June 13, 2013
(++++) CAPTIVATING CHARACTERS
The Dinosaur Tooth Fairy. By Martha Brockenbrough. Illustrated by Israel Sanchez. Arthur A. Levine/Scholastic. $16.99.
Fly Guy #13: Fly Guy and the Frankenfly. By Tedd Arnold. Cartwheel Books/Scholastic. $6.99.
Junie B.’s Essential Survival Guide to School. By Barbara Park. Random House. $12.99.
Pity the poor Dinosaur Tooth Fairy. The last of her kind, she has long outlived the creatures whose baby teeth (including some really big baby teeth) she used to collect. She does still have her collection, which she polishes and cares for way, way in the back of a museum, but she has not had a tooth to add to it in – well, in millennia. So imagine how excited she gets when a little girl who is visiting the museum has a very, very loose tooth that pops out right there! The Dinosaur Tooth Fairy simply must have that tooth, even if that means confronting modern creatures that she finds scarier than the dinosaurs she remembers: a “giant, roaring monster” with “swoopy lashes” (a bus with big windshield wipers), for example, and “a beast who has splendid fangs of his own and a great deal of drool” (a dog). Martha Brockenbrough adds to the frantic pace of The Dinosaur Tooth Fairy by giving the title character a rival: the modern, human tooth fairy, first spotted in disguise in the museum but soon seen chasing after the same little girl’s tooth that the Dinosaur Tooth Fairy craves. There are misunderstandings and confusions aplenty here as the two tooth fairies both show up at the girl’s home, and Israel Sanchez’ illustrations keep the amusement level of the story high at all times – for instance, check the expression on the upside-down hamster (“the small furry mammal”) dumped unceremoniously out of his cage as the Dinosaur Tooth Fairy searches for the little girl’s tooth. Eventually, the two tooth fairies meet, arrange an exchange that pleases both of them, and become friends, while readers will see that the still-sleeping girl is going to wake up not only to money under her pillow but also to a nice selection of bones (she can always give them to the dog!). Cute characters and an amusingly offbeat story combine to make The Dinosaur Tooth Fairy a tasty treat of a book.
There is nothing as big as a dinosaur in Tedd Arnold’s 13th Fly Guy book, Fly Guy and the Frankenfly. There is, however, a monster – which Fly Guy’s boy, Buzz, dreams that Fly Guy has created after the two friends have spent the evening (actually the proverbial “dark and stormy night”) playing Frankenstein-related games. Buzz has made Frankenstein-monster puzzles, costumes and a drawing, but when he is ready for bed, Fly Guy proclaims himself “bizzy” and does not go to sleep. In his dreams, Buzz realizes that Fly Guy is making a Frankenfly monster – which turns out to be momentarily scary but not really dangerous. Then, in the morning, Buzz learns what Fly Guy was really making: a “Buzz iz bezt frienz” picture. So everything ends as happily as ever in the latest entry in a consistently silly series that has more warmth than you might expect for the ongoing story of a boy and his fly (or a fly and his boy).
Speaking of ongoing stories with unforgettable central characters, the adventures of Junie B. Jones show no sign of letting up, and that includes her school adventures now that she has progressed all the way to first grade. The new edition of Junie B.’s Essential Survival Guide to School is unusual in that this hardcover book has come out after the paperback (which was in spiral-bound format) rather than before. The book itself is the same as it was when first published in 2009, being an informational work rather than a school adventure – but bubbling over with typical Junie B. enthusiasm: “I have learned a jillion helpful hints that will help you SURVIVE at school. …I am going to pass this information on to Y-O-U!!! (Right in this EXACT BOOK, I mean!) I am a GEM for doing this.” There are sections here that include “Getting Started,” “Getting There” and “Getting Bossed Around (Some of the bossy bosses who will boss you.)” The “boss” section includes not only the principal but also the janitor (“boss of keys”), the nurse (“boss of sick kids”), teachers, and even “the boss of cookies.” Not surprisingly, there is a section called “Getting in Trouble,” that being a subject in which Junie B. is an expert; but she is also pretty good at this section’s subtitle: “Plus how to stay out of it!” Here you will find “Names you should not call people – probably” and “Dumb school rules” and “More rules I didn’t know about until I actually got notes sent home.” Junie B.’s personality comes through clearly on every page of the book, and Barbara Park manages to use her character’s unending enthusiasm to communicate some important school-related advice (“Do NOT NOT NOT NOT NOT peek at your neighbor’s test paper”), in part by juxtaposing it with silliness (“Do NOT eat a ham sandwich during science. [This (rule) seems unreasonable to me.]”). It would be stretching things to say that Junie B.’s Essential Survival Guide to School is actually essential for a good school experience. But for all Junie B. fans, it will be a must-have – not only for reading in its new hardcover format but also for drawing on the pages where Junie B. happily invites reader participation.