CATCH AS CATCH CAN

Greg D Cook, Author . Highwater Books $9.95 (120p) ISBN 0-9665-3636-3

"Run, run, as fast as you can. You can't catch me, I'm the Gingerbread Man," chimes the most famous of storybook cookie characters. However, the gingerbread man in Cook's sophisticated take is an irascible ice-cream truck driver just trying to get through the day in a slightly grittier fantasy world. The children in this story are presented as funny animals—little cats, raccoons, pigs, sheep and bears—and they wheedle the Gingerbread Ice Cream Man into buying them a carton of cigarettes, getting him into trouble with the law. A riotous car and helicopter chase follows, including flying ice cream bars, multiple car crashes and a shoot-out with the Big Bad Wolf. Cook (who writes for a small daily newspaper in Gloucester, Mass.) loosely bases his story on the traditional Gingerbread Man folktale, taking the character's already shaky moral status in fabledom and running with it, so to speak. His book updates the character, making the Gingerbread Man an outlaw, an antihero worthy of the celebrity-worship of adolescent girls. His black-and-white drawings feature lots of playful curves, and elaborate hand-lettering that appears to have been as fun to write as it is to read. While the book evokes many pleasures of youth (Richard Scarry's picture books and the tale of Pinocchio, among them), Cook creates a grown-up fantasy world where every pleasure has its price, and just beyond sweetness lies vice. (Nov.)

Reviewed on: 10/22/2001
Release date: 08/01/2001
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