MILO’S HAT TRICK

Agee displays his masterful drollery to particularly good effect in this tale of a semiskilled magician in need of a good trick. Milo is about to get heaved from the show, if he doesn’t stop botching the card tricks, and tangling the rope trick, and most of all if he doesn’t get a good hat trick going. He’s been using a mouse, which hasn’t impressed the crowds, so he retreats to the woods, where he tries to lure a rabbit into his hat. Instead, he attracts a bear. But the bear is a good soul and agrees to help Milo by hiding in the hat and popping out on command: “You just pretend your bones are made of rubber. It’s a secret I learned from a rabbit,” says the bear. Unfortunately, Milo grabs the wrong hat when he gets off the train back in the city, causing a major stir when the bear jumps out of the hat at the wrong place. The bear, though, is a crafty creature that ends up saving Milo’s bacon and even teaches him a trick or two, like jumping into a hat. “It’s a secret I learned from a bear,” Milo tells his admirers. A beautifully shaped story, symmetrical and decidedly odd and bright with laughter. The pacing and delivery are stage-worthy, as is Agee’s vastly expressive artwork, which is chockful of visual humor. (Picture book. 3-8)

Pub Date: May 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-7868-0902-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Hyperion

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2001

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CHATO'S KITCHEN

Chato and Novio Boy, low-riding East Los Angeles homeboys of the feline variety, have dinner guests. The invitees, a family of five fat mice who just moved in next door, haven't an inkling that they are the intended main course. But when the mice bring along their friend Chorizo (a worldly mutt in a slouch beret) to share the grub, he thwarts the cats' connivings. This unlikely three- species chow-down is a sweet salute to Spanish cooking, with fajitas, frijoles, and quesadillas sharing center stage. Soto delivers a spare, clever text; the words skip like stones across water—``His tail began to swing to the rhythm. He felt the twinge of mambo in his hips.'' Guevara's swarming, luxuriant illustrations give the atmosphere palpability, with brushstrokes so fresh readers will want to stick their fingers in the paint to feel its texture. Menace hangs in the air; the artist mixes the sinisterness of R. Crumb with moments of Edvard Munch terror, yet it seems likely from the outset that the mice are more than capable of looking after themselves. Incidental touches—little devils and angels darting about, a bird wedding glimpsed through a window—are there for the sharp-eyed. Smart, with a nice edge. Soto's inspired finger-snapping prose has found an equally imaginative comrade in Guevara's colorful urban paintings. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: March 22, 1995

ISBN: 0-399-22658-3

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 1995

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FARFALLINA & MARCEL

Farfallina the caterpillar and Marcel the gosling become fast friends when they meet during a rainshower, taking an immediate liking to one another. The two play hide-and-seek, each taking into account the strengths and weaknesses of the other (Marcel can’t climb trees like Farfallina, Farfallina can’t move as fast as Marcel) and enjoy traversing the pond together, Farfallina riding on Marcel’s back. One day, Farfallina doesn’t feel like herself, so she climbs a tree while Marcel waits at the bottom. He waits and waits, until finally, lonely and worried, he gives up. When he next sees his reflection in the pond, he can hardly recognize himself; he’s grown so much. Alert readers will surmise that Farfallina has done some growing of her own, and it’s true: when she finally emerges, she has become a beautiful butterfly. She descends, saddened that Marcel did not wait for her; the only creature in the vicinity is a handsome goose in their pond. Of course, the goose is Marcel, but neither friend recognizes the other. They are attracted to one another all over again, and are overjoyed and amazed to realize each other’s true identity. Keller’s (Cecil’s Garden, 2001, etc.) watercolor illustrations feature a bright pink caterpillar Farfallina, who turns into a glorious orange butterfly, and a realistically gray-brown Marcel against backgrounds of summery, outdoorsy blues and greens. This heartwarming, colorfully illustrated story underscores beautifully the power of true friendship without glossing over the reality that change is inevitable as friends grow and mature. (Picture book. 3-7)

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 2002

ISBN: 0-06-623932-X

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Greenwillow Books

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2002

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