cover image Gerbilitis


Stephanie Spinner, Ellen Weiss. HarperCollins Publishers, $3.95 (0pp) ISBN 978-0-06-442031-0

This snippet of a story stars a gerbil named Weebie, a third-grade classroom pet spending the summer with Garth. After the boy forgets to give his visitor sufficient food and water, the disgruntled critter bites his finger. Suddenly the two can communicate verbally and, in no time at all, Garth's sulky, hungry cat, who has her eyes on Weebie, is also talking to her owner (""Just let me nibble on his little toes,"" she coos). The plot takes yet another inane turn when Garth encounters a bear in the woods during a family camping trip. By this time, kids will expect the two to chat--and they do. Garth and Weebie convince the towering creature to stage a sham attack on their campsite, hoping that the bear scare will bring his constantly squabbling parents together--and it does. Overall the writing isn't clever enough to pull off such a preposterous set of premises, although there may be enough in the way of amusing scenarios and droll lines to encourage kids to move on to the second Weebie Zone tale, Sing, Elvis, Sing!, due out at the same time. Ages 7-9. (Aug.)