cover image Desk Stories

Desk Stories

Kevin O'Malley. Albert Whitman, $16.99 (32p) ISBN 978-0-8075-1562-4

In this follow-up to Backpack Stories (2009), the reliably absurd O'Malley focuses his talents%E2%80%94not least of which is the ability to generate groan-inducing jokes page after page%E2%80%94on that timeless symbol of class oppression: the school desk. "The modern desk, so hard, so unforgiving, so extraordinarily uncomfortable," says the not-very-authoritative Dr. I.C. Clearly, who kicks off the book with a dubious overview of desk history. "The only thing that could make it better is summer vacation!" Like its predecessor, this outing is divided into short chapters, each reflecting a different aesthetic and a multitude of cultural references (the final story, involving a barrette and a wad of evil-minded used bubble gum, spoofs The Incredible Shrinking Man, with a little Journey to the Center of the Earth thrown in for good measure). Many stories also have a faint air of tongue-in-cheek menace, making them ideal read-aloud material for budding Rod Serlings or melodrama villains. "Now I will swallow you whole," proclaims the nefarious, relentlessly pursuing desk in the second nightmarish story. "This is your destiny! HA HA HA!" Well played, O'Malley, well played. Ages 7%E2%80%939. (July)