A narrator introduces readers to Neel, who, for every day of the week, makes a decision to better himself, then falls short—with good reason, as Neel himself explains in nonsense verse.
The framework is clever, starting with the narrator providing the premise. What follows is a daily reckoning. Each day of the week is given a full spread, with the day appearing on the verso and a question or accusation from a teacher, parent or other unnamed authority figure on the recto. Turn the page, and youngsters will delight in Neel’s fantastic excuses. For example, on Wednesday, the voice proclaims, “Where’s the bread? / You brought a dog instead?” Neel hypothesizes that the dog hypnotized him: “I don’t know how I got back here, / and so, therefore, you see, / I didn’t bring the dog back home— / He brought me.” The rhythm sometimes stumbles, but the situations are recognizable—except for those that are so farfetched they will inspire admiration, such as when Neel shows up without socks, claiming he stuffed them into a panicked elephant’s ears. The illustrations, a collage of tinted photographs and art, provide an appropriately surreal backdrop. Unfortunately, the placement of text, the use of amorphous figures and the amount of blank space on some pages disrupt the flow and may leave readers feeling disengaged.
An uneven, ambitious effort. (Picture book/poetry. 5-9)