cover image Mr. Bow Tie

Mr. Bow Tie

Karen Barbour. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt P, $13.95 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-15-256165-9

Mr. Bow Tie is homeless. Come rain or shine the colorfully clothed gentleman lives on the street outside a small grocery store. As told by the boy whose parents own the store, Barbour's ( Nancy ; Little Nino's Pizzeria ) picture book presents the social phenomenon of homelessness in uncomplicated prose and bold artwork, painting a very real picture of a bustling city neighborhood. Amid the hubbub, Mr. Bow Tie is befriended. He helps out at the store and finally--through the efforts of the narrator's family--is reunited with his aging parents. While in keeping with her sunny illustrations and upbeat text, Barbour's unlikely happy ending is off-putting in its relentless cheeriness. Her efforts in bringing this pressing problem to children's attention are commendable; the book's unrealistic resolution, however, ultimately undermines these good intentions. In sobering contrast to a somewhat misleading portrayal are the statistics on homelessness--and a contact address--that appear on the book's back flap. A more clear-eyed--and ultimately heartwarming--treatment of this topic can be found in last season's Uncle Willie and the Soup Kitchen by DyAnne DiSalvo-Ryan. Ages 4-8. (Sept.)