Bootsie Barker Bites tells the familiar tale of the uncongenial playmate, but it provides a much les conventional, and much more satisfying, ending. The story is interesting, funny, and encompasses a useful lesson about coping with mean kids.
The narrator of Bootsie Barker Bites hates playing with Bootsie, but she has to, because Bootsie's mother is her mother's best friend. Bootsie is mean - she treats the narrator very badly, breaks her toys, tries to hurt her pet lizard, and claims she is a dinosaur who will eat the narrator right up. The narrator grits her teeth and bears it until she discovers Bootsie will be staying at her house for the night; then she thinks up a plan that turns the tables on her unpleasant playmate.
Most authors would have forced an unrealistic but ultrasweet ending from this plot by having Bootsie and the narrator become friends. Barbara Bottner knows that isn't how real life usually works, so she provides a different ending. Bootsie doesn't change; the narrator's ability to cope with Bootsie changes. In addition to being thoroughly satisfying, this ending gives kids a small, easy lesson on dealing with difficult people.
The illustrations in the book are energetic and fun. The artist has done an excellent job of making Bootsie look like the archetypal evil toddler. And the small details of the pictures - the toy turtle on every page, the changing expressions of the stuffed animals, etc. - help hold kids' attention and make the book fun to reread.
Overall, this is a solidly entertaining children's book that contains, but not does not force, a message. Bootsie Barker Bites is fun for reading out loud or privately; kids enjoy it, and so do adults.