Book: Bug Blonsky and His Very Long List of Don'ts
Author: E. S. Redmond
Age Range: 6-9
Bug Blonsky and His Very Long List of Don'ts is a full-color early chapter book by E. S. Redmond about a boy who is the ultimate annoying little brother. Benjamin is called Bug by all, either because he is super-wiggly like a bug or because he is super-annoying like a bug, depending on who you ask. He is the bane of his older sister Winnie's existence. The book consists of Bug's list of things not to do, learned from a series of painfully bad choices. For example:
"#19 DON'T tell Dylan Farkler that Winnie wrote his name with hearts all around it in her diary.
Because if you do, Dylan will look like someone just punched him hard in the stomach and his best friend, Billy Butcher, will laugh and make kissy-face sounds the whole way home.
And Winnie will wonder later why Dylan has suddenly stopped talking to her."
Each of 21 don'ts makes up a short chapter with multiple illustrations. Redmond's illustrations add humor throughout. For instance, Bug's grouchy teacher is shown sitting at a desk with stacked books titled: "Silence is Golden", "Coloring Inside the Lines", and "The Joyless Classroom", She's sipping from an "I Love Cats" mug and staring into space. Where love (or like) is in the air, there are hearts shown above the relevant child. Sometimes the hearts are broken.
I will say that I didn't love the way that Redmond draws women. Bug's mom has ginormous hips, and his teacher has prominently sagging breasts. If a man had drawn them, I would have said that they were misogynistic. The recess monitor, Mrs. Killjoy, is also cartoonish, with a large torso and very thin legs. I suppose kids will find these illustrations funny. For me, they were a distraction (though I was less bothered by Bug's dad's beer gut).
Overall, though, I think that Bug Blonsky and His Very Long List of Don'ts is super boy-friendly, from the early sketch of Bug as "Bug-Boy with the Power to Annoy" (complete with "two sets of armpits for twice as many fart sounds") to the classroom's unabashed glee when Bug produces fart sounds as Ms. Munster bends over. Bug is a boy whose dad calls him "impulsive and distractible", and who can make his sister literally cry with rage. He makes mistakes, but is capable of learning, as when he says the wrong thing to the principal and recalls his mother telling him "THINK it, DON'T say it!".
Bug's concerns and mishaps are age-appropriate and relevant for first and second graders, as is the book's vocabulary. The font is nice and large, and the color illustrations will be sure to draw in young readers. Adults might find Bug Blonsky a bit annoying, but luckily, this is a book perfectly suited for kids to read on their own. And kids, especially boys, are going to love it. Bug Blonsky and His Very Long List of Don'ts is well worth a look for home or library purchase.
Publisher: Candlewick (@Candlewick)
Publication Date: January 2, 2018
Source of Book: Advance review copy from the publisher
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