Peter J. Welling, Author, Peter J. Welling, Illustrator . Pelican $14.95 (32p) ISBN 978-1-58980-105-9

Welling (Shawn O'Hisser, the Last Snake in Ireland) creates a wordy slapstick comedy from an unfamiliar historical premise: with the introduction of the Gregorian calendar in 1564, the French king (here portrayed as a rooster) proclaimed the start of the new year as January 1 instead of April 1, when it was formerly celebrated. Those who didn't get with the program were taunted as "Poisson d'Avril" or April Fish—the progenitor of today's April Fool. Welling recasts this turn of events as a battle of wits between a regular citizen, prankster rooster Michael Le Soufflé, and a pigheaded (literally) mayor named Melon de Plume, sporting medieval garb. When Mayor Melon catches a rooster posting a notice of the calendar change, he begins hurling fish at him from the closest peddler's cart, crying "Your silly jokes have gone too far." But the rooster turns out to be not Michael but the King of France. A caricature of the porcine fellow being pelted with blue and olive-drab fish reveals the punishment decreed by the king. The watercolor-and-ink illustrations bubble with a goofy spontaneity, groan-worthy puns (a sign on a tree reads "Paris fish are in Seine!"), an anachronism or two (a poster of the "Tour de France," begun in 1903, hangs in the mayor's office) and French words (a glossary concludes the book). Unfortunately, Melon's embrace of April 1 comes out of nowhere and the narrative feels labored. Ages 5-8. (Feb.)

Reviewed on: 02/17/2003
Release date: 01/01/2003
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