2023 / 160 pages
I liked this book so much that right after I finished it, I read it again, this time to my kids for bedtime.
Like C.S. Lewis before him, S.D. Smith is a popular Christian author who had some curious correspondence land in his lap. In Lewis's case, it was serious stuff – he somehow got his hands on notes from a senior devil to a junior devil, instructing him on how best to tempt and devour people. Lewis later published this correspondence as The Screwtape Letters.
Smith got sillier stuff, but how he got his hands on these letters is every bit as mysterious. Eleven "jug notes" from one Wally Warmbottom, author, expert, and solitary shipwrecked resident of the deserted island of Peachpitistan, somehow floated across the ocean to Smith, who lives in the land-locked state of Virginia. Smith doesn't understand it, but he collected and has now published the notes.
As Wally Warmbottom recounts it, his small island is full of peach pits and beach pits, both of which are tripping hazards. It also has a "story cave" with tales preserved there in jugs, written by, well, who knows? The stories didn't interest Wally, but he thought Smith could take a look, so the book includes, in addition to 11 letters from Wally, four of these short stories. What Wally missed, you will most certainly enjoy as "Binsley Bustbocket burns the buns" and "Rocket and Elsie and Rocket" are a hoot!
This is wonderfully stupid throughout, but I think I might have most enjoyed one running gag that pops up in a couple of Wally's letters, and also in the title story. Barry the Moose has been having quite the day: Fort Moosefort has been overrun by flame-thrower-wielding bears, Barry's lucky stick has been burnt to ash, and a bear bullet broke off a favorite bit of his antler. So now he's on the run, and who can this silliest of all creatures turn to when he's in desperate need? Well, Science of course. But when Barry invokes his god, it's always to no effect.
- "The bears started firing rocket launchers at the cabin. 'Trust in Science!' I screamed..."
- "I swiveled and saw a pack of wolves rushing at us with fully loaded shotguns. Were they locked as well? I couldn't tell. I didn't know if you could lock one or if you would even want to in a fight, because if it's locked, can you still shoot it? ...'Help me, Science!" I cried as I dove behind a skinny tree."
- "The wolves had abandoned the chase – or at least the chase of me. Maybe that was bad news for J. J. whathisname or whathisinitials, but for me, no loaded or locked gun would be fired or shot at me for a while. May Science guide you, I thought towards J.D., finally remembering his intials..."
It's a joke that will breeze right over the kiddos' heads, but is there for mom and dad to appreciate. So, a silly goofy story, with some political subtext – what more could you want?
Maybe the only critique I might have is that, other than this being both hilarious and clean, I wouldn't have had reason to suspect the author was Christian. That said, it might be hard to include God – Who appreciates silly, but is not at all silly – in such a deliberately insubstantial book.
I'll rate this as a great one for everyone eight and up, so long as they can appreciate Dad-joke humor.
For a good taste of the silly, check out the book trailer below. And if you like this, S.D. Smith has written a less silly but more adventurous series on "rabbits with swords." Check out our review of the first book: The Green Ember.