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Mooses with Bazookas

by S.D. Smith
2023 / 160 pages

I liked this book so much that right after I finished it, I read it again, this time to my kids for bedtime.

Like C.S. Lewis before him, S.D. Smith is a popular Christian author who had some curious correspondence land in his lap. In Lewis’s case, it was serious stuff – he somehow got his hands on notes from a senior devil to a junior devil, instructing him on how best to tempt and devour people. Lewis later published this correspondence as The Screwtape Letters

Smith got sillier stuff, but how he got his hands on these letters is every bit as mysterious. Eleven “jug notes” from one Wally Warmbottom, author, expert, and solitary shipwrecked resident of the deserted island of Peachpitistan, somehow floated across the ocean to Smith, who lives in the land-locked state of Virginia. Smith doesn’t understand it, but he collected and has now published the notes.

As Wally Warmbottom recounts it, his small island is full of peach pits and beach pits, both of which are tripping hazards. It also has a “story cave” with tales preserved there in jugs, written by, well, who knows? The stories didn’t interest Wally, but he thought Smith could take a look, so the book includes, in addition to 11 letters from Wally, four of these short stories. What Wally missed, you will most certainly enjoy, as “Binsley Bustbocket burns the buns” and “Rocket and Elsie and Rocket” are a hoot!

This is wonderfully stupid throughout, but I think I might have most enjoyed one running gag that pops up in a couple of Wally’s letters, and also in the title story. Barry the Moose has been having quite the day: Fort Moosefort has been overrun by flame-thrower-wielding bears, Barry’s lucky stick has been burnt to ash, and a bear bullet broke off a favorite bit of his antler. So now he’s on the run, and who can this silliest of all creatures turn to when he’s in desperate need? Well, Science of course. But when Barry invokes his god, it’s always to no effect.

  • “The bears started firing rocket launchers at the cabin. ‘Trust in Science!’ I screamed…”
  • “I swiveled and saw a pack of wolves rushing at us with fully loaded shotguns. Were they locked as well? I couldn’t tell. I didn’t know if you could lock one or if you would even want to in a fight, because if it’s locked, can you still shoot it? …’Help me, Science!’ I cried as I dove behind a skinny tree.”
  • “The wolves had abandoned the chase – or at least the chase of me. Maybe that was bad news for J. J. whathisname or whathisinitials, but for me, no loaded or locked gun would be fired or shot at me for a while. May Science guide you, I thought towards J.D., finally remembering his intials…”

It’s a joke that will breeze right over the kiddos’ heads, but is there for mom and dad to appreciate. So, a silly goofy story, with some political subtext – what more could you want?

Maybe the only critique I would have is that, other than this being both hilarious and clean, I wouldn’t have had reason to suspect the author was Christian. That said, it might be hard to include God – Who appreciates silly, but is not at all silly – in such a deliberately insubstantial book.

I’ll rate this as a great one for everyone eight and up, so long as they can appreciate Dad-joke humor.

For a good taste of the silly, check out the book trailer below. And if you like this, S.D. Smith has written a less silly but more adventurous series on “rabbits with swords.” Check out our review of the first book: The Green Ember.

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Book Reviews, Teen fiction

The Green Ember

by S.D. Smith 365 pages / 2015 “Rabbits with swords” – it’s an irresistible combination, and all I had to say to get my two oldest daughters to beg me to start reading. As you might expect of a sword epic, this has a feudal feel, with rabbit lords and ladies, and noble rabbit knights and, of course, villainous wolves. This is children’s fiction, intended for preteens and early teens, so naturally, the heroes are children too. The story begins with siblings Pickett and Heather being torn from the only home they’ve known, pursued by wolves, and separated from their parents and baby brother. It’s this last detail that might warrant some caution as to how appropriate this would be for the very young. It isn’t clear if mom, dad and baby Jack are dead…but it seems like that might well be, and that could be a bit much for the very young (I’m planning on skipping over that bit when I get to it with my preschool daughters). They escape to a community that is hidden away from the ravaging wolves, and made up of exiled rabbits that once lived in the Great Wood. Their former and peaceful realm fell to the wolves after it was betrayed from within, so now these rabbits in exile look forward to a time when the Great Wood will be restored. Or as one of the wisest of these rabbits puts it, …we anticipate the Mended Wood, the Great Wood healed…. We sing about it. We paint it. We make crutches and soups and have gardens and weddings and babies. This is a place out of time. A window into the past and the future world. Though God is never mentioned, and the rabbits have no religious observance of any kind, author S.D. Smith’s Christian worldview comes through in passages like this, that parallel the way we can recall a perfect past, and look forward to a perfected future. It’s this depth that makes this more than just a rollicking tale of rabbits in peril. There are three full-size sequels – Ember Falls, Ember Rising, and Ember's End – as well as five small books that occur in the same rabbit world, but follow different characters. The Last Archer and its sequels, The First Fowler and The Archer's Cup, could serve as a good intro to the whole Green Ember series, because they stand on their own, and were a little simpler to follow for my own young listeners (ages 5-9). That's out of order, but all the kids would have to know is that the rabbits are preparing for an enemy, and most rabbits are suspicious of the Longtreader family, because one of them had been a traitor...though the rest never were. With that backstory, kids can start with this smaller, action-packed volume. The other two, The Wreck and Rise of Whitson Mariner, and The Black Star of Kingston, should be read after reading Green Ember. For those of us with voracious readers, it is quite the blessing to find a fantastic and enormous – more than 2,000 pages in all! – series like Green Ember. ...