June 2002

Sometimes it’s good to be bad

By Amy McDonald
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The battle between good and evil is never-ending. Or is it? Author Amy McDonald revisits this age-old topic in her newest title, Quentin Fenton Herter III. McDonald, whose previous books include Rachel Fister's Blister and Cousin Ruth's Tooth, uses her imaginative and humorous verse to bring young Quentin's struggle between right and wrong to life.

Being the perfect child, good Quentin Fenton Herter III, known as "Third," is above reproach: "He always cleaned his supper plate and went to bed each night at eight." And "he never ran but always walked, and sat quite still when grown-ups talked." His shadow, however, whom he calls "Three," constantly gets in trouble and does all the things (good) Third would never do: "He sometimes lied, forgot his prayers, left toys outside, or on the stairs." In short, (bad) Three "did what he should not, and never did what he should ought." But while the two are complete opposites and loathe each other, deep down inside both (good) Third and (bad) Three want to be like each other just a bit. So when (good) Third cannot control a sneeze during tea with Cousin Bea and Great-aunt May, it's shocking and terrible, but also just a little bit refreshing to him that he does something "bad." Not to be outdone, (bad) Three steps in and does something good: "He behaved quite perfectly."

This switching of roles is not nearly as horrible as either had thought, and both learn that sometimes it's a nice change to walk in another person's shoes for a while. Bringing the opposite sides of Quentin to life, Giselle Potter contributes whimsical illustrations of the well-mannered Third and the mischievous Three, building both into distinctive characters. Her nimbly drawn figures are expressive and appealing. Through her use of humor and rhyme, McDonald assures young readers that nobody can truly be perfect, and that life does go on after a mistake. In the end Quentin teaches kids an important lesson: sometimes being too good can be bad and being a little bad can be good.

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Quentin Fenton Herter III

Quentin Fenton Herter III

By Amy McDonald
Farrar, Straus
ISBN 9780374361709

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