Tremblay employs amusing rhymes (farty/party, obscene/vaccine) and catchy action verbs (tickled, wheeze) while underscoring the pandemic's enormity and urgency. Her imaginative pairing of the intergalactic expeditions of a vile virus and a continuing global epidemic creates opportunity for careful hilarity, and her comic yet cluttered illustrations offer vivid colors and satiric detail, such as the Earth itself lamenting that COVID hit right when humanity was finally starting to take climate change seriously. The risk, of course, is that some will find the humor grim and insensitive, for adults and young readers alike, especially the provocative depiction of souls chatting as they depart dead bodies inside the morgue.
Tremblay peppers the busy illustrations with interesting factoids, such as Canadian Oil being cheaper than water in 2020. Her choice to let the antagonist drive this campy, eccentric plot offers a welcome respite from hero narratives. The playful storytelling never strikes a consistent tone and message, and parents will want to sample the potentially upsetting material before passing it along to young readers, but, despite missteps, The Germ Who Would Be King exhibits some ghoulish charm and wit.
Takeaway: This satiric, booger-y picture book dares to find gallows humor (and even some hope) in the pandemic
Great for fans of: Samantha Harris and Devon Scott’s Why We Stay Home, Christina van Deventer and Bragi Thor Valsson’s LOVE/HATE: A COVID-19 Picture Book For Adults.
Design and typography: B+
Marketing copy: C+