Ben Yokoyama and the Cookie of Doom / Ben Yokoyama and the Cookie of Endless Waiting – by Matthew Swanson & Robbi Behr, Alfred A. Knopf, 9780593302750 / 9780593302767, 2021
Rating: 1-5 (5 is an excellent or a Starred review) 5
What did you like about the book? These are very funny books with a great story and characters. Ben Yokoyama is half Japanese (like Robbi, the illustrator), which is relevant and integrated into the story without the book being about his identity. In the first book, after eating at a Chinese restaurant with his aunt, he gets a fortune cookie that reads “live each day as if it were your last.” He suddenly realizes that the following may be his last day, and sets out on a plan to do all the things he’s wanted to do in his life, like putting together his Taj Mahal model, doing a perfect tail whip on his scooter, and eating a whole cake at once. As he tries to complete each item on his list, he runs into problems, but also adds additional items as he realizes what is important. In the second book, he receives a fortune cookie saying “good things come to those who wait.” With this, he thinks he shouldn’t take any actions and should just wait for things to happen to him. Though he takes it to the extreme, with some comical results, by the end he realizes that even though many good things did happen when he waited, a balance is still important. In both books, the humor is realistic and kid-friendly, often narrated by Ben himself. I also appreciated that the jokes are not at the expense of others, and are generally positively-focused or situational. The relationships between Ben, his parents, and his friends (especially his best friend Janet) are also realistic and positive. Though there are conflicts at times, they are resolved in a realistic way that strengthens their relationship and models conversation skills for readers. And all of this is done through a thoroughly-enjoyable story. Black and white illustrations are integrated into every page and really add to the humor and narration. Many times characters are drawn with word bubbles in the middle of the text to read dialogue. Sometimes the text is worked into the illustrations in creative ways, like the teacher writing on the board. A few pages look like it could be a graphic novel, but overall it reads more as a chapter book. At the end of the books, there is an About the Author and Illustrator section that is very readable and entertaining. It’s a conversation with questions and answers between Matthew and Robbi, where the reader learns that they are married and along with many other fun facts about each of them, their lives, and their book creating process. Photographs of both of their heads (often with funny facial expressions) are paired with word bubbles to add a visual element and additional humor. There are also a few pages of interesting facts at the end of each book – “Fortune Cookie Facts” (#1) and “Good Things You (Really Do) Have to Wait For” (#2). I’m definitely looking forward to the third book, Ben Yokoyama and the Cookie of Perfection, which comes out in December 2021.
Anything you did not like about the book. Nothing
To whom would you recommend this book? I would give this book to fans of Diary of a Wimpy Kid and other funny books that include integrated illustrations. It would also be great for readers who like graphic novels and chapter books.
Who should buy this book? Elementary school librarians, public librarians
Where would you shelve it? Chapter books, humor if genrefied
Should we (librarians) put this on the top of our “to read” piles? No
Reviewer’s Name, Library (or school), City: Sarah Bickel, Greenlodge Elementary School, Dedham Massachusetts
Date of review: June 19, 2021