Book: Dirtball Pete
Author: Eileen Brennan
Age Range: 4-8
Dirtball Pete, written and illustrated by Eileen Brennan, is a lot of fun. Pete is a young boy who tends to be very, very dirty. When the time comes for him to participate in THE FIFTY STATES AND WHY THEY'RE GREAT! day at school, his mother undertakes a Herculean effort to clean him up. However, a ferret, a muddy dog, and an errant piece of paper all threaten Pete's success. In the end, Pete stays true to himself, and teaches his mother a tiny lesson about appearances not being everything.
Pete is a little charmer. While he is clearly filthy (for most of the book), he has bright eyes, a crooked smile, and a jaunty stance. I found him wholly likable. Kids will, too. Just look at that cover image. Can you resist him?
Eileen Brennan's style is irreverent and breezy (and keeps the book from feeling at all message-y, though there is a message for parents). The book begins:
"Dirtball Pete looked like something the cat dragged in.
It was a fact."
Several other "facts" come to light throughout the story. I also liked the scene in which Jack's dog unwittingly threatens Pete's pristine state:
"Jack loved his buddy Dirtball Pete. But somehow, every time he tried to show him that, something broke."
(Here something broke is printed in crooked, broken letters)
In what is perhaps a nod to Charlie Brown, Pete's mother and Aunt Marion are frequently shown from the back, or from the waist down. They are visually out of the picture, even when they are driving the action. This is Pete's story. And it's a good one.
In short, Dirtball Pete is going on my "keep" shelf, to re-read with Baby Bookworm as she gets older. It's also going on my mental list of gift books for young boys. Recommended, especially for boys in early elementary school.
Publisher: Random House Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: August 2010
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher
© 2011 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. All Amazon links in this post are affiliate links, and may result in my receiving a small commission on purchases (with no additional cost to you).