cover image Borgel


Daniel Manus Pinkwater. MacMillan Publishing Company, $15 (170pp) ISBN 978-0-02-774671-6

Old Uncle Borgel, who has lived with the family ever since Melvin can remember, decides to leave one night and invites the boy to come along. Off they go in Borgel's 1937 Dorbzeldgestet sedan for a trip through time-space-and-the-other. First stop: outer space, where Melvin and Fafner, the family dog (who has acquired the gift of speech) are temporarily marooned at a root beer stand. Once reunited, the trio pick up seemingly benign Freddie, then, in their quest for the Great Popsicle, journey to the island where it is said to dwell. Disaster strikes when Freddie reveals himself as a fearsome Grivnizoid, but peace and love save the day. With its ``cosmic consciousness'' theme, absence of central female characters and repudiation of middle-class family life, this allegory reads more like a 1960s underground comic than a 1990 novel for middle readers. Also, Pinkwater's originality falters here: the root beer stand is lifted from his picture book Guys from Space and--carrying out the '60s-comics theme--Freddie is a dead ringer for R. Crumb's Mr. Natural. Ages 10-up. (Apr.)