THE BIG CHEESE OF THIRD STREET

Laurie Halse Anderson, Author, David Gordon, Illustrator
Laurie Halse Anderson, Author, David Gordon, Illustrator , illus. by David Gordon. S&S $16 (32p) ISBN 978-0-689-82464-7
Reviewed on: 11/19/2001
Release date: 03/01/2002
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Little Benny Antonelli is "no bigger than a peanut butter sandwich," a real handicap on Third Street, which is peopled with "bus-sized women," "skyscraper-sized men" and "kids taller than streetlights." Newcomer Gordon accentuates the contrast, recording the scene from Benny's perspective on the street as shoes, feet and wheels come at him, the urban skyline rising up to the top of the spread. The object of many a prank (he's taped to a toy airplane, his "worst sister" pins him to the clothesline "along with the Big Antonelli underpants"), Benny has only one defense: to climb—street signs, fire escapes, drainpipes and the like. He hits bottom when his aunt mistakes him for a tomato and tosses him into the salad. But he finally gets a chance to shine at his block party's greased pole climb, where he wins the prize: cheese. Anderson's (Speak) urban tall tale is a hoot, from her cheeky take on the woes of runt-hood to her pliant use of exaggeration and sassy street talk ("You got your games, you got your food, you got your music," describes the block party). Gordon picks up on the sly humor and fills his sturdy, uncomplicated cityscapes with comic touches, from the barrel-chested men in their sleeveless undershirts to the looming perspectives that help magnify the scale for diminutive Benny. Ages 5-8. (Mar.)

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