Margaret Atwood, Author, Dusan Petricic, Illustrator , illus. by Dusan Petricic. Bloomsbury $16.95 (32p) ISBN 978-1-58234-950-3

Like Atwood's Princess Prunella and the Purple Peanut , this silly picture book revels in alliteration and understated humor. The plot is uncomplicated: when Rude Ramsay ventures out of his "ramshackle rectangular residence" to the resplendent realm full of radishes where Rillah lives, he finds a new friend. Despite Petricic's (Bagels from Benny ) portrayal of Ramsay, with his protruding teeth and Sideshow Bob hair, the boy comes across as a surprisingly likable, rat-faced hero. Unfortunately, Atwood's loquacious narration and repetition of R's wears thin (even the words "Roman-vaulted" and "rigor mortis" work their way into the story). The menu of "roach-riddled rice and the rancid raisins and the remnants of reeking rhinoceros [and] rotten reindeer rinds" repeats until readers are likely to feel overstuffed with rococo remarks. On the other hand, when the author integrates the relentless R's next to ordinary prose, the alliteration serves to highlight droll dialogue. When the new friends escape from Ramsay's wretched residence, Rillah trills, "You may be rude, but you can run with a rapidity that erases boredom!" Understanding the story's humor sometimes requires knowledge of popular culture (the radishes turn out to be robot replicas in need of reprogramming) and a vocabulary beyond the ken of the picture-book crowd ("My relatives," says Rillah, "although outwardly respectable and refulgently attired, are lacking in rectitude"). Petricic's pen-and-ink illustrations incorporate R's throughout—on buttons, embroidered collars and doorways. For fans of the letter R, this is a rampant, if sometimes ridiculous, romp. Ages 4-8. (Sept.)

Reviewed on: 08/23/2004
Release date: 09/01/2004
Hardcover - 29 pages - 978-0-7475-7292-3
Hardcover - 26 pages - 978-1-55263-244-4
Hardcover - 29 pages - 978-0-7475-7295-4
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