Worst in Show
Written by William Bee
Illustrated by Kate Hindley
(Candlewick Press; $15.99, ages 3-7)
✭Starred Review – Kirkus Reviews
In our anything goes reality show culture, we see time and again contestants competing in ridiculous events, each more outrageous than the next. So it makes sense every so often to stop and ask: what prize are they trying to win anyway? Light-hearted and humorous, Worst in Show highlights this question through soft language and muted colors, gently challenging readers of all ages to rethink the very standards we’ve come to accept as “successful.”
Little Albert, proud owner of a pet monster named Sidney sets off to prove to the world his monster is the “best pet monster in the world.” Entering Sidney in a live televised show, “THE BEST PET MONSTER IN THE WORLD COMPETITION,” Albert realizes Sidney has some pretty stiff competition.
For starters in Round 1 of the competition, “Hairiest Warts,” we see the other monsters proudly displaying their large, bumpy double-decker warts. Particularly enviable is the monster who shows off his armpit collection. “But Sidney, who has a bath every other day with lots of soap and bubbles, hasn’t got any warts–just a few freckles.” Albert’s confidence, by page 11, has withered into a worrisome expression, adorably accented by his gigantic eyeglasses.
As the rounds continue, Sidney’s chances of winning seem farther and farther away and Albert’s expression appear all the more anxious. By Round 3, “Most Parasites,” Sidney’s superior hygiene, once again, proves to be a disadvantage. While the other monsters’ parasites crowd the stage, Sidney’s meager two decide to pack their vacation things up and leave, as they were “just staying for a few days.” It’s a good thing too because on the next round, “Smelliest Fart” (my personal favorite), the stage is polluted with the other monsters’ simultaneous “smelly,” “stinky,” “stenchy,” and “rotten” fart fumes. Using the “Fart Buster 2000,” only a professional in a hazmat suit, like a company rep from Servpro, can vacuum up the smelly mess–like it never even happened. Oh, but happen it does. By the last round, “Hottest Breath,” the other monsters’ fiery flames nearly burn down the television studio.
Throughout the competition, Sidney’s smile never wavers, and Albert’s common sense finally overrides his embarrassment and despair. He asks himself at the end of each round, “who wants a” gross, filthy, fire-breathing, trouble-making pet monster anyway? As we open the folds of the penultimate page, a beautiful four page spread, we see Sidney receiving a trophy for performing the “WORST IN SHOW.” Albert knows good-smelling, clean, and gentle Sidney is the real winner here, as is this picture book for valuing the importance of individuality.
– Reviewed by Armineh Manookian