Can an icky, sticky monster make friends?
One day, from "a mucky, messy hole in the ground" emerges Gnarbunga! He looks a little like the Michelin tire man but all black, with ping-pong-ball eyes and jaws like razor blades. The kids think he's really cool—they love getting sludgy—but most of the adults, not so much. (Construction workers, who are a little icky already, are the one exception.) Gnarbunga needs something to do. Various children suggest music, art, books; the suggestion that really ignites Gnarbunga's interest is skateboarding. In short order, he's decked out in helmet, pads and special shoes, then picks a deck, wheels and trucks. Soon he's playing at the skate park with his new friends. He apologizes to the people who don't like getting icky and spends hours at the park learning the best tricks. He can kick-flip over a cat, do a boneless over an ice-cream cone, and even do inverts. Soon everyone is shouting his name. Bromley tucks a nice amount of skateboard slang into his story. His eye-catching digital illustrations are appealing, with only three colors: black, pale purple and flat yellow. Their stiffness and simplicity have a satiric charge, which may elude the very young.
Less exposition and more skateboarding activity (and maybe a glossary) would have been welcome, but Gnarbunga's quirky and lovable nonetheless. (Picture book. 3-6)