The Bad Birthday Idea

Madeline Valentine. Knopf, $17.99 (40p) ISBN 978-0-449-81331-7
“When Alice tried to play with her brother, Ben would say, ‘No dolls allowed. This is a robot game,’ ” writes Valentine (Ava and the Real Lucille). So Alice asks for the top-of-the-line Roboy 2000 for her birthday—a toy Ben covets—with the unspoken plan of making herself an irresistible playmate. Jealous, Ben opens Alice’s gift before the birthday party guests arrive, accidentally breaks Roboy 2000, and tries to hide his guilt and the deed amid all the festivities. This is Valentine’s first book as both author and illustrator, and the heart of her story has lots of comic potential, especially given her relatively understated drawing style: to Ben’s horror, bits and pieces of Roboy keep surfacing during the party (an eyeball turns up in one guest’s punch cup), taunting him like Poe’s “Tell-Tale Heart.” Readers won’t have trouble mustering empathy for Ben at the awful moment when Roboy goes bust, though the sibling reconciliation that closes out the book comes across as a bit too neat. Ages 3–7. Agent: Rebecca Sherman, Writers House. (Nov.)
Reviewed on: 10/07/2013
Release date: 11/12/2013
Ebook - 42 pages - 978-0-449-81333-1
Library Binding - 40 pages - 978-0-449-81332-4
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