Don't Call Me Pruneface! - Janet Reed Ahearn, Drazen Kozjan
Ack! Could have been so good, but misses the mark a bit.

When a new girl (and her cat) move in next door, Paul isn't much impressed. His grandmother cautions him to give her a chance and 'don't judge a book by its cover'. Paul, being a good boy, actually takes the advice to heart. But it turns out the new girl, Prudence, doesn't make it easy at all. She calls him Pill, insults his dog, and even accuses him of having cooties! Paul gives her precisely one week to change his mind about her. Unfortunately, Prudence only seems to get worse as the days progress until finally, on the last day, Paul erupts and calls her 'Pruneface'. And this is where it got weird for me - apparently this was the magical cure. After Paul spends a night of guilty misery he wakes up to find a completely altered Prudence - sweet and totally eager to be his friend.

I love the idea that we need to give people - particularly those that are settling into a new environment - time to open up and show us who they really are. However, Prudence is truly excessively nasty and it's never made clear exactly why. And her extreme about-face is similarly mysterious - not to mention unrealistic. An adult reader would deduce that she's probably nervous being the new kid and isn't mature enough to engage in a positive way and it isn't until she gets a dose of her own medicine that she finally sees the error of her ways. But seriously, that's a pretty big leap for kids to make, and so the surface takeaway message seems to be - stick around and let people abuse you until you absolutely explode with anger and then maybe they'll come around. It's funny because I usually feel that picture books are OVERLY didactic and totally underestimate kids by beating them about the face with the 'message', but I feel that this one needed a bit more in terms of narrative explication to really hit the mark.

It's really unfortunate too because the illustrations are wonderful and I loved the journal entry style and the sly sense of humor throughout. I'll definitely look for more by both author and illustrator.