Whales on Stilts
Whales on Stilts

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Series: Pals In Peril Tale Vol. 1   

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Annotation: Racing against the clock, shy middle-school student Lily and her best friends, Katie and Jasper, must foil the plot of her father's conniving boss to conquer the world using an army of whales.
Catalog Number: #10373
Format: Perma-Bound Edition
All Formats: Search
Publisher: Harcourt
Copyright Date: 2005
Edition Date: 2006
Illustrator: Cyrus, Kurt,
Pages: 188 pages
Availability: Available
ISBN: Publisher: 1-442-40701-8 Perma-Bound: 0-605-00066-2
ISBN 13: Publisher: 978-1-442-40701-5 Perma-Bound: 978-0-605-00066-7
Dewey: Fic
LCCN: 2004017754
Dimensions: 19 cm.
Language: English
Reviews:
ALA Booklist
Anderson's clever, self-referential spoof of formulaic juvenile series books soars, thanks to Cashman's playful narration. Sounding a bit like Rod Serling on helium, Cashman tells the twisted tale of Lily Gefelty, a shy girl fighting to save the world from mind-controlled whales. He has a blast playing Lily's two resourceful pals and playfully flexes his voice to depict the clueless adults, including two annoying publishing executives. His deep-voiced Officer Friendly-style portrayal of the half-whale, half-human villain is a hoot. Most of all, Cashman does a wondrous job tackling Anderson's nonsensical tangents. In the midst of this absurdity, Cashman conveys the breathless excitement of the action sequences.
Horn Book
Lily Gefelty finds herself in the thick of the action when a visit to her dad's office convinces her that a stilt-walking army of whales is about to take over the world. This satire on the series book industry is populated with dense adults, resourceful kids, and a beguilingly impossible adversary. For series burnouts, the narrative gleefully revels in each cliché it exploits.
Kirkus Reviews
Anderson's mind is a very strange place, and this almost indescribable wackiness is further proof. In a grand send-up of all that is series books, it echoes Nancy Drew, the Hardy Boys and those with cliffhanger chapter endings; references Godzilla movies and offspring; talks to, at and around the reader and is generally awfully funny (and we do mean awfully). Our heroine is ten-year old Lily, whose dad works in an abandoned warehouse making stilts for whales. His boss, Larry, seems to be blue and kind of whale-like, although he has a lot in common with Dilbert's boss, too. It's pretty obvious that there's a nefarious plan at work, so Lily enlists her two best friends, Jasper Dash, Boy Technonaut, and Katie Mulligan of Horror Hollow, who, like Jasper, already has a book series chronicling her adventures. The three figure out that the whales are about to take over the world, and they save it amid many explosions, catastrophes and asides from the author. Promises—or threatens—to be a series of its own. It doesn't get any better than this. (Fiction. 9-12)
School Library Journal
Gr 4-6-A story written with the author's tongue shoved firmly into his cheek. Lily Gefelty's father works for a mad scientist who wears a sack over his head. When she overhears him say that he wants to take over the world, her oblivious father assures her, "Honey, sometimes adults use irony. They don't really mean what they say." Nonetheless, the 12-year-old calls on her two best friends, Katie Mulligan, the star of the "Horror Hollow" novels (think "Goosebumps"), and Jasper Dash, also known as the Boy Technonaut (think "Tom Swift"), to investigate. The trio soon learns that Larry does indeed plan to conquer the world using mind-controlled whales on stilts with laser-beam eyes. No adult will believe them, so it's up to the kids to save the Earth. Readers who have graduated from Dav Pilkey's "Captain Underpants" (Scholastic) or who know their Lemony Snickets (HarperCollins), should love this first title in a new series. It's full of witty pokes at other series novels and Jasper's nutty inventions.-Walter Minkel, New York Public Library Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Starred Review for Publishers Weekly

An intrepid trio must defeat an insidious plan to use whales (equipped with metal stilts and laser-beam eyes) in a takeover of the state capital—and then the world!—in this highly wacky novel. Anderson (The Serpent Came to Gloucester, reviewed above) sets a comic tone from the start: "On Career Day Lily visited her dad's work and discovered he worked for a mad scientist who wanted to rule the earth through destruction and desolation." Lily's father, like all the adults in the novel, is blissfully unconcerned about the ludicrous events going on around him (e.g., his boss, Larry, wears a grain sack over his head and extends a blue, rubbery hand when he meets Lily). Her father dismisses the heroine's fears when Larry pronounces that he plans to literally "take over the world" ("Honey, sometimes adults use irony. They don't really mean what they say"). Introspective, shy Lily then turns to her two more brazen friends, each the subject of a successful children's book series (the book's humor is very self-referential—for instance, awkward Harcourt writers follow them around asking for details of their exploits). Armed with an array of adjectives, non-sequiturs, bizarre asides, irrelevant footnotes and running gags, Anderson sends up decades of children's book series, and creates a hysterical tale of his own. Cyrus's meticulously rendered black-and-white illustrations riff on comic books and '50s-era advertisements, escalating the humor factor in this highly accessible volume. Ages 10-up. (Apr.)

Starred Review ALA Booklist
*Starred Review* Putting a Stratemeyer Syndicate spin on the flakiest of pulp conventions, the always-surprising Anderson pits shy but clever Lily Gefelty and her two pals--Katie Mulligan, star of her own horror fantasy series, and relentlessly dweebish boy techonaut Jasper Dash, an adventure series hero himself--in a battle to save the world from an army of mind-controlled, laser-wielding whales on tall stilts. Pausing for authorial asides, random digressions, book ads, and the occasional product plug (Say kids: Want to feel peachy-keen? / Drink a Quart of Gargletine!), Anderson takes his intrepid trio through fire and water, chases, attacks, numerous silly cliff hangers, and lines of dialogue such as, Dash it all chums, this sounds a mighty pickle.' Following a wildly destructive climax, there's the requisite happy ending--which includes the launch of a new series, featuring Lily Gefelty and her pet rat Nimrod. Goosebumps fans and readers who get Lemony Snicket's brand of humor will be rolling in the aisles.
Word Count: 22,071
Reading Level: 4.6
Interest Level: 5-9
Accelerated Reader: reading level: 4.6 / points: 3.0 / quiz: 86253 / grade: Middle Grades
Reading Counts!: reading level:4.3 / points:8.0 / quiz:Q36478
Lexile: 760L
Guided Reading Level: S
Fountas & Pinnell: S
CAREER DAY

On Career Day Lily visited her dad’s work with him and discovered he worked for a mad scientist who wanted to rule the Earth through destruction and desolation.

Up until then life hadn’t been very interesting for Lily. There had not been very many mad scientists. She lived in a small town called Pelt. There was a supermarket and a library, and several mini-malls with discount clothing outlets. The highway went through, and people were pulled over by the police if they drove more than five miles above the speed limit. It was that kind of town.

Most people didn’t know that Lily herself was interesting. She watched things a lot, and thought about them a lot, but she didn’t say much, except to her closest friends. She hid behind her bangs. When she needed to see something particularly important, she blew on her bangs diagonally upward, either from the left or the right side of her mouth. Her bangs parted like a curtain showing a nose-and-chin matinee.

Lily believed that the world was a wonderful and magical place. She believed that if you watched carefully enough, you could find miracles anywhere. The town’s baseball team had a secret handshake that went back to the time of the settlers. A professor down the street had a skeleton hanging in his vestibule. Behind the dry cleaner, some ladies held newt races. There were interesting things like this everywhere, waiting to be noticed. Though Lily thought that she herself was too quiet and too boring to ever do anything interesting, she believed that if she just was watchful enough and silent enough— so silent that no one could even tell she existed—she would eventually see marvels.

Of course, she didn’t expect that she would see any marvels at her dad’s work on Career Day. She didn’t know what he did at his job, but it didn’t sound unusually exciting or flabbergasting. She thought it would be nice to know what her father did—that way she could understand a little bit more of what her father and mother talked about at dinner—but she certainly didn’t suspect that the visit to her dad’s work would eventually lead to daring escapes, desperate schemes, brilliant disguises, and goons with handguns.

No, frankly, it would have been hard to figure that out, based on what she’d heard about her dad’s work from little things he said. For example:

  • “I’m going to be home late from work.”

  • “I’ll stop and get those shirts from the cleaner. It’s on the way home from work.”

  • “A guy at work had his wisdom teeth removed as an adult.”

  • “I spilled it on my pants at work.”

There was not much that suggested hidden lairs. Terrifying invasions. High-tech weaponry. That also goes for statements like:

  • “I spent the whole day at work circling number threes for the Dorsey account.”

  • “I’ll take the day off work to do the mopping.”

  • “At work we could really do with some air-conditioning.”

Or even:

  • “The vending machines at work just got these little packages of muffins. Eighty-five cents. I could eat a whole package at once.”

There really was not much to suggest that this would be a day unlike any other in Lily’s life. When Lily got into her dad’s car on the morning of Career Day, ready to hang out in his office, she was interested but not exactly expecting something thrilling.

Her dad drove for a while, eating cinnamon toast with one hand.

“I don’t even know where you work,” said Lily.

Her father gestured with his toast. “Edge of town,” he said. “Abandoned warehouse.”

“Abandoned?” she said.

“Yeah. Mmm-hmm.” His mouth was full.

She asked, “What do you do?”

“Very complicated,” he said. “Very.”

The abandoned warehouse sat near the bay between a business called Nullco and a factory that made industrial filling. There were old chain-link fences around everything. Lily’s dad parked in the lot. They got out and walked over to the abandoned warehouse. It was made of old bricks, and all the windows were black with soot and broken. There was a big spray-painted wooden sign that said:

Lily’s dad lifted the sign and turned an old pipe that stuck out of the wall. A secret door slid open. He walked in.

Inside there was a desk with a receptionist. The receptionist said hello to Lily’s dad and gave a big smile. “Good morning, Mr. Gefelty,” she said.

“Good morning, Jill,” he said. “How are things today?”

“I’m okay, I guess,” said the receptionist. “Except I’m having pains in my knees from doing something stupid with a big round of cheese.”

“I’m sorry to hear that, Jill,” said Lily’s dad.

He showed his badge, and the receptionist clicked a button that let them through a door.

They walked into a laboratory. People in lab coats were holding test tubes over flames. There were beakers and lasers and so on. Bunsen burners and alembics and computers. You know the drill. Everything looked incredibly top secret. Lily was blowing her bangs out of her face as quickly as she could. She glanced at everything they passed. She was amazed.

“What is this place?” said Lily. “Dad?”

Lily’s dad looked bored. “Research and Development,” he said.

She looked around again. He took her wrist and dragged her forward. “Come on, honey,” he said. “They don’t like people to look at what they’re working on. After a minute the guards start shooting. First near your feet, then at your knees.”

The guards stood with big guns next to all the doors, watching everything and frowning.

Lily rushed to catch up with her father. She grabbed at his sleeve. She whispered, “What do you make here?”

“I don’t know,” he said. “I’m in Sales and Marketing.”

“Dad, you must know. There’s something weird going on here.”

“What’s gotten into you?”

Careful to keep walking, she whispered, “This is like some sort of mad scientist’s laboratory. What do you really make here?”

“Oh,” said her father, laughing. “A ‘mad scientist’s laboratory’? Nothing quite so sinister. I think your imagination has gotten the better of you. No, honey, it’s all completely aboveboard. But it’s kind of complicated to explain.” He patted her arm. “Keep walking. The guards’re looking antsy.”

They reached a staircase and started up. Lily lingered behind, looking back at the lab.

“What’s wrong?” her dad asked.

Lily blew the hair out of her face and looked straight at him.

“Oh, come on, honey,” he said. “It’s not really as suspicious as it seems. We’re a midsize company devoted to expanding cetacean pedestrian opportunities.”

She looked confused.

He smiled. “We make stilts for whales. See? Nothing suspicious.”

“But...”

Her father stuck his hands in his pockets and jogged up the steps, whistling. The tune was “How Much Is That Doggy in the Window?”

“Dad ...?” she protested, but her voice was too soft, and he was already a flight above her.

© 2005 M. T. ANDERSON



Excerpted from Whales on Stilts! by M. T. Anderson
All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

In the first intallment of National Book Award winner M.T. Anderson’s Pals in Peril series, a madman has unleashed an army of stilt-walking, laser-beaming, thoroughly angry whales upon the world! Luckily, Jasper Dash and his friends Katie Mulligan and Lily Gefelty are around to save the day.

Sure, Lily Gefelty is just an average twelve-year-old girl. But her dad—a normal-enough-seeming guy—just so happens to work for an evil genius who plans to unleash an army of extremely cranky, stilt-walking, laser-beam-eyed whales upon the world.

Lucky for Lily, her two best friends are anything but average. Both of them are famous for their adventures. Jasper Dash, Boy Technonaut, invents gadgets; Katie Mulligan spends her spare time fighting off zombies and were-goats. Surely they’ll know what to do. And if they don’t? Then it will be up to Lily—average, everyday Lily—to come up with a plan.


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