Earth to Clunk (review)
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Reviewed by
Smallcomb, Pam. Earth to Clunk; illus. by Joe Berger. Dial, 2011. 40p. ISBN 978-0-8037-3439-5 $16.99 R 5-8 yrs.

None too pleased when his teacher assigns him to be a correspond with—and send a present to—an alien named Clunk, a boy ships off his annoying older sister in hopes of nipping the friendship in the bud. When Clunk rebounds with a clingy Zoid, the boy sends dirty socks; Clunk then sends him three Forps that smell like [End Page 540] dog food. Their one-upmanship continues until Clunk disdainfully returns the sister, and the boy invites him for a sleepover ("Anyone who doesn't like my big sister is okay by me"). The boy narrates in pitch-perfect deadpan style; the comedy lurks just below the surface, and the spare details leave boundless room for listeners' imaginations. The sibling relationship is presented with gleeful partiality, the sister consistently portrayed as a scowling, annoying presence whom the boy and Clunk delight in irritating. The boy himself is a fine balance of annoyed (by the alien) and annoying (towards the alien), and his exasperation makes him additionally funny. Berger's illustrations, composed in pencil, pen, and ink and colored digitally, are candy toned, with copious use of yellow, chartreuse, aqua, and bright orange. Observant viewers will notice right away that the boy and Clunk look an awful lot alike: big eyes, freckles, huge toothy grins, limbs (one extra for three-legged Clunk) thrown about in jubilation. While little brothers will particularly appreciate the concept, there is plenty of visual humor and narrative punch to ensure many successful readalouds of this offbeat friendship story.