What's Wrong with This Book?

Richard McGuire, Author Viking Children's Books $14.99 (28p) ISBN 978-0-670-86852-0
McGuire (What Goes Around Comes Around) shows a knack for illusion and a punning wit in this book of visual games. The artist builds his characters and landscapes from smooth, geometric forms that would look at home on a computer screen, and selects a kitschy yet crisp palette of minty blue, chartreuse, pine green and cool pink. He links his puzzles with a circus theme, including a startled-looking clown who clambers through almost every spread. Die-cut holes offer peeks into other scenes, and these windows deliberately mislead: with the turn of a page, animal heads seen through cut-outs become shadow figures formed by human hands. Elsewhere, an elephant-shaped silhouette is revealed on the next spread to be something else entirely: a fat snake lounging with the clown in an easy chair. And, when the book is turned upside-down, portraits on a gallery wall take on different facial expressions (""Which side is up?/ I don't have a clue!/ There's two sides to each story, and both of them true""). McGuire's rhymes, unobtrusive if at times ungrammatical, offer hints on viewing the illustrations. He playfully acknowledges the cut-outs, for example, with the couplet ""So the story has holes. Well what can I say?/ It makes the book better to look through that way."" Readers will need to stay on their toes to catch all the surprises in this inventive volume. All ages. (Mar.)
Reviewed on: 03/31/1997
Release date: 04/01/1997
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