“Previously, on Stack Overflow …” Okay, not exactly. But all of the books in today’s stack are sequels. I link back to earlier columns that include the previous book, so you can catch up if you weren’t already familiar with the original.
When we last saw Unicorn (see this Stack Overflow), he and Goat had finally learned to appreciate each other. Goat was no longer envious of everything Unicorn could do, and Unicorn thought Goat was pretty cool, too. But now that everyone has grown used to Unicorn, he’s feeling ignored—nobody pays attention to him anymore, and instead everyone is obsessed with those rubber bands that look like things. (The running joke is that they aren’t those fancy rubber bands—they’re just round rubber bands that look like a soccer ball, a porthole, a round rock, another porthole, and so on…)
Unicorn amps up the sparkles and whimsy, with go-go boots, a rainbow wig, and other accessories that not only add more color but also change the art style used to illustrate him. As it turns out (surprise!), nobody is really fond of attention-seeking Unicorn, and he gets a much-needed lesson about friendship. At least, I think he learns his lesson.
When we last saw Pigeon … well, I’ve lost track, honestly, whether the Pigeon was refusing to take a bath or wanting a puppy or finding a hot dog, but suffice to say he was probably throwing a fit about something and we, the readers, were trying to make sure he followed directions. In the latest book, the Pigeon has to go to school—and has all sorts of reasons why he shouldn’t. But eventually he realizes that maybe it’s exactly where he wants to be. This one’s for the kids who love the Pigeon but aren’t so sure about heading to school, and is a little bit of encouragement and reassurance that things are gonna be okay.
When we last saw Laura Vaccaro Seeger focus on a color (see this column that pre-dates my regular Stack Overflow), she took us on a journey through various shades of green. This companion book is all about blues—berry blue, ocean blue, midnight blue, and so on. Like Green, the pages have small cut-outs that reveal a small bit of the next page that becomes something else. This one also has something of a story: it’s about a boy and his dog, as they both grow up. Spoiler alert: there’s more than one meaning of the word “blue,” and this is a book that may just make you cry even though the only text is different shades of blue. Seeger’s own dog, Copper, passed away during the writing of this book, and Blue is dedicated to him. Even though it’s sad, it’s also a beautiful book that celebrates a friendship.
When we last saw Papillon (see this Stack Overflow), this very fluffy kitty had befriended a little red bird. Now, they love playing catch, but when Papillon accidentally swallows the toy they’re tossing, he gets the hiccups and—worse yet—can’t float anymore. Miss Tilly takes him to the vet, where he meets other kitties and eventually gets to feeling better. There’s not really any sort of lesson attached to this story (other than maybe keeping your mouth shut while playing catch), but if you like fluffy, floating kitties, then you may get a kick out of it.
When we last saw Bethany Barton (see this Stack Overflow), she was trying to love spiders, though she occasionally squashed them. In this book, she’s trying to love something that also seems to scare a lot of people: math. This time, she’s joined by a space alien, who explains how math is present in everything from baking to music to nature—that it’s not just about numbers, but about exploring. In the end, Barton realizes that perhaps she doesn’t need to try to love math, because she already does—at least, she loves a lot of things that involve math.
When we last saw Delia Bell (see this Stack Overflow), she had officially joined an Epoch Squad of the Time Museum, working with a group of kids from various time periods. This time, there’s been some indications that the Grey Earl is messing with events in 1778 Versailles—a pivot point that could have far-reaching consequences if history is manipulated. (Turns out perhaps timelines are not fixed, though changing things doesn’t have huge impacts except at these “pivot points.”) Delia’s team gets some training from, of all people, Richard Nixon (don’t mention Watergate to him because he doesn’t know about that yet)—and it turns out to be surprisingly relevant in various points in their mission.
Without spoiling too much about the plot, I will say that it does include a time loop, where we get to witness the same events from multiple perspectives, which is always kind of fun. There’s also a romance subplot, with Delia and some of her friends struggling to find ways to communicate their feelings for each other. And, finally, there are hints that Uncle Lyndon may not be sharing all the information he has about the Grey Earl … but a lot of that is still left for a later book.
When we last saw Dany Radley (see this Stack Overflow), she and her friends had averted disaster through the use of her magic notebook, though not before their school gym was demolished. (And, remember, much of that disaster was a result of her magic notebook in the first place.) In this book, Dany is still feeling insecure about herself, particularly around Cara, who finds Dany annoying. What better solution than to create a duplicate Dany—one who will help her with homework and be better at socializing? You’d be forgiven for expecting something similar to Calvin and his replicator: Dany and her clone actually hit it off splendidly. But trouble comes from a different source this time—it turns out Dany’s magic notebook isn’t the only source of magic around—and there are a lot of things that will need to be fixed. Hijinks ensue.
This series is entertaining and does a good job of capturing the insecurities that can plague kids in middle school. In particular, there are scenes where Dany’s watching her clone interact with people and is just horrified: “How do I change the channel on this thing?! Stop talking! Abort!!” There are lessons—perhaps not quite as applicable to real life—about not abusing magic, though that doesn’t always jive with the fact that the problems caused by magic abuse are solved with … well, more magic.
When we last saw Caveboy Dave (see this Stack Overflow), he had survived the coming-of-age ritual, and the villagers had begun to see the value in his wacky inventions. The second book starts with a string of incidents, including some smoke spotted far to the north that Dave suspects is other people, and the disappearance of Shaman Faboo—clues point to abduction by the unknown people in the north (though the reader gets some hints early on that Dave isn’t seeing the whole picture). Dave, the only one who doesn’t lose his head over the situation, is appointed the new chief despite his reservations, and leads a group through the deadly Field of Screams to seek their missing shaman.
As with the previous book, there’s plenty of silly caveboy humor (like things he keeps mentioning he needs to invent later), and though many of the characters are sort of one-trick ponies, together they manage some fun tricks. Dave learns to accept responsibility, and then also has to learn a lesson about being too full of himself. Rockie continues to be the smart, reliable girl who nevertheless is relegated to a sidekick role (along with a couple other not-so-smart boys).
My Current Stack
I haven’t read quite as much this week, but I did buy myself the second and third volumes of The Wicked + The Divine (speaking of sequels) and read the second one. The first volume slowly revealed a conspiracy within the Pantheon that resulted in the deaths of several of the new deities; the second volume starts dealing with the fallout from that as the remaining deities pick sides. I’m looking forward to the third book. It seems like the comic series is still ongoing, so I suppose even after the third book I’ll still have a bit more to catch up on. Maybe by then the next hardcover collection of Saga will finally be out!
Disclosure: I received review copies of these books.