cover image Dirtball Pete

Dirtball Pete

Eileen Brennan, Random, $15.99 (32p) ISBN 978-0-375-83425-7

Debut writer Brennan’s wonderfully stolid narrative voice establishes its authority from the get-go: “Dirtball Pete looked like something the cat dragged in,” it starts. “It was a fact.” Pete’s stay in the bathtub before his school’s “Fifty States and Why They’re Great” presentation is a long one (“I’m going to leave that auditorium proud of you,” his mother says grimly, scrubbing him with a brush), but, mysteriously, he still smells terrible afterwards. “Oh, no!” his mother says. “Pet ferrets must stay home!” Jittery digital cartoons show Pete with a big head, spindly appendages, scrabbly hair that refuses to be tamed, and tic-tac-toe dirt stains spattered liberally across his mug. Unexpectedly, though, Dirtball Pete outdoes himself at school that night. He’s the best Pennsylvania ever—broadcasting facts about the state while the rest of his cardboard-clad classmates whisper and mumble—despite the fact that an unexpected search for his speech leaves him looking like his usual dirtball self. It’s tough to make a book sardonic and heartwarming at the same time, but Brennan nails it. Ages 4–7. (Aug.)