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*Matilda's Humdinger* by Lynn Downey
Also illustrated by Tim Bowers:

Princess Pig
Matilda's Humdinger
by Lynn Downey
Ages 4-8 40 pages Knopf October 2006 Hardcover    

At Burt’s Diner, Goose, Frog, and Fox wait to be served. Goose even has a napkin tied around his neck in anticipation. A thirsty customer needs a coffee refill, dishes need to be cleared from the counter, and spills need to be wiped up. Matilda the waitress is supposed to be attending to all the customers in Burt’s Diner - and she does, but with stories. Matilda serves up her romance stories, her cowboy Westerns, and her thrilling mysteries in installments to Burt’s customers.

Despite the mixed-up food orders and general disorder at Burt’s Diner, Matilda’s stories keep the customers coming back. Sitting or standing on the countertop, she brings her latest stories to life for a big audience of hungry customers. It’s Mr. Ralph Q. Yuckley who wants to put a stop to this countertop storytelling and other health code violations. Burt and Matilda are given just two weeks to change Burt’s Diner into a “proper food-service organization.”

Donning a hairnet and an upright nametag, Matilda starts becoming the perfect waitress and stops writing stories. She manages to carry on in this manner until Ralph Q. Yuckley walks back into the diner two weeks later. A story comes to her mind, and luckily so, because her new story curtails a disaster in the making!

After finding a new use for her hairnet and nametag, Matilda is ready again to serve hot chili to her faithful customers, but she’ll need an extra bowl. This diner chili is a good accompaniment to Matilda’s newest stories, and a great inspiration for Burt.

Nothing is wasted in this book; each space is filled with wonderful text and great illustrations (even the inside front and back cover pages are fun to see). The red-checked tablecloth and black and white checkered floor really give the diner a small-town community atmosphere. And although Matilda is the main character in this book, each animal character is given the same amount of detail and time to bring out their own personalities and uniqueness. Some animal customers wear only a cowboy hat, while others are fully attired in jacket and tie, sweaters and pants (my favorite is the moose in red flannel). Furthermore, Matilda’s story narrations are so well executed that one of them is able to scare “ the bejeebers outta everybody.” But mostly they entertain and keep the customers happy. Readers will notice Matilda’s shadows even turn into pirates and cowboys when she’s in story mode.

Author Lynn Downey has much in common with Matilda when it comes to the story train they both jump on. Lynn Downey’s other books include The Flea's Sneeze and Most Loved Monster. Illustrator Tim Bowers catches a similar train too, and his illustrations can be found in over twenty books, including The Bravest of the Brave.

This is a very satisfying read. Burt starts out in the food business, but with the help of Matilda and a change of heart by Ralph Q. Yuckley, he can expand into a new business endeavor.

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  Tanya Boudreau/2007 for curled up with a good kid's book  

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