A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
Justin, a kid who has been happy going to science camp, tends to discover and report interesting bits of knowledge, such as his "regular" camp's celebration of Bastille Day with croissants on July 14. He never does connect "Gerta," the author of his father's favorite quote, with Goethe the German poet, though the adult reader will be giggling.
Doing the right thing (e.g. in telling the truth, being kind, or doing a brave deed) is praised and rewarded, and bad behavior eventually catches up with the misbehaver. Various lessons, lightly delivered, spotlight the importance of being true to yourself but mindful of others, of courage in crisis, of a loving, supportive family.
Positive Role Models
Even though they're sometimes distracted or annoyed at his over-the-top worry-wart behavior, Justin's parents are fiercely loving and supportive when it counts. His hilarious grandparents Gingy and Poopsie ensure that the world treats him right. His classmate Montana C. is a good friend to him even when he's exasperating.
Violence & Scariness
Justin gets invited into the "cool" group of boys at camp, who spend a lot of time playing a game called Knuckles, the winner of which has to hit all the losers hard on the knuckles with a deck of cards; Justin's hands are eventually quite sore from losing at this. There's also a scene in which a camper is rescued from the bottom of the swimming pool.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
One illustration, showing kids struggling to change into swimsuits behind towels they're holding in their teeth, has a portion of a kid's butt escaping from behind the towel. Justin's male cronies keep telling him he's supposed to hate girls. He worries about the fact that he doesn't, but he also likes his female friends.
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More grossout factor than foul language. Brief reference to dog doo (as something Justin doesn't want to step in barefoot) and humor about bus farts (i.e. exhaust) and boogers.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Justin Case: Shells, Smells, and the Horrible Flip-Flops of Doom is the angst-ridden summer diary of introverted 8-year-old Justin, who made his debut in 2010's Justin Case: School, Drool, and Other Daily Disasters. For Justin, life's potential perils, from the incomprehensible social customs of his peers to the possibility his toy knights might suddenly attack him, are endless. Author Rachel Vail (Jibberwillies at Night, If You Only Knew) has a deft way of taking kids' anxieties with age-appropriate seriousness, along with a hefty dose of silliness where it will do the most good; she brings her young hero through a rocky summer with some good deeds to his credit, some life lessons under his belt, a great fondness for his loving family -- and a comical assortment of things to worry about. Matthew Cordell's funny line drawings add to the fun. The only violence comes in a game where the winner hits all the losers hard on the knuckles with a deck of cards. And there's a scene in which a camper is rescued from the bottom of the swimming pool.
Is It Any Good?
Many kids (as well as adults) will relate to Justin's fears, and will enjoy the mix of irony, fretfulness, and occasional brilliance with which he confronts them. Author Rachel Vail has a well-deserved reputation for not having forgotten what it feels like to be a kid, and in particular for understanding the kinds of things kids actually worry about, whether they make any sense to adults or not. And Matthew Cordell's funny line drawings add to the fun.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.