Clara, her tiny hat perched on her impossibly oval head, an innocent-looking basket of knitting in hand, arrives ready to recover from an unfortunate crocodile attack. So begins this over-the-top story of lost-and-found collections, journals of “Suspicious Stuff Starting with C” and fantastic sweaters. Clara does not knit run-of-the-mill ordinary cardigans and pullovers. Starting with a “less-than-pleasant yellow and smothered with purple pom-poms” hooded number, Clara insists on cranking out one absurd creation after another. Wearing these monstrosities to school proves embarrassing for Lester. After each humiliating day, the sweater of the day ends up shrunken, shredded, unraveled, pecked to pieces or stolen. Each colored-pencil illustration cranks up the dark humor, culminating with Lester covered in dripping red yarn, scissors in hand, while Clara wickedly smiles at the crime scene. Each detailed spread is filled with creepy shadowing and fabulous eye contact among the many characters. Lively writing is peppered with clever alliteration and wordplay. Lucky for Lester, a troupe of clowns appreciates Clara’s creations.
Children forced to wear horrid clothing made by well-meaning relatives will laugh in sympathy with Lester. If Edward Gorey and Polly Horvath had a literary love child, this would be it. (Picture book. 5-9)