Marc Brown's Arthur's April Fool
Children's book review by Steve Barancik
You do know the Arthur books, don't you? Arthur runs into a fair number of problems, but he's a good kid, and things tend to work out for him in the end.
Usually because he's a good kid.
April Fools Day is a holiday on the order of Halloween at Arthur's school, but he's not as excited as usual this year. You see, huge, mean Binky Barnes has been threatening to punch Arthur out.
And, indeed, we get to see Binky bullying Arthur. What Binky lacks in brains he makes up for in mean. Arthur indeed appears overmatched.
But Arthur's not the kind of kid to hide from his problems no matter how anxious he is. He's begun a rather ineffective bodybuilding program. And he still plans to perform his magic tricks in the April Fools assembly.
He's so nervous, though, that he doesn't anticipate performing well.
All his worst fears seem realized when he asks for a volunteer from the audience and it's Binky who climbs on stage. Indeed, Arthur bungles his tricks. But then he gets an idea.
He's going to perform his sawing-the-volunteer-in-half trick. And that saw looks pretty darn real to Binky!
In my experience, one of the strengths of the Arthur books is that kids solve their own problems. Once Arthur strikes fear in Binky's heart, he plays another trick on the bully for good measure.
So if you're looking for a bullying book where the child learns to tell an adult, or reason causes the bully to see the error of his ways, this book isn't it. On the other hand...
If you're looking to impress upon a bullied child that the bully likely has vulnerabilities too, this is just the book.
Marc Brown, with all his success, could probably put less effort into his books, but he doesn't. His illustrations are rich with fun details, and he even manages to pay a nice visual homage to Maurice Sendak's Where the Wild Things Are (reviewed on this site).
In Arthur's April Fool, Marc Brown and Arthur manage to pull a triumph over bullying out of their respective hats.
Bullying books at Amazon.
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