Even though my boys have now reached the lofty ages of 8 and 11, with the concomitant expectation that they can read "real" books, we still delight in discovering new picture books. A picture book book can give a nice fast burst of reading fun, and Earth to Clunk, by Pam Smallcomb, illustrated by Joe Berger (Dial, 2011, 40 pages), is just such a book.
The story begins with the illustration on the inside of the cover--a small boy being whacked by his big sister's backpack (and boy, does she have a mean look on her face!). The boy's day does not get better once he gets to school.
"Today Mr. Zookian said I have to write to my pen pal. His name is Clunk.
"He lives on the planet Quazar," said Mr. Zookian. "Write him a letter and send him something from Earth."
Our young hero does not want Anything At All to do with this whole pen pal business. So he decides to send Clunk his sister. "THAT will teach him to have a pen pal from Earth."
And Clunk sends back a Zoid, a friendly floating fluff ball creature.
Then Clunk gets dirty socks.
So the exchanges go, horrible things sent to Clunk, and interesting (although some scary) things arriving in return. But then Mom wants her daughter back, and, along with gross old lasagna from the back of the fridge, her request is passed on to Clunk...
Then nothing comes from Clunk. For ages. And the boy misses the alien packages he'd been getting...
Fast forward a bit to the ending--Clunk comes for a sleepover! The friendly Zoid (now shown with little hearts all around itself) falls hard for the big sister and follows her everywhere (she's not pleased)!
It is a pleasure to see the grumpy protagonist gradually warming to his alien pen pal (and to the ever present Zoid). And although the fun of it all takes center stage, behind the somewhat subversive framework of a kid being completely uncooperative (and mailing off his big sister to an alien planet) there's a positive message. Things that you don't want to do can actually work out well--in this case, with new friends are made and new experiences appreciated (mostly!).
The writing is simple, but gets right to the point--good, I think, for the early independent reader (and, as I said at the beginning, fun for older kids too!). The illustrations add whimsical life to the somewhat matter-of-fact tone of the narration (especially all the expressions of the Zoid--I loved the Zoid!), making this book one to enjoy lots.
Fantasy picture books seem much more common than science fiction, but the science fiction ones are generally more amusing (Once Upon a Cool Motorcycle Dude excepted). Here's a post where I list a few other examples; if you have a favorite sci fi picture book of your own, funny or not, do let me know!
Other reviews of Earth to Clunk can be found at Waking Brain Cells, and You Know, For Kids