Danny Diamondback

Barry E. Jackson, Author . HarperCollins $16.99 (40p) ISBN 978-0-06-113184-4

In his picture book debut, Jackson (a film production designer whose credits include Shrek ) puts on a cowboy drawl to tell a very tall tale. Danny Diamondback, a naïve young rattler, does not realize he is a venomous snake. His attempts to befriend jackrabbits and birds come to naught until he happens upon Pablo, a nearsighted prairie dog. Pablo invites Danny into his burrow and plays him some Latin jazz on the trumpet: “Downright dazzled, Danny wanted to clap, but since he couldn’t, he unfortunately did something else. He rattled his tail.” After Pablo fends off an attempted intervention by his horrified grandmother, Danny ends up joining the family’s music-making, and before long he—wearing a huge sombrero to put the audience at ease—is playing maracas (i.e., his tail) in Pablo’s interspecies band, the Hoppin’ Jalapeños. Jackson’s hyperreal illustrations of slightly anthropomorphized animals resemble digital-animation stills, with crisp foreground images, glossy black shadows and gauzy, out-of-focus backdrops. His panoramic desert scenes suggest holograms, with blurred details when Danny rattles his tail or startles furry mammals. Fans of Happy Feet and Ice Age won’t mind suspending disbelief for the outlandish story, with its cinematic visuals and stereotypical Tex-Mex situations. All ends happily, with the snake cozy in the prairie dog colony, although one question remains: What in tarnation does Danny eat? Ages 5-7. (Jan.)

Reviewed on: 01/07/2008
Release date: 01/01/2008
Genre: Children's
Library Binding - 40 pages - 978-0-06-113185-1
Paperback - 40 pages - 978-0-06-113186-8
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