#155 – The Klampie Mystery by Luis Rodriguez

 3 Stars

Back Cover:  Samantha and her parents go on an adventure “down under” to Australia.  Samantha gets a stuffed koala and names it Klampie since its arms clamp onto anything, like a real koala.  Follow Samantha as she is amazed by the differences between the two countries.  And then something unexpected happens on the plane ride home—the koala on Samantha’s backpack turns out to be a real . . . a real mystery!

Samantha Parker and her parents are going to visit Uncle Tim and Aunt Sophie in Australia.  Dad buys Samantha a stuffed koala to get her excited about the trip.  The stuffed animal’s hands clamp onto most anything, and Samantha clamps the toy to her backpack.  She names him Klampie.

It took fifteen hours for the Parkers to fly from California to Australia.  One of the first things Samantha noticed was how hot Australia seemed for Christmas.  At home, Christmas time was always cold and snowy.  Uncle Tim and Aunt Sophie picked up the Parkers at the airport.  He stopped to pump gasoline into his car for the trip home.  He suggested everyone use the bathroom, since the drive was a long one.

Not far away, in a eucalyptus tree, a koala was sound asleep.  He was so deeply sleeping that he did not here the men on the ground with saws.  One-by-one, the men cut down eucalyptus trees until the truck was loaded high above the ground.  On one of those trees lay the koala, still sound asleep.

The truck driver pulls into the same gasoline station Uncle Tim drove into.  It was getting dark by this time, and the koala awoke.  Koala’s sleep during the day and are most active at night.  The little bear had no idea where he was, but before he could figure that out he became curious.   The koala had never seen a car so he checked out Uncle Tim’s car.  That was when he noticed Klampie, still on Samantha’s backpack.

The koala climbed into the car to greet Klampie, as all good koalas do when they come upon another koala.  Klampie did not reciprocate, so the koala shook him, thinking he was in a deep sleep.  Klampie was shook so hard that he ended up coming off the backpack and rolling under the driver’s seat.  The koala then fell back asleep in the car.  Everyone returned to the car, saw the koala “asleep,” clamped to the backpack and thought nothing of it.

The Parkers had a great time in Australia, gong to a “barbie” (barbeque), shopping, sight-seeing, and celebrating the holidays.  The koala liked Samantha’s hugs, and decided he liked Samantha.  Instead of leaving, the koala slept the day away, sneaking out at night to eat eucalyptus leaves.

When it became time to return to California, the koala was asleep once more.  Through airport security and onto the flight no one mention anything about the koala clamped to Samantha’s backpack, 

until . . . the cabin grew dark and the koala awoke, once more not knowing where  he was.  This time the koala let out a piercing scream.

“EAAAAHHHHH”

The idea of the story is interesting to me.  The execution is not.  Who is the main character?  Samantha, or the koala bear?  In a children’s story, the child should take center stage.  Here, Samantha is replaceable.  The author tells what Samantha does while in Australia, yet we see nothing.  The illustrations show the story better than the text, which only tells us the story.  One of the most important things writers must remember is to show don’t tell the story.  From one page, no dialogue:

......The next day, everyone . . . she gave him . . . 
.........and told him . . . Everyone said . . .
.......For a few days, the two families went . . . 
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I have read The Klampie Mystery four times now and each time I wonder where the dialogue is.  Once the real koala screams on the plane, the story comes alive with nice, often humorous, dialogue.  The majority of the story is nearly all narration telling us the story.  From one scene where show not tell and dialogue would have added punch to the story:

......The captain came to Samantha’s seat to explain . . . 
......He told Samantha that . . . He also explained . . . 
.......He asked for . . .  The captain told them . . .
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The Klampie Mystery is physically beautiful.  The publisher, Mascot Books, put much effort into this book.  The inside covers have color maps showing the plane going to Australia on the inside front, and returning to America on the inside back cover.  The pages have color from edge to edge, even those with only text.  The Klampie Mystery catches the eye with its exciting feel.  You just know this is going to be a great kid’s story.  And it could be.

The author imaginatively conceived The Klampie Mystery.  The stow-a-way koala gets into the car in an imaginative and exciting fashion. With all the action surrounding the koala, it becomes the main character when this is supposed to be Samantha’s mystery adventure.

I would have liked to see Samantha in the middle of the story.  Maybe noticing right away that the koala is not her precious Klampie, who is not warm to the touch or have a slight beat that sounds like a heart.  Samantha could be in on hiding the koala, keeping the koala quietly acting like a toy, not a real koala.  Samantha falls for the little guy, who wouldn’t, and decides to take him home—and then the plane goes dark.  That would have been a five star book with these great illustrations.

In a children’s book, the child is the star, solves the problem, and everyone else are there to complete the story.  Samantha is simply a conduit for the koala bear.  In the end, Samantha does not resolve the problem of the stowaway koala, adults take over and finish the story.   She is in the background waiting for most of the story and all of the action.  I do think Mr. Rodriguez knows how to craft a story,  and he does write well when showing the story.  There is much promise in this debut author.

I know books without child leads pass for good children’s literature, and some are, yet I stand by what I learned:  the child is the main character, and the child overcomes the problems (conflict).  Pictures books have different guidelines and, while some will say this is a picture book, I disagree.  The Klampie Mystery is a short story with illustrations.

The illustrations are terrific and actually save the story, making it more exciting.  With the illustrations, Samantha’s story is a little closer to the surface.  In one, Samantha is at the barbie, while in another she shares a dinner with her family in Australia.  The illustrations are bright and mostly cheery.  The koala has the most expressive eyes.  The characters and the surroundings are realistically drawn.  As the illustrator, Mr. Rodriguez is wonderful.

Please note, because I am not happy with the story you and your child might love it.  If you are planning a trip to Australia, The Klampie Mystery will have your children anxious to leave.  Koalas!  What can be more exciting than a cute koala nudging into your life?  The Klampie Mystery may be a bit long for a bedtime story.  If the kids have good attention spans, the story would be great for a class or library story-time.

This review is only my opinion and should not be the sole reason for deciding not to read The Klampie Mysteries.  There are additional reviews on the author’s website (linked after his name in credits). I do think young kids will be fascinated with the koala’s story.  Older kids will learn new facts and differences between America and Australia: time, weather, seasons; and learn a few new terms that are distinctly Australian.  There is much in this book to like.  I think most kids, both boys and girls, will enjoy The Klampie Mysteries.

*Illustrations courtesy of the author, Mr. Luis Rodriguez.

The Klampie Mystery

Author, Co-Illustrator: Luis Rodriguez   website
Publisher:  Mascot Books   website
Publication Date:  May 10, 2012
ISBN:  978-1-62088-031-1
Number of Pages:  38
Ages:  4 to 8
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7 thoughts on “#155 – The Klampie Mystery by Luis Rodriguez

  1. Very badly written. My children were bored. Pictures were sophomoric. It lacked imagination and had no spark. A big waste.

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