Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews



Karla Oceanak
Illustrator:  Kendra Spanjer 
Fiction  Series
For ages 8 to 11
Bailiwick Press, 2011   ISBN: 978-1934649084

There are two weeks left of the summer vacation and Aldo Zelnick intends to spend them doing what he likes to do the most: watching TV, playing on his GameBoy, eating, and spending time with his friends and his dog.

   One day Aldo is quietly minding his own business playing a computer game and watching TV at the same time when his mother comes in, loses her temper, and forces Aldo and his big brother Timothy to clean their rooms and then to go outside to get “fresh air.” Aldo doesn’t want to do either of these things, but he knows better than to try to argue with his mother.

  That evening Aldo’s mother announces that they are going to go to Minnesota “for an old-fashioned summer vacation.” For a whole week they will live on the farm where Aldo’s aunt, uncle, and twin cousins live. Since going to stay on a farm was not what Aldo had planned on doing for the rest of the summer, he is not too keen on this vacation idea, but there is nothing much he can do about it, and soon enough he, his parents, and his brother are driving to Minnesota.

   As soon as they get into the car Aldo discovers that his parents have hatched a diabolical plot; they have left the laptop computer and Aldo’s GameBoy at home. Aldo cannot believe that his parents could be so cruel, and he spends the rest of the long day being forced to listen to his father’s music playlists and Little House on the Prairie audiobooks.

   On his first morning at the farm Aldo eats a big breakfast and then he asks someone to show him where the TV is. To his horror Aldo finds out that there is no TV at the farm, and no “newfangled computers” either. Aldo is going have to spend a week completely unplugged and cut off from the world!

   Feeling very depressed, Aldo follows his identical cousins, Chaz and Al, outside. He and Timothy have no choice but to help the twins do the chores. They feed the chickens and collect the eggs, and then they try to milk a cow. By the time they get back to the house Aldo has egg in his hair, milk on his face, and chicken poo on his shoes. It is clear that he and the outdoors do not like one another very much.

   Aldo and Timothy very quickly figure out that their cousins are “ganging up” on them, and Timothy proposes that he and Aldo form a team so that they can face the enemy with a united front. Since Aldo and Timothy have almost nothing in common and don’t usually spend any time together, this collaborative behavior is new to them both. They never imagine that some interesting adventures await them in the days ahead.

   In this third Aldo Zelnick “sketchbook,” Aldo has another wonderful story to relate. Readers will laugh out loud when they hear about the situations Aldo gets into, and they will really laugh when they find out the farm’s secret. In this book Aldo makes a point of using words beginning with the letter C. Wonderful words such as cockamamie and conniption are integrated into the narrative. Aldo provides us with a word “Gallery” at the back of the book where the C words are defined.

   The book is presented in a journal format and it is easy to believe that Aldo is indeed the author because the type used looks like handwriting and Aldo’s little drawings, maps, and diagrams pepper the account.