A young boy learns a lesson about earning rewards in this chapter-book series starter by debut author Fallon and illustrator Jackson.
Diego Dilemma wishes that he could eat cookies all day. Instead, his parents have given him two options for earning a sweet treat: being good or eating vegetables. When he asks why he has to earn them, his father tells him that children who eat too many unearned cookies turn into cookies themselves. “Earning things helps us to remember that we are more powerful than the things we desire,” he says. But Diego would still rather not have to eat his broccoli first. One night, after he eats his dinner and his baked-good reward, Diego goes to bed and has a dream in which he decides to test his father’s story. In the dream, he misbehaves all day, even though it makes him sad to make his mother upset. Instead of changing his behavior, however, he takes a risk, and climbs up onto the counter to get to the special cookie jar. Children won’t be surprised that Diego meets the fate his father promised: He turns into a cookie, and so his parents force-feed him some broccoli in the hope of turning him back into a boy. The narrative opens and closes with short, awkwardly rhyming poems, which are the weakest parts of the book (“What follows is a tale almost too true to tell, / Of Diego, a cookie, and all that ends well”). Once the action starts, however, young readers will easily identify with Diego’s desire for sweets and his struggle with temptation. Although the text is dense, even for a chapter book, there are plenty of partial-page illustrations to engage hesitant readers. Jackson’s sketch-like images show Diego as a pleasing everyboy, and he and Fallon make it clear that one bad day doesn’t make a child a bad person. It’s particularly comforting that, in the dream, Diego’s parents are more concerned about getting their child back to normal than punishing him for misbehavior.
A wordy chapter book featuring a sympathetic hero in a familiar story of sweet-toothed temptation.