December 21, 2006


Bad Boys. By Margie Palatini. Illustrated by Henry Cole. Katherine Tegen/HarperTrophy. $6.99.

Bad Boys Get Cookie. By Margie Palatini. Illustrated by Henry Cole. Katherine Tegen/HarperCollins. $16.99.

     Take the Big Bad Wolf of nursery-rhyme fame, double him to TWO Big Bad Wolves, and find ways to trip up every single evil plan the Bad Boys devise – and you have the formula for Margie Palatini’s two Bad Boys books.  But there’s nothing formulaic in the telling here, and kids in the target age range of 4-7 will likely let out wolfish howls of laughter at the plots the Bad Boys hatch and the way their plans are inevitably foiled.

     The first Bad Boys, originally published in 2003 and now available in paperback, starts with the wolves on the run from Red Riding Hood and the Three Little Pigs.  Willy and Wally Wolf congratulate themselves on their escape and recite their mantra: “We’re bad.  We’re really, really bad.”  But the thing is that they are bad at being bad, and that’s why the book is so much fun.  Willy and Wally need a way to hide out (and find something edible) while various good-guy characters are looking for them, and they get an idea when they spot some well-dressed sheep nearby (that is, sheep wearing dresses and hats and carrying pocketbooks – Henry Cole’s illustrations are a hoot).  So the wolves become Willimina and Wallanda, “two wolves in sheep’s clothing.”  They straighten their stockings, give themselves “a primp and poof,” powder their noses and walk right up to their would-be dinner.  The disguises work, too…well, almost.  One of the sheep, smarter than the others, realizes something is amiss and comes up with an entirely appropriate way to send the bad-boy would-be sheep back into hiding.  It’s “shear” brilliance – and the picture of the Bad Boys running away is absolutely hilarious.  But of course they’ll be back.

     And they are, in Bad Boys Get Cookie, in which Willy and Wally find themselves in the middle of that story about the gingerbread man who runs away from the baker, saying, “You can run and run as fast as you can – you can’t catch me: I’m the gingerbread man.”  Except that that’s not what the escapee says when the Bad Boys run after him.  Instead, he calls out, “Na-na-ni-na-na! Lookee! Lookee! You can’t get me. I’m one smart cookie!”  Of course, the Bad Boys – motivated, as usual, by hunger – set all sorts of clever traps for the runaway, but of course all the traps fail (the Bad Boys’ disguise as Hansel and Gretel flops especially hilariously).  The cookie gets away from the wolves – but, just as in the original gingerbread-man story, runs into trouble when trying to cross a river on top of what he thinks is a log.  “I believe that little crumb is not as smart as he thinks he is,” remarks Willy.  True, true.  But the cookie’s disappearance still leaves the Bad Boys without anything to satisfy their appetites, until…but that would be giving away the book’s ending.  Suffice it to say that the conclusion is as delicious as the rest of the book – indeed, as yummy as the whole premise.  These Bad Boys are very good indeed.

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