An invitation to have dinner with a friend’s family leads to an unpredictable evening for a young boy.
Drilled in good manners by his mom, Bernard arrives at Gilbert’s house prepared to be polite, tidy and helpful. Greeted at the door by a tail-coated butler, Bernard’s (and readers’) expectations are upended when the whole family piles into a limousine and heads to an Italian restaurant for a spaghetti dinner. Slurping, burping and using meatballs as projectiles are only some of the atrocious antics that ensue. Through it all, Bernard remembers his mother’s lessons, often to humorous effect. Holt’s exaggerated, tall-tale style is apparent from the first page when readers learn the boys’ last names: Worrywart and Highbrow, respectively. Overall, however, the text is relatively straightforward, relying on the tension between expectations and reality for its wit. Brooker’s multimedia illustrations, created using oils and cut paper, amp up the madcap humor. Characters’ costumes create an old-fashioned feel: Bernard’s mother favors frilly aprons, while Gilbert sports a complete cowboy get-up, and his two brothers appear in short pants, formal jackets and bow ties. Odd perspectives abound, and small snippets of photographs occasionally add texture and surprise.
Like the central meal it features, this clever concoction will likely please some preschool palates, but it may take slightly older and more sophisticated readers to easily digest the combination of fun foolishness and explicit advice. (Picture book. 5-8)