Shack and Back

Michael Crowley, Author, Abby Carter, Illustrator
Michael Crowley, Author, Abby Carter, Illustrator Little Brown and Company $14.95 (1p) ISBN 978-0-316-16231-9
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Leonard and the Spurwink Gang are back in this diverting romp by the creators of New Kid on Spurwink Ave. Here an argument threatens to split the coed group as the kids fight about appropriate gender roles (``Cooking is for sissy-girls,'' proclaims one male member). But in the end, the gang is reunited, as tomboy T-Ball saves the day by beating the rival Broad Cove Bullies in a bicycle race. The text's modest charm lies in its deliciously silly tough-guy dialogue, with such memorable lines as ``Aw, buncha tea bags'' and ``Aaaaay, Winkies!'' The plot, however, with its tendency to tell rather than show, is less satisfying. Although the decisive bike contest is given a tremendous buildup, readers never get to see it: T-Ball's victory is disposed of with a single sentence in the tale's somewhat bland ending. Spurwink fans may wish, too, for a bigger role for Leonard; the engaging nerd has little to do here beyond uttering his trademark line, ``Naw, Man.'' Carter's big, splashy watercolors, in vibrant blues, greens and yellows, effectively convey the gang's manic energy through their use of wriggling lines and abrupt shifts in perspective. Ages 5-8. (Apr.)
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