ARE WE ALMOST THERE? by James Stevenson (Greenwillow: $11.75; 32 pp.; ages 5 to 8). Parents who drive on long trips with their kids deserve medals. Someone in the back seat is either shoving, whining, fighting, sobbing, biting, or shouting that they have to go to the bathroom--all this within five minutes of steering onto the freeway. Once awarded these invisible medals, parents can sit back and laugh, which is exactly what they'll do when they see what New Yorker contributor James Stevenson is up to here.
Two puppy brothers on their way to the beach with Mom and Dad squabble the whole way even though they're strapped into safety belts. They're thirsty, Harry is a copycat, Larry is hogging things, they both spill ice cream on the seat, and when voices reach a crescendo Dad stops in a rest area, fed up and ready for a nap. Stevenson is hilarious, his family feuding is delightfully familiar and his illustrations bright.
Like his "That Terrible Halloween Night," one of School Library Journal's Best Books of the Year, his drawings are cartoonish with overhead balloons holding dialogue. But here there is no typed narrative, just comic strips with a few full-pagers, a rather hectic pace for 5-to-8-year-olds. The pictures are too busy to share with a classroom, and it's exhausting for adults reading aloud to point to each picture and explain who's saying what where.