Joe's Wish

James Proimos, Author, James Proimos, Illustrator Harcourt Children's Books $13 (32p) ISBN 978-0-15-201831-3
In this eccentric tale, a grandfather changes his wish for youth in order to appease his grandson. Joe's eyes ""saw Babe Ruth play,"" his face has ""over a million wrinkles,"" and he exclaims ""Oy!"" when he bends over. Not surprisingly, Joe wishes to be young again, and in keeping with this volume's quirky humor, he meets a stubby-legged, amoeba-bodied ""Something or Other"" that acts as his fairy godmother and promises to grant his wish the next day. (A cheerfully silly diagram points out the magic purple creature's ""bad smell,"" ""spotted spots"" and ""379 teeth."") However, when Joe gets together with his grandson Michael, he reconsiders. ""Michael thought his grandfather was magnificent,"" the story explains, but also ""needed his grandfather to be his grandfather... just the way he was."" First-time author Proimos offsets the pathos with a screwball wit. His distorted but charming characters--reminiscent of the Rugrats kids--are drawn with squiggly black lines and strewn with a sputtery confetti of ink scratches. Affection permeates a cartoon portrait of Joe's wife, complete with hand-lettered labels of ""nice smile"" and ""smelled like fresh bread."" ""You would've loved her to bits,"" Joe tells his grandson, alluding to her absence. But despite such a successful balance of comedy and poignancy, Proimos treads on tricky terrain when grandfather and grandson ""both got their wishes."" Joe ""no longer wanted to be made young. He just wanted a lot more days with his grandson."" Newfound youth could mean additional years of togetherness, yet Joe prefers to keep his creaky knees. The sentiment is moving, but the conclusion seems illogical. Ages 4-12. (Sept.)
Reviewed on: 08/31/1998
Release date: 09/01/1998
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