cover image This Is Silly!

This Is Silly!

Gary Taxali, Scholastic Press, $17.99 (40p) ISBN 978-0-439-71836-3

Not surprisingly, it's Taxali's slickly produced retro spreads that draw all the attention in his picture book debut. Channeling candy wrapper script, amusement park funhouse art, and comic books, Taxali creates an odd gang, hybrids of human, animal, mechanical, and geometric features. Their bodies are shaped like boxes, or peanuts, or toys; their legs and arms curve like rubber bands, and their eyebrows arch and crease to express emotion. Silly Sol wears a fez and a striped shirt, Billy has pink bunny ears, and Manic Monkey, a sour-faced toy with a key in his back, drives a little red speedster. "There goes Manic Monkey,/ Beep! Beep! He drives too far./ All around, up off the ground,/ He WRECKS that kooky car!" Other characters leap about, everybody laughs ("Ho-ho, ha-ha, yuk-yuk, tee-hee"), and Silly Sol points to a mirror that is embedded in the last page and asks, "Can YOU be silly, too?" and the fun ends a little abruptly there. Strangely compelling, with shades of Roy Lichtenstein and early Warner Bros. cartoons, its most appropriate home might be on a coffee table. Ages 3–5. (Aug.)