Give me books, fruit, french wine and fine weather and a little music out of doors. --John Keats

Friday, October 2, 2009

"Nightmare at the Book Fair" by Dan Gutman

Another children's book. My middle child read it and really enjoyed it so I picked it up to see what it was all about. It was a quick fun read, if a little bit disjointed. The basic premise: Fifth-grader Trip Dinkleman, the main character (who, by the way, doesn't like to read), gets roped into helping set up for the book fair while on his way to lacrosse tryouts. Somehow a stack of books falls on his head and knocks him out. He then has what seems to be a series of strange dreams, each one chapter long, and each from a different genre of children's literature (historical fiction, horror, mystery, adventure...) At the end you find that he's really just been reading the books and has been so enthralled by the stories that he felt like the events were actually happening to him (as anyone who loves to read has experienced).

The writing in some of the chapters has that odd dreamlike quality that I can't put my finger on. I remember my creative writing in grade school had this quality (which I looked on as more of a flaw). Something about it seems unrealistic and mutable, the way one person can morph into another in a dream, the way a dream doesn't always follow a logical thread of reality. But I suppose in a book that is basically one long dream, this isn't such a bad thing.

I had to wonder how many of the corny jokes flew right over my child's head as she read. I'll just give one section as an example: in the fantasy chapter, Trip goes on a quest and journeys through the "Gates of Bill... the Woods of Tiger... the Rivers of Joan and... the Forest of Whitaker." (All with the accompaniment of "Stairway to Heaven" being merrily played on a lute, of course. Is it even possible for that song to be played merrily?)

Best thing about this book: A recipe for funnel cake!

4 large eggs
1 Tbsp sugar
1 cup milk
6 Tbsp butter
1 cup flour
1/8 tsp salt
2 tsp baking powder
Vegetable oil
Powdered sugar

I may have to make some for breakfast!!


Dan Gutman said...

Thanks for your post. It’s always great to hear comments from readers and fans. If you haven’t already done so, I invite you to visit my Web site ( and become a Fan on Facebook ( There you can find out what I’m up to and find out about new books before they come out.

Kathy said...

I just have to say that (unless someone is playing a trick on me) it is super cool that Dan Gutman read my blog entry about his book. In fact this is definitely the coolest thing that has happened to me all day! It's always exciting when I hear that someone has been reading my blog (all three of you!), but it never even crossed my mind that one of the authors might read what I've written.

First thing I did when I saw this comment was re-read my post in hopes that it didn't say anything too mean. Second thing I did was breathe a sigh of relief that it wasn't Larry McMurtry who had come across my post about *his* book. (Although surely he knows what an awful book "Rhino Ranch" is).

I checked out Gutman's website and was surprised to see how many books he has published! I want to say the list was up to 85. Of course, the majority of his books are sports stories, which to me are only slightly better than war stories and westerns. But there is one book of his that I had heard of even before I read his "Nightmare," and that is "The Homework Machine." I have added that to my list of books to read in honor of his comment on my blog. I bet Stacia will like it too!

steve said...

Book fairs of this kind are very important and make them much larger and diffuse along with the importance of reading will make us doors to knowledge