Zigzag

Robert D. San Souci, Author, Stefan Czernecki, Illustrator
Robert D. San Souci, Author, Stefan Czernecki, Illustrator , illus. by Stefan Czernecki. August House/Little Folk $16.95 (32p) ISBN 978-0-87483-764-3
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Poor Zigzag is a clownish patchwork rag doll with jester-like tufts on its head and rickrack for a mouth. Despite the hero's protestations of "I'm just special," all the other conventionally cute toys in the dollmaker's shop hate him ("You are so very ug -ly!") and push him into the trash. But with help from some friendly mice, Zigzag is adopted by a girl who is so nice that the doll's rickrack mouth magically transforms into "a smile of joy." San Souci's (The Talking Eggs ) storytelling here seems uncharacteristically blunt and blatantly emotional ("Why are you here?" ask the mice when they find the rejected doll lying in the grass. "I'm looking for a child to love me," replies Zigzag), but it's tempered somewhat by Czernecki's (The Girl Who Lost Her Smile ) large-scale, cut-cloth characters, which may remind some youngsters of their own spirited classroom art projects. The illustrator adds little extraneous detail, allowing the geometric shapes and vibrant patterns to pop off the pages and heighten the story's emotional stakes (particularly the subtly altered eyebrows and mouth of Zigzag to convey everything from contentment to rage). Czernecki lines up Zigzag's tormentors in tidy formations that echo the repetitive motifs on their bodies (a row of evil stuffed bunnies is almost nightmarish). But despite the impressive craftsmanship on display here, the themes of rejection and redemption feel all-too-familiar. Ages 3-7. (Oct.)

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