Friday, June 28, 2019

Review - The Couch Potato

The Couch Potato
by Kerry Lyn Sparrow
illustrated by Yinfan Huang
Date: 2019
Publisher: Kids Can Press
Reading level: C
Book type: picture book
Pages: 32
Format: e-book
Source: NetGalley

Mr. Russet is the first to spot it. It's right in the middle of the couch. A potato. It doesn't belong there, yet there it is. And he's had enough. “Every day I pick up this, I pick up that, I pick up everything!” Mr. Russet exclaims. “I will not pick up that potato!” And he doesn't. In fact, he decides to take a stand and not pick up anything else either! But as the days pass, Mrs. Russet and the two Russet children don't seem to mind the potato in the living room. Or the mess growing all around them. What's a potato protestor to do? In Kerry Lyn Sparrow's funny picture book story, readers are likely to see parallels to their own families and how they handle household chores. The short, simple text and quirky story make for a fun read-aloud. Yinfan Huang's lively, childlike, colorful art conveys the same droll humor as the text. This book offers a good lead-in to discussions about roles and responsibilities within a family and respecting one another's feelings, particularly in the way that people can look at the same thing and see it from different perspectives. It can also be used for character education lessons on adaptability and tolerance.

(synopsis from Goodreads)

Ouch. This book is so unfunny, it's bordering on offensive. It manages to make homemakers look like entitled divas, men like stubborn babies, and women like clueless idiots.

Part of the problem is that the author tried to reverse the gender roles, probably so that there wouldn't be any problems with sexism or whatnot. Unfortunately, it backfired. All the old offensive stereotypes are still there; it's just the other gender doing the action. Mrs. Russet comes home after work and reads the newspaper, finds what she thinks is a toy (it's actually the potato), and chucks it across the room with no regard for the state of any breakables in the vicinity. Mr. Russet claims he cleans up every day, but then gets his nose out of joint when he finds a potato, and instead of just picking it up, he basically goes on strike, letting the house fall into complete disarray, and holes up in the bathroom with a relaxing cup of coffee. (Can you imagine how fast this book would be called out if the roles had been reversed?)

As if all that isn't bad enough, Mr. Russet eventually makes French fries with the potato. What's wrong with that? Oh, nothing... except for the fact that it's been floating around the house for days, getting filthy. At one point, the dog even used it as a chew toy. I shudder to think of the bacteria that was in those fries. (Not that it really mattered. The rest of the family, weirdly, refused to eat their "friend" the potato, leaving all the pathogenic fries for Mr. Russet. He's welcome to them, as far as I'm concerned.)

The illustrations here are really not to my liking. The style is... well, I guess you could call it "elementary-school realism" or something. A lot of the pictures reminded me of things my friends and I used to draw as children. (I know it takes more skill than that to illustrate a picture book in this style and have it look consistent. I just don't personally like the style.)

I'm afraid this book is a miss for me. The stereotypes made me too uncomfortable and the pictures weren't to my taste.

Thank you to NetGalley and Kids Can Press for providing a digital ARC.

Premise: 2/5
Meter: n/a
Writing: 3/5
Illustrations: 2/5
Originality: 3/5

Enjoyment: 1/5

Overall: 2 out of 5

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