cover image Phooey!


Marc Rosenthal, . . HarperCollins/Cotler, $16.99 (40pp) ISBN 978-0-06-075248-4

Slapstick gags and droll sound effects drive this vaudevillian picture book, which stylishly updates a classic plot. “Phooey!” says a scowling boy as he kicks a tin can. “Nothing... ever... happens... around here!” Between each word of his sentence, readers observe the flight of the can, which bumps a napping cat from a branch and wakes a sleeping dog at the foot of the tree. The boy, too busy glaring at the sidewalk and complaining, doesn’t hear the pursued cat’s “yowlll,” nor does he notice the strolling cowboys (not even the pirate with a knife in his teeth who lurks under manhole covers and around corners). The boy stomps along while, in the background, the cat spooks an elephant, which gallops out of the zoo and, in true silent-movie fashion, knocks free a barrel of kippered herring. Page after page, Rosenthal’s (Dig! ) unframed panels track the chain reaction. The rolling barrel hits a painter’s ladder (“sploosh”), a pie hits the pirate in the face (“ploink”). and so on—multi-size, hand-lettered onomatopoeia adds to the fun. Along the way, Mr. Negativity meets a girl who politely glances around but never contradicts him; aptly, the conclusion finds them in front of an optometrist’s shop. In his pliable line drawings, sunny watercolor palette and quaint town setting, Rosenthal salutes ’30s and ’40s comic strips and children’s classics. Admirers of the de Brunhoffs, the Reys and Ludwig Bemelmans ought to get a kick out of this escalating romp. Ages 4-8. (July)