Confusion about idioms plus rudeness in the cafeteria equals unpleasant consequences for second-graders Patrick and Richard.
Prankster Patrick loves nothing more than a good joke. Richard is determined that Patrick will never get him in trouble with his joking again. It’s Mind Your Manners Month at school, and the cafeteria is a challenging place to stay out of trouble. When Patrick and Richard decide to suck red Jell-O up a straw and pretend to be vampires, they end up freaking out Sophie, the new student from France, who thinks she is seeing blood. Mr. E., the vice principal, gets doused in “blood.” The boys are busted for having such horrible manners, but things get a little more complicated when Sophie tells the boys they are stupid. “I call a cat a cat,” she declares. Thus begins the running joke of the book: French idioms are different from American ones. When Sophie “makes white cabbage,” it takes a bit of work for the boys to understand she is drawing a blank. Readers will enjoy trying to untangle Sophie’s idiomatic speech and will be glad to see both boys pay their debts. Neither boy is particularly likable, however, and Patrick’s father—who encourages his son’s naughtiness—is especially unpleasant. One unfortunate running gag—Mr. E. is mocked for his enormous stash of size XXXXL T-shirts—does not play out in the illustrations, in which his size is depicted as unremarkable.
Nothing to write home about. (Fiction. 7-12)