Friday, January 25, 2013

Book Review: The Stupids Take Off by Harry Allard

Stars: 3 out of 5
Pros: Some of the jokes are funny for all ages
Cons: Just as many are...well...stupid
The Bottom Line:
Stupid relatives
Live up to the name but jokes
Aren't always funny

Stupid Family Vacation

As a kid, I remember adoring the Miss Nelson picture books by Harry Allard, and with my younger brother, I found his other picture book series - The Stupids.  In the library recently, I grabbed one at random hoping to find the silliness I remembered from when I read them before.  The Stupids Take Off, the fourth picture book about this family, didn't live up to my memories.

This series follows the misadventures of a family that, well, doesn't quite have everything figured out.  For example, in this book, Mrs. Stupid paints her nails.  And we're talking about the kind you use to build something, not the kind you have on your fingers.  I like that kind of humor, which is one reason I remember enjoying these books.

One morning, the Stupids wake up to the news that Uncle Carbuncle is coming for a visit.  In a panic, they decide to take their vacation early, so they load up the family plane and go visit some relatives.  And yes, their relatives are just as stupid as the Stupids are.  They attend a birthday party and marvel over a new high dive.  Just which relative will they visit next?

Now don't get me wrong - there are some fun gags here.  For example, that high dive is over a grassy field and not a pool.  And there are eight candles on the cake at the party because they didn't have six.  On the other hand, there's the relative that is trying to grow pencils.  Yeah, that's just stupid.  And not funny stupid, but stupid stupid.  As I said, I do remember finding these books funnier as a kid.  Maybe I didn't mind the jokes that fell flat as much.  Or maybe by the fourth in the series, the author had run out of ideas.

Harry Allard's long time artist James Marshall does the illustrations here as well.  They are a nice mix of cartoony exaggeration while still being realistic enough that we can always tell what is happening.  And some of the gags come from the pictures, so that's a very good thing.

I'm curious enough that next time I get a chance, I'll have to stop by the library and see if the others in the series are as good as I remembered or if they are all stupid.  Kids will probably still enjoy The Stupids Take Off, but their parents won't be quite as amused.

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