by Karla Oceanak
illustrated by Kendra Spanjer
Bailiwick Press, 2009
review copy provided by the publisher
Aldo's grandmother, an artist, gives him a sketchbook at the beginning of summer break so he can keep track of all his artsy-fartsy ideas. Aldo does plenty of sketching, but he's also interested in words, thanks to his neighbor (a retired English teacher), Mr. Mot. It's Mr. Mot who gets Aldo started keeping track of all the interesting "A" words he uses, beginning with "artsy-fartsy". There's even a word gallery at the end of the book with all of Aldo's "A" words. Most of the words are defined (except for words like "antidisestablishmentarianism," which he has no idea what it means but likes it because it's so long), and some are illustrated (like the toilet beside "ad nauseum").
In this first book in the series, we meet 10 year-old Aldo's family -- his grandmother the painter, his mother the birder, his father, whose hobby is baking, and his 14 year-old athletic brother. Aldo's best friend Jack is a rock hound. They all live in Colorado.
Aldo and Jack make a fort at the edge of the park near their house, under a big blue spruce whose branches grow almost all the way to the ground. Aldo leaves his notebook in a crook of the branches. When he comes back, he finds drawings in his notebook! Someone has found their fort, found his notebook, and DRAWN IN IT!
Finding the culprit (who strikes again at least once more) is the main story line in ARTSY-FARTSY, but there are plenty of entertaining sub-stories. In one, Aldo, who would rather watch TV and play video games, is forced to play baseball. It starts badly (and humorously) but has a surprising turn in the end.
Aldo is a character I like a lot, and I think kids will like, too. The second book in the series, BOGUS, is due out this spring, and promises to be filled with "more hand-drawn comics, rock-candy B words, and accounts of his everyday adventures." Looks like Aldo's dad's baking will be a key part of the story in BOGUS.