Colin Thompson, Author, Ben Redlich, Illustrator , illus. by Ben Redlich. Star Bright $16.95 (0p) ISBN 978-1-59572-008-5

The unlikely hero in this subtly comic story, a magician of less-than-Copperfieldian talent, enjoys considerable fame at his nightly performances at the Royal Mustache Theatre. Australian artist Redlich pictures the Great Montefiasco ("the worst magician in the entire history of magic") as a serpentine fellow with noodly limbs and an elongated neck. The hero puts on a literal comedy of errors; every trick he attempts fails spectacularly, which makes him miserable, but delights the audiences. "Sometimes he would end his show almost in tears, but no one ever realized this because the more mistakes he made, the more everyone cheered." Despite his popularity onstage, the fellow returns home with only his deaf rabbit, Bert, and other animals for companionship. When the magician advertises for an assistant, the similarly sinuous Fabulous Betty (who has idolized him from afar) answers his ad. Once they team up, the act becomes even more successful—and even more slapstick. They soon fall in love and eventually come to realize how much joy their mishaps bring others. Thompson's (The Last Alchemist ) story is at once tender and humorous, and Redlich's misshapen heroes inhabit a gloomy, surreal but enchanting world that readers may well pore over repeatedly. Ages 5-up. (Feb.)

Reviewed on: 02/07/2005
Release date: 09/01/2004
Genre: Children's
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