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AUNT BERNICE by Jack Gantos


by Jack Gantos & illustrated by Nicole Rubel

Pub Date: March 1st, 1978
ISBN: 0395264618
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

If neither Aunt Bernice nor her wonderful (if Booth-like) dog Rex can yet face up to Gantos and Rubel's inspired red cat, still for the first time since Rotten Ralph Gantos' story provides a suitable outlet for Rubel's manic energy. There's not much of a plot--Ida, disgruntled when Aunt Bernice comes to babysit, is sorry to see her aunt go by the time her parents return from vacation--but it's enough to frame a string of pesky, open-ended incidents: Aunt Bernice cooks a yuckky gourmet dinner, disappears at the department store, and gives Ida's friend loose honey bees as a birthday gift; while Rex spreads his fleas, gobbles the girls' picnic, and eats their tennis balls. Happily, what wins the little girl over is not reform on her aunt's part but more indecorous behavior: Aunt Bernice laughs at a mushy movie (getting the two of them kicked out of the theater) and dresses as a gorilla to scare the guests at Ida's slumber party. Aunt Bernice's consistent coltish spirits could indeed be trying; but with her splashy patterns, outrageous perspective, exhuberant asides, and even a loving, Matisse-y hug at the end, Rubel does her to a frazzle.