cover image The Bad Seed

The Bad Seed

Jory John, illus. by Pete Oswald. Harper, $17.99 (40p) ISBN 978-0-06-246776-8

A sunflower seed is certain that he’s “baaaaaaaaaaad,” and his grim scowl, shown in frightening close-up, certainly seems to indicate incorrigibility. But as the seed catalogues his wickedness (“I’m late to everything.... I lie about pointless stuff. I cut in line. Every time”), it becomes clear that his problem is actually impulsiveness and thoughtlessness—the kind of misbehavior that children struggle with daily. John (Penguin Problems) gives the seed a sympathetic backstory (packaged as a snack food, he barely escaped being eaten) that, along with his eventual determination to change his stripes, should keep readers engaged, even if the turning point is abrupt and the text gets a little Dr. Phil (“I’m ready to be happy.... I’m taking it one day at a time”). Working in digitized watercolors, Oswald (Mingo the Flamingo) makes this antihero’s angst vivid and touching, and the world the seed moves in—a metropolis populated by seeds that include peanuts, coconuts, and corn kernels—adds a playful counterpoint of background detail and comedy. Ages 4–8. Author’s agent: Steven Malk, Writers House. Illustrator’s agent: Kirsten Hall, Catbird Agency. (Aug.)