Author Beth Vrabel’s lovable dog Jasper wrote a guest blog post for us earlier this year. Now that he’s had a chance to read Beth’s newest novel, A Blind Guide to Normal, he’s back with another guest post! Check out his thoughts below!
Jasper the Dog is Betrayed, Again
Not only does my human’s latest book have guinea pigs on the cover—guinea pigs!—the story also features a…
No, I can’t bring myself to say it.
But I must.
It features a cat.
Not just any cat, either, as despicable as that might be. No, it features a cat based on one she actually once knew. Her latest book, A Blind Guide to Normal, includes a cat named General MacCathur II. And it’s based on Goldie, a cat her grandparents had when she was a pup (or whatever humans call puppy versions of themselves).
Goldie even gets a shout out on the dedication page, which I know because I heard the Littlest Human ask why it wasn’t dedicated to him.
Great question, Littlest Human, but you got the dedication in my human’s book Pack of Dorks. Did I? No, of course not. I’ve simply dedicated my life to keeping her warm and cozy while she writes, defending her from Vacuum, adding my personal musk to our favorite chair and bringing her the toy she so loves to throw again and again.
Yet I’ve never gotten a dedication. The closest acknowledgment to my influence is the golden version of me on the cover of her book A Blind Guide to Stinkville. She told me that Tooter, the dog in that book, is based on me, but her description of him (a fat, farting dog who goes where he shouldn’t) sounds pretty far off from me.
Yet this Goldie gets a whole dedication.
Okay. If she likes cats, fine.
I, Jasper the Dog, will become a cat.
I consult with Winn-Dixie and Pippin the Guinea Pigs, who lived in a pet store among other animals, including cats, when they were guinea piglets.
“What do you know about cats?” I ask.
“They’re horrid,” they squeak.
“That’s what you say about humans.”
“Yes,” they squeak.
“Yes.” Pippin scurries into their hut and away from me. Winn-Dixie darts in and flips the hut. Pippin screeches and chases Winn-Dixie. They do this all day.
“But what do cats do?” I call above their screeches. “How do they cat?”
The pigs pause. Winn-Dixie says, “They sit high on top of things.”
Pippin adds, “Aloof! They’re aloof!”
Winn-Dixie pipes in. “They have beautiful singing voices!”
“They have no need for the humans. They can take ’em or leave ’em,” Pippin adds.
“Take,” I say.
“No, take ’em or leave ’em,” Winn-Dixie says. “Both.”
“I choose take. I’ll take humans. Humans are my favorite.”
The pigs sigh. “Cats are cats’ favorite,” Winn-Dixie says, and resumes their chase.
I’m sure the pigs are wrong. Humans are always favorite. Even so, I can do this, I tell myself. I can cat.
I assume my position atop my human’s favorite chair.
“Get down, you silly pup,” she says. “You are not a cat.”
Not yet, Human.
Two hours later, I’ve become wedged between the cushion and the chair and cannot move. I am, however, extremely comfortable.
Twenty minutes later, my human yells, “What have you done to my chair? You’re ruining the cushion!” When she notices that I’m stuck, she pulls me free and gives me some pepperoni. Do cats get pepperoni?
This thought troubles me.
I will resume efforts tomorrow.
I shall be aloof.
I’m going aloof all the way over here, away from the Littlest Human and his even littler friend, away from the Monopoly game and all of its interestingly smelling pieces and their deliciously smelly toes.
Hold up. They’re leaving the game! They’re going to the OUTSIDE! I love that place! I love The Outside!
We’re going to Play!
This is awesome! This is fantastic!
I chase leaves and shred them to bits! I bounce through snow and make it splash and splash! I chase the basketball!
This is… not what cats do.
I’ll try again tomorrow.
I try this singing of which the guinea pigs have spoken.
The humans tell me to Be Quiet and Go Lay Down.
I sing louder.
The humans say Stop It and No.
Soon after, my human leaves for a long time. I am not worried. Take ‘em or leave ‘em.
I’ll just sit here on top of her chair and look out the window.
I’ll take a small nap. I’m sure she’ll be here when I wake up.
She’s still not here! I am not long for this world without her!
I run from room to room to make sure she isn’t just hiding. I even jump up onto her bed, which is a No, Jasper!, and pull back the blankets but no human! I roll around a little on her pillow, just to remember her scent.
I hear the door open but I’m too exhausted from my hunt to find her.
“What are you doing on the bed, Jasper the Dog?” she asks.
I just roll over.
I’m getting better at catting.
I smell pupcakes! Is today birthday?
Every other month or so, it’s my birthday. Poor Little Humans only have one birthday a year. I don’t think the big humans have any birthdays. But Jasper the Dog? Seven birthdays every year.
I bet today is birthday.
Troubling thought: Do cats have birthdays?
I run to the kitchen. The Little Human asks, “Can I have one of the cupcakes?”
My human says no. “These are for the party we’re going to later.”
I wait for my pupcake and my pupcake hat and my birthday song. The little human puts dog food in my bowl. Dog food? The injustice!
The biggest human comes home and puts a box on the table. “I’ve got the hot wings!” he says.
Then all the humans shuffle on coats and grab bags—including the cupcakes—and leave without Jasper the Dog.
But then I smell something even better than pupcakes. Hot wings.
“Don’t you eat those!” Winn-Dixie the Guinea Pig squeaks. “Cats don’t eat hot wings.”
I sniff. Somehow I find myself up on a chair.
I sniff again. Somehow my nose has opened the box. I’ll just grab one little hot wing. Nom, nom, nom.
The garage door is opening! My human runs inside!
I jump from the chair!
I hide behind the couch as my human opens the lid of the box.
“Jasper!” my human yells. “Why are six hot wings missing?”
He calls me Bad Dog. He never calls me Bad Dog.
I am worse than Bad Dog. I am also Bad Cat.
And my belly is on fire.
The vet says dogs aren’t supposed to eat hot wings.
He gives me medicine.
The only perk is my humans are now properly interested in the gifts I leave for them in the yard.
My human claps for me to sit with her on her chair.
I jump up and think about jumping further to sit above her head like a proper cat.
Instead, I sit across her lap. She puts away her laptop and rubs my ears and pats my belly. “Silly, pup. You know you might be the best dog ever?” she says. “Love you so much.”
I sigh and press my head against her shoulder. Best Dog Ever.
A Blind Guide to Normal by Beth Vrabel
Richie “Ryder” Raymond has a gift. He can find the punchline in any situation, even in his limited vision and prosthetic eye. During the past year at Addison School for the Blind, Ryder’s quick wit earned the respect and friendship of his classmates. Heading to mainstream, or “normal,” school for eighth grade is going to be awesome.
After all, what’s not to like? At Addison, Ryder was everyone’s favorite person. He could make anyone laugh, especially his best friend Alice. So long as he can be first to make all of the one-eyed jokes, Ryder is sure he’ll fit in just as quick at Papuaville Middle School, home of the Fighting Guinea Pigs. But Alice warns him fitting in might not be as easy as he thinks.
Turns out, Alice was right. In just the first hour of “normal” school, Ryder is attacked by General MacCathur II (aka, Gramps’s cat), causes his bio teacher to pass out cold, makes an enemy out town hero Max, and falls for Jocelyn, the fierce girl next door who happens to be Max’s girlfriend. On top of that, Ryder struggles to hold onto his dignity in the face of students’ pity and Gramps’s non-stop practical jokes.
Ryder quickly sees the only thing worse than explaining a joke is being the punchline. But with help from his stuck-in-the-70s Gramps and encouragement from Alice, Ryder finds the strength to not only fight back, but to make peace.
A Blind Guide to Stinkville by Beth Vrabel
Before Stinkville, Alice didn’t think albinism—or the blindness that goes with it—was a big deal. Sure, she uses a magnifier to read books. And a cane keeps her from bruising her hips on tables. Putting on sunscreen and always wearing a hat are just part of life. But life has always been like this for Alice. Until Stinkville.
For the first time in her life, Alice feels different—like she’s at a disadvantage. Back in her old neighborhood in Seattle, everyone knew Alice, and Alice knew her way around. In Stinkville, Alice finds herself floundering—she can’t even get to the library on her own. But when her parents start looking into schools for the blind, Alice takes a stand. She’s going to show them—and herself—that blindness is just a part of who she is, not all that she can be. To prove it, Alice enters the Stinkville Success Stories essay contest. No one, not even her new friend Kerica, believes she can scout out her new town’s stories and write the essay by herself. The funny thing is, as Alice confronts her own blindness, everyone else seems to see her for the first time.
Pack of Dorks by Beth Vrabel
Lucy knows that kissing Tom Lemmings behind the ball shed will make her a legend. But she doesn’t count on that quick clap of lips propelling her from coolest to lamest fourth grader overnight. Suddenly Lucy finds herself trapped in Dorkdom, where a diamond ring turns your finger green, where the boy you kiss hates you three days later, where your best friend laughs as you cry, where parents seem to stop liking you, and where baby sisters are born different.
Now Lucy has a choice: she can be like her former best friend, Becky, who would do anything to claim her seat at the cafeteria’s cool table, or she can pull up a chair beside the dorks. But can she really be seen with the likes of dinosaur-obsessed Sheldon and nose-picking April? And how will she survive doing a research project on wolves with the super-quiet Sam Righter? Lucy’s about to find out what being a dork is really about—and it might just surprise her.
Camp Dork by Beth Vrabel
Lucy and her pack are back, in this sequel to Beth Vrabel’s heartwarming and humorous debut, Pack of Dorks. Sheldon convinces Lucy, Sam, April, and Amanda to join him at Camp Paleo. Like cavemen, they’re going to have to make do without air-conditioning, and they’ll dig for fossils during the day. And Grandma’s coming too—as lunch lady for the camp next door.
But Sam backs out at the last minute to attend a gymnastics camp instead. Lucy wonders why she misses him so much—it’s not like he’s her boyfriend. And why does the word “boyfriend” make her blush? She needs a distraction.
Enter Mr. Bosserman, the grouchy camp leader who won’t budge on the caveman aspect of the camp. The old man needs some softening up, and Lucy knows just the person for the job: Grandma.
One successful match made, Lucy starts to see potential lovebirds everywhere. But when the wrong campers pair up, the pack falls apart, all under the watchful eye of a secret blogger who’s been writing about the camp’s activities. Even worse? A thief is targeting everyone but Lucy, setting her up to look guilty. Soon Lucy finds herself alone, left to fix the messes she’s made. If she fails, the pack may be splintered for good.