Posts tagged ‘road trip’

March 20, 2011

A Road-Tripping Giveaway


In the cat versus dog debate, I’m with the cats.  I know a few people who can enjoy both species, but let’s be honest, most of us are cat-people or dog-people, and not often the two shall meet within the same person.  I realize that as a cat person, I am always a few short steps away from being a crazy cat lady, a term that applies just as well to men as it does to women (I have several male friends who are “crazy cat ladies” and yes, you know who you are).  But if cat people are a few steps away from hoarding twenty felines in their homes, dog people are a few steps away from pouring Perrier in the water bowl and carrying their furry friend around in a designer handbag.  Cats would never stand for a designer handbag, and that’s why I like them better.

Ike LaRue, on the other hand, would, I have a feeling, LOVE a designer handbag.  In this cute story, he would, if he could, specifically choose a designer handbag that was not in the vicinity of his neighbor’s cats and preferably somewhere on a cruise ship that would itself be in the vicinity of Mexico.

I will admit to never having read an Ike LaRue adventure before this one.  I’d heard of them certainly, but until recently, our paths had never crossed.  I’m lucky, however, that they recently did.

Title: LaRue Across America
Author/Illustrator: Mark Teague
Genre: Picture Book
Age: 4 – 8

Summary and Review:

Ike LaRue is a sarcastic dog.  A sarcastic, clever, well-spoken, and whiny (but hilarious!) dog who doesn’t much like cats.  Specifically, he doesn’t like the two cats he is now stuck with on a cross-country road trip.  And as he writes letters to his neighbor, the hospitalized owner of the cats, he tells her in no uncertain terms why he thinks everyone would be better off if the cats just went home (and he went on a cruise).

When Ike’s neighbor falls sick and Ike’s owner, Mrs. LaRue, agrees to care for the cats, Ike’s vacation is—according to him, at least—completely ruined.  The cruise ship doesn’t take cats, so they plan a cross-country drive instead.  And while the rest of the inhabitants seem to be enjoying the views and the adventures, Ike writes postcards home to the cats’ owner, stretching the truth and feigning to care about the happiness of others while he tries to get permission to send the cats home.  He’s even willing to put them in a box and mail them.  I love the language of the book–the dog has great vocabulary and grammar!  A notch up from your average picture book and I like the chance to introduce my son to great writing.  And the pictures are gorgeously fun.

Each page of this beautifully illustrated book shows a different destination on the trip.  One thing I appreciate is that the trip doesn’t take them to stereotypical tourist places of the Mount Rushmore type.  Instead, they visit Bumbletub, Ohio, and Pea Gravel, South Dakota, amongst other locales.  I love that the endpapers are illustrated maps of the United States.  My son really enjoys checking the map with every turn of the page and asking where they are now.  This is a great way to reinforce some basic geography and learn a little about the 50 states as they read.  I do wish there were a few more details about the places they visit…you do learn about the Empire State Building and the Great Lakes, for example, but in other places the story sometimes has nothing to do with the geography of the area and I think that’s a lost opportunity.  (That’s the teacher in me, I suppose.)

This is a picture book geared towards older kids.  My son is three and at this point the humor and sarcasm go over his head.  However, he still enjoys the book, requests to read it, and loves the maps, and will only enjoy it more as he gets older.

If you like this book, I would definitely check out the other LaRue books, in which he writes letters to try to come home early from obedience school, gets framed for a cat-napping, and even runs for mayor!

You can see a trailer of this book at:

Follow-up with the kids:

Definitely take advantage of the map in the book.  With each page, look at the postcard and where it’s addressed from. (This would be a great time to show kids how a letter should be addressed, with the date, location, salutation, etc.  It may be the digital age, but can we pass these habits along to at least one more generation?)  Then find the location on the map.  You might also want to take this a step further, and for each location he visits you can research on the internet or an atlas to find out one or two more things about those places.

For older kids who are into story-telling, I think this would be a great voice to copy.  Have the kids write their own postcards from Ike LaRue (or their own sarcastic pet) and see if they can mimic the hyperbole, the stretching of the truth, and the insinuation of dangerously dire circumstances.


And now for the giveway!  I have TWO COPIES of LaRue Across America to give away, and I’m excited about that.  I will choose a winner at random and your copy will be sent to you straight from Scholastic.  This giveaway is sponsored by Scholastic and is open to any addresses in the United States.

You may enter once for each of the following things.  For each entry, please post a separate comment below.  CONTEST CLOSES ON MONDAY, MARCH 28 AT MIDNIGHT CENTRAL TIME. Winner will be announced on the 29th.  Good luck!

One entry for:

  • tell me your favorite picture book

One extra entry each for:

  • subscribing to this blog — Link at top right
  • following my twitter feed — Link at top right
  • tweeting about the contest with a link to this blog
  • posting a link to the contest on your own blog
  • RATE my blog on Top Mommy Blogs (the scale is in cupcakes, 10 means you like it a lot, 1 means you are just suffering through for the contest :); comments optional) — Link at right

Good luck!

(Note: My copy of LaRue Across America was provided free by Scholastic. This review contains my own thoughts and opinions about the story.)

January 10, 2011


I’m not sure how old I was when I realized that I didn’t have to save the world to have a meaningful life, and to be honest, I’m still not sure how I feel about that realization or whether or not I actually agree with it or think it’s a cop-out.  Am I relying on others saving the world, or just hoping that if we all do our part, something will happen?  I’m not sure, but I loved the message in this book of just-graduated high school seniors on a road trip, one of whom is going through a very existential crisis: he’s been a child prodigy all his life, something he reminds us is very different than being a genius, as prodigy implies that terrifying of terrifying things: potential. Well, he isn’t a child anymore.  So what is he?  And what happens to “potential” when you grow up?

Title: An Abundance of Katherines
Author: John Green
: Fiction
Age: Young Adult, 12 – 18

Summary and Review:

Colin Singleton is a half-Jew child prodigy who thinks, upon graduating from high school, that he’s all washed up.  After all, he can’t be a child prodigy if he’s not a child anymore.  Not it’s time for him to prove his worth and accomplish something.  But what?  After being dumped by his 19th Katherine (yes, that’s right, he’s had the dubious honor of ONLY dating–and only being dumped by–girls named Katherine), he decides to invent a mathematical theory that will predict the course of a relationship.  With this theorem in hand, he reasons, not only will he have fulfilled his long-studied potential, but he will also know when the heartbreak is coming before it comes.  Somehow, he thinks this will be a good thing.

He’s hanging out with his best friend, a devout Muslim and fellow outcast, who (at least until this road trip) is completely sworn off drinking and women, and whose lifelong goals include lying on the couch and watching Judge Judy.

Together, they embark on a road trip that takes them to a small town in Tennessee where adventures with their first jobs, two local girls, neither of whom are named Katherine, and a small factory-dependent community, the two boys unwittingly learn a little bit about life.

Follow-up with the kids:

If your kid is a math genius, you can ask him or her to decode the formula for you.  Apparently, as it exists and evolves in the book, it actually works according to the rules and histories of the characters and relationships experienced in Colin’s life.  Despite helpful footnotes and a lengthy explanation at the end, this was math beyond my level of comfort.  Maybe I could have handled it fifteen years ago (that’s a scary thought), but that part of my brain has more recently been sacrificed.  On the plus side, I can now change diapers and wipe noses, which going back to the idea of fulfilled potential, should be some encouragement.

There’s also something to be said in this book about what it means to have potential and what it means to fulfill it.  We all have potential to do a lot of things.  In no way are we going to fulfill all of it, so how do we choose?  And my favorite question, if we have the potential to do something, are we thus obligated?  I think a lot of kids grow up today thinking this way, and that’s why the book has rung so true to so many of them, even if they aren’t child prodigies studied by development experts and put on TV game shows.  If they have the potential to be a great piano player, is it okay if they choose to be a mediocre guitar player instead?  If they have the potential for an ivy league school, is it okay if they choose to travel the world instead?  And pick up their education ten years later at a state university?  Well, I know what I think the answers are for my own life.  But what is your answer, and does it agree with your child’s?  And if not, is the disagreement putting a strain on your relationship or your child’s own view of his or her self-worth?

These are tough things to think about and tougher things to talk about.  But I was just told by a friend of another high school suicide.  Star athlete, the whole shebang.  I don’t know the story of why.  I don’t know that, in this case, it had anything to do with potential, realized or not.  But I do think these things are important enough to be work the effort of conversation and understanding.