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May 20, 2011

New Books: Earth to Clunk

There are only a handful of picture-book authors who are capable of making me laugh out loud as I'm reading their work to my sons. Lane Smith comes to mind, as does Mini Grey. And after Earth to Clunk, I'll have to add Pam Smallcomb to the list, mainly thanks to the spread pictured here.

Of course, that would be meaningless if the kids didn't cotton to the book, but that's certainly no problem here. It’s about a boy forced by his teacher to become pen pals with an alien (one of those wild premises from which everything else follows logically); annoyed, he decides to end the relationship with Clunk by sending him unpleasant gifts, from dirty socks to...his big sister. However, Clunk proves well-prepared to respond in kind, escalating the "battle" of weirdly aggressive exchanges until our hero must admit it's kind of fun. There still is the issue of Mom having noticed his sister is missing, though...

The simple story—really a lesson in not prejudging people and situations—is told in a most entertaining fashion by Smallcomb, aided by Joe Berger's appealing illustrations. (In fact, my six-year-old was inspired to re-enact the entire narrative upon finishing it, high praise indeed.) And the boy’s perfectly dry, matter-of-fact tone as he plots his next swap with Clunk, then tries to process whatever disturbing thing he's gotten in return, will have parents smiling—and, yes, laughing—along with the kids. Earth to Clunk is nothing fancy; it's just everything a charming picture book should be.

[Cover image courtesy of Dial Press. Interior photo: Whitney Webster]

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