Rebecca is six and a half. She’s spunky and independent, even if she does have a weak immune system. Ernest is a green microbe with amazing powers and Rebecca has caught him! Ernest is just what she needs to lighten her mood and help her deal with her parents’ separation and looming divorce, her teen sister Coralie’s “rebellious phase,” and awful Dr. Fakbert and his horrible tongue depressor. Together they make it through colds and chicken pox, fight off other microbes, turn the tables on Dr. Fakbert, and try to get Rebecca’s parents back together.
Dalena’s art is extremely cute. The characters have big puppy eyes, jewel-toned hair, and the whole book is shades of pink, purple, and green. Some of the art is childlike drawings, other panels are mixed together with larger background pictures, and there are several pages of drawings just of Rebecca and/or Ernest practicing microbe skills.
This book is a mixture of fantasy and realism. Rebecca’s misery over her parents’ constant fighting and their separation is very real. Her sister’s angry explosion near the end of the story calms things down a little, but the reader (and Rebecca) know there’s not much hope her parents will get back together, no matter how many wacky schemes she and Ernest put into action. Her mom is obviously interested in another man, the mysterious Sam on the phone. When Coralie yells, “Don’t you suppose it’s high time to show a little less selfishness and to behave like responsible parents?” the reader can whole-heartedly agree. On the fantasy side, there’s a real Calvin and Hobbes feel with Rebecca always in trouble for her wild schemes, aided and abetted by Ernest, who seems imaginary, but then again man not be. He takes Rebecca’s form to attack the doctor and other people can sometimes see him.
It’s hard to figure out exactly who the audience for this book is. Rebecca is six and a half, but the story is too sophisticated for kids of that age. The blend of realism and fantasy is very confusing and there’s some mild language. It’s going to be of most interest to middle grade students who like funny stories and are dealing with divorce. On the other hand, not many middle grade kids will want to read about a little girl and, at times, the story is overly cute, especially when Rebecca throws a tantrum or does something childish. There’s also some gross humor with Rebecca’s illness. If you have middle grade girls who like the extremely cute, this book will probably be popular with them, but I’d just go with Papercutz’ other jewel-toned cute series, Sybil the Backpack Fairy.
Ernest & Rebecca, vol. 1: My Best Friend is a Germ
by Guillaume Bianco
Art by Antonello Dalena