SCRITCH SCRATCH

Miriam Moss, Author, Delphine Durand, Illustrator , illus. by Delphine Durand. Scholastic/Orchard $16.95 (32p) ISBN 978-0-439-36835-3

Taking a humorous approach to an embarrassing problem, this book turns the (literally) nitty-gritty into something witty. When a tiny head louse sneaks into the classroom, it makes straight for Ms. Calypso, the teacher, and her enormous red mane of "cascading curls." Soon the whole class is scritching and scratching. The principal, Mr. Trout, asks parents to apply special conditioner to the children's hair, but the little pests come right back. It turns out Ms. Calypso lives alone and has no one to help treat her tresses. Mr. Trout gallantly offers, and the two fall in love, for an almost happily-ever-after ending. Moss (previously teamed with Durand for The Snoops) includes plenty of solid information as well as loopier touches (as the louse lays eggs, it sings, "Watch the teacher scritch and scratch,/ When my creepy, crawly babies hatch"). Durand's cartoon humans have Mr. Potato Head features and toothy, ear-splitting grins. The classroom is realistically littered with bookbags, flying paper airplanes, toy cars, etc., and the children pester one another endlessly: "Ruby undid Polly's braid. Joshua painted on Peter's back. And Sammy trimmed Mark's bangs." Zippy graphics add lots of dash to an already funny text; the paths of lice are indicated with dotted lines and arrows, type fonts shift for emphasis, and passages of text appear under, over and around the spreads and vignettes. Moss and Durand win high marks for their potent combination of comedy and candor. Ages 4-8. (Aug.)

Reviewed on: 06/10/2002
Release date: 08/01/2002
Genre: Children's
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