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Tofu and T. rex    by Greg Leitich Smith order for
Tofu and T. rex
by Greg Leitich Smith
Order:  USA  Can
Little, Brown & Co., 2005 (2005)
* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Tofu and T. rex is billed as a companion to the author's previous wonderful Ninjas, Piranhas, and Galileo. If I had to summarize his writing with one phrase, it would be lateral thinking, which his young protagonists regularly use to solve the unique problems that come up in their lives, at school and at home. In an Author's Note at the back, Smith explains how his own childhood inspired this story.

This time, it focuses on two only children, and their quasi-sibling (cousins living together) squabbles. Though she was not a lead, we met Frederika Murchison-Kowalski in the previous book, whose stars (Elias, Shohei and Honoria) have walk-on parts here too. Frederika's family moved to Texas, but she was expelled from school there after a vegan protest (burning a message into a football field) got out of hand. As the story opens, she's been sent back to live with her grandfather (Opa) and attend Peshtigo School once more. Opa is one of the more engaging adults in these books, always firm but fair.

Hans-Peter (whose parents are divorced and whose fugu chef mother is on a trip to Tokyo) already lives with Opa. The pair grow on each other through regular conflicts as the book progresses. Hans-Peter works afternoons at Opa's Delicatessen Kowalski, where Freddie (a fanatical vegan) has to help also. Her coming requires the removal of Hans-Peter's T. rex model and other dinosaur collectibles to the basement, which does not make him a happy camper. But he wants to attend Peshtigo high school (for its paleontology program) and hopes for pointers from Freddie on its 'legendary, difficult and mysterious' admissions process.

They annoy each other, and play mean tricks, but over time, get a little in each other's skin and develop some sympathy for the other's perspective. When Freddie is suspected unjustly of another arson, it's Hans-Peter who takes a personal risk to reveal the truth. And they work together on a recipe (included) for 'Sushi Kielbasa'. Tofu and T. rex is a delightful read for all ages.

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