cover image Pssst!


Adam Rex, . . Harcourt, $16 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-15-205817-3

A sort of Personal Shopper Dolittle, a zoo-going girl talks to the animals, but the novelty wears off when the pushy beasts send her on errands. She hears the first “pssst!” as she approaches the gorilla cage. “What's up?” asks the ape, idly scratching his ear. “Listen. Could you get me a new tire?” His swing is broken: “Get two, just in case.” The pig wants trash cans, in metal and plastic, please; the sloths demand bicycle helmets. The shiny-faced girl goes from bemused to stoop-shouldered, but brings the goods in a wheelbarrow. Rex (Frankenstein Makes a Sandwich ) packs the increasingly crisp conversations into tight six-panel comics, relaxing into airy spreads as the girl meanders along zoo paths. He juxtaposes meticulous oil-and-acrylic portraits with stripped-down, architectural sketches and empty voice balloons that imply background chatter; the eccentric graphics suggest unfinished paint-by-numbers with a psychedelic edginess. Rex's animals pretend to be sprucing up their cages, but a subsequent picture of the menagerie in a dragster—cobbled together from the requested items—reveals their shrewd plot to break free. Rex conveys their personalities with an astringent attitude and a refreshing brake on the cuteness. A very funny excursion. Ages 5-8. (Sept.)