Venus Flytraps and Wandering Spirits: A Double Dip Review…

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Today’s Double Dip review will have you walking (or possibly skating or gliding) on the wild side as we explore an illustrated, comedic middle grade offering featuring a talking Venus Flytrap, and a collection of traditional ghost and scary stories.  For this reason then, it might be best if you choose an accompanying snack that doesn’t spill easily, as we take no responsibility for clothes ruined due to spillage from jumping in fright or guffawing with mirth.  We received both of these titles from their respective publishers via Netgalley.  Let’s dig in.

First up, we have Inspector Flytrap and the Big Deal Mysteries by Tom Angleberger and illustrated by Cece Bell.  Here’s the blurb from Goodreads:

From husband-and-wife team Tom Angleberger, creator of theNew York Times bestselling Origami Yoda series, and Cece Bell, author/illustrator of the Newbery Honor graphic novel El Deafo,comes the start to a funny and clever illustrated chapter-book series about a mystery-solving Venus flytrap. With easy-to-read language and illustrations on almost every page, this early-chapter-book series is a must for beginning readers.

Inspector Flytrap in the Da Vinci Cold introduces kids to the humorous and wacky world of Inspector Flytrap’s Detective Agency, home to the world-renowned solver of BIG DEAL mysteries. The plant detective works tirelessly with his assistant Nina the Goat on his community’s unsolved cases. There’s no case too big, but there are definitely cases too small for this endearingly self-important plant detective.

Celebrating the disabled yet enabled, the character of Inspector Flytrap is wheeled everywhere (on a skateboard, of course) by his goat sidekick as this mystery-solving duo works on cases such as “The Big Deal Mystery of the Stinky Cookies” and “The Big Deal Mystery of the Missing Rose.”

On his first caper, Inspector Flytrap heads to the Art Museum’s Secret Lab to discover what important message lies in a mysterious glob on a recently discovered Da Vinci flower painting. The ingenious solution: Da Vinci was allergic to flowers, and the glob is, er, evidence of that ancient sneeze.

Combining wacky humor and a silly cast of characters with adventure, friendship, and mystery, the powerhouse team of Tom Angleberger and Cece Bell have created a uniquely engaging series that is perfect for newly independent readers and fans of Ricky Ricotta, Captain Underpants, and the Galaxy Zack series. Also included in these books are some graphic novel–style pages that will attract reluctant readers.

Dip into it for…  inspector flytrap

…an illustrated, slapstick adventure that has kid appeal in spades.  As you can probably tell from the cover, Inspector Flytrap is no stranger to utter ridiculum, given that he gets about on a skateboard pushed by an obliging goat.  This series is aimed at the lower end of the middle grade age bracket as it is filled with repetitive gags – such as everyone getting Inspector Flytrap’s official title wrong – and rather obvious (or ridiculously outrageous) solutions to the BIG DEAL mysteries.

Don’t dip if…

You are looking for a middle grade read that will appeal to adult readers as well as the target age group.  To be honest, I found this to be a bit of trial to read and I suspect that this is one of those MG offerings that will appeal to its target age group, but not necessarily to the adults who may have to read it to or with them.  Admittedly,  the odd guffaw did escape my stony lips at a few points due to the blatant and silly nature of the comedy, however I do not feel any need to follow up with Inspector Flytrap in his adventures that are yet to come.

Overall Dip Factor

This is one of those middle grade reads that blends visual and textual information to its great advantage. The illustrations add immensely to the appeal of the book as one would expect, and are integral to the telling of the story.  Keep an eye out for the unobtrusive sloth (the real hero of the tale in my opinion) and Nina the goat for providing much of the visual comedy.  Without question, this is another addition to that wealth of middle grade literature aimed at kids who just want to have fun with their reading.

Next up we have The Thing at the Foot of the Bed (and other Scary Tales) by Maria Leach and illustrated by Kurt Werth.  Here’s the blurb from Goodreads:

A mysterious hitchhiker, a lovelorn pig, and a backseat gangster are among the colorful characters that populate these spooky stories. Noted folklorist Maria Leach spins a tapestry of yarns that originated in the British Isles, New England, and the American South. Moody black-and-white drawings complement the stories, which range from humorous and playful to downright eerie.
There’s the one about the fellow who saw two eyes staring at him from the foot of the bed, and the one about the family that ran away from their malevolent household spirit only to find that it had come with them. The tale of the golden arm, a favorite of Mark Twain’s, is a standard of campfire gatherings. Other chilling stories recount scenes from haunted houses, ghostly visitations, and midnight trips to the graveyard. An amusing selection of “Do’s and Don’t’s About Ghosts” offers advice to those who go looking for scares as well as those who find them accidentally, and the stories’ sources and backgrounds are explained in helpful notes and a bibliography.

Dip into it for...the thing at the foot of the bed

…a selection of traditional ghost stories ranging from mildly humorous to reasonably tedious, plus a bizarre collection of beliefs about ghosts and ghostly behaviour and some ghostly games to play.  I wasn’t aware on reading this that it was originally published in 1959, so the old-fashioned feel to the format and narratives isn’t so much old-fashioned, as contemporary for the time!  The stories are split into sections – scary tales, funny tales and real ones (although how the “real” ones differ from the others is unclear) – and each of the tales is linked to its supposed origins, as far as they are known.  This is quite a quick read, with most of the stories only taking up one or two pages each, along with an illustration.

Don’t dip if…

…you are looking for a book with actual scary tales.  It may be that Bart Simpson was correct when he posited that perhaps people were just easier to scare in “the olden days” but I found nothing even remotely scary about the stories contained in this book.  Also, the narrative style is so abrupt and unlike most writing for children today that I can’t imagine many younger readers will be particularly frightened by the stories either – which I suppose could be a good thing, if you’re a natural scaredy cat.

Overall Dip Factor

This book was a spectacular disappointment for me overall.  I can forgive some of the flaws given that it was published in a different era of reading, but the style of never kick a ghostwriting didn’t seem to lend itself to scary stories in my opinion.  One of the problems I had, that is peculiar to vintage texts, is that I had recently heard or read some of the stories contained here in much more interesting formats.  Don’t Ever Kick A Ghost turned up as a title story in an early reader belonging to the eldest mini-fleshling (pictured), while Julian Clary reads a cracking rendition of The Hairy Toe in an episode of Bookaboo, titled The Golden Arm in this collection.  There were a few stories that I enjoyed – Milk Bottles and Wait ‘Til Martin Comes being the standouts – but otherwise I didn’t find much to crow about.  Unless you are specifically looking for traditional ghost stories told in a narrative style common in the 1960s, you might be disappointed with this collection.

So did your clothes remain unstained by errant foodstuffs?  If not, it’s probably because of the content of the books.  I take no responsibility.

Until next time,

Bruce

 

 

 

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3 thoughts on “Venus Flytraps and Wandering Spirits: A Double Dip Review…

  1. I think you, or Bart Simpson, are right about people being easier to scare back then. We were exposed to less scary things, less often. Of course everyday life was scarier, since there were so many more things that would kill you, like a bad cut, if it got infected. My brother caught polio; I was immunised at the same age and it was already routine. But ghost stories could be really scary – and these days we’d laugh at them. Two factors, I think – the scary on tv and film means we were exposed to it and began to see through it. Secondly, the whole point of so many genres these days, especially film, is to out-scare the previous film. And they come out so often, hundreds a year it seems, that kids are overwhelmed with scariness. Mind you, real life is scarier, since we see everything immediately on the news, but that’s a discussion I had with an elderly friend who opposed that idea.

    Good reviews! I’ll avoid dipping today, I think 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • And I respect your non-dipping position! There was nothing at all wrong with the writing of the older book, and I remember reading many like it when I was a youngling, but it seems so unusual when compared to stories written for children today!

      Liked by 1 person

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