Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Book Review: Home Alone 2

A Fair Trade Book

Title: Home Alone 2

Author: Todd Strasser and John Hughes

Author's web site: http://www.toddstrasser.com

Illustrations: color photo insert

Publisher: Scholastic

Date: 1992

Length: 152 pages

Quote: “Buzz always promised he'd change, but by the next day he'd be the same bully again.”

During the 1990s, three of the movies America loved best were the Home Alone series, featuring brilliant child actor Macaulay Culkin as Kevin McCallister, the youngest child whose family couldn't keep from misplacing him on vacation trips. Everybody wanted to adopt little Kevin; sometimes he even seemed to feel sorry for himself, but within a few minutes he was off to try another hilarious trick to foil the many adults, from busybodies to burglars, who interfered with his jolly, prezzie-filled, fashionable yuppie-child Christmas. While many movies are based loosely on novels, and Home Alone was based on stunts, the success of these movies prompted Scholastic Press to hire popular author Todd Strasser to write “novelizations.”

In Home Alone 2, the other McCallisters go to Florida. Kevin goes to New York. He's been recording random snatches of music, TV, and family conversation, for fun, and finds ways to use his recordings to rent a room at the Plaza, see the sights...and confuse his old enemies the burglars when he runs into them again.

It definitely helps Kevin that these happen to be two of the world's most bungling burglars, at their best. It also helps the cause of good clean slapstick comedy. Anything funny that could be done with a fad toy or “gift item” to prevent an adult from doing what he was trying to do, if the movie producers couldn't work in a way to have Kevin do it to these burglars, was done by them to themselves. Before Kevin starts having fun with them, in Home Alone 2, the burglars have been bashed by toy gorilla paws. In between the predictable comedy scenes featuring burglars and bricks, greased ladders, igniting ropes, full cans of paint, and household tools, Kevin sends them sliding on plastic “pearls,” removes their facial hair with still-trendy super-glue, and, just before the burglars are taken back to prison, gets the local Pigeon Lady to cover them in birdseed. (In the movies nobody got badly hurt, but kids should not try these stunts at home...I had to say that to maintain my membership in the aunts' union.)

Scholastic's standards have slipped since they brought Clifford the Big Red Dog to the nurseries of America; sloppy editing, possibly automatic computer editing, confuses children by letting Kevin plan an “affect” and a burglar grab for a greased “wrung.” Oh well. Do children read novelizations of old movies? This book is a nostalgia trip for adults. No question: Reading this book is not as good as watching the brand-new movie, in a theatre, with a friend, was the first time around. But the book will remind you of the movie. So you'll enjoy it.

Todd Strasser has written several original books for teenagers that have received critical acclaim. His "novelizations" have not; "novelizations" don't receive critical acclaim. They do prove, for those who read laboriously and want to know that a novel will hold their interest, that Strasser knows how to tell lively, plausible, funny stories about guys.

As regular readers know: when you buy a Fair Trade Book online, you send $5 per book + $5 per package to salolianigodagewi @ yahoo.com. One copy of Home Alone 2 adds up to $10. We send 10% of this price per book, or $1, to Todd Strasser or a charity of his choice. Six copies, or one copy of Home Alone 2 and one each of five other books of the same size, would add up to $35, from which we'd send $6 to Strasser or his charity, or $1 to him and $1 to each other author, or whatever combination would be applicable.