cover image Stink Bomb

Stink Bomb

Lynn Cullen. HarperCollins Publishers, $14 (128pp) ISBN 978-0-380-97647-8

Cullen buries her novel's worthy message--the importance of taking responsibility for one's actions--in a story line that is consumed with a single incident. After seventh-grader Kenny passes gas during gym class and blames it on Alice, a shy girl new to the school, he frets over his dishonesty and promises himself he will admit to being the ""stink bomb."" The class bully ups the ante by tormenting Alice about the matter and teasing Kenny about being sweet on the humiliated girl, which prompts the guilt-ridden boy to blurt out that he hates Alice. Cullen breaks away from this tiresome banter to a more substantive subplot that reveals Kenny's emerging maturity: though defying his mother's orders not to bring another animal into her pet-filled house, he restores two baby squirrels to health and (with the help of Alice, now his friend) sets them free. This episode makes for livelier reading than the balance of the novel's preoccupation with Kenny's anxiety about how and when he'll clear the air about breaking wind. Ages 8-12. (Mar.)