Babar and the Succotash Bird

Ellen Weiss, Author, Laurent de Brunhoff, Author
Ellen Weiss, Author, Laurent de Brunhoff, Author ABRAMS $16.95 (38p) ISBN 978-0-8109-5700-8
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In de Brunhoff's rather awkwardly paced picture book, the first in more than seven years, Babar's son Alexander embarks on a nighttime adventure with a magical bird and gets caught between benevolent and malevolent forces. Unable to sleep, Alexander goes to the terrace and discovers ""a beautiful bird with sparkling colors"" that calls itself a wizard and cries ""Succotash!"" Alexander swings ""pleasantly back and forth, left and right"" through the air with the bird (though in the accompanying painting Alexander seems to be falling off the terrace), but his siblings don't believe the fellow's report of the nocturnal events. The next morning, the family sets out on a hiking trip, which occasions some of the volume's most charming paintings as Babar, Celeste and their tribe head uphill and take refuge from inclement weather on the mountaintop. When a second wine-colored wizard bird shows up (also crying ""Succotash!""), Alexander mistakes it for his new friend, and the fowl transforms Alexander into a giant, then reduces him to a size smaller than a squirrel. Here the narrative begins to lurch: the hero's family seems to take no notice of his gargantuan size; a diminutive Alexander falls backward into a lake that was not in evidence before. Paintings of the tiny fellow falling end-over-end from a grassy bank toward some lily pads below or ""lost in an ivy forest"" offer welcome respite from overblown spreads of the hero's rescue (with parachutes and helicopters to boot) and the conflict between the two birds. When de Brunhoff focuses on the family and the dynamics between them, his work shines. Ages 4-8. (Sept.) FYI: De Brunhoff is the subject of a Q&A on p. 194.
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