Slangerup, Erik Jon illus. by John Manders. Dirt Boy. Albert Whitman & Co, 2000 ISBN 978-0807516171 32 pp.
When Mom tries to force filthy Fister Farnello into the tub, he rebels and runs off into the woods and lives in his own filth with his new friend Dirt Man. A fun concept falls flat with text bland enough to be left out entirely. “Fister Farnello loved dirt” begins this picture book, and right away, I thought, why didn’t Slangerup say he “dug” dirt? Although the editor/author attempts to jazz things up by playing with the text (bold, capitals, etc.) the writing is medicore at best and the author tells instead of showing.
The descriptions of Dirt Boy at his worst are redeeming, but the illustration still captures the scene much more effectively. The pictures, mostly earth-tones, are wonderful, and stand alone to tell the story. Perspectives and mood vary greatly; illustrations show a closeup of a joyful Fister grasping a muddy worm and a larger than life giant sprawling off the page. In one sad blue tranquil scene, Mother languishes in a chair, snoozing and hoping for the return of her wild child, and a blast from the hose bowls Fister over and shoos the birds from their nests in his snarled hair. Details like scissors, rubber gloves, and bottles and bars of soap drive home Slangerup’s humorous itinerary of what is needed to make Fister clean again, and a squeaky clean Fister admits to the delight of washing the dirt off.
If you share this one in storytime, you may as well skip the text. Show during a unit on mud or hygiene, and serve up with gummi worms in chocolate pudding & oreo dirt.