The Hundred and One Dalmatians

Our rating: ***½

Dalmatians Pongo and Missis are the proud parents of fifteen puppies. When their pets, Mr. and Mrs. Dearly, invite college friend Cruella de Ville to dinner, Cruella, who loves fur coats, decides she needs a Dalmatian coat! The puppies are stolen soon after, but the humans have no idea who is responsible. It’s up to the dogs to track down the thieves and rescue the puppies.

Everybody knows the Disney movie story which is based on this book. What few people realize is that there is a book in the first place. And as is the general rule of thumb, the book is better. Although the plot is similar, there are several fun detours that didn’t quite make the film, which is also the case with much of the clever humor in the book. One caveat: Cruella is never specifically labelled human. In fact, Pongo and Missis often wonder if she is something quite a bit more evil, though this suspicion is never confirmed. Overlooking that, this one will be loved by all.

Freddy and Simon the Dictator

Our rating: ****

When a young rabbit talks back to Mr. Bean, Freddy and Jinx know something’s up. When they follow the clues to a rebellious meeting of animals bent on taking over New York, they realize something is terribly wrong. But Freddy is unable to do anything right away, since his old friend Mr. Camphor needs help getting out of a nomination for governor. Then when he gets back, Jinx has turned traitor! Freddy has his hands full as the revolution begins…

Freddy and Simon the Dictator could possibly be one of the funniest Freddy books ever written! In this day and age, the political satire is welcome and hilarious. As the comedy continues, the story warps into perhaps the most sinister plot Walter Brooks ever wrote for Freddy, but the light-hearted humor is still around. As is always the case with these books, the person reading aloud will have more fun than the child being read to.

Up and Down the River

Our rating: ****½

Debbie and Bonnie Fairchild want to get rich this summer. The two girls find some advertisements from companies wanting people to sell their products. The girls will make one dollar each and, in their minds, they will be rich.

Up and Down the River is a wonderfully simple story. It is part of a series, but it can easily be understood on its own. Bonnie and Debbie end up making a lot more than two dollars, though not in the sense of money. Overall, this is a very enjoyable and worthwhile read.

Rainy Morning

Our rating: ****

One dreary morning, Mrs. Submarine lets the cat in because it looks miserable out in the rain. This begins a hilarious series of visitors taking shelter from the rain, including a wildebeest, the Submarines’ car, and Beethoven.

Here’s a great book that is just a lot fun. That’s it. Nothing profound, no “lesson” at the end. And not just for the kids. Daniel Pinkwater also embeds wholesome humor that will go over the head of the child and be caught by the owner of the lap they are sitting on. Definitely worthwhile for a good laugh.

Freddy and the Flying Saucer Plans

Our rating: ***½

Freddy the pig and Jinx the cat (along with their steeds, Bill the goat and Cy the pony) are all ready to go on a trip, when a call for help arrives from Uncle Ben. He has plans for a flying saucer, given to him by the Martians, but can’t begin work on a saucer because tons of spies are following him everywhere, trying to obtain the prized plans. It’s time for Freddy to step in and lend a hand, er, trotter.

Freddy is back! There is a fun plot twist, and tons of spies all fighting each other for the plans. An enjoyable new character, Samuel the mole, is introduced. I especially like the part with him at the end.