The universe recently conspired to throw three books my way, which I read one after another. They’re all quite good (one of them excellent), with a running theme of extreme oddity:
Cupcake, a bakery owner, spends months holding extra bake sales so he can afford to visit Turkey with his best friend Eggplant. For Cupcake, the main attraction is the opportunity to meet Turkish Delight, a famous pastry chef who just happens to be friends with Eggplant’s aunt. As odd as the plot sounds, it’s really the most normal (and boring) part of this book. The real attraction lies in
–the baked goods recipes sprinkled throughout (I haven’t felt this hungry after reading a book since Redwall)
–the joyful, colorful artwork. Varon’s book takes place in a world inhabited by creatures like Eggplant, Potato and Avocado, whose names perfectly describe the species/food item you’d expect them to be (with the addition of arms, legs and opposable thumbs)
…which means there’s quite a bit of casual cannibalism. Because Cupcake is really a cupcake (at one point he laments the drying out of his frosting at a Turkish bath), and he eats cupcakes too. We might as well be reading about anthropomorphic sheep dining on lamb chops.
What if God is a teenager named Bob? An angsty, irresponsible teenager who won earth in a card game, but is now too lazy to pay attention to his creation? (That’s what secretaries are for. Bob’s assistant Mr. B. gets the glory of reviewing prayers and keeping Bob out of trouble). Whenever Bob falls in love with a woman (which is very often indeed), his dark moods throw the weather completely out of whack–snow in summer, endless drought, devastating floods. And that’s how the book begins, when Bob, upon spotting Lucy (a zookeeper), decides that she’s The One…
For all its humor, There is No Dog is surprisingly deep. A lot of that comes from the fascinating human characters trying to survive the disasters–personal and weather related–thrown in their path. A book about Bob and his fellow supernaturals would have been boring (where’s the conflict when you’re omnipotent?), but Rosoff creates plenty of characters that are easy to relate to: a conflicted mother, a caring, overworked priest and dedicated zookeepers determined to save their animals from the latest weather madness. Other things that keep the book afloat:
–Eck, Bob’s faithful, penguin-like pet with the appetite of a T-rex. I dare you not to like him
–the magnificent, magnificent whales, whose cameo reminds me of the confused whale/petunia mix from Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.
It is, without a doubt, the best alien invasion book I’ve ever read. The aliens in question (the Boov) resemble reptile-headed Google Android robots. Except with too many legs and very scary guns. They take over earth not so much out of malice as a sense of well, we landed here, why aren’t you sharing the place with us?
There’s a lot of dark apocalypse stuff: bombed-out buildings, vanished parents, forced relocations that pack a historical punch. But the story follows Tip, an 11-year-old girl whose reluctant friendship with a renegade (read: incompetent) Boov–self-named J.Lo–provides plenty of complexity and humor. Consider this moment of culture shock:
“So…you Boov have boys and girls…just like us?”
“Of course,” said J.Lo. “Do not to be ridicumulous.”
I smiled a wan little smile. “Sorry.”
“The Boov are having seven magnificent genders. There is boy, girl, boygirl, girlboy, boyboy, boyboygirl, and boyboyboyboy.”
I had absolutely no response to this.
Or J.Lo’s attempt to explain Boovish wildlife:
“…They look like something we had on Boovworld.”
“Not those koobish things you mentioned?” [a kind of mammal]
“No,” said J.Lo. “The long-eared koobish is taller. Withto a short nose. And dark curledy hair.”
“Is there a short-eared koobish, then?”
“Mmmyes…” said J.Lo. “But it is technically not really a koobish. Is more like a kind of singing pumpkin.”
We had conversations like this all the time, where I just eventually gave up.
I could go on and on, but spoilers are evil. Suffice it to say that if you read just one book in the next 3 months, read Smekday. You’ll soon be as obsessed with the book as J.Lo is with eating dental floss.