This is a message book, and it makes no bones about it.
It lifts off with a foreword from a nationally recognized educator railing against the problem of arrogance in today’s youth and concludes with an author’s note about bragging and boasting, supplemented with a list of possible discussion questions. Nestled between is the rather bald story of Tyler, your everyday grade-school kid, and Jake, who poisons the air with his braggadocio. “My neighbor Jake can be a real jerk—always letting me know that whatever I do, he can do better.” That might be sports or math or having the most cutting-edge stuff, like a Tunage 300 instead of Tyler’s cruddy SoundLaunch. The saving grace of this tale is Uncle Kevin, who joins Tyler in a little guitar pickin’ and counsels him on blowhards: “It’s a way of protecting themselves from potential enemies. But when a kid acts like a pufferfish, he takes up so much space that he can also push away friends.” Uncle Kevin making like a pufferfish is a highlight, as is Gustavson’s artwork in general, with its lush application of paint, summertime languor and emotive breath.Point made—perhaps over-made—but anyone suffering the oxygen-depleting windbaggery of the neighborhood boaster will find solace here. (Picture book. 4-8)