posted by Beret
Title: A Whole Nother Story
Author: probably not anyone named Dr. Cuthbert Soup
Reading level: 4th grade and up
Quite frankly, it is hard to know just how to categorize A Whole Nother Story. The Library of Congress has filed it under “inventions and spies,” as well as a host of perplexingly random and uninteresting categories such as “moving (household),” and “automobile travel.”
In my opinion, such an unorthodox story begs a far less rational sort of description. Let’s begin instead with an abridged list of ingredients.
Inside A Whole Nother Story you will find:
- “three attractive, polite, and relatively odor-free children”
- a time machine which may or may not work
- an evil villain named Mr. 5
- an international super spy and his monkey-sucking machine
- a hairless dog with psychic abilities
- a sock puppet named Steve.
If the above list intrigues you and/or some of the small people in your life, I can’t imagine why you are still reading this inane blurb instead of running out to get your grubby hands on your own copy.
Now, for those of you who may need a bit more cajoling:
The tale is supposedly told by Dr. Cuthbert Soup, about whom very little is known beyond his attendance at Southwestern North Dakota State University. It would not surprise me in the slightest if Dr. Soup were a close friend of Lemony Snicket, since neither is likely to be found in the white pages anywhere.
The gist of the plot is that Mr. Ethan Cheeseman and his three children–aged 8, 12, and 14–are constantly on the run from a host of unsavory people, all of whom are madly pursuing his latest invention. The Cheeseman family are forced to leave town after town on a moment’s notice, all but Ethan changing their names as quickly as they change addresses.
Along the way to the tumultuous climax there are swords, marshmallows, a wingding, a ghost on roller skates, and a cowboy poet–just for a wee sampling. And although I occasionally tired of the non-stop action and goofy banter, the book was so fresh and unpredictable, so delightfully ridiculous, that I quickly forgave the author for his relentless yammering.
I highly recommend A Whole Nother Story as a read aloud at home, school, or in the car. The basics of the action will keep younger folks amused and engaged, but “Soup” has also included a good deal of irreverent musings and snarky asides for those in middle school and well beyond. It is not uncommon to encounter a sentence such as this one, from chapter 20: “Saturday arrived and by midmorning the sun had risen in the sky like a 4.5-billion-year-old, average-sized star burning at roughly 10,000 degrees Kelvin at its core.”
In fact, sandwiched between the chapters there are whole pages of unsolicited advice from Dr. Soup which seem particularly geared toward the more sophisticated reader. In a section on gift giving, for example, Dr. Soup explains that good gifts include the Statue of Liberty and chocolates, whereas the Trojan Horse falls soundly on the list of bad ones. He then goes on to describe a money-saving practice called Secret Santa: “Rather than buy a gift for each and every member of your family, you simply drop your names into a hat, then fake your own deaths and move to Brazil.”
While all of the aforementioned excerpts give you a sense of the book’s overall tone–and rest assured, there are many, many other humorous bits from which to choose–my favorite sentence from the entire book was surprisingly short and simple:
“Always lift with your legs, no matter how tempting it might be to use your hands.”
At that point, I had to be admonished multiple times to please, please, please pull myself together and continue with the story.
So far, A Whole Nother Story has captivated readers and listeners across all ages and genders, including every person to whom I have recommended it. If you happen to give it a try, please let me know what you think.