Charlie is a boy after my own heart, a budding survivalist, ready for anything Just in Case, which is the title of this delightful book. To say that Charlie likes to be prepared is an understatement. If it rains hard, he gets out his raincoat, boots, goggles, umbrella and inflatable boat, just in case it rains so hard that the furniture starts to float. He once has a sudden worry that food stores might suddenly close for a long time, so he gets busy making 117 peanut butter sandwiches. What Charlie probably needs is a psychiatrist, but instead he gets a bossy, mean baby-sitter, when his favorite sitter isn't available. So he makes sure the new one doesn't want to come back by washing his feet in the toilet, wearing his shoes on his ears and painting his face a horrid green.

After describing each of Charlie's amusing antics, author Judith Viorst offers this refrain: Charlie likes to be ready, just in case. When you see Viorst's name on a book, you know you're in for a treat. She's the author of the classic series about a boy named Alexander, the first being Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day. Her characters are based on real emotions, but their angst is always presented with immense humor. She's accomplished this balance yet again with Just in Case.

Viorst has paired up with illustrator Diana Cain Bluthenthal, and the partnership is definitely a winning combination. Bluthenthal works in brightly colored mixed media and her humor adds to the fun. We see Charlie lying exhausted on the floor, for instance, after making all those sandwiches. One day Charlie wakes up early on his birthday, and, not surprisingly, he's worried that everyone has forgotten. In fact, he's sure of it, when suddenly the doorbell rings. Boys and girls stream into his house, there for a surprise party. For once, Charlie isn't ready. Viorst reassuringly concludes: But maybe not being ready is sometimes okay. Whether readers are worriers or not, this book will have everyone laughing. Just be sure you find a copy soon. It might sell out. Go quickly, just in case!

Alice Cary writes from Groton, Massachusetts.

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