Pam Webb

a writer's journey as a reader

Archive for the tag “Mike Allegra”

Reader Roundup: November


November had its share of hits and misses. I usually start reading a new book just before going to bed. I’ll get about 25 pages in before I decide if it’s a go on or not. My husband tosses out a comment of “another miss, huh?” Yup. There are simply too many books I have yet to read to be willing to work with one that doesn’t work for me. Here are the hits. The misses are long gone.

by Ashley Ream

A riveting premise, one that mixes science with mythology with equal respect to both. Each character is well-developed and the separate plot threads are given full attention as well. The author’s flippant prose adds light, appropriate humor.

The driven selfishness of each character emphasizes the importance of finding balance in one’s pursuits. The ending was a bit rushed and somewhat ambiguous, yet had an appropriate finality to an engaging story.

by Kristina McMorris

The ambiguity of the novel’s beginning absolutely pulls the reader in and the build up to that moment is well worth the progressive tale of Shan, a plucky boy who overcomes great odds to achieve a well-deserved happy ending.

Impressive historical detail involving immigrants, cultural traditions, and prison life make this an engaging read. Shan is a character the reader definitely roots for throughout the story.

by Monica Hesse

Hesse presents a different perspective of WWII by setting her story in Amsterdam. The Germans have established occupation and are beginning to round up the Jewish population. There are citizens who begin hiding Jews, but this is not the initial emphasis of the story. Instead, the author focuses on the independent Hanneke who supports her family as a receptionist and by delivering black market goods.

The story takes a turn when one of her clients asks her to find the girl she has been hiding, a Jewish girl who seemingly disappeared. From that point Hanneke becomes obsessed with finding the girl to the point of jeopardizing lives.

Well-written, carefully researched, the story illustrates the different ways people responded to the war effort. Although considered YA it could easily pass for an adult read.

by Mike Allegra

Anyone needing a boost in the get happy department should seek out Mike Allegra’s story of how one delightful capybara interjected a welcome dose of floofy good cheer amidst the critters in his neighborhood. A smile is guaranteed with the uplifting text and winsome illustrations.

Getting lost in a good book. So satisfying. Anyone get lost recently?

A Floofy Win


Winner!

Yes—I was chosen by the grand mixer (it’s quite the entertaining process). A copy of Mike Allegra’s newly published Sleepy Happy Capy Cuddles is heading my way.

Waiting…

Is today the day?

A key? Could that mean?

Ooh–a book-sized envelope. Could it be?

Yes! My very own Mike Allegra Sleepy Happy Capy Cuddles book is here!

And it’s personally autographed! Nice:)

Wait–there’ are bonus features…

Bookmarks! Coolio!

And another envelope…

Aw–I love buttons. And this is a lovely, no make that a floofily fun book. Thanks, again, Mike. And thanks to that wonderful wacky winner stirrer that is in residence.

I hear pirates and penguins are the next arrivals to the ever growing Allegra compendium. Looking forward to its arrival.

Book Giveaway: SLEEPY HAPPY CABY CUDDLES by Mike Allegra


Book Giveaway: SLEEPY HAPPY CABY CUDDLES by Mike Allegra

https://kathytemean.wordpress.com/2022/10/09/book-giveaway-sleepy-happy-caby-cuddles-by-mike-allegra/
— Read on kathytemean.wordpress.com/2022/10/09/book-giveaway-sleepy-happy-caby-cuddles-by-mike-allegra/

Cricket Musings: I can’t stop thinking about the sign of the times


Lately I’ve been diligently working on developing Pam Webb, debut picture book author, but I do miss those Cricket Muse days of somewhat anonymously posting this and that. I especially miss sparring with Mike Allegra, famed children’s author and blogster of humorous doodle repartee. Mike—if you are out there, send me a sign all is well. Thanks—

Speaking of signs (and Mike would no doubt chortle)…

Someone or some persons over the last several years have taken to stop sign graffiti. Scattered throughout our fair town are numerous, and often hilarious messages added to the stop signs. Here are a few :

Classic
You talking to me?
Duking it out.
We all need a reminder now and then
Optimism is essential
Yes, I have heard that one before
We asked that in June as we waited for summer to arrive
Now I have that song in my head
Then again the box is a quiet place to think about things
Yes, I don’t want summer to end quite yet

This is only half of the collection. Someone or persons have been busy. The police chief doesn’t seem that concerned about the vandalism, in fact, he gave the impression the messages are part of the greater picture of what makes our town unique. And who can stop people from expressing their opinion?

What stop expression would you sneak up on a sign?

Debatables: March–What’s So Funny?


Time for another round of Debatables, where Mike Allegra, my partner in literary pettifog, and I take on meritable topics such as “Who is the Most Appealing Mouse of Middle Grade Fiction” and make quite a fuss. Sometimes Mike wins, and sometimes I do. Like last month. Just saying.

This month we take on the serious topic of “The Funniest Picture Book.” Now, I could be at a disadvantage because Mike is truly a funny guy. His family stories are a hoot. I shall strive for another win. Like last month. (oh dear, I promised Mike I wouldn’t crow).

Here are the Debatables ground rules:
Each debater is allowed one brief argument (fewer than 300 words) on a previously agreed-upon topic. These brief arguments will then be followed by a briefer rebuttal (fewer than 150 words).

For my Funniest Picture Book entry I nominate:

46677

Yes, this book is so funny it’s been a play at the Kennedy Center, a TV special, AND a Disney movie.

 

Mike suggests:

Image result for stinky cheese man

Okay, fine–it won an award

Cricket’s Turn:
Some days just start out wrong, and keep getting worse. Having a bad day, especially from a kid’s point of view, is what Judith Viorst’s classic picture book is all about. Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day is just that–a really bad day in the life of six year old Alexander.

This is one of those books that is a perfect blend of text and illustrations. Viorst succinctly states with comic vaudevillian timing the woes of Alexander’s day. Ray Cruz’s illustrations deliciously capture Alexander’s expressions. Like this one:

Image result for alexander and the terrible horrible no good very bad day illustrations

Alexander wakes up with gum in his hair, he trips on his skateboard, and drops his sweater in the sink. And that’s just the start of his day. He’s smushed in the car pool, his friends snub him, he leaves out 16 in counting, and there’s no dessert in his lunch. And the day just gets worse. There is also the running gag of moving to Australia.

 

Alexander’s no good day is relatable. This is a book anyone from 6 to 96 can enjoy. The story is funny. The illustrations are funny. Alexander’s bad day is a good funny, because all bad days come to an end. Viorst knows this and doesn’t sugarcoat the terrible, horrible of the Alexander’s bad day. They just happen. And when they are done we can laugh about it.This is a book that parents and children can read and laugh about together. Bad days happen. They just do. It’s cathartic to laugh about them. A book, a play, a TV special, a movie–people can’t get enough of this story.

Image result for alexander and the terrible horrible no good very bad day illustrationsMike’s choice of The Stinky Cheese Man is commendable, yet its satirical humor leans towards mean. The gentle humor of Viorst and Cruz is family friendly and it’s made for kids. TSCM? Do kids, little kids, the ones picture books are supposed to be for, really get that crazy, hyperbolic humor? Hmm, to each their own kind of funny. Alexander is cute. The cheese man is, well, stinky. What’s so funny about a stinky cheese man?

Mike’s Argument:
“Gentle humor” and “funniest” aren’t synonyms. Not even close.

Is Alexander And The Terrible Horrible No Good Very Bad Day a good book? Yes. It is an excellent book. It may even be a better book than The Stinky Cheese Man.

But hardly anyone could say it’s funnier. And this debate is all about the funny.

AATTHNGVBD generates warm, nostalgic smiles. But Stinky Cheese gets laughs. When my son was little, I read him both Alexander and Stinky. He liked them both, but only laughed at Stinky. Heck, the book still makes him laugh. It still makes me laugh, too.

In this compendium of “fairly stupid tales,” an ugly duckling grows up to be really ugly. A “frog prince” is is fraud, one who just likes smooching (and cares little about the slime he leaves behind on princess’ lips). The titular Stinky Cheese Man, like The Gingerbread Man, runs away to avoid being eaten; but nobody is chasing Stinky Cheese because, well, he stinks something nasty.

Lane Smith’s illustrations greatly contribute to the book’s comic tone. His ugly duck, for example, is not just a dippy, drooling disaster; he is a happy, dippy drooling disaster. He’s ugly. He knows it. And he’s cool with it. What could’ve been a cruel story in the hands of a lesser illustrator, is hilarious, for Smith’s duck seems incapable of hurt feelings.

Image result for stinky cheese man ugly duckling

And let’s not forget the character that ties all these ridiculous tales together. Jack the Narrator accidentally drops the table of contents on Chicken Little’s head. He spoils the ending of “Little Red Riding Shorts.” And, in a great running gag, he tangles with a very belligerent giant.  

Nope, no “gentle humor” here. The Stinky Cheese Man is brash, wildly original, and comic gold.

Cricket’s Rebuttal:
Some people like obvious humor that’s a bit loud:

Image result for stinky cheese man cow

This cow is flabbergasted that a stinky bit of cheese is remotely funny

Others enjoy the subtle comedy of a facial expression or comment can evoke:

Image result for alexander and the terrible horrible no good very bad day illustrations dad office

It comes down to what’s funny to an individual. In a world that dwells on harsh and mean, I much prefer the gentle humor of a boy coping with a bad day where delightful illustrations accompany witty commentary. It’s relatable, enjoyable, and resonates with good vibes long after I’ve read it. I smile just thinking about Alexander. He lightens my bad days. I choose him over slimy frogs and the stink of rude, cheesy banal jokes.

Mike’s Rebuttal:
You’re right, Cricket, one’s interpretation of “funniest book” will always be subjective. But you’re not making an argument for The Funniest Book; you’re making an argument for The Most Relatable, Resonant, Warm, Fuzzy, Good Vibe-ist Book.

C’mon, you! Yes, I’m looking at you, Cricket—with your smart aleck ways, plethora of puns, and encyclopedic knowledge of weird cow jokes. Let’s get real.

You might love AATTHNGVBD—and you should love it—but you know which book generates more honest-to-goodness laughs. Stinky Cheese pulls out all the stops. One page is upside down. Another page contains a Surgeon General’s Warning. Another page is blank because the diva-ish main characters walked out of the story in a huff. Stinky Cheese is a layered, visual and verbal feast of funniness.

The book blazed a new trail in no-hugging-no-learning meta fiction. And readers laughed. So did critics. So did the Caldecot judges. So did I. And—admit it—so did you.

 

Well, there you have it. You, our most marvelous readers, now have the opportunity to add in your own commentary about which of the two books is the funniest. And while we appreciate your suggestions, we really, really want you to stick with what you see here: either Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible No Good Very Bad Day  or The Stinky Cheese Man.

Thanks for stopping in and thanks even more for your comments and votes.

Debatable Recap: Reeping a Win


February ‘s Debatable topic of “Most Appealing Mouse of Middle Reader Literature” sparked a lively discussion. It appears mice are quite nice in many an opinion. We won’t mention the one dissenting view about mice (which wasn’t very nice at all).

I choose Reepicheep from C.S. Lewis’s Narnia series.

Image result for reepicheep

While Mike nominated Amos from Robert Lawson’s Ben and Me.

Image result for ben and me

After a spirited voting spree, Reepicheep won by a whisker–yes, by one vote. Reep, that mighty warrior mouse valiantly strode forward and claimed his victory.

To be fair, Ben is a great little mouse. In fact, a vote for Ben or a vote for Reepicheep, along with the suggestions for Stuart Little, Bianca, Wilcox and Griswold, Despereaux, Runaway Ralph as considerations, just goes to show that mice are nice. That is, I admit I’m not keen on finding them unexpectedly in my kitchen pantry, but mice truly are winsome little creatures.

Someday I will regale my stories about Hunca Munca and Spot, two truly wondrous mousekins as once valued as pets.

BtW: a hearty congrats to my Debatable chum, Mike, who has just published his own mouse book: Scampers Thinks Like a Scientist.

Stay tuned for the next Debatable…

Debateables Recap: Rudolph Grounded


Each month, Mike Allegra and I take on debating mostly meritable topics concerning children’s literature. We each state our initial argument in about 250 words and then add on a 150ish counter argument. You then, dear readers, vote accordingly and add in commentary. Mike and I look forward to the votes, and truly relish your comments.

Our December Debatable focused on Christmas specials based on books. I offered the perennial classic: Rudolph the Rednosed Reindeer, based on the song, which is based on the Montgomery Ward coloring book. The book lasted longer than the store, sadly.

Image result for rudolph the red nosed reindeer

Mike, suggested his usual underdog, a relative newcomer to the seasonal menu: A Wish for Wings That Work based on the title by adult/children’s writer Berkeley Breathed, known for his Bloom County comics.

Image result for a wish for wings that work

This month proved, well, ummm, different. Lots of likes and visits. Few commitments. Mike edged the voting outcome by one vote–two, if you go by what Mike says. Anyway, quibbling aside, Mike is the winner. The score is now *gasp* EVEN! We are now 3-3.

Stay tuned for January’s Debatable. A winter theme? Open to suggestions. Leave your comments and certainly your suggestions for new Debatable topics.

Until then…

Blue skies, and happy reading…

Debatables: ‘Tis the Season


Yes, ’tis the season. It used to come right after Thanksgiving, as in the Friday after, but now XMas Retail–totally different than Christmas (a post for maybe Mitch Teemley to muse upon?) is upon us. And with it comes all the holiday hoopla: decorations, music, food, commercials, events, and specials.

Mike Allegra and I are taking on Christmas specials based on children’s books in this month’s issue of Debatables. Last month we discussed which children’s lit character deserves to be a Macy’s Day Parade balloon. Mike won that round. See all the glorious discussion and scrabbling here.

If you are not familiar with Debatables–Welcome!
If you are–Welcome back!

Each month, Mike Allegra and I take on debating mostly meritable topics concerning children’s literature. We each state our initial argument in about 250 words and then add on a 150ish counter argument. You then, dear readers, vote accordingly and add in commentary. Mike and I look forward to the votes, and truly relish your comments. Mike says the score is now 3-2. I lead. This could be an important session.

I am offering the perennial classic: Rudolph the Rednosed Reindeer, based on the song, which is based on the Montgomery Ward coloring book. You probably didn’t know that, did you?

Image result for rudolph the red nosed reindeer

Mike, that gregarious children’s author who is rocking the publishing world with ninja cows and princes of regard, is suggesting a relative newcomer to the seasonal menu: A Wish for Wings That Work based on the title by adult/children’s writer Berkeley Breathed, known for his Bloom County comics.

Image result for a wish for wings that work

Mike’s Opening Argument:

Few creatures, (even in Christmas specials) match the inimitable, innocent, guileless sweetness of Opus the Penguin. His personality stands in stark contrast to his id-inclined Bloom County comic strip cohorts. This big-shnozzled little fella always puts others’ needs before his own. 
So it seems only fair that as Christmas approaches Opus should take a little time to consider his own wants. And Opus wants to fly. He needs to fly. 
A Wish for Wings That Work was published after Berkeley Breathed suddenly (and heartbreakingly) discontinued the Bloom County comic strip. It’s arrival was like a breath of fresh air. Opus was back! And he was in a wonderful story, pursuing a passionate goal—a goal he achieves just by being his old penguin-y self.  
The cartoon (presented here in full) remains true to the book while expanding upon it, drawing in old favorite Bill the Cat as well as introducing new characters from Breathed’s then-recently christened Sunday-only strip, Outland. It’s a cartoon that works on just about every level, even if you aren’t familiar with Bloom County (but especially if you are). Much like Bloom County, the special mixes the sweet and the salty, kid humor with adult humor. And it rewards people who pay attention; some of the best jokes linger unobtrusively in the background. 
And, best of all, there’s that ending! It gives me happy chills every time I see it. Do yourself a favor. Watch the cartoon; you’ll see what I mean.  Click on the link below for Opus in action:
Cricket’s Argument:

We might think of it just being the ubiquitous song that everyone at every age knows, but Rudolph the Rednosed Reindeer is pretty special, as in seasonal special. This song came out in 1949 based on the coloring book story created for Montgomery Wards. Although the Rankin special deviated tremendously from the original story it’s become a classic in it’s own right:

  • Burl Ives sings some snappy tunes
  • Memorable characters like Hermey the wannabe dentist
  • The Island of Misfit Toys
  • How about the Abominable Snow Monster?
  • And of course the famous Rankin/Bass stop motion animation
It’s a crowd pleaser about how non-conformists are contributors to society, and are, in fact, heroes in their own right. Click on the link below for cute clip:

From a kid’s coloring book to a traditional song to a classic cartoon—Rudolph the Rednosed Reindeer is the one special that is so special it’s the special of all specials. All the others are simply paying tribute to an original. It’s been part of tradition since 1964, and keeps on ticking despite current fine-tooth scrutiny for issues. Rudolph and his friends provide a generational bonding, and the bonus is everyone can sing along.

Mike’s Rebuttal:
As a child, I watched Rudolph every year and enjoyed it. As an adult, however, the Rudolph story bothers me. Poor Rudolph is cruelly shunned by his peers—and is only accepted back into the fray once his glowing nose proves useful. 
That’s a Christmas story that could’ve been written by Ayn Rand.
A Wish For Wings That Work, on the other hand, is a story driven by a strong-willed (and strongly motivated!) character who lives in Bloom County, a wonderful Land of Misfit Everything—including tater tot-brained cats, rhino-pigs, cross-dressing cockroaches, and a toy store owned by General Norman Schwarzkopf. Opus may be teased, but he’s never shunned. After all, Opus and all of his eccentricities are a great fit for this unapologetically odd and accepting place. Rudolph may take place in Santa’s backyard, but Bloom County better exemplifies the generous, supportive spirit of the
season.
Cricket’s Final Say:
Rudolph overcomes adversity with the bonus of acceptance, providing a story arc of beginning, middle, and a rousing resolution. Opus? He is harshly teased by some really odd ducks, who eventually come around to helping him out with his flight fantasy. Yet, there is no real resolution. The last we see of Opus he’s enjoying mock-flying. How long is that going to last? And Bill—Mike, did you forget how cruelly Opus treated the cat he rescued? He never even apologized for his scathing remarks. Rudolph is upbeat while Bloom County is quirky.
 
Rudolph or Opus? Which special is special to you? Cast your vote, and add your comments. Thanks for stopping by and watch out for fruitcake. That’s one tradition we could do without.

Debatable Recap: Defeat


Macy’s Parade has come and gone along with the November issue of Debatable. This month’s topic was filled with more than the usual amount of hot air as Mike Allegra, that rascally writer fellow who is loved and adored by his thousands of followers, won the round with his pitch of nominating Peter of the Snowy Day as a future Macy Day Parade balloon.

Admittedly, it is s good choice, yet I still contend the parade is all about the lightness of being and Tigger certainly fits that description.

Personally, I think Tigger and Peter would enjoy a snowy day together. Who knows? Maybe they’ll both be balloons one day.

So, congratulations, Mike. For once all your glorious and uplifting promotional ballyhooing rose up to to even greater heights.

Stay tuned for December’s Debatable edition in which Mike and I contest our choices for seasonal specials.

October Debatable Recap


It’s time to wrap up another round of Debatables. This month my partner in kibitzing in kid lit, the illustrious Mike Allegra, chose to back The Cat of Seuss’s The Cat in the Hat as his choice for the top villain found in children’s literature. Umm, I didn’t win with The Cat when I nominated him for the worst picture book category.

I went with Cruella de Vil of 101Dalmatian fame.

You read our arguments and made your decision. And it’s decided:

https://youtu.be/DbOAa7Tbil0

Yes, that fiendish puppy stealing devil, Cruella is pretty much a hands down decision.

There was some talk of Flying Monkeys and the Wicked Witch *shudder* no contest. She and her winged henchmen are way scary–they are in their own class of villains.

https://youtu.be/SESI19h4wDo

See you next month when we take on quite a buoyant topic of debate.

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