Fritz is messy. Fritz is careless. Fritz gets his comeuppance when a school project for the science fair goes badly wrong…but reform is short.
As the book begins, Fritz “cleans” his room before dinner by shoving “a month’s laundry, twelve heaps of old Halloween candy, half a dozen wet towels, six dessert spoons stuck to six dessert plates, three library books with Popsicle stick bookmarks, and a peanut butter and jelly sandwich” under his bed, and scrambles to dinner, which involves stashing a similarly large amount of the foodstuffs he dislikes about where he thinks his parents won’t notice (but what parent ever does overlook such things?) He remembers at the last minute prior to bedtime that his science fair project is due the very next day and attempts to create one from a hodgepodge of various household items–his sister’s rosewater, his father’s tools, and so on. This science project goes either extremely well or badly wrong depending on how one regards such things, producing a Mess Fairy, who hurls all Max’s socks about his room, squeezes toothpaste from the wrong end of the tube, drinks lemonade from twenty-three different glasses and shuffles six packs of cards together and mixes up the pieces from ten different board games. (Sound familiar?) With a flash of inspiration, Max reverses his science experiment, sucking the Mess Fairy back into wherever it came from. Having realized the error of his ways, Max cleans up not only the Mess Fairy’s detritus but does all his own chores properly. As the morning sun rises, illuminating the sparkling clean aftermath of Fritz’s efforts, he makes a delicious breakfast-in-bed for each of his family members, vowing proudly “It’s the new Fritz.”
…only guess the condition of the kitchen after he’s done cooking?
If you like Rosemary Wells’ illustration style and storytelling language, you’ll almost certainly like Fritz and the Mess Fairy. If you have someone who needs to be taught a lesson by their very own Mess Fairy (whistles innocently), you’ll like this book. This isn’t a story for parents who prefer to read only picture books with a moral or lesson to their little ones, but then Wells’s other books are notable in lacking a saccharinely trite happy ending; Yoko does not end her story with the entire class befriending her and adoring sushi. She gets only one friend and classmates who allow as how raw fish when presented in sushi isn’t quite as icky as they’d previously thought. In fact, given that Fritz is clearly well into school age, it might be good for older readers who don’t mind “baby” picture books.