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Two Hot Dogs with Everything    by Paul Haven order for
Two Hot Dogs with Everything
by Paul Haven
Order:  USA  Can
Random House, 2006 (2006)
* * *   Reviewed by J. A. Kaszuba Locke

Manchester E. Boddlebrooks was a self-made man in the bubblegum trade - fifty-two flavors to be exact, with a fifty-third (Krazy Kranberry) perfected but never marketed after Manchester died. Boddlebrooks was loved by all, except for his jealous brother Skidmore, who was allergic to bubblegum. Skidmore built the Twisty-Doughy Pretzel Co., Inc. and the Ball-Park Mustard Goo Conglomerate.

Manchester tasted the first of the mustard-covered pretzels, but alas the doughy morsel caught in his throat, and the bubblegum master choked to death. Thus, began 'the Curse of the Poisoned Pretzel'. (Skidmore inherited his brother's estate and baseball team.) In 1934, Manchester promised that once he made his fortune he would build a baseball stadium and found a Sluggers baseball team. True to his word, Manchester also built a huge mansion - West Bubble - with fifty-two bedrooms, each named after a bubblegum flavor such as 'Spearmint Strikeout', and 'Grand-Slam Grape'. The entrance was embellished with two towers in the shape of baseball bats, and the building was painted in 'Winning-Streak Watermelon'.

Fast-forwarding 108 years, Sluggers' fans are loyal, even though the team has not won a game since Manchester's demise. It is believed that the curse must be resolved before the Sluggers win again. Now, the Boodlebrooks mansion is to be destroyed, and eleven-year old Danny Gurkin (a dedicated Sluggers fan), his friends Molly and Lucas visit West Bubble. As they enter the creaky, run-down mansion, they're greeted by creepy, elderly caretaker Seymour Sycamore. However, there are rules to be followed according to Manchester's will - the stale popcorn strewn through the rooms and sticky cotton candy remnants in the rugs are not be removed, and entry to the study is forbidden. What could be more enticing to an eleven-year old than a room with shelves of books from floor to ceiling that is off-limits? (Besides bubblegum, Manchester was an avaricious lover of books!)

Danny Gurkin has rituals before, during, and after each Sluggers game to improve their odds of winning. Danny eats 'Two Hot Dogs With Everything' before each game - from Willie's hot dog stand, with just the right blend of mustard, onions, and sauerkraut. Soon, Danny has a date with baseball destiny, as his superstitions are credited with the Sluggers first win in 108 seasons. Danny is named the 'most valuable fan in history' - he gains media fame and the attention of oil-magnate Diamond Bob Honeysuckle, owner of the unbeaten Texas team. (Diamond Bob reminds me of the devil in the play Damned Yankees, starring Jerry Lewis).

Tim Jessell's pencil-feathered sketches meticulously exhibit facial expressions. Paul Haven's debut is a mouth-watering tale of hot dogs, bubblegum, baseball curses, miracles, and mystery. The author takes readers from the 'First to the Ninth Inning' with radio/TV baseball commentaries, great character and team names like 'Boom-Boom Bigersley' (who was kicked out of a monastery for making too much noise), and 'Oakland Ogres'. Haven's plot line promises what faith, hope, loyalty, support, and determination can accomplish - just don't forget your best friends along the way. Don't miss this book and keep your fingers and toes crossed for a sequel!

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