cover image Bandits


Johanna Wright. Roaring Brook/Porter, $16.99 (32p) ISBN 978-1-59643-583-4

Wright (The Secret Circus) gives readers their first laugh on the title page, as a family of sweetly dressed raccoons tiptoes past an overturned garbage can. They have fat raccoon bodies, but their arms and legs are black ink lines, the combination of spindly appendages and sly, squinty eyes proving especially hilarious. In loose blank verse, Wright explores the issue of raccoon banditry: "They sneak and they creep./ Doing just what they please./ They snatch and launder whatever they've found." Dark blue night surrounds the masked creatures in their striped T-shirts and lace-edged dresses as Wright parodies westerns ("They head for the hills to split up the loot"), painting the villains solemnly enjoying a basket of fruit on a patched picnic cloth. Fantasy elements proliferate: the raccoons' human adversaries live in cottages shaped like beehives, while the raccoons return to a tree house that rivals that of the Swiss Family Robinson. It's clear that these raccoons are very family oriented and wholesome—except for that powerful compulsion to overturn garbage cans. Readers are meant to cheer for the raccoons against the humans, and they will. Ages 2–6. (Aug.)