Hubert Horatio Bartle Bobton-Trent
Lauren Child. Hyperion Books, $16.99 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-7868-5485-1
Child's (the Clarice Bean books) droll tale introduces the ""frightfully, frightfully"" rich Mr. and Mrs. Bobton-Trent, who dine out nearly every night and hobnob with ""simply everyone who was anyone."" When they ""want to meet someone new,"" they have a child. Their clever offspring, Hubert, telephones his parents at the age of one, reads at two and-when he tumbles into the pool at age three-discovers that he is ""a natural swimmer."" The scatterbrained couple is oblivious to their son's talents-and to the fact that their money has run out. In one spread, the Bobton-Trents and guests sit at a bare dinner table, waiting for an hour and 22 minutes for the maid to serve them, unaware that the staff has left (they ""hadn't been paid for at least two years""). Hubert and his brainy best friend try moneymaking schemes (enrolling the Bobton-Trents in board game contests and opening their mansion for tours) which, due to the couple's entrenched ways, fail miserably (they spend all the proceeds). The dismayed tyke realizes that they must sell the family home and move into an apartment; much to his surprise, his no longer frightfully, frightfully rich folks ""have never been so happy!"" Child's amusingly alliterative narrative and whimsical mixed-media art use hyperbole to comic effect; however, her lesson about values and the real root of happiness may be more appreciated by adults than children. Ages 4-7.
Reviewed on: 05/02/2005