Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews



Karla Oceanak
Illustrator:  Kendra Spanjer 
Fiction  Series
For ages 8 to 11
Bailiwick Press, 2011   ISBN: 978-1934649169

The summer vacation is just about over and Aldo Zelnick is not looking forward to starting fifth grade. As far as he is concerned there is nothing about school that is appealing. Aldo loathes getting up early; he resents that fact that school uses up seven and a half hours of each school day; he does not like wearing school-appropriate clothes; he thinks that the portions at lunch are dreadfully inadequate; he dislikes being forced to spend time outdoors when he walks to and from school; Max (the dog) does not like being alone all day; and Aldo hates homework. He does not even like buying school supplies, an activity most kids enjoy.

Reluctantly, Aldo goes to the pre-school ice cream social. Do the grownups really think that “a spoonful of vanilla and a cherry” is going to make up for school? Aldo meets his homeroom teacher and he also meets his new art teacher, Ms. Munro. Ms. Munro tells the students that this year they are going to begin the school year with a contest. The prize will be a “mystery gift” and lunch from a take-out restaurant. The winner even gets to choose the restaurant.

At first Aldo is sure that he does not want to participate in the contest, but then he changes his mind. In fact he decides that he is going to “win this contest.” The theme is pop art, and Aldo is sure that he can create a picture of something popular that will be fantastic. His first idea is to draw a picture of a Dagwood sandwich, but then Aldo decides that a Slurpie is better. When Aldo’s artistic homeschooled friend Bee joins his art class he knows that there is going to be some stiff competition. Winning the contest is not going to be easy. It does not help that Danny (the new boy who is deaf) is always making fun of Aldo, and that Aldo keeps getting dumbstruck every time he is around Ms. Munro. What is wrong with him?

Life is further complicated when Aldo is forced to play a flute in band (a girl’s instrument for heaven’s sake) and when he is given the part of Bottom in the Midsummer’s Night Dream play that they are studying in Language Arts. School life keeps getting worse and worse.

In this fourth Aldo Zelnick title Aldo once again finds himself having to deal with problems that get way out of control. Readers will quickly get involved in his account, enjoying his diary style narrative, his drawings, and the interruptions that occur when Bee decides to add something to his journal sketchbook.

Throughout the book readers will find words beginning with D that are asterisked. At the back of the book there is a glossary where there are definitions for these words.