cover image Lulu and the Brontosaurus

Lulu and the Brontosaurus

Judith Viorst, illus. by Lane Smith, S&S/Atheneum, $15.99 (128p) ISBN 978-1-4169-9961-4

While no one can question Viorst and Smith’s street cred, they’ve turned in a curiously unaffecting chapter book. Lulu, a Louise Brooks look-alike, “was a pain—a very big pain—in the butt.” Given to “screech till the lightbulbs burst” when she doesn’t get her way, Lulu quickly wears down parental resistance to her whims. But when Lulu tries to turn a brontosaurus into a birthday pet, she discovers that there may be a creature who’s more willful (and far better mannered about it) than she is. Will Lulu spend the rest of her life as the dinosaur’s pet? Will this encounter turn her into a kinder, gentler kid? The plot and characters barely seems to matter—or act only as setups for Viorst’s irreverent, metafictional nudges. “Is that where a brontosaurus would live? In a forest? I’m afraid that I’m not absolutely sure. But since I’m the person writing this story, I’m putting this brontosaurus in a forest.” It’s an approach that’s made Smith and Jon Scieszka deservedly famous, but here—despite the fun to be had in seeing Lulu finally meet her match—it feels self-indulgent. Smith’s angular pencil illustrations bubble with arch humor, but it’s not enough to rescue this effort. Ages 6–10. (Sept.)