THREE NASTY GNARLIES

Keith Graves, Author, Keith Graves, Illustrator . Scholastic $16.95 (40p) ISBN 978-0-439-24090-1

In this underdeveloped be-yourself story in verse, three junkyard monster songsters grow self-conscious about their looks after meeting a know-it-all butterfly. Ordinarily, the bulbous pink Grubby Gurgle, the stubbly-haired and acid-green Stanky Stoo and amoebic, three-eyed Ooga-Mooga spend their days caterwauling from atop a sludgy garbage pile. (Musical notation for their operatic song, "We're the Nasty Gnarlies" by "Fungoso Smellagrossi," appears on a weathered-looking spread.) But after purple-winged Snooty Judy Butterfly, who's dressed in a bouclé cardigan and cat's-eye glasses, flutters down to inform them that they smell bad and look funny, the Gnarlies question their grungy lives. Judy, who confesses that she used to be a caterpillar, recommends her beauty regimen: "I wrapped myself in silk./ .../ My body was rebuilt." Graves's (Loretta: Ace Pinky Scout ) acrylic paintings show the Gnarlies dutifully creating chrysalises out of gym socks, banana peels and Band-Aids, dangling inside them from a tree. But when they emerge unchanged, they overcome their initial disappointment with a sudden insight: "Our beauty is our gnarliness./ We were pretty all along!" Pictures depict the three aliens in a landscape of ochre, blue and violet goo. The oddball Gnarlies recall the yucky Garbage Pail Kids or the grotesque hero of Timothy Basil Ering's The Story of Frog Belly Rat Bone . The old adage about beauty and the eye of the beholder (featured on the flap copy) might seem a little fresher to kids given this gross-out get-up. Ages 7-10. (Nov.)

Reviewed on: 01/05/2004
Release date: 11/01/2003
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