Ho Hum, Meet the Dullards is Wonderfully Boring!

Meet the Dullards by Sara Pennypacker and illustrated by Daniel Salmieri is very dull. It’s also very funny.


Meet the Dullards — they are a family who loves things dull and boring. But, the Dullard’s three children, Blanda, Borely, and Little Dud are straying from their parent’s quest for all things blah. Sara Pennypacker has written the story beautifully, but what she’s also done brilliantly is left tons of room for Daniel Salmieri to work his magic and tell the other part of the story. Which is often in this case, the delivery of a visual punch line.

This is not easy to do. How to draw boring and convey emotion? To make something dull, but make it hilarious? Here are some of the really smart ways that Daniel Salmieri aced this formidable task.

He used every bit of book to tell us more. On the cover are the Dullards, all staring as if hypnotized straight ahead and a bit slightly off to the right. But Little Dud’s eyes look to the right hand side of the cover as he spies a circus dog. This is just he jacket— and we already have some idea of who these people are and what might go on inside the book.

The title page shows three framed pictures of the kids. One is of newborns in the hospital. Babies are crying and wiggling, except for one… Little Dud is frozen still. A dance recital shows happy, twirling ballerinas, except… So you get the picture (pun intended)? No words yet, no story at all and yet Daniel Salmieri has already “shown” us who these kids are.

The opening spread presents the horrified parents and the copy reads,

“One day, Mr. and Mrs. Dullard received quite a nasty surprise.”

Dullards 2

It’s the accompanying artwork that shows the three children reading books about being circus entertainers. This is what makes a terrific picture book team— the author allowing the illustrator to tell the joke. It also brings us in as the reader. We feel we ‘see’ a secret and think, ‘ahhhh I get it’.

The book continues as the parents struggle to reign in their curious children. The humor is deadpan and sophisticated and appeals both to child readers, as well as to the adult reading the book.

Obviously the palette is… dull, but he’s such a clever illustrator that he has labeled the moving boxes, “Blank CD’s”, “A water bottle”, “Unadorned lamp”, etc. Again, using every artistic opportunity to show us more about this family.

On the back of the jacket is an opened moving box labeled, “interesting items”. And in it is a game, “Monotony”, and a book titled, “Cooking without Flavor.”

Printed end pages? No, that would be fancy. This book has plain gray.

I really enjoyed this quirky, funny book and totally appreciate all the extra boring dullness that Daniel Salmieri brought to the plate!

Annnnnnnd—- We had a bit of a WordPress glitch on Friday and our comments section was not working. It’s fixed now, and I encourage you to pop back and revisit/comment to Pat Zietlow Miller’s fantastic post.

Thank you!

Jennifer Black Reinhardt

Jennifer is the illustrator and author of several acclaimed picture books. Most recently is Always by My Side, 'A Stuffie Story', which she wrote and illustrated. She also is both the author and illustrator of Playing Possum, and Blue Ethel. Jennifer illustrated Gondra’s Treasure, written by Newbery award winner Linda Sue Park. As well as, Sometimes You Fly, by Newbery medalist, Katherine Applegate. She illustrated Yaks Yak, Animal Word Pairs by Linda Sue Park, The Inventor's Secret, What Thomas Edison Told Henry Ford, by Suzanne Slade, Rabbi Benjamin's Buttons, by Alice B. McGinty, and The Adventures of a South Pole Pig, by Chris Kurtz.


  1. I can’t wait to read this!! Thanks for sharing.

  2. I have a bookstore rule: Any book that makes me laugh out loud, standing there alone at the stuffed shelves, is coming home with me.

    This one did. 🙂

  3. Kathy Mazurowski

    I agree. This is a laugh out loud book full of clever details.

  4. Makes me think of The Stupids…
    I’m always curious to know — when you see such a good dance between text and illustrations (and you don’t have an author-illustrator) — whether a joke was originally there in the text, or first existed in illustration note, or was the complete invention of the illustrator…

  5. Do you have any idea how many illustrator notes were included with the manuscript?

    • Hi Anna and Linda, this is such an interesting point. I’m sorry, I don’t know how many illustrator notes were included and it’s an interesting question. Re: the first spread, I almost think that that one would have to have had an illustrator note. I would guess that the author had planned that the circus theme would be continued throughout the book (which it is and ties into the ending)? The little details like the photographs and the labeled boxes ‘feels’ like details that the illustrator would add and come up with. But that’s just my guess as an illustrator.

  6. This looks hilarious. Can’t wait to check it out!

  7. I read and loved this one a month or two back – but took it back to the library. I DEFINITELY have to give it another look, as I didn’t notice some of the stuff you pointed out. So incredibly creative! Thanks for highlighting it!

  8. As for most all of the books written about on PictureBookBuilders, I’ve requested it from the library. I, too, was wondering about illustrator notes. For the first spread, had she written [kids read books]? It’s so brave of the author (who we know is a riot) to give up those jokes. Can’t wait to see the book.

    • Hi Patricia, it’s good find picture books that make both kids and grownups laugh. You all have given me a good topic idea re: illustrator notes, thanks for that. I’ll do some research and be back to post about it soon!

  9. LOVE LOVE LOVE this book…my 3 daughters and i put it in our top 3 “funny” PBs. get it soon if you haven’t:).

  10. Such a clever book! Thanks for sharing it!

  11. I just checked this out from the library, but haven’t gotten to read it yet. Can’t wait! Also can’t wait for your future post regarding illustrator notes. Thanks!

  12. I have read this book and it cracked me up. It is just so clever — both the writing and the illustrating. I hope there are more to come.

  13. Thanks for this post. I love to hear about that interplay between author and illustrator, and where the perfect balance lies. Looking forward to that future post about illustrator notes. Thanks again!

  14. I love this book, Jen! It mirrors so well what most children feel about their parents, at least part of the time. Watching the gray paint dry was once of my favorite parts. Thanks for your write-up.

  15. I love this book, Jen. It mirrors so well what most kids feel about their parents, at least part of the time. Watching the gray paint dry was one of my favorite parts. Thanks for the write-up. I always enjoy seeing the illustrations through your eyes.

  16. This book made me laugh! I enjoyed the little details in the illustrations, too. Thanks for sharing 🙂

  17. Well, you all say such nice things about this book, now I HAVE to read it. Love finding funny new books. Thanks for pointing it out!

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