cover image Three Magic Balls

Three Magic Balls

Richard Egielski. HarperCollins, $15.95 (40pp) ISBN 978-0-06-026032-3

Although a jewel-bright palette and urban setting give this book a contemporary look, its fantasy plot offers more than a hint of old-fashioned enchantment. The tale's anachronistic center is ""Uncle Dinkleschmidt's rare and antique toy shop,"" where nephew Rudy helps with chores. One day, a mysterious woman in a pointed hat walks into the wood-paneled store to sell an unusual trio of balls--one red, one yellow and one blue--with mischievous faces. Then she ""placed a gold whistle in [Rudy's] hand and disappeared, right on the spot!"" When Uncle Dinkleschmidt leaves on an errand, Rudy opens the cabinet and releases the balls, which expand into three Tweedle-Dum figures and spring right out the door; Rudy sits piggyback on one rotund form, momentarily forgetting the gold whistle in his pocket. In lucidly colorful, action-packed spreads, Egielski (Jazper) mingles Old Country flavor, vaudeville hijinks and modern architecture. At street level, pedestrians and caf diners dive out of the way of the balloon-like escapees; a few stories up, window washers and rooftop sitters follow the bouncing balls. Egielski's boy hero and seat-of-the-pants antics suggest Maurice Sendak's wild rides, until an uninspired conclusion (the rubbery protagonists must stop a plane crash) forces the story down to earth. Egielski approaches the art and narration with boundless energy, while keeping the suspense well within the comfort zone. Ages 3-7. (Aug.)