Smell My Foot!

Candlewick. (Chick and Brain: Bk. 1). Sept. 2019. 72p. Tr $12.99. ISBN 9780763679361.
K-Gr 2–Bell (El Deafo; I Yam a Donkey!; “Rabbit & Robot”) returns with another story about grammar, miscommunication, and odd couple friends. In this graphic novel send-up of the “Dick and Jane” primers, Brain, clad only in heart-patterned boxers and sporting either an external brain or a gray hairdo that resembles one, is trying to convince a politeness-obsessed chick to smell his foot. Chick criticizes Brain’s phrasing (“I will not smell your foot until you say PLEASE”) and intelligence (“Brain, you look very smart...But you are not very smart”). This focus on manners at the expense of kindness almost causes Chick to miss out on what turns out to be Brain’s truly alluring foot odor. When Spot the dog wanders by, sniffs Chick’s foot, and invites the oblivious bird to lunch (as the intended main course), Brain comes to Chick’s rescue by knocking Spot out with the aroma from his (apparently stinky) other foot. New readers may be thrown by the beats of Chick and Brain’s dialogue, since the humor relies on unexpected responses (as in the opening exchange: “HELLO, BRAIN.” “Yeah, I know. I am Brain.”) and discussion of conversational norms. However, the short length and engagingly goofy art—reminiscent of James Proimos’s “Johnny Mutton” series—will be a draw for kids who love quirky characters and the amusing premise.
VERDICT Although not as successful as Bell’s best work, and potentially confusing for some new readers, this hilariously wacky tale will resonate with many children

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