It’s difficult to describe the Claude books without using the word surreal. The new book in the series may be the sweetest surrealist children’s book ever published.
Claude’s best friend is a sock. Sir Bobblysock is very nattily dressed, and Smith gets a lot of mileage out of one joke, putting the sock in ever more absurd outfits. Sir Bobblysock wears pajamas, then earmuffs, and there’s a reference to a “glitzy leotard” he puts on before aerobics class. Most of the humor in the book comes from one basic premise: This would never, ever happen in real life. Sometimes the joke works. It’s very funny when a girl suggests Claude use a tea tray as a sled, and readers learn that “He always kept one in his beret—with a full tea set just in case there was a tea-based emergency.” It’s less funny to read about Sir Bobblysock’s bunion and his session in a heated foot spa. Instead of laughing, kids may say, “What’s a bunion?” or, “That would never, ever happen in real life.” Much too often, the book is perplexing instead of amusing. But there’s no denying that Claude is sweet and charming, and Sir Bobblysock looks fantastic in his checkered nightcap.
In the end, it’s hard not to love a main character who wears a one-man-band outfit to the library, in case he finds a very exciting book. (Fiction. 7-9)