The Candystore Man

Jonathan London, Author, Kevin O'Malley, Illustrator, Malcolm Brown, Illustrator HarperCollins $16 (24p) ISBN 978-0-688-13241-5
Sammy Davis Jr. may have made it chic to be a Candyman, but this book's doo-wopping sugar-slinger doesn't live up to the reputation. Unfortunately, London (Hip Cat) and O'Malley (Cinder Edna) present their man as a ""hip hop daddy-o"" with a baseball cap and a saxophone, a cliche of coolness rather than the real thing. Most of the action takes place at a soda fountain, where the hero serves sundaes and chocolate kisses to crowds of delighted children. A few Beat-era details dot the illustrations (e.g., a ""Charlie `Bird' Parker Dead at Age 35"" headline), although these don't jibe with all the hip-hop references in the text: ""Wax lips and peppermint sticks--/ you takes your pick,"" rhymes the narrator, a boy who mops the shop and flashes a corny thumbs-up while his main man plays pinball. The Candystore Man is indubitably generous; he gives free milkshakes to the high school football team and takes a blind boy to a basketball game (""and he be-bops words/ in the blind boy's ears/ about how two players/ fell on their rears""). Yet the character's Pied Piper persona, conveyed by London's jivey lingo and O'Malley's insistently jolly caricatures, wears thin fast. Sappy rapping and syrupy nostalgia make this confection far too sweet. Ages 5-up. (Aug.)
Reviewed on: 08/03/1998
Release date: 08/01/1998
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