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Planet Tad by Tim Carvell

westendadmin July 20, 2012 Books, Entertainment, Reviews, Stuart Nulman No Comments

It used to be an unwritten rule of thumb that tweens who kept diaries kept them to themselves; for their eyes only (which explains the lock and key that were usually part of a diary book). Anyone who dared to open up those “secret” diaries and read passages from them – and were caught – faced the wrath of the diarist in question (which for many in that age group meant a fate worse than death).

 

However, there have been cases where the “secret” diary of a tween has become the premise of series of humorous books that have become best sellers amongst the young adult (YA) literary scene. The Adrian Mole books and the “Diary of A Wimpy Kid” series are two bold examples of this YA genre.

 

And it has now been taken to its next logical level with “Planet Tad”, a blog that chronicles the life and everyday foibles of Tad, a 12-year-old middle school adolescent boy, which has become a regular feature in Mad Magazine. And now, the misadventures of Tad and his planet is now available in book form.

 

Written by Tim Carvell, who is the head writer for “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart”, the book covers an entire year in Tad’s life as he tries to survive life as a grade 7 student with his mom and dad, his precociously smart younger sister Sophie and his best friend Chuck.  It takes the form of a digital blog diary, in which Tad keeps track of what’s going on with his life at home and school, along with some random reflections (and emoticons that express what kind of mood he is in that particular day).

 

And what he goes through easily reflects what any 12-year-old goes through, which is why readers of that age group will easily identify with – and enjoy – the book. There’s his quest to making the ultimate erupting volcano for the school science fair; tracking down a school secret admirer (with disastrous, hilarious results); the quest for the best costume when he’s invited to a Halloween party (he wanted to dress up with Chuck as the Men in Black, but ends up as one of the characters from “Avatar” when Chuck gets sick, and the rest of the kids confuse him for a Smurf); Tad’s first summer job (working for the Hot Dog Pound restaurant, parading outside the place wearing the mascot’s costume in very hot weather); his unsuccessful attempts to woo Jenny Bachman, the prettiest girl in his class;  and the buzz cut he gets just in time for his annual school portrait.

 

What makes “Planet Tad” so enjoyable (even for adult readers), is how Carvell uses his talents as a professional comedy writer to make the text so readable for any age group. It’s juvenile in tone without being too overly juvenile, in which many of Tad’s reactions to his situations and random reflections almost reads like a typical stand-up comedy routine (case in point: the August entries that deal with a family road trip to visit Grandma Judy in Florida; when Tad spends one day at the beach without wearing any sunscreen, he concludes that day’s entry by writing “I’m going to go ask Grandma Judy to turn up the air-conditioning, because for some reason, it suddenly feels really hot in here.”).

 

“Planet Tad” is a book that gives a funny modern spin to the angst-ridden teenage diary books that young adult readers love to read. I only hope that Carvell has plenty more frustrating misadventures for this likeable, delightfully hapless tween.

 

* * *

And if you like your written humour in quick, easy-to-read nuggets, then check out “Thank You Notes 2” (Grand Central Publishing, $15.50).

 

Written by popular NBC late night talk show host Jimmy Fallon and his “Late Night” writing staff, the book is a follow-up to the first collection of thank you notes, which became a New York Times best seller. It covers a wide variety of topics such as food, trends, pop culture, traditions, clothes, terminology and even everyday concepts, as they are tackled in brief, sarcastically funny, hand-written thank you notes (like the kind you received following a wedding or a bar mitzvah).

 

Some of my favorites include:

 

-“Thank you for computer solitaire, or as I like to call you, ‘electronic loneliness.’”

 

-“Thank you lucky rabbit’s foot. Nothing brings me more karmic luck than clutching the severed foot of an unlucky bunny.”

 

-“Thank you cough drops, for being candy with directions.”

 

“Thank You Notes 2” is a vivid reason why Jimmy Fallon is quickly becoming one of the bright spots of the late night TV scene.

 

…And you thought the art of writing good old-fashioned thank you notes was dead!

 

 

Stuart Nulman’s “Book Banter” segment is a twice-a-month feature on “The Stuph File Program” with Peter Anthony Holder, which now has almost 150,000 listeners per week.  You can either listen or download it at www.peteranthonyholder.com, Stitcher.com or subscribe to it on iTunes.  Plus you can find it at www.CyberStationUSA.com, www.KDXradio.com, True Talk Radio, streaming on www.PCJMedia.com, and over the air at World FM 88.2fm in New Zealand, Media Corp in Singapore and WSTJ, St. Johnsbury, Vermont. Stuart can be reached at bookbanter@hotmail.com.

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