- Craig Graziano
Greetings, brave adventurers! So you are looking for uncharted territory to claim and conquer, eh? You've already climbed the highest peaks and had lunch in the craters of the moon. So, where do you go next to do your exploring? Look no further than this hidden gem. This is a land of mystery and danger, a land of wonder and fright, a land with tyrannosaurs, tentacled creatures, and scariest of all....toll booths. Behold, Delaware!
Jasper Dash and the Flame-Pits of Delaware is part of M.T. Anderson's Pals in Peril series, a highly absurdist take on children's detective and adventure series of decades past, the most obvious being Nancy Drew, Goosebumps, and Tom Swift. The title character of this particular book is the star of his own fictional series that has fallen into obscurity. Just looking at Jasper Dash, you can see that he's from another time. Aviator goggles perched atop a perfectly parted swath of blonde hair. And that's when he opens his mouth and 19th-century slang falls out: "Hello, chums...What-ho and tippy tippy dingle and all."
Thankfully, Jasper has Kate and Lily to ground him closer to this century. Kate also has a fictional book series where she solves all sort of mysteries in a haunted neighborhood. Lily, on the other hand, is just a normal girl with no book series to speak of (except this one, of course). Sometimes she feels a little boring in comparison to her daring protagonist friends, but she manages to surprise herself with smarts and spunk.
What begins as a simple athletic competition (a staring contest) spirals into a terrifying journey into the deepest parts of our country's first state. Hear the vowel-less chortles of Doverian, the state's language. Run from the fearsome kangaroo-riding cannibals of Armstrong. Be in awe of the majesty of the temple of Vbngoom, where monks can levitate without effort. Readers have the author's guarantee that unlike most travelogue writers, who spend a weekend in a place and then write about it, that he has never even been to Delaware...ever. It shows. Curious explorers who wish to know more about this enigmatic land can go to the interactive travel guide made just for the book!
Though they are children's books aimed at fourth and fifth graders, I'd recommend the Pal in Perils series to anyone who likes a good chunk of satirical humor with their stories. M.T. Anderson's narration provides hilarious observations and interruptions. He plays with the reader if something suspenseful is happening in another scene. If you dig either Lemony Snicket or A Whole Nother Story, Pals in Peril is definitely for you. And don't forget to check out earlier adventures with Jasper, Kate, and Lily. I highly recommend Whales on Stilts!