cover image Bad Astrid

Bad Astrid

Eileen Brennan, illus. by Regan Dunnick. Random, $15.99 (40p) ISBN 978-0-375-85580-1

Are bullies just lonely and misunderstood? It’s a hot topic, and where readers stand may determine their willingness to embrace this story and its cast of anthropomorphic dogs. Astrid is “a cranky, crabby troll,” declares Brennan’s (Dirtball Pete) put-upon narrator, an unlucky neighbor of Astrid. “She loved to destroy any fun I had planned./ She’d squirt-gun chalk drawings, topple my lemonade stand.” But when Astrid takes a tumble on her bike, the narrator seizes the moment to confront her (“Why? Why are you mean to me?”) and discovers that “my abominable new neighbor could really use a friend.” Most readers—especially those who may have been bullied themselves—will probably feel that Astrid’s redemption is earned far too easily. And that’s too bad, because Dunnick’s (Creak! Said the Bed) cartoon art is first-rate. His penciled textures and pops of offbeat color give the pictures the hip look of contemporary animation, while his sense of action and pacing is faultless. In fact, Astrid’s bike crash (and yes, she’s wearing a helmet, albeit a skull-emblazed one) is one of the most vivid in recent memory. Ages 3–6. (May)