HORACE P. TUTTLE, MAGICIAN EXTRAORDINAIRE!
Lively and humorous illustrations provide the real excitement of this story about a magician whose tricks backfire and who must learn to respect his collaborators before he can truly succeed. After Horace mistreats his rabbit, his bird and his lovely assistant, so essential to his act, they quit—and his popularity plummets. Schneider (Picky Mrs. Pickle) sets her drawings against a maroon stage-curtain or lilac dressing room and fills her drawings with manic energy (chairs tipping, cups spilling, Horace belly-flopping), hilarious visual gags (a lizard on a woman's head, a lobster pinching Horace's nose) and dramatic expressions on the faces of the multiracial characters. In spite of an occasional humorous line ("People in the audience chanted, 'Horace, don't bore us!' "), the text lacks the zany wit of the illustrations and feels stilted in places (e.g., "He tested the Daringly Dangerous Sword Trick on a sack of potatoes. During the show, he figured, he would use a volunteer from the audience. Horace inserted the swords with the usual zeal and flourishes"). The story ends predictably when the assistants rescue Horace from misfortune, and they all reunite, having learned the value of teamwork. Despite the familiar story line, the illustrations extraordinaire carry the day. Ages 5-8. (Sept.)