Bad Habits – Babette Cole

POINTS: 4 out of 10.

Bechdel: 0 points
Variety of characters: 1 point
Good story:  2 points
Discretionary ideological points: 1 point

I have been a fan of Babette Cole’s work ever since I first discovered “Mummy Laid an Egg”, but this one I had not read before.

It does not pass the Bechdel, since the horrible Lucretzia Crum is really the only named character. (Unless you count Mr and Mrs Crum, but even then, they exist almost as a single parental unit and don’t really ever talk to Lucretzia independently. There’s also some kind of weird gender shorthand going on in terms of “Lucretzia as monster” and the reformed angel Lucretzia. Cole is usually quite good with gender stuff, but a lot (though not all) of the behaviour exemplified by Lucretzia being a “little monster” is traditionally masculine stuff – burping and farting, for example. And in the image where she’s ‘reformed’ she is portrayed as a very ladylike, haloed ballerina. It’s subtle, and there’s probably enough to counter it, but I notice these things. Also, I have to say that Ms Crum is also in the ballerina outfit during her ‘screaming and fighting’, so it’s definitely not clear cut, but I still have this inkling of a feeling that something is going on there.

Having said that, the Crum’s world is nice and diverse, showing a range of people in both the parent and kid groups. So that’s nice.

The story is great fun to read. Everyone loves a villain, right, and Crum is suitably delightfully horrendous. Her parents’ wonderful trick on her that eventually results in her turn-around is funny and clever. C loved it, though he was quite appalled by her behaviour, bless him. When she swears at her parents, his little round eyes – “That’s so naughty!”.

I also like the (albeit a bit orchestrated) ‘actions have consequences’ thing going on in this book. It’s fun to read. It has a clear message about not being a horrible ratbag. It’s not often a “messagey” book manages to have so much fun with the story, so two thumbs up from us.

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