cover image Dirty Gert

Dirty Gert

Tedd Arnold. Holiday House, $16.95 (40p) ISBN 978-0-8234-2404-7

In a comically offbeat story about acceptance from Arnold (the Fly Guy books), a small girl hungers for one thing alone: “Little Gert loved eating dirt./ The worms all idolized her.... Way back when Gert was just a squirt,/ The earth would tantalize her.” As is the case with too much of anything, there are consequences to Gert’s soil-based diet. After getting soaked in a rainstorm, Gert takes root in her yard and sprouts leaves from her already unruly hair, creating a neighborhood ruckus and media frenzy. Arnold’s bug-eyed characters and squiggly textures are just right for a story about a girl who could give Charles Schulz’s Pig-Pen a run for his money. Readers will enjoy searching the pages for funny asides from a Greek chorus of earthworms (“She is amazing,” say two in unison, sensing a kindred spirit). Perhaps the best parts of the story are Arnold’s verse—which delivers quite the vocabulary lesson as he rhymes “soil internalizer” with “appetizer,” “immortalize her,” and other unexpected phrases—and the reaction of Gert’s parents, who gently nurture their daughter the way one would a plant. Literally. Ages 4–8. (Mar.)