Stinky (The Kids From Monkey Mountain series)

by Ted Staunton
64 pages,
ISBN: 0889952639

The Trouble With Girls (The Kids From Monkey Mountain series)

by Ted Staunton
72 pages,
ISBN: 0889952647

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Children's Books
by Hannah Lee

These books, from award-winning children's writer, Ted Staunton are a welcome addition to literature for children just entering adolescence or those precocious youngsters curious about what's in store for them. Both books successfully deal with a host of subtle changes¨growing awareness of one's appearance, new dynamics between friends and other girls and boys, developing anxiety with regard to school work, and evolving parental expectations. The message is always delivered well within the context of the plot or character description, and never in a way that draws attention to itself.
In Stinky, Janice has a number of big changes with which to come to terms. Her parents have just separated, and in this shared custody arrangement, she spends half the time living with her father, a good natured police sergeant, in a trailer. The trailer park skunk is always on the prowl, just waiting for any unusual sound, to spray the trailer, filling it with an unbearable stench. Suddenly everything seems to be going wrong in Janice's life. She's noticing that her tummy is larger than she would like it to be. She breaks her ankle. She cannot understand the math she's learning in school. Her clothes smell because the skunk had let go while she was vacuuming inside the trailer, and her friends are beginning to act less friendly. The last straw comes when she fails her math test, an old juice bottle explodes in her backpack causing a terrible smell in the classroom, and her friends announce they won't be coming to her birthday party and begin to call her 'stinky' in front of all the other kids. Things just don't seem to go according to Janice's well-laid plans, and yet, somehow her big night still turns out not at all badly¨if you discount the skunk's spraying just as Janice is about to blow out the candles on her birthday cake.

Jeff is the kind of boy any parent would be proud of. He gets excellent grades and takes his school work very seriously, even to the point of worrying about it too much. He and his buddy Nick produce a cartoon strip which everyone at school admires. Most of all, he's kind-hearted. When his neighbour Janice's friends refuse to come to her birthday party, he goes instead despite being invited at the last minute. Strangely, Jeff is having trouble with girls. Janice's ex-friends, the gang of girls calling themselves the EGGs (Rotten Evil Girl Group) torment him at school and on the bus on the way to and from school. They make kissing sounds, throw balls of paper at him, and say things which elicit teasing from the older kids at the back of the bus. Jeff's mom and dad don't take Jeff's complaints seriously, and then one day, the EGGs go too far and beat Jeff up. Only then do others become aware of the "current of meanness flowing beneath the teasing ever since it began, a darkness no one wanted to admit; not even him." This book offers a nicely written and instructive story. ˛

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