Reviews for Chick and Brain: Smell My Foot!

by Cece Bell

School Library Journal
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K-Gr 2—Bell (El Deafo; I Yam a Donkey!; "Rabbit & Robot") returns with another story about grammar, miscommunication, and odd couple friends. In this graphic novel send-up of the "Dick and Jane" primers, Brain, clad only in heart-patterned boxers and sporting either an external brain or a gray hairdo that resembles one, is trying to convince a politeness-obsessed chick to smell his foot. Chick criticizes Brain's phrasing ("I will not smell your foot until you say PLEASE") and intelligence ("Brain, you look very smart…But you are not very smart"). This focus on manners at the expense of kindness almost causes Chick to miss out on what turns out to be Brain's truly alluring foot odor. When Spot the dog wanders by, sniffs Chick's foot, and invites the oblivious bird to lunch (as the intended main course), Brain comes to Chick's rescue by knocking Spot out with the aroma from his (apparently stinky) other foot. New readers may be thrown by the beats of Chick and Brain's dialogue, since the humor relies on unexpected responses (as in the opening exchange: "HELLO, BRAIN." "Yeah, I know. I am Brain.") and discussion of conversational norms. However, the short length and engagingly goofy art—reminiscent of James Proimos's "Johnny Mutton" series—will be a draw for kids who love quirky characters and the amusing premise. VERDICT Although not as successful as Bell's best work, and potentially confusing for some new readers, this hilariously wacky tale will resonate with many children.–Miriam DesHarnais, Towson University, MD

Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

A comedic duo stars in their first comica playful homage to the Dick and Jane books. Brain certainly looks smart. But, by Chick's assessment, Brain's social ineptitude says otherwise. Chick minds their p's and q's, modeling proper behavior for Brain to emulate. Brain takes Chick's repeat-after-me lessons a bit too literally, however. Instead of copying, Brain responds directlyoften hilariously off-script. In exchange after exchange, the pair's silly chemistry peaks with the human and the bird smelling each other's feet. Soon, a dog named Spot arrives on the scene, adding their nose to the mix. All that foot sniffingspecifically, yummy chicken foot sniffingprompts Spot to invite Chick over for an exclusive lunch. Will Chick see through Spot's politeness before winding up on the menu? In this first series entry, Bell flips the repetitive primer structure on its head and transforms it into a winning oddball comedy. With a limited vocabulary of around 120 wordsexclusively presented through dialoguethe four-chapter story is a careful blend of verbal and visual humor. The comic-book format, with usually one to four panels per page, heightens the silly factor with well-placed punchlines. Bell's highly expressive watercolor and ink cartoon illustrations set characters against sparse backgrounds. It's up to readers to decide whether the wrinkly gray mass atop white-presenting Brain's head is tightly curled gray hair or an exposed brain. Fragrant fun for first readers. (Graphic early reader. 4-8) Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Publishers Weekly
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The title says it all: this early reader comic by Newbery Honor author Bell features plenty of bonkers humor. Four vignettes pair Chick, a dainty yellow bird, with a clonking human called Brain, who possesses an exposed brain, a pair of heart-printed boxer shorts, and huge feet. Chick wants Brain to be polite: “No, Brain, no. I say Hello, Brain. Then you say Hello, Chick.” Brain does not want to be polite, and he does not mind when Chick indicates he is not very smart. Instead, he says, “Smell my foot!” Weirdly, Brain’s foot smells great. Bell’s ink-and-wash panel artwork zeroes in on the characters’ faces and gestures. In the second tale, Spot the dog appears. He likes chicken and invites Chick for lunch. For lunch? Comic tension mounts as Chick, oblivious to danger, lectures the dog: “You did not say thank you for the salt.” Spot’s eyes narrow. “GRRRR,” he says. “THANK.” “YOU. “FOR.” “THE.” “SALT.” Thank goodness for Brain, whose secret weapon neutralizes Spot. Simple vocabulary packed with tension and humor keeps readers’ interest high. Ages 4–8. (Sept.)

Book list
From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.

You would not expect a book called Smell My Foot to be about good manners. Pleases and thank-yous are at a high premium, though, as Chick (a baby chicken) instructs his friend Brain (a large underwear-clad human with an exposed brain) in social niceties. In contention: the smelling of Brain's foot, which he claims has a great aroma. Chick, however, won't come near it without a polite greeting and formal invitation. The shoe is on the other foot, so to speak, when Spot (a hungry dog) joins in and his attempt to eat Chick can only by foiled by Brain's secret weapon: his other foot. It's as silly as it sounds, just the way budding readers like it, and the word and sentence repetition are good for literacy development as well as remembering your manners. Boisterous art matches the situations with goofy figures in hyperbolic positions, and young readers will love seeing the danger coming before the characters do. A viable Elephant & Piggie alternative for slightly more advanced readers.--Jesse Karp Copyright 2019 Booklist