cover image Paul


Karla Kuskin. HarperCollins Publishers, $16.95 (43pp) ISBN 978-0-06-023568-0

Working with a series of fantastical paintings by the late Avery--paintings originally meant to be paired with a text long since lost--Kuskin has succeeded in weaving around them a story that is not only logically plausible but very often charming. Her tone meets and complements the art's whimsy, and she gracefully accounts for a disparate number of visual elements within a fundamentally simple narrative. The title character sets out to visit his ``magic grandmother'' with the help of a flying pig. Along the way he encounters a caterpillar with magic whiskers, a singing cat who offers directions, a quartet of cooperative wolves, and others. When he finds his grandmother, she is as magical as he'd remembered, and is delighted to hear the song he has composed en route. Kuskin's text is, in the main, straight-faced--a good foil for the primitive, outlandish figures pictured in the art. Yet it is satisfyingly sprinkled with a dry, understated wit: a gull gives Paul wings of his own, advising him that he will be able to ``fly from place to place just like a pig''; the singing cat practices her tones with the vocal cliche ``meee meee meee,'' followed a moment later by ``ooow wow wow.'' It all adds up to a strange, surprising adventure with the odd but consistent internal logic of a dream. All ages. (May)