Anderson, M.T. Whales on Stilts (M. T. Anderson’s Thrilling Tales). Sandpiper, 2006. ISBN 978-0152053949. 224 pp. $6.99
At first, I couldn’t decide if this book is brilliantly satiric, or abysmally bad. Are the ads and made-up brand names another slam at our consumeristic way of life from Anderson, or is he spoofing himself? Either way, this tongue in cheek tale will find it’s audience.
In the vein of Lemony Snicket, Anderson introduces three buddies out to save the world from delusional but well-meaning adults who can’t recognize an evil world-domination plot when it smacks them across the forehead. Authorial intrusions and lapsing into stream of consciousness abound, without the dreary woe of A Series of Unfortunate Events as ordinary Lily, often overshadowed by her two best friends, gets to shine when she discovers that the company her dad works for is a cover-up for a group of mad scientists assisting an pod of angry aquatic mammals.
With a nod to Nancy Drew and The Hardy Boys, locations are cliché (an abandoned warehouse, a deserted cove), and boy wonder Jasper Dash uses quaint expressions such as “Great Scott!” Techno-gadgets coupled with slapstick comedy and absurd footnotes make this hyperbolic tale completely silly, but the underlying plot structure and character development support the goofiness well enough for us to just suspend our disbelief and hang on for the ride. And occasionally, such unexpected gems of truth erupt amidst the silliness, such as Grandma’s words of wisdom to Lily: “You know how, when you’re remembering, you put beautiful things everywhere? You spread them out, and they fill the whole memory. Even if there weren’t fireflies every night we played there, those were firefly times, Lily.”