Whales on Stilts!

by M.T. Anderson
ages: 10+
First sentence: “On Career Day Lily visited her dad’s work with him and discovered he worked for a mad scientist who wanted to rule the earth through destruction and desolation.”

First impressions are everything.

First sentences, first books by an author, first foray into an author’s work… it doesn’t matter: the first impression you take away from a book colors much of what you read by that author.

My first impression of M.T. Anderson is that he’s brilliant. Odd, sure. But brilliant. He’s another one that tickles my sense of humor just right and I find myself laughing out loud, often. Sure, the plot — Lily’s, our main heroine, dad is working in an abandoned warehouse for a “man”, Larry, who wears a bag on his head, helping him make stilts for whales, but it turns out that Larry is set on world domination, but only Lily and her friends Katie and Jasper can stop him — is really very weird. But, it wasn’t the plot that made the book so, well, great. It was the little asides, the footnotes, the fact that the book was littered with random ads for dime-store novels — the fact that this felt, looked, and read like a 1950s adventure novel or even bad B-movie you probably have seen on Mystery Science Theater 3000 (if you’re not old enough to have seen it in the theater) — that’s what made this book so brilliant.

One quote, and then I’ll tell you that you need to find this one and read it. The context really doesn’t matter, just so you know:

There is nothing better than friends working together against incredible odds. It is a great feeling. Some friends of mine and I, for example, once had to stop this jerk we knew from middle school who was trying to carve his face next to the presidents’ on Mount Rushmore. He was the richest kid in school, and he had won a bunch of Italian stonemasons in a game of Go Fish. He and the stonemasons were headed down to Mount Rushmore in a bus.

You guessed it — he had won the bus in a karaoke competition with his mom. He had won singing “You Trouble Me Bigly.”

I won’t go into the whole thing, because I’m just trying to make a point that when you work on a project together with friends, and you’re rushing around with climbing gear and scissors, and your friend Dana is explaining how to go up mountainsides, and your friend Lick is showing everyone how to disable a helicopter, and you’re doing your part by writing personalized haiku for each of them, you get this intense feeling of love for your friends, and you come to admire them even more than you did before.

You should read this book. As for me, I’m going to find one of Anderson’s other ones to enjoy.

Buy Whales on Stilts! at: Amazon, Powell’s, or your local independent bookstore.

2 thoughts on “Whales on Stilts!

  1. Oh, I love M. T. Anderson, he rocks. I've read Thirsty, Feed, The Game of Sunken Places, and would recommend them all. Try The Game of Sunken Places, I think you'd like it!


  2. M. T. Anderson is fantastic. I just finished his Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation (Volume I: The Pox Party) today, which is fantastic for many reasons more than its giant name, and I'm out to buy the sequel tonight!


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