As he did in Alphabeasts , Wallace pairs deadpan text with multilayered illustrations that are at once humorous and absurd, likely to elicit grins from both adults and children. His latest title focuses on idioms (a definition of the term appears on the first page), with a cast of anthropomorphic animals set in bizarre situations. All the scenes make jokes that should have easy kid appeal. Owen, the literal "bull in a china shop," unconsciously manages to entwine his horns, tail and cane around several ceramic pieces ("Not again," he sighs). A walrus who "had no intention of sharing his cupcake" sports a candy cane in place of a tusk (a "real sweet tooth"). Attentive readers can also spot a monkey hidden in each scene—these visual tricks and other hide and seek-type games echo Graeme Base's works. Among his more obvious gags, Wallace also inserts references and items aimed squarely at adults, which will assuredly be lost on young readers.
Visual impossibilities and intricate patterns tucked into a number of scenes echo Escher, while a "fish out of water" (named Gloria) happens to be riding a bicycle in a nod to Ms. Steinem. The detail and humor that Wallace packs into each scene should help ensure the book won't be just a flash in the pan. All ages. (Sept.)
Release date: 08/01/2004