Mushy family reunions? With Russell’s family they’re more mashy than anything else.
Russell is a scrawny kid, and with only one day left before the family reunion, he has yet to devise a plan to escape the tickles, hair-tousles, handshakes, and hugs. His family members are pro wrestlers, so get-togethers can get physical fast. Hiding doesn’t get him past the opening doorbell. First his twin cousins “tag-team him with back-to-back Backbusters.” Then his uncle “Iron Arm” Murphy grabs his hand for an Earthquake Shake. When his cousin “Cora, The Cleaner” grabs him for a Spin Cycle hug, Russell slips out of her hold. After another smooth escape, Russell suddenly has the moves and the confidence to thwart all attempts at hugging—but can he block Grammy Dorothy’s trademark Kansas Crusher hug? Johnson’s jokey juxtaposition of family togetherness and pro-wrestling silliness will strike both a chord and a funny bone for little listeners. Duncan’s scratchy, colorful, digitally created, cartoon illustrations are full of goofy action and outrageous costumes. Russell and his mom are white, but skin tones and wrestler nicknames hint at a multiethnic extended family for Russell.
When read with a TV-announcer voice, the exaggerated mayhem of text and illustration could make for a kooky KO at storytime. (Picture book. 3-7)