cover image Archie and the Pirates

Archie and the Pirates

Marc Rosenthal, . . HarperCollins, $16.99 (40pp) ISBN 978-0-06-144164-6

The eponymous hero is a clever, courageous monkey who makes lemonade out of lemons (or the banana equivalent thereof) when he is marooned on a desert island. Archie quickly makes friends with his fellow animal inhabitants and then rallies them to fend off an invasion by a “rough and smelly” band of pirates, whose idea of cruel taunting is to stick out their tongues and grunt “HAR,” after capturing Archie's friend Beatrice, a tiger. With a retro design aesthetic and swashbuckling sense of adventure, Rosenthal (Phooey! ) showcases a gift for knowing how to pace action—he lets readers savor the details of Archie's settling in, then hits the visual accelerator when the baddies appear. His text feels too literal at times, especially give the crispness and detail of his drawings—it can feel like he's giving directions rather than telling a story. But mostly he's great fun to read aloud (“Tons of rotten, squishy, smelly mangoes, kiwis, papayas, and bananas... rain down on the confused pirates”), his snappy, breathless style carrying just enough of a wink to flatter readers' nascent sense of irony. Ages 4–8. (Oct.)