Lester's Dreadful Sweaters by K.G. Campbell

Lynn:  Raise your hand if you’ve been given a truly horrible homemade gift.  Lopsided lace doilies?  A wobbly badly glued concoction of pine cones, ribbon and glitter?  A sweater in eye-destroying colors with sleeves of different lengths?  You can whisk out the decorative items when the maker is expected but oh my – what to do about those sweaters?  If you’re a kid you may actually have to wear it to school!  ACK – the horror!

K.G. Campbell’s book, Lester’s Dreadful Sweaters (Kids Can Press 2012) captures the experience and even raises the ante to new heights.  When Lester’s family hears that Cousin Clara’s cottage was consumed by a crocodile, they kindly invite Clara to move in.  She arrives with a basket of yarn and sits and knits, clickety-click.  All seems well until she reveals what she has been working on – a sweater for Lester and it is DREADFUL!  The situation worsens when Lester learns he has to wear it to school.  Lester is a resourceful child and a mysterious accident destroys the horrible sweater but Clara can knit one, purl two at the speed of light and soon she produces another even more ghastly sweater.  Well, you can guess the rest and it is hilarious.  Each new sweater is even more awful than the last and Lester’s creativity is stretched to keep up until a delightful resolution makes everyone happy.

The text of this delightful concoction is as absurdly eccentric as the Adam’s family-type illustrations – and oh those sweaters!  The older members of the focus group tested this one for us and laughed and snorted all the way through it, deciding it was “too sophisticated for Henry but just right for older kids.”  Makes me wonder about how they really feel about those sweaters I knitted them!

Cindy: I was in the throws of holiday gift shopping when Lynn made me read this. It did not help my shopping progress to wonder if the gifts I thought were wonderful would be viewed otherwise by their recipients, but it did make me laugh And with the gifting season now  behind us, perhaps it will give readers a creative way to repurpose those odd gifts that just aren’t “you.” I couldn’t wait to turn the page to see what horrific creation Aunt Clara whipped up next. Surely she can’t continue to outdo herself? Oh, yes, she could. Wait until you see! Don’t miss this fun book with language as creative and wacky as the sweaters. There’s nothing really dreadful here. I may have to ask my college daughter in private about the sock monkey knitted hat my husband picked out for her! It can still be returned. :)

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About the Author:

Cindy Dobrez and Lynn Rutan are Booklist reviewers and middle-school librarians who have chaired both ALA’s Best Books for Young Adults and the Michael L. Printz Award for YA Literature committees.

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