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Unread 09-29-2006   #1 (permalink)
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Customer Review: 4 1/2 Home, But Not Alone
When Mary Ann and Louie complain to their grandfather about sitting a neighbor's dog, he responds as he always does in Stevenson's books: He offers them something cold (lemonade), and he reminisces about the time when he and his younger brother "Wainey" fed a neighbor's cat, gerbils, hamster, parakeet, turtle, rabbit and fish (and also watered her plants). As he begins his story, Grandpa raises his eyebrows slightly, as if to signal the reader that what follows may not be entirely true. Told in an extended flashback, his straight-on delivery of their wild adventure will delight toddlers and young children. The very young Grandpa and Wainey immediately have trouble. The snapping turtle snaps at Grandpa's hands, the gerbils and rabbit escape from their cages, the "cat" is actually at least 25 cats (some of them visitors), the plants fill an entire greenhouse, and Wainey gets knocked into the fish tank. Things were not working out. Louie asks Grandpa, "Did you and Wainey have to spend all day every day working there?" Grandpa explains how he and Wainey (who once again, mutters the inexplicable "Wump") rigged up a Rube Goldberg-esque multi-animal feeding contraption out of cups and string. However, when the cat plays with the strings, all the animals escape! Even Wainey gets wound up in the string, and in a hilarious series of pictures, young Grandpa pulls the string and "Wainey went spinning away like a top. He whirled through the house, crashing into things and bouncing off," and he releases the animals again.. Somehow, a fortuitous Wainey collision sets things right just before the neighbors return. After Grandpa finished the story, "Uncle Wainey" comes over and explains to the children that he's leaving soon on vacation. Oh no! Will he ask them to sit a zoo-full of animals? Longtime readers of this series know how the book concludes. SPOILER AHEAD: As usual, Wainey needs someone to... help him finish his ice cream! Relying more on physical comedy, this book is not quite as outlandishly funny as those in which Grandpa's increasingly improbably story is ironically contrasted with his laconic, straight delivery. Still, Stevenson's understated narrative, physical comedy (recalling that of silent movies), and action-filled illustrations are engaging and fit the slightly askew story. There's just enough plausibility in Grandpa's tall tale that young ones, when they're not laughing, may wonder if it could have happened exactly the way he says. Recommended, but you might want to look for other Stevenson books featuring Grandpa and Wainey.

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