by Karla Oceanak
Kendra Spanjer, illustrator
Website: Just how humdrum is 10-year-old Aldo Zelnick’s life right now? So humdrum that he sets out to measure which January day will be the most boring. So humdrum that Jack and Bee succeed in getting him to try some weird hobbies. So humdrum that his recurring Hawaii dream has become way more enticing than real life. So humdrum that even unathletic Aldo agrees to downhill ski with his superjock brother, Timothy—and finds that hotdogging it on the slopes can be hazardous to your health.
Opening: ‘‘You try this, Aldo,” said Timothy. “I dare you.” One thing you need to know about my superjock 15-year-old brother is that he’s constantly daring me to do something athletic. Which is SO annoying.”
Ten-year-old Aldo Zelnick lives with his parents and the above mentioned Timothy. Who is Aldo? He is wimpy, geekish, and a normal boy of ten years. He has three friends: Bee, Tommy, and Danny, plus one best friend, Jack. Aldo is not athletic, but he is artistic. He writes and illustrates these journals, sometimes with guest contributors. (Girls write diaries and boys like Aldo write journals. We will simply call it “the book.”)
Hotdogger is the eighth book in Aldo’s series. There are eighteen more planned, one for each letter of the alphabet. I like that each of these books introduces new words that begin with that book’s letter. Hotdogger has words beginning with the letter “H.” Examples include hyperbole, halcyon, hindrance, and hoodwinked. There is a glossary in the back of each book listing and defining each word. In the text, the highlighted words are marked with an asterisk ().
This year the family is taking a ski vacation during winter break. Aldo is not happy about this, as he cannot ski. He wants to go to Hawaii and surf. Also has even been practicing on a board in front of films filled with huge Hawaii waves Also masters with ease. The ski vacation is the latter half of the book and contains the best “family” humorous sections. When the vacation rolls around, there are more vacationers beside the Zelnicks. Jack and his dad, and Grandma “Goosy,” and Max (Aldo’s dog) hop along for the snow. Jack shares Aldo’s disdain of snow skiing.
First up is the outdoor hot springs, much to the delight of Aldo and Jack until . . . Aldo notices the earthy smell of the springs and Timothy dares him to slide down a twisted slide at night. One would think an adult would intervene and one did. Grandma Goosy followed her grandsons saying she would judge the sliding contest. I love adults like that. Goosy has never lost her child-within.
The Aldo Zelnick series is similar to The Wimpy Kid except that Hotdogger–and all the other books in the series–have more mature illustrations and the entries are not in diary form. I like that Hotdogger contains new words, a glossary, and a comic within a comic. Aldo writes and illustrates a comic called “Bacon Boy.” I think Aldo is Bacon Boy and the comic makes fun of what happens in his life. The characters are all well rounded and distinctive. The story is stays on track, keeps the reader turning pages, and laughing with each turn.
I love the illustrations that have great detail much of the time. Aldo’s ski outfit had more equipment than I remember skiing required. When Aldo is not hot dogging down the bunny slope, he is wearing clogs; those shoes made of plastic with holes equally spaced about the shoe top. The illustrations are all black and white, similar to what a young boy would draw in a journal-sketchbook. I’d expect some splashes of color in a girl’s journal or if a girl contributed to Aldo’s book.
Hotdogger is not a graphic novel in the classic style. There is a great amount of normal text, which keeps the story fluid. I enjoyed Hotdogger and think kids in middle grade–especially reluctant readers–will love Aldo and his friends and family. Hotdogger is number eight in this ambitious series of twenty-six proposed books. Next is the letter “I” for Ignoramus. Catch the review right here in a few weeks. Until then, Hotdogger is a good start to this wonderful, crazy, series. So far, the books can stand on their own, so if you are not one to start your ABCs with the letter A, start it with H because H is for Hotdogger.
* Artsy-Fartsy, Bogus!, Cahoots, Dumbstruck, Egghead, Finicky, and Glitch
Early Christmas Present from Aldo Zelnick!
Released September 1, 2013
Age 7 to 13
HOTDOGGER: AN ALDO ZELNICK COMIC NOVEL. Text copyright © 2013 by Karla Oceanak. Illustrations copyright © 2013 by Kendra Spanjer. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Bailiwick Press, CO.
- 10 Book Series Boys Will Especially Love (apartmenttherapy.com)