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That Summer
That Summer
by Tony Johnston
Edition: Paperback
24 used & new from $6.36

5.0 out of 5 stars Kudos to both author Johnston for his beautiful language that touches th' heart, June 12, 2015
This review is from: That Summer (Paperback)
ertainly one of th' most moving children's books I've read in a long, long time, in flowing, poetic language, Tony Johnston tells th' story of the summer that th' narrator's brother, Joey, became terminally illand then slowly left this green world of ours.

Kudos to both author Johnston for his beautiful language that touches th' heart, and for illustrator Barry Moser's incomparable watercolour and charcoal illustrations taken from both th' imagination and real life photographs of th' boys' childhood portraying all those good times from that summer.

"Once, Joey and Gram looked up
at the stars
flung clear across forever
and Joey asked, 'when
will I die?'

'Oh, my baby dear,' she crooned
and held him.
'who will care for me then?'
'God will,' said Gram."

Thankee, Sai, big-big to the both of you for this heartfelt, important story.

THE BLANKFUL HEART: A Children's Story About Thankfulness in Dr. Seuss Style Rhyme (Meus Tales #2)
THE BLANKFUL HEART: A Children's Story About Thankfulness in Dr. Seuss Style Rhyme (Meus Tales #2)
Price: $0.99

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars delightful!, April 8, 2013
The opening "acknowledgement" page carefully notes that Mr. Meus is NOT the long-lost nephew of Dr. Seuss, but I can imagine both The Good Doctor and Mr. Meus getting together and having long, animated conversations (I can see them at some table, high atop some towering construction being carried on the back of some furry, 6 footed pale-blue beast).

"The Blankful Heart" is a delightful, Seuss-inspired tale about what is really necessary-- which is actually not nearly as much as you might think. Certainly not nearly as much stuff as the inhabitants of Babbleland think, who always "made sure to buy many things... the men many cars / the women big rings."

One Babblelander in particular, big-bellied Billy Babble, had lots of stuff-- two of everything and twice as much as everyone else! Mind, he doesn't SHARE any of his stuff, nor does he find any of it even useful, but in Babbleland, of cousre, the point is just to have great piles of stuff.

Not suprisingly, though, something is missing. What exactly ol' Billy can't quite say, so he goes to a series of doctors, takes all the right medications and nothing quite fills that strange emptiness (I found myself thinking of the good doctor's line, "Maybe Christmas doesn't come from a store..."). That is, until he takes a trip to Bibbleville, where the inhabitants seem to be perfectly happy and well adjusted playing games with only bits of string. Billy is confounded by all of this until a small Bibblevillian befriends him and points out what is REALLY important.

One thing well documented is that "The Blankful Heart" doens't have any illustrations other than a simple, stylized heart that slowly tumbles down the page: the intention of the author is to encourage the reader to paint the visuals in the mind. Having grown up on a steady diet of Dr. Seuss, Mercer Meyer, Jan and Stan Bearnstein and the likes, I found it quite easy to begin picturing Billy Babble as he went to get "pilled and billed" by his doctors, jumped into his babble-bubble car and motored off to Bibbleville. In fact, so MANY different variations on the scenery, the characters and the various objects-- he has a buzzoo, twice as big as any you've ever seen, for instance-- it was hard to keep my imagination limited to just one or two.

I think this paint-the-pictures-in-your-own-mind is a good idea and encourages the reader to slow down, think a bit, not be so knee-jerk reflexive. Really, what DOES a buzzoo look like? what does it do? what do you do with it? (if anything-- though I have a suspicion you might be able to eat it). in todays fast-paced, do-17-things-at-once culture, I feel that encouraging children to sit and think on their own about things that are not 100% spelled out for them is a Good Thing. Take the time to sit down and dream up what the story looks like and how the characters function (try to come up with even a dozen games you can play with a bit of string-- let alone the 300 that Bibbleland kids have invented!)

It's a delightful, simple story that Mr. Meus has given us, with a simple-yet-important moral, especially in today's GIMMIE GIMMIE GIMMIE! culture. in choosing to emulate Ted Geisel, Mr. Meus has not only given the story a bouncy rhythm and metre, but also immediately tuned the reader in to one of the most iconic and important voices in the history of children's literature, immediately drawing us in from the very first few words. Well done, good sir!
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Apr 29, 2014 6:03 PM PDT

ACCU-CHEK Compact Plus Meter Kit
ACCU-CHEK Compact Plus Meter Kit
Offered by Quality Plus OTC
Price: $36.07
14 used & new from $35.91

171 of 172 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Sleek, convienent and wonderful!!, March 6, 2009
Having just recently been diagnosed as Type II, the first thing I knew to do was seek out a glucose meter I would use and keep on using. I first sent away for an older model that was free but required the use of key-coding chips and whatnot, and testing quickly became something akin to a kid with a chemistry set-- strips, codes, lancets, etc. What I love about the Accu-Check is the way it's all contained into one unit.

Having the strips preloaded in a drum is wonderful-- you don't have to fumble getting them out of a vial or avoid touching either the electrode end or the blood uptake end. This also means they have a longer shelf life than just the "use within 3 months of opening" rule of regular strips. I imagine this would especially be a boon to anyone with arthritis in their hands or who have limited range of motion in their fingers-- press the lil' button and it spits out a strip. Done.

The lancing device, which is removable or can be used still attached to the meter itself, really DOESN'T hurt much at all compared to the one I got w/my free meter, so when they say it's less painful, they're serious. Apparently it has something to do with vibration-- other lancets hit the skin and wiggle which causes more pain, whereas the Accu-Chek doens't-- in and out and that's it. The device also works like a ballpoint pen: click to load, click to fire the lancet, click again to eject the needle. Again, no doubt a boon to people with arthritis who may not have the fine motor control to pull a teeny lil' lancet out of the device.

Because the strips do come in a drum the whole device IS larger than most other meters on the market, so if size is important, you might want to take that into consideration, but IMHO having the machine load and unload the strips FOR you more than makes up for the larger size (it also means you have to carry less gear: I carry my meter, some lancets and that's IT; no need to carry around everything else with you and no more accidently knocked-over vials of test strips that scatter everywhere on the floor!!

I highly recommend this product and wish I could shake the hands of the engineers who designed this meter. Bravo!!
Comment Comments (5) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Nov 19, 2015 3:30 AM PST

The Matt Zander Journals
The Matt Zander Journals
by Gary Denne
Edition: Paperback
Price: $13.26
16 used & new from $11.23

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars the journey is more than just it's own reward, June 15, 2008
Matt Zander. Male, thirties, works at a supermarket for a hateful boss in Toronto. Has a predilection for breaking and entering theft with two of his buddies. He's something of a loser and, at the beginning of "The Matt Zander Journals", is in the St. Michael's Hospital after returning from the dead.

As Matt himself might say, a person cannot go through a near death experience (NDE) without it profoundly changing them in some way, especially after what he's seen and experienced on The Other Side. Loosely told over the course of about 12 days after his NDE in journal/diary form, this book is a chronicle of his experiences.

We first meet Matt as he's lying in bed scribbling notes about his life and what lead him up to his NDE, which, as it turns out, is from a gunshot wound to the chest after a bungled burglary on the house of his boss, the grocery store's owner and manager. He details the euphoria and thrill of breaking and entering so it seems only natural that he and his buddies latch on to the idea of B&E the boss's house as a sort of getting back at all the insults Mr. Belcher throws at him and Eric and James. Sure it's petty and puerile, but after a few descriptions of Belcher and his endless stream of insults towards his employees, the reader begins to side with Matt--he's a likeable guy.

Of course things go horribly wrong and Matt is shot and this is where everything changes and where the story really begins. There's a journey, a tunnel of light, a sort of cave with images of all the things Matt has done wrong and all of the pain and fear he's inflicted on those people he's robbed, which is something he's never bothered to think about, how his actions have changed the lives and even the very souls of other people who weren't all that different from him.

Then, there is Mr. Keller.

Though we never learn much about him or the machinations of the afterlife, Mr. Keller is a sort of servant, or guide. An older gentleman, neatly dressed, it's his purpose to inform Matt that his soul isn't quite done on earth and that there is something it still wishes to accomplish and Matt has the unique opportunity to return to earth and finish that goal. Of course, Mr. Keller isn't able to (or willing to, perhaps) to TELL Matt just what exactly he's supposed to do, which causes a certain amount of frustration to the main character even while he's there in the afterlife. Still, despite doubts, Matt chooses to go back to earth and wakes up in hospital and begins his journal, first writing down everything he remembers about the afterlife and then his adventures as he tries to figure out just what exactly he's back here for.

His roommate in the hospital is a thin, silent, young man named Michael who Matt doesn't even speak to until the day of his discharge and finds that Michael is recovering from a suicide attempt where he slashed his wrists. Though he's nearly monosyllabic, Michael has a dream to leave the hospital and travel to Los Angeles and see the Pacific Ocean. Recently back from the dead, realizing his life is a mess and seeking his purpose, Matt suggests that they travel to LA together; just go ahead and do it, get on a plane and go out there. Maybe even rebuild his (their?) lives. He's got no ties to Toronto and he's got a second chance to live and some sort of mysterious purpose, so why the hell not?

Disaster strikes at 30,000 feet on the plane to L.A. and it lands prematurely in Denver, CO and Matt, terrified of flying to start, decides to drive to LA. Michael reluctantly agrees. This is where the heart of the novel really begins because as they stop in Las Vegas Matt learns a secret about Michael and why he's headed to the ocean and also begins to see the whole of American society as some sort of ramped-up, empty-headed, absurdist wasteland. He watches TV and realizes just how awful and superficial everything is--- a TV commercial for breast augmentation that uses cups that attach to a household vacuum, for example. "C'mon," he says, "after an experience like mine, I'm really startin' to wonder about the human race and our priorities."

He wonders more when he sees the shocking glamour of Las Vegas--- "where did all this water come from? Isn't this a desert?"--- and the vast amounts of money tourists (and himself) pour into this place. We get the feeling that he sees life being wasted in enormous amounts on superficial nonsense, and he begins to slowly lose track of his purpose, the reason he returned to earth.

Michael, for his own part, is perhaps the only friend that Matt has at this point, though the term "friend" might actually be too strong a word---Michael moves slowly, speaks little and is wholly focused on getting to L.A. If there's answers there, if Matt is somehow supposed to fulfill his destiny though Michael, Matt is beginning to feel that coming back to life was a bum deal.

Matt and Michael part company in L.A. and Matt travels down to Hollywood where he discovers it's Mecca of the entertainment world reputation highly tarnished. For awhile he's caught up in the superficial celebrity culture that he mocked not so very long ago and dreams of fame and fortune as a celebrity himself, until a look in the mirror and a rejected credit card purchase makes him realize that such dreams are not likely to come true anytime soon. Shortly afterwards his journal (and hence the novel) come to an end.

"The Matt Zander Journals" is a deeply fascinating and engrossing book, but it is not an easy one. It really does read like a person's journal, with dates and places and a sort of stream-of-consciousness, "lemmie tell you what happened today" sort of feel that takes a few pages to get into. Matt himself constantly says that he's not a writer ("so sue me," he likes to say) and therefore there's some experiences he can't really put into words, though the reader gets a well-crafted picture of what's going on in his head (it's a testament to the author, Mr. Denne, that he can have a non-writer as a 1st person narrator main character and still tell the story so beautifully and with such meaning).

Matt himself is a bit of a mess to start with and gets more so as the novel goes on. I found myself both wishing he'd pull it together, get his priorities straight, get a good job and figure his life out AND also totally understanding the desire to just GO; take a car and max out your credit card and drive with a silent, almost-perfect stranger from Denver to L.A. just *because*. I wanted both for him to sit and seriously meditate on his new purpose in life and to just go where the wind blew him. He may not be motivated or even very smart, but he's an engaging and complicated character nonetheless.

"The Matt Zander Journals" is, to my knowledge, the first novel by Mr. Denne and is an amazing work. It's moving and it's deep and it caused me to examine my own life a little bit, which is perhaps one of the best functions of fiction--not only to entertain the reader, but to get them to go within themselves and examine their own soul a little bit deeper.

Highly, highly recommended.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: May 1, 2012 7:06 AM PDT

Unjournaling: Daily Writing Exercises That Are Not Personal, Not Introspective, Not Boring!
Unjournaling: Daily Writing Exercises That Are Not Personal, Not Introspective, Not Boring!
by Cheryl Miller Thurston
Edition: Diary
Price: $9.44
97 used & new from $3.12

75 of 79 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars required reading for any E/LA teacher!!, July 22, 2007
Writing and reading came to me about as naturally as breathing. Even as a child I read books the way other people eat popcorn, and when I was about 8 a family friend had a tee-shirt made for me that said "I'd rather be writing my novel" (actually, I had the plots for THREE different novels going before I was 10).

Therefore, I sometimes struggle to teach writing BECAUSE it came so natural to me. Want me to write somethin'? Sure! Like Ishmael I cry "Get me a condor's quill! Get me Vesuvius' crater for an inkwell! Friends, hold my arms!"

Until I remember that there are a great deal of students at every level of education who struggle with writing for various reasons: it's boring, it's too tedious and confusing to create and then animate characters, English grammar is boring and difficult, or--as Ms. DiPrince and Ms. Thurston point out in the introduction to "UnJournaling"--it's too personal.

Actually, I hadn't thought about that last one. Not everyone is comfortable sharing details about their lives with classmates or teachers, and yet that's one of the most popular writing genres out there: "tell me a story about a time when..."

That's where UnJournaling comes in. With 200 different prompts, excercises and story starters, none of which are personal, even the most reluctant writers can be drawn out of their shell.

What's more, these aren't all just some story starter ideas, most are downright challenging, starting right off with #1: "write a paragraph about a girl named Dot, but use no letters with dots (i, j)" and moving right into #49 "you can use 25 words--no more--for a billboard advertising a product called `Zebra Wink'. Sell your product with those 25 words."

The authors are clever. Slipped in prompts teaching metaphor and simile (describe a car by comparing it to food), generating topics, finishing starters, language use (use the word "crumpled" in three different sentences and create a completely different feeling in each sentence) and describing things in great detail both by using and by NOT using certain words. Of course, there is the distinct possibility that any of the 200 excercises in this book could lead to a full-blown piece of polished writing; many schools here in FLA require students to have at least 5 polished pieces of writing in 4 different genres, and to have at least 10 published/polished pieces of writing by the end of the year.

These really are interesting, un-boring topics and I found myself highlighting many of them right off as I plan for the beginning of the 07-08 school year. "ooh! I could USE that!" I think, especially considering our School Improvement Plan heavily emphasizes writing this year, and I'm excited about sharing this book with other teachers in my school. In fact, I'm SO excited, I can hardly wait for the year to begin just SO I can use some of these prompts!!

...well... maybe not THAT excited...

Highly recommended for anyone who teaches any child of any age anything about the process of writing. Get this book, and it will quickly both have a place of honour on your bookshelf. In fact, you might need two copies--the first will probably get dog-eared and worn out right away.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Nov 28, 2015 1:21 PM PST

Common Sense
Common Sense
by C. G. Ferrel
Edition: Paperback
Price: $14.95
6 used & new from $10.95

4.0 out of 5 stars we all need a lil' common sense! Thankee, Mr. Ferrel, for reminding us, July 19, 2007
This review is from: Common Sense (Paperback)
A Question for Class Discussion: what exactly IS "common sense"?? And if it's so common and so "sensical", why do we so often fall short or lack it?

I ask, because I think one of the intentional threads running through Ferrel's latest collection of poems is this very common LACK of common sense. We KNOW we shouldn't drink too much, be too rude, wallow in self-pity, and yet we do it anyway. Many of the poems in "Common Sense" deal with these themes, narrated by people who have made bad choices, who's common sense has left them or who are fighting against doing that very thing they know they shouldn't.

"I sat in the bar/nursing a drink,/thinking thoughts/I should not think." Ferrel begins in his poem "Why?", and in "Excuses" the poem's narrator realizes that he really should get up and go home from the pub but

I will visit with my friends.
It may be awhile
Before I see them again."

There's a large nugget of truth and perhaps, even common sense in that excuse, which is one I've used myself on more than one (or two, or three, or fifty) occasion(s), and that's what I like about these poems. A great bulk of poetry (certainly of what we consider the Great Works of Western Literature) concerns itself with issues of Life and Beauty and Art and the meanings and descriptions thereof, but just as worthy are poems about drinking too much (when you know you shouldn't), going off to war (when it scares hell outta' you) and famous people like Saint Nicholas, Christ and Geronimo who have made great contributions and strides toward peace in our world.

This is the second volume of poetry by Mr. Ferrel I've read after his book of poetry called "Think". These poems are longer and less lighthearted than those in Think, and some are quite serious, like "Fire in the Night" where the poem's narrator wakes to find the house ablaze after a night of drinking (again, there's that seeming loss of common sense that we're all a victim of) and "Alcatraz", a poem that digs below the surface of the retired prison to the bloody and dangerous history it holds.

Mr. Ferrel, here's to you and to all those poets who seek to spread a lil' common sense in this wide and often broken world. Thank you for your words.

by C. G. Ferrel
Edition: Paperback
Price: $14.95
22 used & new from $0.01

3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars THINK on these poems... and enjoy!, June 5, 2007
This review is from: Think (Paperback)


Pass so swiftly.

And youth

So quickly gone.

One day, running,

Laughing, playing.

The next, rocking

And remembering!

So writes C.G. Ferrel in his newest collection of poems called "Think." This poem is, I think, reflective of many of the poems running though this collection. Quiet feelings of people, places and things lost float to the surface when I read these poems, and I too find myself thinking.

In "Orange Blossom" Mr. Ferrel writes,

"the scent of orange blossom

Lingers in the air.

Though the wearer now,

Has long left this room..."

The poem concludes with how visions of the lovely wearer will survive "in an old and lonely heart." I see visions of a pale-blue eyed old man, a green coffee cup in his hand, looking through a kitchen window on an early spring morning.

That's what I like about Mr. Ferrel's poetry, it's simple but not simplistic, especially if read at leisure and slowly (and I always recommend the reading of poetry slowly, not one right after the other like devouring summer corn). The poems are most often in the form of couplets and none are longer than one page, but quite a bit can be seen in the minds eye in those short lines, usually visions of quiet contemplation and recollection, as if sitting on a rocking chair on a cool summer night, thinking back.

Some of his poetry reminds me of the work of Richard Brautigan, who often would take everyday situations and add a little twist somewhere near the end. One of my favourites from this collection is called "Kids in Winter", which reminds me of my own Midwestern boyhood:

The snow is falling very hard.

The kids are playing in the yard.

Throwing snowballs and having fun,

Playing cowboys and

Indians with little toy guns.

That's what kids in winter do.

That's how they also get the flu.

Ahh, but Mr. Ferrel, as I'm sure you'll remember, sometimes the flu is payment for the fun you had, and the memories you still bring forth with you into your adulthood (and sometimes it's STILL worth running about in the snow, even when you're too big for snowpants and the grey begins to streak your temples).

In closing, allow ME to present Mr. Ferrel with a poem I wrote:

When my 3 year old

Asked to play with my electric typewriter

I found Mr. Ferrel's long lost book of poems

Hidden underneath.

As she sat in my lap,

Hammering endless X's in a line

I reread "Think"

Through his words

I shuttled back to loves lost

Times past

Family far away.

Then I came back

And hugged my little typist


by Spencer Johnson
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $15.66
109 used & new from $5.16

16 of 22 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars probably better for kids, but lacking in explainations, April 4, 2006
If you've been in middle-management, chances are you've either had this book pressed on you or seen it lying on someone else's desk but only in the "adult" form (I use the term loosely, "Who Moved My Cheese?" is on about a 7th grade reading level). As it turns out everything that was in the blockbuster WMMC is here in this version for kids, to the extent that middle-managers should have THIS version of the book vs. the adult copy-- it would've saved everyone a lot of time.

ANYWAY, the "plot" is this: in a maze there are 4 characters, 2 mice with big ears named Sniff and Scurry, and 2 mouse-sized humanoids, Hem and Haw. Each day they all set forth (the mice earlier and more industriously than the humans; the mice are instinctual whereas the humans consult maps) into the maps and seek out Magical Cheese. Everyone loves MC 'cuz it makes you feel good (no surprise there). Here's how the rest of the story goes:

Sniff and Scurry find a BIG OL' pile of cheese in a Cheese Station and are happy as... well, rats. Hem and Haw find it too and everyone has a grand ol' time. Sniff n' Scurry carefully measure the cheese to see when the supply is getting smaller whereas Hem & Haw sleep later and later and pay no attention to the dwindling supply. Eventually, surprise, surprise, the cheese runs out.

The mice knew this was coming and immediately set out to find NEW cheese whereas the humans more or less freeze up and piss n' moan that there's no more yellah' stuff 'round. Hem actually decides to STAY there in the empty Cheese Station thinking that some day (who knows when) there will be more cheese. Haw eventually goes out seeking more cheese like the mice, eventually finding a massive dump even larger than the first station. Surprise, surprise, the 2 mice are already there. Haw is, presumably, left in the empty cheese dump waiting and withering away to nothingness.

Now, what's the message for kids behind all of this? Well, actually, you have to infer that for yourself. Unlike the adult version of this book that carefully walks you through the concept that Change is Inevitable and Fortune Favors the Flexible, in the kid version there is very little to assist young minds to realize what the moral of the story is. Sure, Dr. Johnson asks questions like "what is YOUR cheese?" but what the hell does THAT mean to anyone younger than, say, 6th grade or more (who probably wouldn't be caught dead reading a picture book in the 1st place).

What I find interesting about this whole thing is that the book that STARTED out as a management book for adults wound up (no doubt as a way of raking in a few more $$$ under the thin veneer of "lets pass on this wonderful bit of whiz-dom to the younger generation) as a kid's book. In actuality, I think it would've worked best the other way around: starting this as a kids' book and turning it into one for adults; after all, hardly anything is changed other than there's more words & less pictures in the adult book.

In other words, I'm torn. I see the value in a book that espouses being open to change, but I'm offended it was written at a 7th grade reading level. I find it interesting that the original book came out some 6+ years ago, and I have yet to see any useful, sweeping change done because of this book or any others (Awaken the Giant Within; Iron John; Fish!; Zap! or any other management books on the shelves). To turn it into a children's book, especially one in which the central message of Change is Invevitable and Sometimes Necessary isn't even STATED strikes me as a sort of "quick, lets get this out there on the tail end of the adult book so we can make money".

I don't know if I recommend this book or not. Maybe it's good for your 4th grader, but I think like a lot of adults who were given this book and then expected to "work smarter, not harder", the message for kids will faaaade aaaaawwwaaay almost immediately.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Nov 30, 2007 1:23 PM PST

Perfect Man
Perfect Man
by Troy Wilson
Edition: Hardcover
19 used & new from $0.03

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Perfect Man, perfect story!!, April 4, 2006
This review is from: Perfect Man (Hardcover)
"Michael Maxwell McAllum was the smallest boy in his class. He lived in a small house in a small town on a small street." So begins Wilson and Griffiths' delightful story, "Perfect Man."

Michael's all time most-favoritest superhero is the blue-caped, silver-helmeted Perfect Man. He's a hero of mystery, no one knows his true name, no one even knows where he lives, but he's got marketing on his side! "Michael Maxwell McAllum was Perfect Man's biggest fan. He covered his wall with Perfect man posters. He read Perfect man comics and played Perfect Man video games. He ate Perfect Man cereal and wore Perfect Man T-shirts." To Michael, Perfect Man truly IS perfect in every way.

Then an interesting twist happens (the first of many) and PM decides to call it quits. He holds a press conference and tells the public that it's time to move on and do something else. The press is curious-where will he go? What will he do? "Oh, I'll find something," PM says, "after all, there's ore than one way to save the world."

You'd THINK MMM would be devastated, but he's got a secret faith in PM. After all, PM escaped from space pirates, escaped from the 10th Dimension and even came back from the dead! Of COURSE PM would be coming back, how could you think otherwise??

Nothing happens all summer except for an alien invasion in New York ("They always invaded New York. They never invaded his small town"); other superheroes team up to send the green nasties back to outer space and PM is still not heard form. THEN the next wonderful twist in the story happens: "and then Perfect Man came back. Or maybe not. It was hard to tell. He wasn't wearing the costume." Michael Maxwell McCullum believes that his new teacher, Mr. Clark, IS Perfect Man, only a bit flabbier and rounder.

Mr. Clark doesn't yell, loose his temper or take any sick days. When there's conflict, he's there to help smooth the way. When there's pain, he's there to make it feel better. "he was everywhere at once. At least it seemed that way." Though he's convinced that his teacher is PM, he doesn't tell anyone, not even his parents. Though he dreamed of PM coming back to the world of supers and joining him as his sidekick, he doesn't tell ANYONE. Instead, Michael writes stories about Perfect Man.

He gives these to his teacher who is quietly impressed and, we can guess by the smile on his face, delighted. One day, Michael tells Mr. Clark he knows the secret, he KNOWS Mr. Clark is Perfect Man.

"Mr. Clark smiled. `Do I look like Perfect Man?'" Well, no, not really, but there are shape-shifting machines dreamt up by evil scientists and there are other supers like the Dark Avenger who could help him change his appearance, so it's still quite possible. Mr. Clark doesn't say either way whether or not he's a transmogrified Perfect Man, but he DOES give Michael a bit of advice that changes Michael's focus: "you don't need to be the sidekick, Michael. You can be the superhero." How exactly M.M.M. becomes a superhero who helps save the world I will not reveal, giving you, gentle reader, motivation to get this delightful lil' book for yourself (though I have a hint: it has to do with Michael's story-writing abilities).

I stumbled across Perfect Man almost by accident-it was sitting on top of our school librarian's PC and the cover art caught my eye. Upon reading it I was completely captivated by the story and the delightful illustrations. I love the way that the story invites a sense of wonder to the reader; in a world where green, tentacled aliens attack New York, Perfect Man very well COULD be disguised as a pudgy schoolteacher, and Michael could very well be the only one to know this. I love the way Michael's gift and love for writing turns into a gateway for future opportunities. And I especially I love the way that Michael, far from giving up on his hero, keeps quiet vigil for his reappearance, and finds him again in the form of his teacher. After all, it's nice to think that Mr. Clark IS PM who has merely found another way of saving the world, one student at a time.

I Got a D in Salami #2 (Hank Zipzer)
I Got a D in Salami #2 (Hank Zipzer)
by Henry Winkler
Edition: Paperback
Price: $5.99
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Hank Does it Again!!, March 17, 2006
We first met our hero, Hank Zipzer, in the book Niagra Falls... or Does It? and learned what a funny guy Hank can be. We met his crossword puzzle crazy dad, his mom who owns the family delicatessen called "The Crunchy Pickle" and who is always trying to invent new lunch meats made out of soy, and also his weird, lizard-loving sister Emily and her pet iguana, Katherine (I ask you, how weird do you have to be to name a lizard "Katherine"??)

In that first book we read the adventures that Hank went through trying to make a working model of Niagra Falls instead of just writing a paper about it, and at the very end when Hank's project make a horrible mess and he spent a week in detention with the music teacher, Mr. Rock, he thought that Hank might have learning challenges and suggested that Hank get tested.

Well, at the beginning of this book Hank is practicing for his weekly spelling test and is having a terrible time trying to remember all the tricky words, like "rhythm". Jumping around the room seems to help, but when he gets to school the next day all those words seemed to have leaked out his ears and he can't remember a thing. In fact, because he argues with his teacher, he winds up being sent to Principal Love's office to do what Hank calls "mole time"-that is, sitting and staring at the Statue of Liberty-shaped mole on the principal's face. To add insult to injury, he gets his REPORT CARD later that day.

Now, MOST kids wind up getting small envelopes with their cards in it, but not Hankie-boy. HE gets a gigantic manila envelope with his report card and a letter from his teacher! What's worse, he has gotten THREE D's!!! He might as well pack his bags and go to South Africa, like Joshua T. Bates was planning to do (ha! Text-to-text connection!) While Hank is trying to think of a way out of this situation, his DAD and NOT his Papa Pete come to pick him and his friends up from school. This is not good and unexpected! He was hoping to talk to Papa Pete and get some advice for how to handle this situation.

They all go to The Crunchy Pickle, and it's there that things get REALLY interesting (and funny!) Hank's mom discovers that report cards are due out and asks Hank for his. Hank pretends to look in his bookbag, and passes his report card off to one of his friends. The report card gets passed around like an unwanted Christmas fruitcake until Robert, a small, geeky kid, sticks the whole darned thing into a MEAT GRINDER! There it gets ripped into shreds and added to a soy salami mix that Hank's mother was working on. She was hoping that a local grocery store owner would like her new soy salami and want to buy some, but when Papa Pete takes one look at the nasty glop in the bowl (complete now with bits of report card) he says they should start over again. Hank is relieved because, at least for the weekend, he's gotten away with not having to produce his report card. He's sure something will occur to him to help fix the situation by Monday.

That is, he's sure until dinner on Friday night when his mom tells him that she secretly put her OLD batch of soy salami-the one with ground up D's and a crabby teacher letter-into the fridge and was planning to give THAT to the grocery store owner, Mr. G. Hank nearly chokes on his dinner and has a heart attack. HOW is he going to fix THIS problem?! You can't eat soy salami with report card in it! (heck, Hank thinks you can't eat soy salami WITHOUT paper in it, either!) How is he going to fix this problem?

Well, he's going to "fix" it in typical Hank Zipzer fashion, of course!! That is, he's going to come up with an incredibly complicated plan that has a very good chance of going completely and utterly WRONG (think of all the trouble he had getting his Niagra Falls project to work and all the trouble THAT caused!).

DOES his plan go haywire? Well, yeah-it would almost HAVE to, wouldn't it? It wouldn't be a Hank Zipzer novel if it didn't! but what exactly happens I won't tell you other than it involves a great big dog, chess pieces, Cheerio, soy salami and, eventually redemption.

What I like about Hank is how realistic he is and how almost all of us have a lil' bit of Hank in us (some, like me, moreso than others). Hank isn't a bad kid; he's not mean or a jerk (that's a job for Nick "The Tick" McKelty), but he's so easily distracted and scatterbrained that it's easy for his imagination and impulses to get completely away from him. Anyone who has learning challenges or has had difficulty concentrating in school or in meetings can certainly identify with Hank.

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