cover image Meet the Dullards

Meet the Dullards

Sara Pennypacker, illus. by Daniel Salmieri. HarperCollins/Balzer + Bray, $17.99 (32p) ISBN 978-0-06-219856-3

Are the Dullards worthy successors to Allard and Marshall’s Stupids? Not quite. The Stupids are all exuberantly stupid, whereas only the Dullard parents are dull (and rather resolutely so); their children are another matter. As the story opens, siblings Blanda, Borely and Little Dud have been inspired by books to develop fascinating talents (juggler, animal whisperer, and funambulist, respectively), which eventually culminates in their joining the circus. In the meantime, it’s a battle of wills as Mr. and Mrs. Dullard try to keep the horrors of an interesting life at bay, such as floral wallpaper or a neighbor’s applesauce cake (“Smooth or chunky applesauce?” Mr. Dullard inquires. “Chunks are so unpredictable. So nerve-racking”). Pennypacker (the Clementine series) and Salmieri (Secret Pizza Party) are clearly mining a satiric vein—the Dullards are essentially helicopter parents on overdrive—but even when the visual jokes are working (as when the family is mesmerized by watching beige-grey paint dry) the book doesn’t quite achieve the high silliness of its premise. Ages 4–8. Author’s agent: Steven Malk, Writers House. Illustrator’s agent: Rebecca Sherman, Writers House. (Mar.)