Book Review: Leaving the Bellweathers

May 9th, 2010 by

Leaving the Bellweathers by Kristin Clark Venuti

The bags under the butler's eyes are the best part of the cover, I think.

When the publisher of Leaving the Bellweathers sent us the book, I was ecstatic! Then I put it on my bookshelf and promptly forgot about it for several months. (Hey, I’ve been busy!)

Well, now I regret not reading the book sooner, because it’s really fun! It’s the “true” account of Tristan Benway, indentured servant faithful butler to the Bellweather family.

Who are the Bellweathers, you ask? The Bellweathers are: a mad scientist father, a loopy painter mom, a brother obsessed with dangerous animals, a sister who protests for justice by playing the bagpipes, and a very loud set of triplets who are devoted to making art and detonating dynamite (the two hobbies are not mutually exclusive).

The style of author Kristin Clark Venuti — I mean, Tristan Benway — is very quaint, proper, and exactly what you’d expect from the  top-ranked graduate of B. Knighted Academy for Butlers. If you enjoy the snarky style of Lemony Snicket’s Series of Unfortunate Events, I think you’ll thoroughly enjoy Leaving the Bellweathers.

I’m a reader who obsessively thinks about WHY characters do the things they do and act the way they act. I enjoy books with lots of backstory and history (I’m looking at you, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince!*). So… I understand completely why butler Tristan Benway does the things he does and acts the way he acts. And I can surmise why the Bellweather kids are the way they are. (Although, to be blunt, they are kind of… insane. In a lovable way. Read the book and you’ll understand what I mean.) But what about the parents? I’d like to know what their deal is! So, a little message to Tristan Benway, a.k.a. Kristin Clark Venuti: If you’re planning to write a sequel, I don’t want to see less of the zany kids, but I do want to read more about the equally zany parents! All kept organized, fed, and clean by Tristan, of course.

So, there you have it: my overdue review of Leaving the Bellweathers by Kristin Clark Venuti. If it sounds appealing, pick up a copy and let me know what you think! Oh, and did I mention that albino alligators, a family of circus performers held hostage, and a heist of Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa play a part in the plot?

— Nancy

*Much to Karen’s chagrin, HPHBP is Nancy’s favorite HP book. Karen has tried to convince her (unsuccessfully) that it’s the most bor-ing HP book. It’s just something they’ll never agree on.
More about Nancy »

Note: Our copy of the book was sent by the publisher.

Superfudge by Judy Blume

February 9th, 2010 by

superfudgeReviewed by: Jennie, Age 12 from Rhode Island

Rating: ★★★★★

this story is a really funny book i read the book about 3 times and i still love it. to me its just a very good book to read =D

Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing by Judy Blume

January 19th, 2010 by

Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing by Judy BlumeReviewed by: Mrs. Kline’s class, Age 9 from Colorado

Rating: ★★★★½

Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing by Judy Blume is about two brothers named Peter and Fudge. Fudge is an obnoxious three year old who is always causing trouble and getting in Peter’s way. Can Peter last the school year without Fudge destroying everything in his path or will Peter finally go bonkers? Read this hilarious book to find out. Recommended for third grade and up.

The Sisters Grimm by Michael Buckley

December 2nd, 2009 by

sisters_grimm_michael_buckleyReviewed by: beki, Age 9 from Indiana

Rating: ★★★★½

this book is so fanasty with a huge twist. Read and find out.

Kidsmomo Podcast #11: “All in the Family”

November 10th, 2009 by

If you thought your family was kooky, just tune in to our latest podcast, all about books starring wacky families. Food on the walls, a house run like a factory, a severed hand, a forgotten child — we won’t even tell you which of these are from our book picks and which are related to Nancy and Karen’s own crazy family stories! You’ll just have to listen to find out!

      (14:32)
    Download the MP3 (14 MB)

  • From the antics of Fudge to the adventures of Nut and Stinky Cheese — aka our mystery book revealed
  • Our Wacky Family book picks (Surviving the Applewhites and Cheaper by the Dozen)
  • Stories of our own WACKY families — forgotten children and mannequin hands… seriously…

And when you’re done listening, don’t forget: our next theme is foreign lands (aka books that take place in other countries)! So watch our latest Mystery Book Theater video and check out these books about foreign lands that will transport you to other countries even without a passport.)

— Nancy and Karen

Book Trailer: Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing

November 3rd, 2009 by

This book trailer for Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing was originally the Mystery Book Theater video for our Wacky Families theme. For more on Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing, check out our “All in the Family” podcast.

You know how if someone spills food on themselves, they’ll say they’re “wearing their breakfast”? Well, the wacky family in Judy Blume’s Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing gives a whole new meaning to that term…

Books Starring Wacky Families

November 3rd, 2009 by

A grandmother who investigates fairy tale mysteries, a grandfather who can move mountains, and parents who are intent on selling their house to the first buyer — with their kids still in it… These are just some of the wacky families you’ll meet in this week’s recommended reads (in no particular order).

And you thought your family was crazy!

  1. Surviving the Applewhites by Stephanie S. Tolan (Karen’s pick)
  2. Cheaper by the Dozen by Frank Gilbreth, Jr. and Ernestine Gilbreth Carey (Nancy’s pick)
  3. The Sisters Grimm series by Michael Buckley
  4. The Charlie Bone books by Jenny Nimmo
  5. The Anybodies by N.E. Bode
  6. Savvy by Ingrid Law
  7. Love, Ruby Lavender by Deborah Wiles
  8. The Lemonade War by Jacqueline Davies
  9. The Willoughbys by Lois Lowry and Arte Johnson
  10. Ruby Holler by Sharon Creech
  11. Ida Early Comes over the Mountain by Robert Burch
  12. All-of-a-Kind Family by by Sydney Taylor
  13. The Pepins and Their Problems by Polly Horvath
  14. The Penderwicks by Jeanne Birdsall
  15. How Tia Lola Came to (Visit) Stay by Julia Alvarez

If you’ve read any of these, send in your book review and we may read it our podcast. Or send in a review of your favorite book starring a wacky family!

UPDATE 11/10/09: We revealed the answer to our Wacky Family Mystery Book Theater in the “All in the Family” Podcast, so take a listen if you want to know the answer. Or just tune in if you want to hear stories about Karen and Nancy’s wacky families. Warning: children are both frightened and abandoned in these stories. Yes, our relatives are a little cah-razy…


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