Holton’s silly debut children’s book tells of a little boy’s messy room, described in loosely rhyming, comic hyperbole by his horrified big sister.
This little boy’s room isn’t just messy; according to his big sister, who narrates the tale, it’s a gross-out horrorfest: “It’s unbelievable! It’s horrific” and “overrun with fleas,” a disaster area where “you must swim through seas of stinky socks and dirty underwear and sniff a breeze of fuzzy cheese.” And that’s just for starters. Big sister reveals, with increasingly far-flung flights of fancy, all the ways her little brother’s room is grungy to the extreme: infestations of ants and brawling cockroaches, “forests of mushrooms,” a “prehistoric tar-pit,” and “salamander drool.” The monkey making a break for it is the last straw. Or is it the scorpions? The drawer full of tree frogs? The book’s giggle potential for preschoolers and young readers is undeniable, visualized by uncredited illustrations that are saved from generic digital blandness by offbeat comic details that include loopy expressions from various little creatures. The author’s semi-rhyming style, however, could use some refining for rhythmic continuity: “And yesterday I found a sloth that dangles in / the closet! And a puddle where sleeps a pig that / smells far worse than any armpit.” The book’s format is an issue, too. Holton might consider reconfiguring the text with line breaks that match the rhythms of each segment. Such line breaks would, for instance, significantly punch up the dynamism of this colorful verse: “Then there are the locusts on his desk that eat / his homework every week and the quilt upon his / bed where the anaconda sleeps.” The book ends with a nice touch: lest little brothers feel a bit put upon, big sister wryly delivers a good-humored, self-targeting twist.
Could use mild tweaking in content and layout to enhance its narrative rhythm, but the tale’s lighthearted sibling silliness is sure to appeal to its young target audience.