I had just returned from my hourly visit to Dunkin' Donuts when a copy of Arnie the Doughnut appeared on my desk. Obviously, my editor has me pegged. Were chocolate smudges somehow attached to my e-mails?

Arnie is one of the cleverest, funniest books I've seen in a long time. This is hardly a surprise, since my son and I were fans of Laurie Keller long before she turned her attention to breakfast treats. The Scrambled States of America has been one of our favorites for several years. In that book, Keller characterizes each state with funny little faces and stick arms and legs, and she uses a similar technique to bring Arnie to life as a lively chocolate-frosted fellow with sprinkles.

As in all of Keller's books, there's an abundance of witty text and amusing illustrations. The drama begins early in the morning when a balding, long-nosed man named Mr. Bing purchases Arnie from the Downtown Bakery and takes him home. After Mr. Bing puts him on a plate, then picks him up, Arnie says, "Isn't that cute? He wants to hold me." Alas, Arnie is soon stunned and horrified to learn that Mr. Bing plans to eat, him. He is further traumatized, of course, when he calls the bakery to warn Mr. Baker Man of his predicament, only to be informed that the baker and all of the other doughnuts are well aware of the situation.

Mr. Bing and Arnie next enter into lengthy negotiations about alternate ways that Arnie can be useful without being eaten, with each suggestion (bowling ball, picture frame, pin cushion ouch!) meriting a fun-filled illustration. Finally, the two agree to part on good terms, but in the end they realize they need each other, and Mr. Bing devises an unusual role for Arnie to play. I don't want to spill the beans I mean sprinkles here, but let's just say the two end up as best friends forever.

Arnie and Mr. Bing are such lovable, fun companions that I can easily envision a cartoon based upon this book. For now, simply head to your favorite bookstore, and while you're at it, you might as well make a little pastry stop. Just don't tell Arnie what you're up to!

 

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