Review of Good Guys, Bad Guys

Good Guys, Bad Guys
by Joanne Rocklin; illus. by Nancy Carpenter
Preschool, Primary    Abrams    32 pp.    g
5/20    978-1-4197-3417-5    $16.99

Rocklin and Carpenter present a ­rollicking homage to neighborhood kid–­summertime play. The story begins on the title-page spread as two children get ready to greet the morning. On the left-hand page is a neatly pajama-clad boy making his bed, above the words “Good Guys”; the right page shows a tousle-headed girl, eyes still half-shut, with blanket askew, above “Bad Guys.” The page-turn confirms, in jaunty rhymes, the two kids’ roles: “Here comes a bad guy, / sniffly and slouchy. / Up at five / sleepy and grouchy…Here comes a good guy / fresh from a shower. / Squeaky-clean, / smells like a flower.” Both head outside to join their respective (mixed-gender) crews, with the pirate-costumed bad guys gravitating toward splashing (in an ­aboveground pool) while the good guys perform orderly swim strokes. The imaginary play, complete with costume changes, continues throughout the day, with the blue-sky backgrounds in Carpenter’s high-energy, motion-filled charcoal, watercolor, and digital illustrations growing subtly darker — until bedtime. In an entertaining twist, just before the two kids from the beginning call it a night, they agree to switch roles the next day: “My turn to be a good guy!” The final spread leaves readers with a gentle message about not prejudging others’ inherent goodness or badness: “Lights out. / Can’t tell / which is which.”

From the July/August 2020 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Elissa Gershowitz

Elissa Gershowitz is executive editor of The Horn Book, Inc. She holds an MA from the Center for the Study of Children's Literature at Simmons University and a BA from Oberlin College.

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