Crazy in Poughkeepsie

Crazy in Poughkeepsie
Age Range
Release Date
April 12, 2022
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Mick is a good kid, but maybe he can use just a little guidance. But it’s unclear who will be guiding whom, because Mick’s brother came home from Tibet with the self-proclaimed Guru Lumpo Smythe-Finkel and his dog Lhasa―and then promptly settled both of them in Mick’s bedroom.

The thing about this kind of guru is that he doesn’t seem to know exactly what he’s trying to do. He sure does seem to be hungry, though.

So Mick agrees to something like a quest, roaming the suburbs with the oddest group of misfits: Lumpo and Lhasa; graffiti-fanatic Verne; and Verne’s unusual friend Molly. Molly is a Dwergish girl―don’t worry if you don’t know what that is yet―and she seems to be going off the rails a bit.

Along the way, the gang will get invited to a rollicking ghost party, consult a very strange little king, and actually discover the truth about Heaven. Or a version of the truth anyway, because in a Daniel Pinkwater tale, the truth is never the slightest bit like what you’re expecting.

Editor review

1 review
New book from a classic humorist
Overall rating
Plot/Characters/Writing Style
Illustrations/Photos (if applicable)
After a brief stint in summer camp, Mick returns home to find that his older brother, Maurice (that's MAW- riss) has returned from his trip to India with Guru Lumpo Smythe-Finkel and his dog, Kali, who will be sharing Mick's room. Maurice has quickly tired of spiritual guidance, and pawns his guru off on his younger brother, and the two are soon off having adventures. They spend time wandering around the town, begging for food, play video games, and soon run into Mick's friend from camp, Vern Chuckoff, and his new friend, Molly, the main character in Adventures of a Dwergish Girl (Neddie & Friends #4)(2020). The two are "crazy" and " make noise at night in residentail neighborhoods, drink wine at night and.. [are] getting into stealing porch furniture." Vern has been spray painting slogans on the many abandoned factories around Poughkeepsie, and getting stale doughnuts from Dunk'n Dunk. Before long, the Guru gives Mick a flute, and suggests he learn to play it, since the group gets tangled up with a ghost from one of the factories who likes the flute. Since the ghost is of a giant whale names Luna, this sounds like a good idea. They also try to encourage people to save the planet by changing the messages in fortune cookies, look for a blue circus wagon in which they later travel around to places like Romany Bill's Resort, Campground, Hobo Jungle and Junkyard before settling Luna into her destination and getting on with their lives.
Good Points
I'm not sure if Pinkwater books are really plot dependent; the point seems to be silly event after silly event, interspersed with odd characters and ridiculous anecdotes. You could say that books like The Hoboken Chicken Emergency (1977) or The Snarkout Boys and the Avocado of Death (1982) were the Wimpy Kid books of a previous generation in this regard, although Pinkwater stays true to his stream-of-consciousness, wacky style. Mick's interactions with Guru Lumpo Smythe-Finkel, Vern Chuckoff, and the Dwergish Molly (whose background is not well explained, but merely hinted at) are the primary focus of this unusual adventure.

Pinkwater, at 80, remains steadfast in his style, and even manages to give a vintage flair to most of the book. The car of choice is 1958 Buick Limited Convertible handed down from a grandfather, there's a Gooble Gobble Country Kitchen, and a shout out to circuses, which I suspect Pinkwater wanted to feature more prominently in the book, but instead acknowledges that these are more of a relic of the past.

Aaron Renier does a great job at capturing the feel of Pinkwater's (and later his wife Jill's) illustrations; sort of like a twelve year old was given a Flair pen and a pile of Mad magazines, and told to illustrate the book while sitting on a plaid couch in a basement rec room with incense burning. There is a lot of humorous detail in the pictures, and a retro feel to the clothing and settings that goes along quite well with Pinkwater's writing.

The new millienium has brought a lot of changes in middle grade literature, with more books tending to harken back to the 1950s in their level of didactism about all manner of issues, and fewer books exhibiting a good sense of humor and lightheatedness. Pinkwater is the pastmaster of the goofy, and stays true to form with his newest adventure.
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