Monday, January 26, 2009

Woodchuck Chuckles: The Attack of the Frozen Woodchucks by Dan Elish

Some children are asked to take out the trash. Others are asked to make their beds. Janice, Jimmy, and William had been called upon to do something noble, something important: to make the world safe from woodchucks.

And not just any woodchucks, either. When two-year-old Imogene and Jimmy Weathers' dad, a lawyer who moonlights as a wannabe children's fantasy writer, return from a walk in Central Park, they are almost speechless with a tale of giant woodchucks hatching from frozen pods and chowing down on the trees there. Jimmy and his Mom consider the whole story a product of Dad's fevered writer's creativity on hyperdrive, but when his dad is snatched by a nighttime dad-napper who leaves behind a giant whisker, Jimmy and Imogene set out to chase down the woodchucks and rescue their dad.

The NYC Police are no help, of course, but Jimmy's best friend William Howard Taft V (chubby great-great-great-great-nephew of William Howard Taft, America's fattest prez) is up for the investigation and even offers his not-quite-ready-for-prime-time golf-cart-cum-spaceship to track down the alien abductors. When William's cart fails to make orbit, however, the two are forced to turn to their freak-o-geek classmate Janice Claypoole, who has always claimed to have her own means of space travel. And indeed, the youthful author of the galaxy best-seller Light Speed and You, does--a warp-speed ship of her own construction, named The Fifth Floor, concealed, naturally, on the fifth floor of her apartment building. Jimmy is dubious, but what the hey, no one else cares about finding his father, so the three are soon exiting earth's atmosphere and on their way to Planet Grindlepick, where the cotton candy crop for the universe grows and which seems to be having its own problem with woodchucks.

The ship seemed to freeze in space.... Then the screen went completely white, and with a giant whoosh the ship thundered even faster than before.

"What happened?" William asked.

Janice smiled. "This baby does light speed."

William's eyes went wide. "Light speed? How did you pull that off?"

Janice shrugged. "I was always good at math."

A chick who can do light speed has no trouble with the minor mystery of giant woodchucks from the galaxy, and soon the space sleuths have the woodchuck caper figured out. It seems that Janice's father, quirky inventor of the mute button back on Earth, has a new discovery, Plastawood, the source material for faux trees and all wood products therefrom. But in order to makes gazillions off his new invention, he has first to get rid of all the real trees in the universe--which means (what else?) that he must create voracious woodchucks hatched from frozen pods and distribute them around the timber-producing planets in space. At least, that's his apparent business plan.

Can a trio of intrepid kids, augmented by Imogene (a.k.a. Genie), the brilliant toddler gadgeteer, overcome the evil Claypoole Empire and rescue Mr. Weathers from captivity in outer space? Well, sure. Armed with their natural resourcefulness and a dirty sweat sock to track down Jimmy's dad's DNA, the kids are on the galactic case.

Nonstop, catch-as-catch-can adventures ensue, but in the end the evil empire is brought down, not by Janice's innate grasp of astrophysics, but by little Genie's rejiggering of Jimmy's Game Boy into a remote control device which turns the evil Mr. Claypoole's woodchuck pod attack back on himself. The world is again safe for wood products, and in a clever twist, author Dan Elish has Jimmy's dad, inspired by their arcane adventures, begin a new children's adventure novel with the first line of The Attack of the Frozen Woodchucks:

As Jimmy Weathers helped his mother set the table that Saturday evening in early April, he had no idea that the fate of mankind was about to come crashing down on his shoulders.

A riotously crazy, pell-mell adventure tale with memorable characters and a no-holds-barred plot, Dan Elish's novel will appeal to middle readers who like their fantasy on the gloriously wacky side. Fans of Christopher Paul Curtis' Mr. Chickee's Funny Money and Mr. Chickee's Messy Mission in the Flint Future Detectives series will find The Attack of the Frozen Woodchucks quite to their taste.

Labels: , ,


Post a Comment

<< Home