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By Lori Ann Stephens, Trevor Yokochi (Illustrator)

IR Rating:
This fun illustrated chapter book for middle-grade readers uses plenty of gross adolescent humor to tell a deeper story of compassion.
A bedwetting French-American boy faces his fears and goes to camp in PIERRE FRANCOIS: 5th GRADE MISHAPS.

This 148-page book for kindergartners through sixth graders follows the daily life of an intelligent 10-year-old boy named Pierre Francois. Filled with cute drawings to illustrate the text, this book touches on issues of importance to adolescents: body odor, mucus, urine, vomit, flatulence, and underwear. Underneath these unsavory references (that will surely delight most children of that age), the story explores far more important subjects, such as body image, acceptance, and compassion.

The child of a French father and American mother, Pierre is well-known around school for his use of big words (such as “evidently”) that earn him the nickname “Francy Pants” and for his long curly hair, which causes some teachers to mistake him for a girl. These two developments don’t upset him, though, for his secret fear is that his bedwetting accidents will become public knowledge and he’ll be called “Pee-Air.”

His loving parents support him in everything he does, but are hesitant when Pierre wants to go to the school’s two-night sleepover camp. Can he make it through the night without embarrassing himself? All his classmates will be attending the camp, including his two best friends, his crush, his female nemesis, and Mason (the stinky boy whose language is as dirty as his clothes).  Armed with an extra pair of sweat pants (but no big-boy diapers for sleeping), Pierre faces his fears head-on in a comical adventure that ends sweetly despite a few problems.

A couple of plot points may confuse young readers. Pierre’s sleepover disaster at a friend’s house ends with him putting soiled sheets in the washing machine. It’s unclear if he actually attempts to wash and dry the sheets or just puts them in the washer, and why a smart boy like him thinks he’s safe from detection if sheets are missing from the bed. There’s also some discrepancy about Mason’s foul odor – it’s described as smelling like “poo,” “toenails,” and “bellybuttons,” but then later is identified as a very specific smell. Although an essential plot point, this part of the story is intentionally misleading and manipulative.

Overall, the lively writing, childish preoccupation with body smells and fluids, good-natured cast of characters, and whimsical drawings combine to create an entertaining story with the underlying theme of inclusivity.

~Carol Michaels for IndieReader