LITTLE LIT: "IT WAS A DARK AND SILLY NIGHT..."

Art Spiegelman, Editor, Francoise Mouly, Editor . HarperCollins/Cotler $19.99 (48p) ISBN 978-0-06-028628-6

For this third Little Lit anthology, Spiegelman and Mouly asked contributors to start a story with the phrase "It was a dark and silly night." Diverse participants, including Patrick McDonnell ("Mutts"), J. Otto Seibold and Vivian Walsh, achieve results that range from outstanding to so-so. In the standout category, Lemony Snicket and "Evil Eye" artist Richard Sala make "silly" an acronym for "Somewhat Intelligent, Largely Laconic Yeti." A girl searches for this snow-covered beast, and the strangely uplifting outcome will surprise those who expect a series of unfortunate events. William Joyce, in a mock-1909 newspaper strip, makes a happy return to the artwork of his Leaf Men. His outrageous tale of "Giggle-illium, the long-searched-for silly atom" does homage to cartoonist Winsor McCay and the sci-fi of Melies and Verne. Less successful is an entry that comes courtesy of Neil Gaiman (Coraline) and Gahan Wilson, who draws big-eyed, troll-like kids. In their ghoulish tale of a tot party in a zombie-filled graveyard, no one comes to harm; instead, the nostalgic corpses demand a singalong of "Alexander's Ragtime Band." Surreal turns by Joost Swarte and Carlos Nine also disappoint, but an ineffably weird reprint of a 1952 "Jumpin' Jupiter" comic by Basil Wolverton recalls early Dr. Seuss. As usual, there are a couple of games too. The endpapers, designed by Martin Handford (Where's Waldo?), picture monsters invading a city inhabited by the Little Lit characters (as well as humans). Barbara McClintock (Dahlia), in her singular neo-Victorian style, creates side-by-side images of a teddy-bear picnic and challenges readers to "Find the 12 differences." This alternately cute and creepy volume lives up to its subtitle. Ages 4-up. (Aug.)

Reviewed on: 08/04/2003
Release date: 08/01/2003
Genre: Children's
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