Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Zombie Spud? ROT: The Cutest in the World by Ben Clanton

Rot is an, um, "mutant" potato. He's actually a bit, er, rotten here and there, and not really handsome, even as overripe veggies go, with a unibrow, one eye that seems a bit moldy, and something strange sorta sprouting from the top of his head.

But this past-his-prime spud has plenty of self confidence, and when he spots a sign--


--Rot is on it like mold on bleu cheese. He feels like a sure winner--that is, until he spots the competition.

There is an itty-bitty baby bunny with fluffy, floppy ears,

A little-wittle bewitching, bewhiskered cuddly kitten,

And an eenie-weenie, pink and peppy, jolly jellyfish.

(Did I mention the other competitors are all in pastel colors, too?)

The other contestants find Rot a little nauseating, while ROT wonders if they wouldn't be toothsome treats! But he rethinks the idea and decides that eating the competition wouldn't help his chances to win. Instead, he decides a little self-cute-ification might be expedient. He tries fake blue bunny ears, cutesy kitty whiskers, and paints himself jellyfish pink sporting a pink tutu and pom-poms.

"Look!" says Rot. "I look like you!"

"Um, NO!" says Bunny.

The other contestants take the stage, sure their cuteness will charm the judges. Rot does his best to strut his stuff, even his spotty backside.

But, WAIT! This contest is crooked! The judges are all rotten--a bad lot! A Blighted Banana, a Wormy Apple, and a Past-Prime Pear?

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, in Ben Clanton's clever parody of beauty pageants, Rot, the Cutest in the World! (Atheneum Books, 2017). in which Rot takes the trophy, while the runner-up pink jellyfish tries to vary his look with his own unibrow. Young readers will find Rot irresistibly ticklebox-worthy in author Clanton's tongue-in-cheek text, and artist Clanton uses the faux naif style to great effect with his simple blackline drawings illustrated in blotchy daubs of watercolor that subtly spoof the zombie craze. Rot is NOT pretty, but he is what he is, himself to the core! Says School Library Journal, "An entertaining and irreverent take on self-confidence."

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