Question Boy Meets Little Miss Know-It-All

illus. by author. unpaged. CIP. S & S/Atheneum. Feb. 2012. Tr $16.99. ISBN 978-1-4424-0670-4. LC 2011000496.
PreS-Gr 1—Question Boy roams the city, vanquishing foes with endless queries. Garbage Man, Police Woman, and Oil Man all flee from his barrage, but he meets his match in Little Miss Know-It-All. They face off, hurling questions and random facts till they both collapse. Strong, clever writing plays with the comic superhero genre: "He left Wonder Waitress woozy. Even Mailman and Paperboy were no match for his need to know." Unfortunately, the impressionistic watercolor and gouache art is an unnatural fit for comic-book adventure, and the slightly blurry people can feel bland and stilted. Little Miss Know-It-All's litany of trivia indiscriminately mixes truth with fiction, leaving young fact hounds to wonder what is strange but true, and what is "malarkey." While the concept of community workers as superheroes and children with super-strength skills at asking questions and knowing all the answers will appeal to both parents and kids, the negatives here outweigh the positives.—Suzanne Myers Harold, Multnomah County Library System, Portland, OR
Catalanotto creates an intrepid caped crusader for whom no question is too daunting or trivial to ask. Question Boy bests one everyday hero after another with question after question. Parents will identify with the plight of Garbage Man, Police Woman, Mechanic Man, etc. The scenarios build to an absurdist height until, finally, QB meets a worthy opponent who has all the answers and then some.
Young children do seem to have a superhuman capacity for interrogation. Catalanotto takes this concept and flies with it to create his intrepid caped crusader for whom no question is too daunting or trivial to ask. Patrolling a residential neighborhood, rendered in verdant sun-drenched watercolors, Question Boy takes on and bests one costumed everyday hero after another. For example, while Garbage Man (bedecked in head-to-toe spandex with a giant red G on his chest) is "busy freeing the city of filth and rubbish," QB fires increasingly impossible queries at him -- "How much stuff can you fit in your truck?" "More than an elephant?" "Can you fit a whale in there?" -- until the outmatched sanitation engineer has no choice but to flee. Obviously, parents of young children will identify with his plight -- and the plight of Police Woman, Mechanic Man, Wonder Waitress, etc. -- but, happily, the book's humor is not adults-only. The caricatured scenarios build to an absurdist height when from the depths of the park comes, finally, a worthy opponent who has all the answers and then some. When Question Boy and the tiara-and-tutu-clad Little Miss Know-It-All face off against each other, it's the most satisfying showdown since…well, there really is no comparison. christine m. heppermann

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