Chuck Richards, Author, Chuck Richards, Illustrator . Walker $16.95 (32p) ISBN 978-0-8027-8931-0

Richards debuts with this spectacularly illustrated, over-the-top tale about a boy whose father gets carried away with his aspirations for the backyard jungle gym. Sepia-toned artwork set against a 1950s backdrop (hula hoops and saddle shoes abound) spotlight young Jerry and a fear of heights that escalates in direct proportion to his sky-climbing jungle gym. Initial panels and two-page illustrations, framed in elegant ivory borders, reveal the inspirations for his father's outlandish handiwork: a trip to the donut shop results in the addition of tire swings, washing the car amidst a tangle of hoses leads to towering, slide-like chutes. "Jerry's worst nightmares would soon be outmatched/ by the tangle of tracks and long tunnels that scratched/ at the summery sky like some scribbly scrawl,/ with silvery loops that were sixty-feet tall." Dozens of acrobatic children and grown-ups barrel down the shiny curves in whimsical contraptions, including mechanized jungle animals, a pumpkin-wheeled bike and a winged canoe that swoop through the loops. The elaborate colored pencil and graphite drawings will reward readers who pore over the incredible details and exceptional perspectives. (Careful inspection reveals a character resembling Dr. Seuss's Grinch atop a sleigh pulled by an antler-topped dachshund.) The rhyming text at times feels a bit forced or rushed, which detracts from the extraordinary, painstakingly executed artwork. But youngsters will hope for much more from this imaginative artist's drawing board. Ages 4-9. (Oct.)

Reviewed on: 09/20/2004
Release date: 10/01/2004
Hardcover - 32 pages - 978-0-8027-8932-7
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