THE MIGHTY ASPARAGUS

V. Radunsky, Author . Harcourt/Silver Whistle $16 (34p) ISBN 978-0-15-216743-1

In Radunsky's (Mannekin Pis ) gleefully subversive retelling of the Russian folktale "The Turnip," he spoofs Renaissance paintings for his illustrations and changes the locale to an Italianate royal family's court. To the horror of the macho king, a huge, indubitably phallic asparagus stalk pops up in his yard, dominating the palace (and the spreads): "Oh, I hate that stinky asparagus!" he cries. The queen and blushing princess, however, gaze longingly at the enormous vegetable (the princess squeals, "Give it to me now! I want to gobble it up!"; "Funny, I thought that children hated asparagus," the narrator slyly comments). The wink-wink, nudge-nudge jokes to the adults threaten to overwhelm the early pages, but the author/ artist eventually wrestles the satire back on track. Ever the iconoclast, Radunsky raids Italian masterpieces and apologizes to their artists in an arch dedication ("thank you and sorry"). The bumbling king, in his crimson hat and cape, comes from Piero della Francesca, for example, while his imperious advisers are lifted from Andrea Mantegna. Radunsky distorts the characters' haughty faces into Terry Gilliam-esque gooniness, showing readers that museum art (like legendary turnips and asparagus) can withstand a healthy satirical tweaking or two. Ages 5-9. (May)

Reviewed on: 05/10/2004
Release date: 05/01/2004
Genre: Children's
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