Review written by Jonathan Lavallee.
The Snarkout Boys and the Baconburg Horror is a fun, silly book that deals with two boys that sneak out of their house at night to watch the late night double feature at The Snark. They occasionally meet up with their friend Rat—a teenaged girl with a penchant for cars and James Dean—when she’s Snarking herself. Usually that’s about all that happens.
However, this time there’s a monster on the loose in Baconburg, and Walter, Winston, and Rat find themselves in the middle of all the mysterious happenings that involve the monster, their family, their friends, and a wide cast of characters that range from the silly to the sillier. It’s hard to explain the plot, mainly because the story tends to go all over the place like many other Pinkwater books do. Not that it makes it any less enjoyable—it’s part of the fun!
This book is a riot, but it’s even funnier when you read it out loud. There are a ton of characters, and they all have their own personal style. From K.E. Kellmen P.H, the Phantomologist, and his mother Lydia Lazonga to the evil mastermind Nussbaum and his army of brainwashed orangutans, to the world’s greatest detective and his doctor associate, they are all so much fun to bring to life you do get a really good sense that Pinkwater is far more an oral storyteller than a story writer. The chapters are short, and there are odd commercials and other dialogue pieces that would best be done with an ensemble cast. It’s okay, though—it fits with the quick chapters and quirky style throughout the book.
SPOILER ALERT: Things you might want to know before suggesting this to your kid
It’s a Sequel
This book is the second Snarkout Boys book, the first being The Snarkout Boys and the Avocado of Death. However, the book does a good job of making sure that you have a good sense of the characters so the first book isn’t mandatory, even though it does get referenced repeatedly in The Baconburg Horror. Daniel Pinkwater takes enough time to make sure that you understand the characters—and their mixed up relationships—well enough that you never feel lost if you haven’t read The Avocado of Death.
Pinkwater has a particular brand of humour, he isn’t afraid to make fun of the things from his childhood so there are a lot of Slavic sounding names in the book. They eat Borglenouskies and deal with the incendiary tendencies of small Romanian villages and drive thru because of the nefarious Nussbaum family.
It’s a Bit Dated
The age of the book sometimes shows with a few of the references to Japanese languages or the Pizza robot which can be a bit jarring in 2012.
Families in this book are diverse in their extreme dysfunction. It’s a far more lighthearted version of the Roald Dahl style of family, and each family has their own special “problem.” Walter’s parents are boring and can only talk about avocados. Rat’s family is well off, but you never see anything of them.
Now this is all meant to be funny, so no one is horrible to each other. They’re just all extreme in what they do wrong.
Younger children will really enjoy the book, in particular the poetry of Jonathan Quicksilver. It’s a good lead in for humour, as well as a chance to talk about what actual poetry is like. It’s also a great book to read out loud, you can be as pretentious as you want and the kids will continue to laugh their heads off. Older kids might get a kick out of it, but it’s aimed mostly at 10 – 12 year olds.
The Snarkout Boys and the Baconburg Horror by Daniel Pinkwater
Published in 1984 by Simon and Schuster
Sequel to The Snarkout Boys and the Avocado of Death (part of the 5 Novels anthology)
Part of the 4 Fantastic Novels anthology
Read out loud
Note: this book is currently out of print except as part of the 4 Fantastic Novels anthology or as an audio book.