cover image Jazper


Richard Egielski. Laura Geringer Book, $14.95 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-06-027817-5

In this quirky tale of a miniature Bugtown, Egielski (The Gingerbread Boy) pictures talking insects and a twinge of magic. Jazper is a green boy-insect with a pointy Pinocchio nose and bright, wide eyes. He uses his top two digits as arms and walks on his other four legs. He and his father live in ""a rented eggshell on the south side of Bugtown,"" while their neighbors occupy single tin cans and high-rise cereal boxes. The trouble begins when Dad gets injured on the job, and Jazper sets out to make some money with a job house-sitting for ""five weird moths"" (they wear white robes and resemble samurai warriors). While the moths are away, Jazper reads their sorcery tomes and learns to perform magical transformations. Three weeks later, the moths return and Jazper tries his luck as a street performer, changing himself into a skinny sky-blue crayon or a fat pickle. Although the moths never forbade Jazper to borrow from their library, they somehow are angered by his feats and come after him with a vengeance. All the action is well realized visually. Egielski, like William Joyce, borrows from early animation and uses punchy color in the foreground, hazier shades in the distance. In the fantasy metropolis, a girl mosquito flits through the air, a caterpillar hogs the road and commuting beetles sit aboard a dragonfly's long tail. With this fabulous backdrop, Egielski doesn't require such a convoluted plot. His lackluster story seems only a frame for his singularly evocative images. Ages 3-7. (Sept.)