The Meanest Birthday Girl by Josh Schneider, RL: 1.5

 I reviewed the picture book Everybody Sleeps (But Not Fred) by Josh Schneider earlier this year and LOVED it. Schneider is a hilarious author and a hilarious illustrator, as his rhyming story about Fred, who has a "to-do list you wouldn't believe," proves. Fred needs to stay awake to do things like practice his karate chops and warm up for a yelling contest while animals from all over the world prepare to sleep, which make for wonderful illustrations. The Meanest Birthday Girl should be heralded as genius for the title alone, but Schneider delivers a fantastic story (five chapters long, roughly a second grade reading level) of a really mean girl with a brilliant twist. And, while Schneider's illustrations aren't quite as detailed as those in Everybody Sleeps (But Not Fred), they are every bit as expressive and delightful.

The Meanest Birthday Girl begins, "It was Dana's birthday and she could do whatever she liked." I love this start to the story and have to confess that I have tried this tack myself on several birthdays past. The best I get away with is not washing my dirty dishes for the day. Dana, however, takes it to another level! After putting on her favorite birthday dress and having her favorite birthday breakfast, she decides to call Anthony names as they wait for the bus. She calls him an "ickaborse." Is that not the most fantastic fake-mean-name ever? I hope to incorporate it into my vocabulary, in the best way possible. Dana's day of self-indulgence continues with taking Anthony's desert at lunch, having a party after school and having her favorite dinner (which happens to also be her favorite breakfast.)

As she is about to go to bed, Anthony arrives with his present for Dana - a big white elephant. Dana thinks it's beautiful and is surprised that Anthony has given her such an awesome present, especially after she called him an ickaborse! While Dana is overjoyed with her gift, she is also soon overwhelmed by her gift. Molly, the elephant, turns out to be a lot of work and time and effort. Soon, another mean girl is calling Dana "grumble guts" when her tummy rumbles after giving her breakfast to Molly. As Dana's exhaustion increases, Gertrude's meanness escalates. Finally, after having her cupcake stolen at lunch because she was napping, Dana apologizes to Anthony. Anthony accepts her apology and asks if Dana will be going to Gertrude's birthday party after school. A light bulb goes on in Dana's head. The final pages show Dana preparing Molly to be given to another deserving birthday girl.

I love, love, love The Meanest Birthday Girl! Schneider has written a clever, creative story that is completely engaging and even has a little lesson woven into it. I can't wait to see what he does next!

Source: Review Copy

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