Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Dirtball Pete

Brennan, Eileen. 2010. DIRTBALL PETE. New York: Random House. ISBN 9780375834257 [Suggested Grade Levels K-2]

Dirtball Pete just can’t stay clean. It’s a fact to which everyone agrees. When he must participate in a presentation at school on “The Fifty States and Why They’re Great! Day,” Pete’s mother wants him to look his best. “When I find you under all this dirt, I’m going to scrub you clean, and you’re going to stay clean until the final curtain.” Her hard work produces a sparkling fresh Pete in a cardboard Pennsylvania costume. However, “no one can tell the wind what to do,” and when it steals Pete’s script from his hand, he has no choice but to chase the paper through mud and muck. Dirtball Pete’s appearance on stage shocks the audience and embarrasses his mother, but his fabulous speech outshines his dishevelment, making his mother very proud.

Contrasting the title character, the illustrations are tidy and sharp. The simple, somewhat stylized form highlights Pete’s smudged mug and littered hair and his transformed spotless face with bright button eyes. Pete says little until his speech at the end, yet his determination to do his best is evident. Even younger readers will recognize that there’s more to a person than how he looks on the outside.

Explore other visualizations of “clean” and “dirty.” Collect pictures from magazines that depict these opposites and make corresponding collages for display. Make lists of words that are associated with the terms “clean” and “dirty.” Ask children to create two self-portraits, a normal and a “dirtball” version.

Other books about getting clean:
Rosenthal, Amy Krouse. LITTLE OINK. ISBN 9780811866552
Timberlake, Amy. THE DIRTY COWBOY. ISBN 9780374317911
Zion, Gene. HARRY THE DIRTY DOG. ISBN 9780060268657

By Rebecca S. McKee

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