by Davide Cali & Benjamin Chaud
Chronicle Books 2014
Age 8 to 12 40 pages
“WHEN TO USE THIS BOOK: Whenever you haven’t finished your homework.
“CAUTION: Each excuse may only be used once.”
“So, why didn’t you do your homework?”
“I didn’t do my homework because . . . An airplane full of monkeys landed in our yard.”
A middle grade student has not finished his homework and must give his teacher an excuse. Why did he not have his homework? As you already know, an airplane full of monkeys landed in his yard. If that wasn’t enough, a rebellious robot destroyed his house. He barely got out with his books intact. Oh, the actual homework, you ask? Well, that is hard to complete when you have a bedroom full of recently escaped convicts hiding there. And then, anything he did get done was eaten by his dog, and it was eaten by another dog, so he spent the rest of the day at the vet’s office.
The teacher, being like most teachers, didn’t believe a syllable that this young student said. So he kept on trying. Who would not believe that some huge birds made a nest out of his house’s roof, and then the birds must have flown off with the roof, because now it is gone? “Okay, maybe that was much,” the middle grader would say, “but my brother was kidnapped by a circus and I was forced to watch him perform.” The teacher never did believe a word this poor, homeless, now only child had to say in his own defense.
In I Didn’t Do My Homework Because . . . The young boy has some of the most inventive excuses I have ever heard. The true test is with teachers. How many of this young man’s excuses have been heard before, versus the number that are fresh and new? Only the latter excuses will matter to the average middle grade reader. Most excuses are only good once. There is some kind of underground network, where teachers file excuses for all other teachers to check their student’s excuse against, similar to how Grammarly helps teachers check for plagiarism. If your excuse is on this registry there is no chance it will work, even when it is true.
The illustrations detail the excuses with wonderful detail that will hold the attention of your mind’s eye. The author and illustrator worked together to make sure you could easily remember these excuses. If instructions would have been included they would have said, “Read it aloud and study the picture. The more senses you can involve the better you will remember. The illustrations depict the excuse as closely as possible with more than enough intimate features and qualities to ease the process. Sometimes silly illustrations are used to help you remember that excuse.”
If your brother were kidnapped by the circus, would you remember this better if you saw him leaning out of a huge cannon, and the ringmaster at the other end with a large match ready to shoot him into outer space? You bet it would. That picture will stay in your head—and the teacher’s—long after the she has forgotten about your missing homework.
Obviously, I Didn’t Do My Homework Because . . . is a humorous book depicting outrageous excuses one would never actual encounter. The book is cute, makes fun of the silly excuses kids can think up and teachers must hear. This is a not a real story, as one expects a story. Nor is this a handbook of excuses, because they are too outlandish to be believable, though sometimes truth is stranger than fiction. I Didn’t Do My Homework Because . . .is tongue-in-cheek fun middle graders will laugh at, as will younger kids—even those who cannot read. There might even be a few teachers laughing along. The book is a novelty-type book exaggerating the ritual of excuses for laughs and smiles. I Didn’t Do My Homework Because . . . easily accomplishes this goal.
If you like jokes, if you like comics, if you like silliness, or if you need more unbelievable excuses this year, I Didn’t Do My Homework Because . . . is for you. The book reminds me of the thin library jokes books or silly poetry books I’d carry home by the arm loads. This light reading never needed to be dog eared—or cat whiskered—before closing the book unfinished. These books, and I Didn’t Do My Homework Because . . . are thin enough to find your place or start over and get to the last page read in minutes. The entire book will take no more than fifteen minutes to read cover-to-cover. Every time I read those books a smile jumped onto my face. I Didn’t Do My Homework Because . . . did the same, with a few BIG laughs.
A smile can change one’s entire attitude for the better. I Didn’t Do My Homework Because . . . will have kids giggling, parent’s grinning, and teachers groaning, but all will smile that magic transformative smile, the kind that instantly makes you feel good, as smiles are meant to do. If you want that smile of innocent complicity, this is the book to read. Keep it in your locker or desk drawer for quick reference or a needed smile. Most importantly, remember to check off each excuse as you use them. Beware of the teacher underground, .I Didn’t Do My Homework Because . . . is not guaranteed to get you out of doing your homework.
I DIDN’T DO MY HOMEWORK BECAUSE . . . . Text copyright © 2014 by Davide Cali. Illustrations copyright © 2014 by Benjamin Chaud. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Chronicle Books, San Francisco, CA.
ALSO BY BENJAMIN CHAUD.