Elvin Link, Please Report to the Principal’s Office!

Holt/Christy ­Ottaviano Bks. Jul. 2020. 224p. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781627792097.
Gr 3-5–Fifth-grader Elvin is a talented artist but he runs into trouble at school. He doodles on his assignments, his desk, his locker, and even his lunch tray, in between threats from bully Peter Zorber, also known as the Wedgiemaster. In the end, Elvin’s drawing skills help solve the mysterious disappearance of the school’s field-day T-shirts, and brings an end to Peter’s bullying. The mystery may be too mild to hold readers’ interest, and Peter’s redemption comes a little too easily: Immediately after he faces school-wide humiliation, he apologizes to Elvin and all of his victims. There is an uneven message about bullying in the narration: Even as he is tormented by Peter, Elvin complains a few times about a schoolmate named Clay who smells “like vinegar.” This is never acknowledged as its own form of bullying or an unkind remark. Elvin’s mother has a Latinx name, as does his best friend, Carlos. The text mentions students and staff with Asian and Latinx names, and the school’s principal is depicted in the illustrations as female and African American; all other characters are depicted with light skin in the black-and-white illustrations. The skillful and expressive art, drawn in bold, fluid lines, appears on almost every page and captures Elvin’s creativity, imagination, and taste for gross-out humor.
VERDICT Weak on plot but strong on illustrations, this book contains plenty of laughs and school angst for fans of Jeff Kinney’s “Wimpy Kid” series.

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