Written and Illustrated by Jonathan Fenske
Scholastic Press, 2016
I am BORED.
The plot in a nutshell: A barnacle bemoans the dullness of his life.
Barnacle is hanging off the side of a pier and is thoroughly bored with his day to day life and its repetition. The tide comes in and he gets wet, the tide goes out and he dries out. The sun comes up and goes down, the waves roll in and out and it’s all the same. He spies a little polka-dotted fish in the water and thinks about how lucky that fish is to have such an interesting life. He imagines all the fun things the fish gets to do, like diving with dolphins and playing with plankton. Then he notices a menacing eel swimming up behind the fish and in a moment, the fish is gone. And Barnacle isn’t bored anymore.
I love to see well-executed dark humor in picture books. Author/illustrator Jonathan Fenske offers this deliciously acerbic take on the classic childhood lament that every parent has probably heard a dozen times. So if kids identify with Barnacle, they will be as shocked as he is when they get to the ‘circle of life’ moment. And parents will quietly nod to themselves, because they know that when the world is going crazy around them, a little boredom can be pretty sweet sometimes.
The book’s text is entirely comprised of speech balloons while Barnacle is musing aloud. Everything else is conveyed through the artwork, which is mostly just in shades of blue, green and brown until the polka-dot fish shows up. I love Barnacle’s facial expressions, which change dramatically as he moves through the story and they are mostly negative emotions, including tedium, frustration, annoyance and disdain. This really increases the impact of the book’s punch line when we see Barnacle with a big uncomfortable grin on his face. The artwork continues onto the end papers, as well, as we get a really cute postscript from a different character. It’s enjoyable and deliciously funny.
And what did we learn? What I take away from this book is that it’s no fun to be bored, but it’s important to remember that not all excitement is good.