LUNCH WALKS AMONG US
Jim Benton, Author . S&S $14.95 (102p) ISBN 978-0-689-86291-5
The Franny K. Stein, Mad Scientist series gets off to a silly start with this copiously and cartoonishly illustrated novel, which bears at least a passing visual resemblance to Dav Pilkey's Captain Underpants capers. The young heroine is clearly not an average child: she fills her room with bats, snakes and a flying piranha—plus test tubes, beakers and "a whole bunch of crackling electrical gizmos that [she] had made all by herself." Not surprisingly, the other kids at school keep their distance when they see Franny using a snake for a jump rope (never mind that her favorite doll, Chompolina, sports steel teeth that can bite off the heads of other dolls). Franny's sympathetic teacher (whom Benton drolly names "Miss Shelly") suggests Franny conduct an "experiment" to discover how to make friends with her classmates, whereupon the budding mad scientist concocts a potion that transforms her into a sweet-looking girl in a frilly dress and adopts new eating and playing habits to fit in with her peers. But when items the students have thrown into the trash turn out to be the formula for a "Giant Monstrous Fiend," Franny reverts to her mad-scientist ways to create a "Lunch-Meat Creature" that does in the evil monster. Black-and-white drawings (including a section where readers cut pages horizontally to turn them into a create-a-monster game) echo the narrative's hyperbolic humor. Ages 7-10.
Reviewed on: 09/29/2003