cover image Bad Habits

Bad Habits

Babette Cole. Dial Books, $14.99 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-8037-2432-7

Gleeful as ever in her cataloguing of gas-passing, nose-picking and other improprieties, Cole (The Bad Good Manners Book) introduces an almost incorrigible child. Lucretzia Crum, whose flyaway red hair sticks out in messy spikes, ""was an uncivilized little monster!"" In a montage of obnoxiousness, rendered in gestural gray pencil and blurry pools of watercolor, Lucretzia sloppily devours her treats, curses a cloud of blue squiggles at her parents and throws a tantrum while wearing a frilly pink tutu. Worst of all, her classmates begin to emulate her: ""They thought it was dead cool to be a little monster like Lucretzia Crum!"" Lucretzia's father, a ""mad scientist,"" devises inventions like ""anti-foul-mouth soap"" and the ""classroom pacifier"" (a mini-jail cell that the teacher can lower out the window), but the effects do not last. Finally, the neighborhood adults, disguised as smelly, burpy, destructive monsters (astute readers will notice their eyes peering from inside their costumes), crash Lucretzia's birthday party to demonstrate the shortcomings of monstrous behavior. Cole, who subtitles this volume ""The Taming of Lucretzia Crum,"" empathizes with both tamer and tamee. Lucretzia is absolutely heroic in her rudeness, but she does bully her long-suffering parents and peers. Cole concludes with the adults victorious and Lucretzia ""a civilized little angel,"" but the story doesn't rule out wildness altogether. The parents, like the children, evidently enjoy acting devilish now and then. Ages 4-8. (June)