Presenting a grave subject in comic-book format, Kooharian (Medieval Tales: The Twelfth Century) endeavors to blend elements of fantasy with an achingly real story of a terminally ill boy. One night Sammy (who is bed-bound) awakens to find three ""guys"" in his room. They take him to visit a general, who gives Sammy a medal for bravery and packs him off on a dog sled (solo) to retrieve the general's beloved stuffed animal from the horrible Zargon. Small pen-and-ink and watercolor portraits grow to full-page scenes as Sammy summons his courage, stands and bests the half lion/half man to accomplish his mission. Sammy crawls away from the drab browns and reds of Zargon's den out to the lush gold, green and blue of an open field. Next, a man with a brown beard named Ed suddenly appears to ask Sammy if he'd like to ""go to a place where you could walk and run and play ball and never be sick again."" Although Kooharian conveys a message to children that Sammy can now face death (a golden place with a kind bearded man as his guide), the disjointed elements of the story may only serve to confuse and frighten children. Even with the closing words from Sammy (""Mom... Dad... It's ok... I'm not afraid anymore""), the image readers are left with is of a deathly ill Sammy lying in a shadowy hospital room. Although this is an innovative attempt to tackle a difficult subject, the format undermines the story's noble goal. Ages 5-up. (Sept.)
Reviewed on: 09/01/1997 Release date: 09/01/1997 Genre: Children's
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