cover image The Boy with Two Belly Buttons

The Boy with Two Belly Buttons

Stephen J. Dubner, , illus. by Christoph Niemann. . HarperCollins, $16.99 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-06113402-9

Freakonomics co-author Dubner’s debut children’s book stars young Solomon, who is distraught about his extra belly button, especially after his mother tells him, “One is the right number of belly buttons.” He can’t even give it away: “How could I be the only turtle in town with a belly button?” asks his navel-less friend Victor (a turtle). “That, my good friend, is a recipe for ridicule.” But when his abdominal anomaly is deemed movie-worthy by a famous director—who looks more than a little like Steven Spielberg (complete with baseball cap)—Solomon decides being different isn’t so bad after all. Despite what seems like a can’t-miss premise—the mere phrase “belly button” is a guaranteed giggle-getter—Dubner’s tale of self-acceptance is surprisingly slack. Although Niemann’s boldly outlined, retro-styled cartoons are fun to look at, the story moves from event to event without building comic or dramatic momentum, and the appearance of the Spielberg look-alike smacks of deus ex machina. Ages 4-6. (Oct.)