Unfortunately ordinary in an extraordinary family, 11-year-old Arthur demonstrates sympathy and good sportsmanship as he works to find those responsible for his family’s recent disasters and clear their former-gangster chef’s name while continuing his fruitless search for a world record of any kind.
The Whipple family’s lives are devoted to adding to their collection of entries in Grazelby’s Guide to World Records and Fantastic Feats. Recent disasters and stiff competition from their new neighbors, the Goldwins, threaten their position at the top of the record-breaker heap. With the stage set for a showdown at the Unsafe Sports competition, 200 pages in, readers may be ready for a climax and resolution. Instead there is yet another near-disaster, and all evidence points to faithful cook Sammy the Spatula, whose dialogue is written with a cockney accent. Arthur and new friend Ruby Goldwin—a noncompetitor—set out to find the giant and dwarf clowns they believe to be the real culprits. The second half of this overlong tale is devoted to their detective efforts, but the sudden end comes without wrap-up: The clowns are still at large, Sammy the Spatula’s in hiding, and Arthur’s no closer to his dream of breaking a record. Records mentioned in the text are listed in the final 22 pages. Even the legions of Guinness World Records fans are unlikely to return for the necessary sequel.
For record-breaking tedium, this takes the cake. (Fiction. 9-12)