The Old Man and the Flea

Mary Elizabeth Hanson, Author, David Webber Merrell, Illustrator Rising Moon Books $15.95 (32p) ISBN 978-0-87358-776-1
Hanson's (Snug) offbeat, slightly slapstick tale centers on an elderly fellow who goes shopping for a pet to keep him company. Though he finds fault with a dog, cat and parrot, the pet store proprietor makes a sale when she shows him a far less traditional pet: a purple ""pedigreed flea"" who sports a yellow hair bow and sleeps in a silk-lined matchbox. Debut children's illustrator Merrell's fittingly funky watercolor and pastel art is at its best when serving up some comical images of this diminutive pet: a view of her sitting on top of a piece of popcorn in a movie theater, 3-D glasses perched on her nose, and wearing a yellow swimsuit and sunglasses as she suns herself on a beach towel. The two have a grand time together until townspeople, unable to see the tiny flea, assume the old man is talking to himself, and the mayor calls paramedics to take him to the hospital. Unbeknownst to the man, the flea also climbs aboard the ambulance and manages to unlock the door to her owner's hospital room so that the two can escape. Hanson pulls out a suitably silly ending to this caper, which may raise some eyebrows for its rather frivolous, offhand treatment of perceived dementia. But the hyperbolic portrayal of the characters here keeps this in the vein of lighthearted fun. Ages 5-8. (Feb.)
Reviewed on: 02/01/2001
Release date: 02/01/2001
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