June 23, 2011


How to Get a Job…by Me, the Boss. By Sally Lloyd-Jones. Illustrated by Sue Heap. Schwartz & Wade. $17.99.

Pinkadoodles. By Victoria Kann. Harper. $12.99.

The Sleepless Little Vampire. By Richard Egielski. Arthur A. Levine/Scholastic. $16.99.

Dear Dumb Diary #12: Me! (Just Like You, Only Better). By Jim Benton. Scholastic. $5.99.

     It doesn’t get more charming than the series by Sally Lloyd-Jones and Sue Heap that includes How to Be a Baby…by Me, the Big Sister and How to Get Married…by Me, the Bride – and, now, How to Get a Job…by Me, the Boss. There is just enough truth in the writing to give the books a real-world connection, and just enough exaggeration to make them both fun and funny. And the illustrations have just enough of everything: humor, cuteness, appropriateness for the story, and appropriateness for the targeted age group (4-8). How to Get a Job features a girl narrator explaining that, to get a job, “you need to decide what you want to be when you grow up,” and that “a good job is something you love.” Straightforward, yes, but not in the specifics: “It’s not suitable to be a World-Famous Chef if you can’t even cook cereal. …Or a Spy if you don’t know any good hiding places and you just sit there and everyone can see you.” As for how jobs work, “If you are a Magician first you have to find someone you can cut in half who won’t mind. Then you call them ‘My Lovely Assistant’ and do Friendly Smiling at them so they won’t run away.” Other jobs “explained” here are doctor, teacher, mommy or daddy, and more. The interview process is discussed (don’t bring your gerbils), along with the importance of behaving well “except if you’re getting a job as a Horrible Monster, and then you HAVE to be HORRIBLE.” The illustrations follow the words and expand on them – that monster is delightfully non-scary, and the persistent penguin that pops up throughout the book is just adorable. In fact, parents who have any job at all – including the job of being parents – are likely to enjoy this book just as much as their kids do.

     A delightful little girl of another sort – Pinkalicious – is the star of Pinkadoodles, a coloring book with every page done in pink outlines. Here is a chance for Pinkalicious fans to frost and decorate pink cupcakes (which turned Pinkalicious pink in the first of Victoria Kann’s books about her), to draw “what Pinkalicious looks like when she’s angry that she’s not allowed to eat another cupcake,” to imagine what “a Pinkadoodle breed of dog” would look like, and to make up words that start with “pink” to go with ones such as Pinkerrific and Pinkatastic. Pinkalicious fans can draw themselves on a pink playground slide, list three foods they would never eat, imagine the contents of Pinkalicious’ pink purse, draw hats for Mrs. Pinkerton and a mustache and beard for Mr. Pinkerton, and generally explore their artistic interests in the pinkest of contexts. Designed, of course, only for fans of the whole Pinkalicious concept, Pinkadoodles will give those fans something to do beyond rereading pink adventures and dressing up as pinkly as possible.

     Fans of things that are creepy, but not too creepy, will have a wonderful time with Richard Egielski’s amusing The Sleepless Little Vampire. This is the simple story of a little vampire who cannot sleep despite having his Frankenstein’s-monster doll, and who just cannot figure out why he isn’t able to rest. Could the problem be the spitting spider, the crawling cockroaches, the clacking skeletons? Each possibility comes with its own sound effects, from “Flappity! Flap!” for bats to “Awhoo! Awhoo!” for a werewolf. And each creature, or group of creatures, is drawn to be more funny than scary (the skeletons smile, for example, and so does the blue-faced witch riding by on her broomstick). The little vampire simply cannot figure out which of these creatures, or what combination of them, might be preventing him from sleeping. But then he does figure it out, in an amusing twist that leaves him, at the end, surrounded by all the many supernatural denizens of his neighborhood as he yawns and drifts peacefully off to rest, his protruding canines showing clearly as he smiles…well….beatifically. There is nothing at all threatening about this little vampire or any of the other creatures here. There is, however, a great deal that is amusingly offbeat.

     “Amusingly offbeat” is a pretty good description of several books in the Dear Dumb Diary series by Jim Benton – including the 12th and most recent, whose title really sums up diarist Jamie Kelly’s attitude throughout. Me! (Just Like You, Only Better) is just what Jamie thinks of herself and her musings – unrealistically, perhaps, but rarely in any less-than-amusing way. The plot here revolves around Jamie’s upcoming birthday, whom to invite and disinvite to her party, and which band’s music to like and which not to like. This last point has Jamie thinking about her father’s musical taste: “Since he is very, very old, he only likes a certain category of song – songs that he can sing along to while he bangs on the steering wheel to inform other drivers that…he has decided to embarrass his daughter to death, and he is really prepared to throw his neck out of joint in order to do it.” (The accompanying illustration is one of Jamie’s best.) Jamie is determined to find a band that she and only she likes, and keeps getting frustrated when other kids at Mackerel Middle School turn out to like the same ones she does. While coping with this, she creates illustrations to go along with such comments as, “I became aware of a sound you would imagine a rhinoceros might make if you dragged it out of a sewer by its tail.” Eventually, as in all the Dear Dumb Diary books, everything becomes a complete mix-up, and nothing goes the way Jamie wants or expects it to, but then it’s all okay, because the mix-up gets mixed up – and that leads everything to be sorted out, and Jamie gets to have a great birthday and even go to a concert with a band that she actually wants to see and hear. Benton manages to wrap these books up neatly, even adorably, without making them seem overly sentimental – a neat trick if you can do it, and Benton usually can; and in this case he certainly does.

No comments:

Post a Comment