A blog about working as a childrens book writer and illustrator.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Thought I'd post a review from The Horn Book about 'Stinky Boys Club' in an article called 'Ordinary Joes' by Nell Beram, July/August 2005. She reviewed three series and Stinky Boys is featured right in the middle. To read it, copy/paste this link:

"Conversely, the rivalry between the boys and the girls is the very lifeblood of the Stinky Boys Club (Grosset), a graphic-novel series that, like the Freaky Joe Club, is aimed at seven-to-ten-year-olds. In the series starter, Enough Is Enough!, MJ threatens to reveal to the whole school that her twin, Sam, spent his summer taking tap-dancing lessons. Worse: their principal announces at assembly that Sam’s dance class will be performing at the school talent show. Sam calls an emergency meeting of the Only Boys Club, after which MJ and her cohorts petition the school and neighborhood to delegitimize the club on the grounds that it’s discriminatory. The club holds a grudgingly nonexclusive meeting in the boys’ bathroom at school. The day’s activity? Making fake vomit (recipe provided). MJ and company flee, and the boys, feeling rejuvenated, set out to sabotage the talent show by a means that ultimately earns them the girls’ vengeance — and their club a new name. The Stinky Boys Club also has a new mission statement: to “stop at nothing to get even with the girls. Let no chair go without a whoopee cushion . . . no shoelaces go untied together . . .” Et cetera.

In Winner Takes All!, the series’s second offering, Sam tells the club that he dreamed he received an award for joke-telling, which forced MJ to admit that boys are better than girls. MJ overhears the recap, which she considers fightin’ words, and the twins agree that it’s time to hold a formal boys-versus-girls competition. Each team comes up with three tests: the boys decide on an eating contest, a burping contest, and a joke contest; the girls on a quiz, a knitting contest, and a dare. The gender wars culminate in both teams getting trapped in a creature-filled cave and having to help one another to safety. This leads to a predictable reconciliation followed by an even more predictable denouement: a squabbling session (“Are not.” “Are too.” “Are NOT.” Are TOO.” “ARE NOT!”).

I had my heart set on hating the Stinky Boys Club series because I thought it would amount to a peddling of stereotypes. As it turns out, the stereotypes take a beating: MJ may be neater than Sam, but she is also superior at sports; one member of the Stinky Boys Club’s greatest ambition is to get the lead in the school play; and priss Pru wins the belching contest. (A curious aside: The Stinky Boys Club’s sole black male character, Zip, and the Freaky Joe Club’s sole black male character, Jack, are distinguished by how quickly they do things. What’s that about?) And although the series is named for its male characters, who outnumber its female characters, co-authors Jodi Carse and Maria Gallagher don’t play favorites, and neither does illustrator Brie Spangler, whose concussively loud gross-out-fueled pictures ably mock both genders equally: Pru has a bedroom right out of a Barbie Dream House, but the boys’ clubhouse is a nerdboy paradise. The series may employ the who’s-better? debate, which, if you’re like me, you don’t want kids to even be having, but it mercifully doesn’t try to advance it."

I love that she presumed she'd hate it based on her own stereotype for these types of plot set-ups, that she ended up liking it is a great compliment! And regarding Zip as a fast african-american character, we envisioned him as hispanic. We didn't aim to fit our characters into little boxes, we just wanted to create a group of happy friends doing crazy things.

All in all, I think it's a great review. Always an honor to be in the Horn Book, so here's to The Stinky Boys Club!


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