When aliens get sick, apparently the only option available to them is to visit the office of Doctor Bugspit, the self-proclaimed best doctor in the universe. Unfortunately, Doctor Bugspit isn’t actually a real doctor, and many of his patients would have been better off not visiting his office in the first place. However, the mishaps and silly antics that ensue as a result of the Doctor Bugspit’s ineptitude are what makes Elise Gravel’s book so appealing, and young readers will find plenty of opportunities to laugh at the ridiculous scenarios that arise.
As with her previous book, Adopt a Glurb, the approach Gravel takes with A Day in the Office of Doctor Bugspit is more akin to a nonfiction work than a storybook, through the content is completely wacky and will never be mistaken as being true-to-life. The title says it all: the book chronicles a typical day at Doctor Bugspit’s office—and what a day it is! You know you’re in for a wild ride when the first patient of the day is a man who can’t stop saying everything twice because wearing a cowboy hat too long has made his brain split into two parts (“Just like a cow!” assesses Dr. Bugspit). We also learn about how Doctor Bugspit plays with dolls between seeing patients, the types of exercises he does to make himself look more serious, what disgusting things Doctor Bugspit and his colleagues eat for lunch, and much more. Gravel’s playful imagination seemingly knows no limits, and part of the fun comes in turning the pages just to see what zaniness she throws at readers next.
Beyond the absurd humor and scenarios, the world of Doctor Bugspit is brought to life through Gravel’s distinctive illustration style. The drawings are presented as if they had been doodled into a notebook, and Gravel fully embraces the use of imperfection and sloppiness as artistic tools. She has a keen sense for layout and use of color, and the result is a book that smartly utilizes simplicity in its art direction so as to ensure the content continues to flow forward at a pace children can handle, yet provides plenty of lovely, quirky details for anyone who puts on the brakes to appreciate the sights.
The only real criticism I have for A Day in the Office of Doctor Bugspit is that I can imagine more conservative parents taking offense to the edgier moments of humor. In particular, there is one scene in which a patient frantically enters the office and asks for help because he is melting. However, Doctor Bugspit is too busy taking a nap to be bothered. When the not-so-good doctor wakes up to find a puddle of water where the patient once stood, he orders his assistant to mop up the mess while obliviously remarking how rude it was of the patient to leave before he could be helped. Personally, I found this all to be quite hilarious, but for a book aimed at young readers, I can see that such a brand of comedy might push the envelope just a bit.
Elise Gravel has shot to the top of my list of favorite comic artists providing content for beginning readers. She creates books that are unique and unpredictable, and illustrates them with an eye-catching style that is distinctly her own. Though Doctor Bugspit may not be a real doctor, his office is one readers are encouraged to visit—just don’t expect him to pay any attention to you if he’s in the middle of a nap!
A Day in the Office of Doctor Bugspit
by Elise Gravel
Blue Apple Books, 2011
Publisher Age Rating: 6