August 20, 2017

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The Bad Seed by Jory John

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redstarJOHN, Jory. The Bad Seed. illus. by Pete Oswald. 40p. HarperCollins/Harper. Aug. 2017. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780062467768.

K-Gr 2 –Corn kernels, pistachios, peanuts, and other seeds gasp and point as a “baaaaaaaaaaad seed” goes by. When others mumble about him, he can hear them because he has “good hearing for a seed.” The bad seed tells “long jokes with no punch lines,” lies “about pointless stuff,” and never puts things back where they belong. But he did not start out that way; it was only after a traumatic experience that he became “a different seed entirely.” Through a mixture of watercolor textures and digital paint, Oswald creates a faded cityscape background. The seeds, on the other hand, have stronger colors and expressive faces. (Their sticklike arms and legs and large eyes make them reminiscent of the California Raisins.) The contrast between the bright, sunlit field and the dark interior of a sunflower seed bag highlights the protagonist’s downturn in fortune. Young readers will find the list of all the seed’s offenses amusing, and the illustration of the flies and stench surrounding him (he never washes his hands or feet) is sure to elicit laughter. Even the very youngest can follow along as the pictures provide evidence of the seed’s bad behavior and the reactions of those around him. This is a story that opens up dialogue about our reactions to life experiences, the consequences of our choices, and the chance to make a change for the better. VERDICT This charmingly illustrated book would be a comical read-aloud and useful for class or family discussions about manners, behavior, and reputation.–Suzanne Costner, Fairview Elementary School, Maryville, TN

This review was published in the School Library Journal June 2017 issue.

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