cover image Little Nino's Pizzeria

Little Nino's Pizzeria

Karen Barbour. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt P, $6 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-15-247650-2

Barbour gives us an old-fashioned morality tale for children, rendered in 1980s style. Nino runs a crowded but cheerful pizzeria, ""Little Nino's.'' Tony, his son, gets to help serve the friendly patrons. One day, a portly man in a green suit patterned with dollar signs appears. He and Nino open a chic, expensive ``Big Ninostet,'' and Tony is miserable; when he tries to help, he gets underfoot. Worse, there's a new chef, named Francois, and only snooty couples eat there. Disillusioned, Nino decides to return to his humble but satisfying origins and reopens his old joint, now named ``Little Tony's.'' Tony gets a lesson in the corrupting power of money but narrowly escapes its real world repercussions. Barbour's illustrations are as handsome as the clientele at the upscale restaurant: using a bordered rectangular format, her figures are flattened like Matisse's; crowded together, they make a collage-like field of bright color and lively pattern. But their level of appeal is perhaps more suited to adult book buyers than young readers. And, unfortunately, in Barbour's telling, the characters remain as flat as the stylized pictures. Ages 4-8. (September)