cover image Totally Uncool

Totally Uncool

Janice Levy. Carolrhoda Books, $15.95 (32pp) ISBN 978-1-57505-306-6

""Dad's new girlfriend is weird. Totally uncool,"" gripes the narrator in this plotless book for children of single parents. The text is essentially a laundry list of the girlfriend's flaws (""She doesn't play soccer.... Video games? She hasn't a clue""), followed by a consideration of her saving graces (""[She] keeps my secrets secret. Never interrupts me when I stutter""). Levy (The Spirit of Tio Fernando) notably omits any mention of the narrator's mother and never imagines the child in dialogue with the father. Without any sort of story, the reversal of tone (from criticizing the girlfriend to accepting her) seems arbitrary and programmatic. Debut illustrator Monroe works overtime to contextualize the girl's words: she is careful to indicate passage of time by a change of seasons, and her views of the child in the presence of her father and the woman he calls Sweet Potato magnify the girl's unease. For example, while Dad's and Sweet Potato's eyes lock in an affectionate gaze at the dinner table, the girl's eyes bulge in horror at the sight of the salad heaped on her plate; when the girl shares a park bench with her father, she can't stop looking at Sweet Potato, who is nearby reading a book. The affectionately mannered style, wherein the characters' faces and features are sweepingly outsize and sometimes blurred, walk an assured line between the childlike and the sophisticated. Ages 5-8. (Feb.)