Wednesday, January 26, 2011

7. Don't Call Me Pruneface

Written by Janet Reed Ahearn
Illustrated by Drazen Kozjan
$16.99, ages 3-7, 32 pages

It's hard being nice when your new next-door neighbor goes out of her way to raise your hackles, but Paul is trying.

If only he could take the high road and follow Grandma's words of advice -- especially the one about him being "as good as gold."

But how can Paul be the nice guy grandma's sees and endure the ill will of Prudence, aka the Lunatic?

Since Day 1, when Paul welcomed her into the neighborhood, she's thrown one verbal jab after another.

That day she called him "Pill" instead of "Paul," and suggested a better name for his dog Bobo was, "Oops," because a boy like Paul shouldn't have a cute dog.

Grandma says, "You can't judge a book by its cover," so Paul's giving Prudence a week to change his mind and show him there's a nice girl in there after all.

However by the way things are going so far, Paul's not sure he'll make it that far. After all, even nice boys have their limits.

On Day 2, as the two pass each other, Prudence holds Scratch, her cat, up to his face and tries to sick him on him.

Day 3, when Paul offers to send messages back and forth on a wire between their house, Prudence calls the line the dumbest things she's ever seen.

Day 4, Prudence rings his doorbell, sticks out her tongue and calls him four eyes, since he wears glasses.

Paul's at loss for what do, so grandma throws him another saying, "You catch more flies with honey." Paul, however, has no idea what she's talking about.

On Day 5, Paul runs into Prudence at the bus stop. It's pouring rain. She's got an umbrella but he doesn't, so he asks her if she'd share.

Prudence yells, "Ew," then sticks out her tongue and tells him to stay away because he's a Cootie.

Paul knows what grandma would say, "Let a smile be your umbrella," but she's never had to stand in the rain with Prudence.

Back home, Paul decides "Pruneface" would be a better name for Prudence, though he knows he can't call her that to her face because that would be mean.

On Day 6, she tells Paul he looks like a frog and Paul walks the other away, but inside his head he's calling her Pruneface.

That night, Paul dreams he's a frog puppet and Prudence is pulling the string, and wakes up knowing he can't take her remarks any longer.

In his head, he's reminded of Grandma's phrase, "Face your fears," and decides on day 7 that he'll face up to her and tell her to stop calling him names.

But instead of agreeing to a truce, she tags on another name to his growing name of insults.

That's when Paul does the thing he thought he wouldn't and calls out to her, "Why are you so mean Pruneface?"

Prudence can't believe her ears and runs screaming back into her house, and Paul can't believe he said it. For the rest of the day he feels like he's let grandma down.

That night Prudence wheels over a note along the wire outside their bedroom windows, telling him not to call her, "Pruneface." Then Paul wheels back his own telling her all things she can't call him.

Come morning, Prudence is all smiles and offers to walk Bobo. Looks like Prudence understands grandma's other saying, "You don't know someone until you walk a mile in their shoes."

Ahearn and Kozjan show how tenacious bullies be and sometimes, no matter how hard you try to turn things around, it's hard to know what to do to stop it.

Here a boy tries to rise above it, falters a little, but in the end, helps a girl discover that it's no fun being treated badly.

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