Book review: ‘Dude: Fun With Dude and Betty’

Pages from the book "Dude: Fun with Dude and Betty" by Lisa Pliscou.
(Lisa Pliscou / Tom Dunne / Harper Collins)
Los Angeles Times


Fun With Dude and Betty

Lisa Pliscou, illustrated by Tom Dunne

Harper: 32 pp., $14.99, ages 4 and up


Once upon a time, there was a little surfer looking for some tasty waves. Not kiddie swells in the wading pool. No way. What he wanted was some good, righteous stuff to make him shout “Stokaboka!” all day long. Lisa Pliscou’s children’s book, “Dude: Fun With Dude and Betty,” is the story of this young man’s quest to ditch homework and spend a hot summer’s day on the finer things in life, like cranking waves and eating nachos.

Boy, the children’s picture-book shelf sure has been infiltrated lately by adult-aimed projects! Recent books such as"Go the F— to Sleep” and “Dick and Jane and Vampires” resemble picture books — bright, vivid illustrations anchored by simple text — even though you’d never want your kids reading them. They’re intended to draw a laugh from sleep-deprived parents or the “Twilight” fans in your circle of friends. But “Dude” is different — it’s just right for all ages.

With bright, sharp illustrations by Tom Dunne, Pliscou charts a day in the life of Dude, his pal Betty — she is a “surf bunny” — and Dude’s dog Bud (of course that’s his name) on a most excellent day of chasing waves and playing with a Frisbee under the sun.

Parents don’t need to worry: You won’t find any sexual innuendo or heavy irony sneaking out on the last page. The biggest dilemmas here are familiar ones that any kid will appreciate. Dude gets biffed by a big wave; when he gets home, his parents ask why he didn’t do his homework. And then there’s faithful, loving Bud, who chows down Dude’s burrito, leading to this particularly dark moment of drama: “Bud is harshing on Dude’s mellow.”

It’s a little strange to have Pliscou, a denizen of Manhattan and author of the novel “Higher Education,” reveling in an activity associated with sandy locales. But rest assured, her bio attests to her being raised in California and on the beaches of Mexico — and there’s more to this book than meets the eye. Pliscou’s book not only serves as a motivator to get your little couch potatoes to go outside and play, but it also subtly encourages children to appreciate the importance of the oceans and beaches. On the book’s opening pages, Pliscou invites readers to check out the website of the grassroots Surfrider Foundation.

The tale also comes with a glossary of surfer talk that enables you to communicate like a native: It’ll come in handy if you ever run into “Fast Times at Ridgemont High’s” Jeff Spicoli. Give “Dude” as a present to the expectant surfer parents you know, or, for that matter, to anyone with small kids who like adventure. “Dude” is a light, colorful lark of a tale … just like a day at the beach.