cover image The Toy Brother

The Toy Brother

William Steig. HarperCollins Publishers, $14.95 (0pp) ISBN 978-0-06-205078-6

A big brother and little brother reverse roles-literally-in this Middle Ages take on ""When the cat's away, the mice will play."" Know-it-all Yorick wants to be an alchemist like his father, so when his parents leave on a week-long journey, he plays in the lab. Alas, poor Yorick concocts a shrinking formula, and soon he's the size of Lynne Reid Banks's Indian in the Cupboard. While he waits for his father to return and whip up an antidote, Yorick depends on his younger brother, Charles, whom he has always disdained; the two antagonists bond after sweet-natured Charles builds Yorick a dollhouse, saves him from a hailstorm and entertains him by ""dress[ing] the goat up in one of his mother's best outfits."" The prolific Steig keeps the Dark Ages light with his penchant for non sequiturs and colorful if challenging words (such as ""alackaday"" and ""transmogrification""). Watercolors of chunky wooden furniture, heavy eating utensils and knee-length tunics set the tone for this costume comedy. Ages 3-up. (Mar.)