SOUP, Cuthbert. A Whole Nother Story. illus. by Jeffrey Stewart Timmins. 272p. CIP. Bloomsbury. Jan. 2010. Tr $16.99. ISBN 978-1-59990-435-1. LC 2009021998.
Gr 4–7—Ethan Cheeseman, genius scientist, has invented the Luminal Velocity Regulator, a device that supposedly enables travel that is faster than the speed of light. Unfortunately, when spies, corporation thugs, and shady governmental organizations hear about the machine, they try to steal it, killing Ethan's wife in the process. The scientist and his children (ages 8, 12, and 14) have been on the run ever since, relying on their clairvoyant dog, Pinky, to keep them one step ahead of the bad guys. When the family finally finds a town in which they hope to settle, the villains swoop down to steal the LVR, but the kids, their new friends, and a busload of circus sideshow performers save the day. There is plenty of quirky, offbeat humor and little pathos in this tale. However, the narrative bristles with asides and bad jokes, and the author interrupts the story with short chapters giving advice on tattoos, choosing a doctor, and other matters. The inanity can be wearing and the characters (except for the youngest Cheeseman's sock puppet, Steve) don't quite gel into fully realized people. Still, those who enjoyed Lemony Snicket's "A Series of Unfortunate Events" (HarperCollins) will find some of the same surreal qualities in this first book in a series—and a bit more warmth besides.—Eva Mitnick, Los Angeles Public Library