- Craig Graziano
There are a lot of stories out there: boy wizards, girl detectives, wimpy kids, and underpantsed captains. Despite the many possibilities and numerous titles to read, there may be that ever-lurking fear that there is not a story out there for you. In this is the case, you might want to avoid a panic attack by taking a note from Dr. Cuthbert Soup, head of the National Center for Unsolicited Advice. If you are so brave and wise to follow Soup’s advice, you will be handsomely rewarded with A Whole Nother Story.
This particular tale revolves around inventor Ethan Cheeseman and his three children, who are on the run from a madcap menagerie of pursuers: Secret agents known only by different numbers, evil corporations, a Russian spy and his extremely talented chimp (for one thing, he can speak yak). All of these sundry types wish to get their hands on Cheeseman’s latest creation: A time machine.
They’ve all been trying to get at this device for quite a while, resulting in the dastardly murder of Mr. Cheeseman’s wife. Broken hearted, Ethan hopes to finish the machine so that he and his children may go back in time and see their loving wife and mother again.
The Cheesemans meet many fascinating people in their escape, including circus performers and a cowboy poet. All the while their hairless dog Pinky has the mysterious psychic power to recognize whether their new acquaintances are friends or foes (that’s what comes from letting your pooch drink from the toilet). Friends are exactly what the children need, since a life on the lam is a lonely one.
Dr. Soup narrates the story from his Unsolicited Advice Headquarters. He also does a great job at inserting tons of hilarious unsolicited advice and information in between chapters. One example is when he informs the reader about 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.”
Fans of the Series of Unfortunate Events will find comfort in Soup’s bizarre asides and references, which are similar to Lemony Snicket’s vocabulary lessons and humorous anecdotes about a life shrouded in secrecy. With any luck, you might find this book and its sequel, Another Whole Nother Story, competing with that earlier series for a spot in your heart. Of course, there is always room for both.
This is a story of secrets and lies, a story of courage in the face of danger, a story of earmuffs that keep you from falling over, a story of a sassy sock puppet named Steve.