Review of Chick and Brain: Smell My Foot!

Chick and Brain: Smell My Foot!
by Cece Bell; illus. by the author
Primary    Candlewick    70 pp.    g
3/19    978-0-7636-7936-1    $12.99

Gone are the days of Dick and Jane easy readers, with their boring characters and their notably unthreatening dog. Bell’s (El Deafo, rev. 11/14; the Rabbit & Robot books) latest book for emerging readers ushers in Chick and Brain (get it?) and their very hungry new acquaintance, Spot, for a subversive lesson in manners and a silly but perilous adventure. Chick, a small yellow bird, persistently provides etiquette guidance to Brain, a humanlike figure sporting boxers and a gumball-machine-shaped head, who, Chick says, may not even be as smart as he looks. Exhorted to smell Brain’s foot, the ever-proper Chick responds: “Maybe your foot smells good. Maybe your foot smells great. But I will not smell your foot until you say PLEASE.” Coming onto the scene, Spot is much more interested in sniffing Chick’s foot than Brain’s (apparently, it smells like chicken), and an invitation to lunch spells trouble for an unwitting Chick (now who’s not smart?). This easy reader’s panels and word bubbles provide comedic timing while parsing the text into digestible parts, which thoughtfully assists children new to both independent reading and the comics form. Bold outlines and exaggerated features in the watercolor and ink illustrations accentuate the playful absurdity of the narrative in this four-chapter comedy of errors.

From the September/October 2019 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Grace McKinney
Grace McKinney

Grace McKinney holds an MA in Children's Literature from Simmons University and reviews for the Horn Book Magazine. She works at a Montessori school in St. Louis, Missouri, and writes about children's books and Montessori on the blog Cosmic Bookshelf.

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