, and 4. are those laser beams on their heads?!
"Dash it all, Chums, this sounds like a real pickle!"
Yep, get used to it, because that's how Jasper always talks.
This is a very, very silly book, in a very, very good way. This is pretty much the level of humor and style of writing that everyone fondly remembers the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy having, if they haven't read it in 20 years. It's Terry Pratchett without the unnecessarily deep character development or serious themes. It's exactly the book I was looking for when I was twelve years old. And it's still darned good now that I'm not. It is silly and stupid without being dumb; when the book breaks the laws of physics it does so with the acknowledgement that the readers will laugh at this rather than overlook it. When something inane happens, it's because something even more inane is going to build on that in just a moment. It's non-stop, over-the-top, and expertly done silly.
And so, I would recommend this book to anyone who likes well-done fictional humor writing, especially those youngsters who mistakenly believe that Captain Underpants and Diary of a Wimpy Kid are the height of children's humor. It may also be of particular interest to those of us who enjoy mocking B movies and the sort of mundane drudges who wouldn't recognize an invading whale on stilts if it tromped down the street setting fire to cars.
Whales on Stilts! is the first book of the Pals in Peril series, and is followed by The Clue of the Linoleum Lederhosen.
Accelerated reader book level 4.6