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The Problem with the Puddles Paperback – June 7, 2011
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A simple drive from the country to the city becomes an adventure for the Puddle family, which includes eight-year-old Baby; her older brother, Tom; and their two parents, who cannot agree on anything. The trip includes moments of catastrophe (noticing that they have inadvertently left their dogs, Big Sally and Little Sally, behind; realizing that their car has broken down and tipped over) and some happy reunions as well. Some of the best scenes occur in the parallel journey of the two Sallies as they faithfully follow their family down the road. The alternating human and canine narratives converge near the story’s end. Capturing the story’s somewhat daffy but entirely likable characters to perfection, Tusa’s expressive drawings (seen as pre-publication sketches) add their own element of humor. The very occasional space where readers are encouraged to write in the book should not keep libraries from adding this amusing and original story to their collections. An offbeat but rewarding chapter book for reading alone or aloud. Grades 3-5. --Carolyn Phelan --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
""The Problem with the Puddles" is a blast from first page to last. My only complaint is that I didn't write it!" -- Sara Pennypacker, author of "Clementine"
"As far as I'm concerned, the only problem with the Puddles is that there aren't enough books about them. Now that I've actually met this eccentric family and their adventurous dogs, now that I've lived in their damp and wonderful world, now that I can actually see them, thanks to Tricia Tusa's marvelous drawings, I can't get enough of them. So hop to it, Kate Feiffer.... The world needs more Puddles!" -- Nick Bruel, author of "Bad Kitty"
"'ROMP: to play or frolic in a lively, boisterous manner.' That's what we have right here. Take one endearing, exasperating family, two cozily canny canines, a plot that insists on going where you least expect it to, and just enough outrageous wordplay and you have as much fun as you can handle." -- Norton Juster, author of "The Phantom Tollbooth"
"The kid-friendly humor ... the full cast of eccentric characters and
Tusa's lively b&w spot art should readily win fans for the Puddle family." -- Publishers Weekly, starred review
This capricious novel marks Feiffer's (President Pennybaker) move into middle-grade fiction, in a story about a family that, for some reason, attracts clouds ("It was as if the cloud suddenly forgot it was heading to a hurricane in Florida or an important blizzard in Canada"). Additionally, the Puddle parents disagree on everything: one of their children is called Baby because they couldn't choose a name. And since the couple squabbled over a breed, the Puddles have two dogs-both named Sally. Alternating between the perspectives of the two- and four-legged family members, the story reveals what happens when the Puddles inadvertently leave "the Sallys" behind at the end of a long vacation in the country. The kid-friendly humor ("Just like meat loaf is like a loaf of meat, a conundrum is like a drum of conun," one of the Sallys "explains," as the dogs consider what to do), the full cast of eccentric characters and Tusa's (Fred Stays with Me!) lively b&w spot art should readily win fans for the Puddle family. --
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Top Customer Reviews
This book has a lot of randomness, literal "fill in the blanks" (where the author encourages the read to add to the story), and quite a bit of potty humor. It might appeal to very young ages, but was not enjoyed by my 9-12 year olds. Then again, the vocabulary might confuse a younger reader. In all honestly, I think more humorous books like "The Secrets Of Dripping Fang" series and "The Floods" series would better appeal to young readers.
My 8 1/2 year old daughter, however, loved it. She read the whole thing in less than 24 hours.
Thus ... this mixed review.
I found the text to be repetitive and the dialogue downright aggravating. Humor is apparently to be found in saying things over and over again. A typical structure for a chapter goes like this: Every member of the Puddle family makes an exclamation. Then they all make the same exclamation again. Then the dialogue is repeated a third time, with blanks in appropriate places for the reader to fill in. To me, this seems like an author with nothing to say.
In fact, when I realized that the author has published 4 pictures books, I understood what the problem was. The storyline for The Problem with the Puddles would be perfect for a picture book. However, when swollen into a 200 page novel, there just isn't enough content to spread out. Thus, the repetition.
Now, the other side of the story:
My daughter giggled her way through the entire book and (I'm told) read it during class at school. She loved how the chapters detailed alternating points of view -- first the Puddles, and then their dogs. She liked how random characters "fit in" at the end, turning out to be long-lost brothers, and so on. She enjoyed how various characters presented their dilemmas in a math problem format. And apparently, she liked "how things repeated."
So ... A big thumbs up from a third grader. A big thumbs down from her mother. If you're looking for a gift for a juvenile reader, this might be it. If you're looking for some worthy literature to read with your class, I don't think this is it.
The Puddle family has plenty of problems! Mr. and Mrs. Puddle, were never able to agree on a name for their youngest daughter Baby and have long since "agreed to disagree". What Mrs. Puddle wants, Mr. Puddle doesn't. What Mr. Puddle wants, Mrs. Puddle doesn't. So naturally, when Mrs. Puddle wants the rainy weather to clear up so the family can return to their home in the city, Mr. Puddle becomes overjoyed when the bad weather forces them to remain in their country home a little longer than planned. When the rain clouds depart and the Puddles leave their city home in a hurried rush, left behind are the two family pets: Big Sally and Little Sally. Missing their owners and worried they may never return, the two dogs set off in the direction of the city, hoping to reunite with their chaotic owners.
This quite frankly, may be the strangest children's book I've ever read. From the zany characters and the ridiculous things they say and do, to the author's incessant play on words, to the alternating chapters that switch from the Puddles' point of view to their dogs' point of view, this book is anything but normal. Rarely does the plot go where the reader expects it to as the Puddles' trip and the dogs' dilemma gets further and further off track. New characters are introduced along the way and they're just as wild and crazy as the arguing, repetitious Puddles. It doesn't surprise me that many adults find this book annoying. Remember though, Kate Feiffer didn't write this book for adults!
I'll admit, at times, the Puddles wore on my nerves. Especially Mr. and Mrs. Puddle and Frankolin, the man who offers the family help when their car stalls. I felt sorry for Tom and Baby Puddle for having to endure the constant arguing and rambling of the adults and couldn't blame Baby for making a run for it at one point in the story. I was tempted to make a run for it as well! But to fixate on the annoying adults in this book would be a mistake. Actually, I'm afraid that focusing too much on the adults in this book, would cause a reader to overlook (or miss altogether) the story's real charm: Big Sally and Little Sally.
I found myself hurrying through the chapters from the Puddles' point of view just so I could get back to the dogs' story. I loved the friendship between the dogs and the conversations they had with each other to pass the time ("Which came first, the country or the city?"). I think children would be able to relate very easily to Little Sally's frustration with being small and even to Big Sally's frustration with being too big ("Small dogs have small problems."). One particular scene involving Little Sally facing her fears and swimming across a river, stands out as one of the novel's more poignant moments. There's something about these two that is charming and sweet and their scenes balance the absurdity of the Puddles' scenes rather nicely.
THE PROBLEM WITH THE PUDDLES is not a book for everyone (adults). It is however, most certainly a book for someone (kids)! Kate Feiffer's voice is fun and unique and should be enjoyed among middle aged readers. If you can imagine Roald Dahl writing his version of HOMEWARD BOUND: THE INCREDIBLE JOURNEY, you have a pretty good idea of this story's style. The plot does take it's fair share of detours, and some will be more difficult to stay with than others (particularly the introduction of a "Secret Catcher"). But in the end, THE PROBLEM WITH THE PUDDLES is a book that will not easily be forgotten by those that read it. If anything, for being totally different than anything else you've ever read!