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Saturday, November 24, 2012

Lester's Dreadful Sweaters, written and illustrated by K. G. Campbell. Kids Can Press, 2012. $ 18.95 ages 5 and up

"No one knew exactly whose cousin Cousin Clara was, so she came to stay with Lester's family. She was little and frilly and came with a basket of knitting. "I added crocodiles to the list," Lester assured her. At first, everything went well enough. Clara didn't make unsavory noises or rearrange Lester's Lost and Found collection."

In point of fact, Clara is a knitter and that is how she spends her days.
She is a whiz with knitting needles, while not too adept at creating wearable sweaters. Well, they are wearable. But truly, they are also dreadful. There are no others like them, and they draw attention, to say the least!

The first one she creates for Lester is 'less-than-pleasant yellow and smothered with purple pom-poms.' His teacher is so flustered with Lester's appearance, he forgets to make mention of Lester's 'carefully combed hair' and a certain classmate is quick to make disparaging remarks about whar he's wearing. By a strange coincidence, that sweater meets its untimely end in a washing episode gone bad. Not to worry, Clara is quick and she whips another sweater in time for the next school day. This one is worse, if that' even possible.

As each new sweater meets its end, a  new one takes its place:

"The next sweater was
repulsively pumpkin,
uncommonly crooked and
had a hideous hood.
IT unraveled in the
rain and got washed
down a drain.

The next was an awful
olive and had alarmingly
large buttons. IT was
pecked to pieces by several
outraged ostriches." 

It's harmless fun, and plays on a child's nightmarish worry for wearing the wrong thing. With each new sweater, Lester becomes adept at finding ways to destroy them. Kids will love the fun, and the silliness of the telling. I love the language. It is the kind of book that I would share with students when wanting to talk about some of the strategies that authors use when creating their stories...descriptive language, alliteration, wordplay and using capital letters to underscore the importance of certain words.  Clever and entertaining, and we haven't talked yet about the droll, dark humor that is explored in the accompanying artwork.

Spot pictures, plenty of white space, varying perspectives, expressive faces, and a humorous struggle between Cousin Clara and Lester will have kids hooting at the very funny scenes. When the clowns show up with a shared vision of the way their world should look, they are happy to take Cousin Clara with them as their resident wardrobe maven. It's happy ending for all.

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