Arthur and his friends hope to outwit a tyrant at a school assembly
Arthur’s April Fool (An Arthur Adventure). By Marc Brown. Little, Brown, 32 pp., $6.99, paperback. Ages 4–8.
By Janice Harayda
Wax lips. Rubber spiders. Sneezing powder. Remember how great April Fool’s Day used to be before the schools banned everything that was actually fun?
If you don’t, Marc Brown will remind you of it in this early installment in his picture-book series about Arthur, a friendly aardvark who wears owlish James Joyce glasses and dresses like the late Arthur Schlesinger, Jr. In Arthur’s April Fool, Arthur gets the last laugh on Binky Barnes, the school bully, at an April Fool’s Day assembly and shares the fun with the anthropomorphic animals from other species who form his circle of friends.
Brown’s cartoonish art tweaks the artifacts of Sputnik-era world that his characters inhabit — bunny slippers, Tinker Toys, chocolate cream pie, a red rotary telephone and a book called How to Win Friends and Influence People (written by “B. Peel,” a banana). And it’s too late to protest that his audience won’t get the jokes: Arthur got a show on PBS more than a decade ago and, in 2002, made TV Guide’s list of “the 50 greatest cartoon characters of all time.”
Best line/picture: Arthur’s sister, D.W., asks after Binky Barnes threatens to pulverize her brother: “After you get pulverized, can I have you room?”
Worst line/picture: The How to Win Friends and Influence People joke would have been funnier if Brown hadn’t used the real title of the book but had given it a slight twist the way he gives the name of its author, Norman Vincent Peale, a twist.
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© 2008 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.