cover image SLIM AND JIM


Richard Egielski, . . HarperCollins/ Geringer, $15.95 (40pp) ISBN 978-0-06-028352-0

In a derelict city inhabited by animals, homeless young rat Slim befriends privileged mouse Jim in this uplifting tale of an unlikely pair. They meet when a pirate-like cat bullies Slim into burglarizing an apartment. Jim interrupts the robbery, and Slim saves Jim's life. Afterward, these rodents from opposite sides of the tracks discover a shared passion for yo-yo tricks, like a "triple around-the-world super-loop combo... a crazy cradle, a barrel roll, and a flying saucer." Slim moves into Jim's family's home, despite interspecies mistrust and the tomcat's attempt to lure Slim back into the underworld. By this account of social difference, Slim's always a suspect and Jim's always a peach, although readers are assured otherwise ("Now you and I know that Jim was right and Slim intended to go back home," rather than steal from Jim's family). Egielski (Three Magic Balls) fashions an eerily magnetic world, a cross between Dickens's down-and-out London, the melting-pot-era Lower East Side and a contemporary dystopia. A palette of antique honey-browns and warm charcoal-grays creates a nostalgic atmosphere, yet the pictured frogs, pigeons and other creatures drive small cars. Indecipherable shop signs, lettered in a swirling script, suggest an alien language, but a flashy yo-yo plays the Beatles' "Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da." With its oddball characters and anachronistic allusions to pop culture, Egielski's weird yet welcoming animal realm recalls those created by Art Spiegelman and Tim Egan. Ages 3-7. (May)