Here’s another sassy picture book by Jenny Offill and Nancy Carpenter, who also created 17 Things I’m Not Allowed to Do Anymore. The main character, a highly mischievous and utterly curious little girl, becomes a home scientist and proceeds to test hypotheses which of course leads to pure chaos and disorder.
Part of the charm of 11 Experiments that Failed, as well as Offill and Carpenter’s last book, is the fantastic illustrations. The style is collage-like, mixing excellent character and scene drawings with hilarious etchings, maps, measurements, and other miscellaneous fun. The rest of the charm comes from the experiments themselves and their results, which range from testing to see if kids can live off of snow and ketchup for the entire winter (answer: a stomachache and a wavering love of ketchup) to seeing if she can grow a beautiful fungus garden from a rotting cheese sandwich and her brother’s dirty sneaker in a closet (answer: still pending, with smells that horribly upset mother and brother).
This book is funny in a way that both kids and adults can enjoy, full of a spunky spirit and wonder that reminds us that imagination is messy. I am both in love with this little girl and her experiments and horrified by the mischief she creates. I’m still trying to find the balance between letting my children explore and create and hypothesize and also be able to keep some sense of sanity and order in my house. Here’s to the mess!