Daniel Manus Pinkwater, , illus. by Jack E. Davis. . HarperCollins, $15.99 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-06-623785-5

Pinkwater (Fat Camp Commandos) gives The Picture of Dorian Gray an idiosyncratic twist as friends Morty and Ray watch a horror movie about "a really evil guy" whose portrait grows ugly as he does mean things to people. Davis's illustrations in black and white of the television movie, and the Rugrats-like heroes in color, are full-out funny. The pages brim with old pizza, kids' tennis shoes and more, plus the pranks Morty and Ray decide to try so that their own joint portrait will change. They stop up toilets with big wads of toilet paper, spit used chewing gum into drinking fountains and call people names ("Lard Head, Bubble Butt, Banana Nose, Four Eyes, Jelly Belly," etc.). They stick their butts out the window of the school bus, they even stuff two pickles in their friend Oscar's pants and pour the juice on him so it appears that he's "wet himself." When Oscar threatens never to speak to them again, they give him their changed portrait, which is just as gross as the build-up promises. While the plot idea delivers the kind of outrageous fun that Beavis and Butthead might have enjoyed as elementary school kids, the book's subversive edge blunts with the book's lame ending (Oscar likes the painting, leading Morty to conclude that "different people like different things" and Ray to propose that they go drink pickle juice). A joke in need of a punch line. Ages 6-10. (Aug.)