As someone who loses her keys every single day, I really related to the main character, Alfred Crabtree, in this charming kid’s book. One day Alfred wakes up and can’t find his false teeth. He looks through all his belongings and realizes he has a lot of stuff. He calls his sister for guidance and she suggests he does some organization. Through the rest of the book, you get a visual tour of Alfred’s personal inventory as he categorizes everything he owns from his “tools & utensils” to his “yellow” things to his “broken things”.
He has some creative ways of cataloguing and the variety in each topic becomes quite humorous -for example, his “shells” collection includes a horseshoe crab shell, an armadillo shell, pasta shells, nut shells, scallop shells and egg shells. He packs each of these groupings into a labeled box and the box stack grows tall. I don’t want to spoil the ending but let’s just say it’s a happy one and finally Alfred gets his toothy grin back.
The illustrations are crude and clumsy is the most perfect ways. They make me laugh just on their own without their silly labels, although those add even more amusement: “free when I opened a bank account”, “rattles when you shake it”, “smells like honeysuckle”. The “broken things” category is labeled with broken labels, for example, a chair with a missing leg is just a “ch” and fork with a broken tine is just a “fo”.
An extra plus of this book is that the jacket unfolds into a poster with a giant weird plant looking object on it labeled with “I have no idea what this thing is.”
This book made me contemplate my personal inventory and imagine what categories I might use to classify my own junk- “nostalgia from my crazy years”, “clothes with polka dots on them”, “almost empty gouache tubes”, “sauces from so much take-out”. This book would go into my “picture books I will treasure even though I have no kids” category. You can get a copy here. More from McSweeney’s McMullens soon!