Based on the title, readers might expect a book of gross humor. Instead they'll find a sweet story of friendship and competition in which everyone can be “best of the forest.”
Woodchuck Chuck is an artist working in wood and the winner of the Best of the Forest art contest three years running. Then Scooter the possum shows up. When his painting Splatter Matters wins first prize, Chuck is angry and jealous, and he begins to doubt his own abilities. Each of the eight short chapters begins with a full-page illustration that, with the chapter heading, hints at what is to come. Pictures throughout break up the text so new readers will not be intimidated. Chuck's friends provide kid-level comic relief with knock-knock jokes. (Though adults may chuckle at Scooter's similarities to Jackson Pollock and the allusion to current grass-roots movements, these references will mean nothing to beginning readers.) With wisdom beyond their years, Chuck's forest friends counsel him to gracefully accept his second-place recognition, and he rather quickly realizes that “awards are just whipped cream on a sweet-potato pie.” The final chapter, “Lesson Learned,” guarantees that no kid can miss the message.
It’s a kindhearted beginning chapter book, but second-graders may wish it had some vomit jokes. (Early reader. 5-8)