cover image HUNWICK'S EGG


Mem Fox, , illus. by Pamela Lofts. . Harcourt, $16 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-15-216318-1

The team behind Koala Lou here offers an oddly anticlimactic tale about an endearing bandicoot who befriends an egg. Lofts's artwork, appealing and spectacular, fills the pages with fascinating Australian desert flora and fauna. Yet the striking illustrations sometimes seem haphazardly placed with the text. For example, the opening lines ("Once upon a time, at the edge of a wide and dusty desert, there lived an old bandicoot") appear alongside a full-page close-up of a Thorny Devil lizard (keen-eyed readers may detect an errant snout, opposite, but that's not the main focus of the spread). At the turn of the page, readers discover that the ancient-looking lizard is not the main character, and that "the old bandicoot" is an appealing, wide-eyed, baby-faced creature. Hunwick finds and tends a lost egg with loving devotion, and he and his friends finally realize the egg will never hatch. But "Hunwick wasn't sad.... It was his egg. It was his secret." The ending seems less a surprise than a contrived joke without a real punch line. Unlike youngsters whose expectations have been aroused about what will emerge from the egg, Hunwick declares, "I love it as it is," and the stone remained "his friend forever." Despite the lovely vistas, the ending here may well be a letdown to readers. Ages 3-7. (Mar.)