‘Arnie the Doughnut’

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(Host) Brilliance comes in all age groups. At least that’s the thesis of commentator Jules Older.

(Older) “Hey,” I said, “I found a brilliant new author!” When it emerged that this author was a childrens’ author. My friend did a double-take.

“Maybe it’s because I write kids’ books,” I said, “but I don’t make any distinction between what age group they write for or what genre they write in. Brilliant is brilliant.” And brilliant is Laurie Keller, author and illustrator of the brand new picture book, “Arnie the Doughnut.”

How do you recognize brilliance in a picture book? This is one book you can judge by its cover. Let me show you.

Standing on stick legs, dead center and right under the words, “Arnie the Doughnut,” is a large, smiling, sprinkle-covered, chocolate doughnut. He’s saying, “That’s ME!” Beneath him is a banner that reads, “cooked up by Laurie Keller.” Commenting on the banner are two small doughnuts. One says, “I’m sorry, but that girl canNOT cook!” The other answers, “I know, I know – it’s a figure of speech.” All around the margins, other doughnuts are gossiping: “Hi, Arnie!” “Arnie’s one crazy doughnut!” “Look at our Arnie on the cover of his own book!”

So, right away you have stuff for kids; stuff for adults who read to kids; stuff for kids to get later, when they’re older; and stuff for both to discover, as they notice the fine print on the 15th reading. And that’s just the cover! Brilliant.

Inside, there’s more of the same: corny jokes, word play, picture play, some characters talking to the reader while others ignore the reader and gossip among themselves. There’s also a fair swag of information as to how doughnuts get made and how a bakery operates.

But – none of this and there’s plenty of it – gets in the way of telling a mighty fine story, filled with – no not chocolate cream – filled with humor, suspense, disappointment, danger, and a clever enough resolution to satisfy both kids and grownups. I like this book so much, I’m not gonna give anything away.

But here’s the danger part. After being chosen (Moi?) by a customer named Mr. Bing, Arnie suddenly discovers that he’s on his way into Mr Bing’s open mouth. “WHAT ARE YOU DOING?” shouted Arnie. Mr Bing was stunned.
“I was going to… eat you,” he replied in shock.
“EAT ME?” Arnie shrieked. “Do you make a habit of eating all your houseguests?”
“Nnnno…of course not.”
“So, then why did it suddenly occur to you to eat ME?”

In addition to “Arnie the Doughnut,” Lauire Keller has written and illustrated two just-as brilliant books, “The Scrambled States of America” and “Open Wide: Tooth School Inside.” If you love one – as I do – yer gonna love ’em all.

This is Jules Older in Albany, Vermont, the Soul of the Kingdom.

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