cover image Pauline


Georg Hallensleben. Farrar Straus Giroux, $16 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-374-35758-0

Illustrator Hallensleben (And If the Moon Could Talk) makes his first solo outing in this gorgeous but problematic jungle book. The title character is a ""fuzzy-eared weasel"" living in a tree in Africa, but with her cocoa-brown back, cream-colored stomach and black nose, Pauline resembles a kangaroo. One day, she meets a young elephant named Rabusius, and they remain playmates until hunters come along. When the men capture Rabusius and put him on a truck, Pauline saves him by dressing up as a monster in ""feathers, paints, and a white mask"" and frightening the men. Her minor size is no handicap so long as she wears her shocking chalk-white and blood-red disguise, which looks like tribal ritual garb and violently clashes with the ripe avocado greens and earthy browns of her habitat. Hallensleben provides a triumph of the meek over the powerful, but to do so he must break the conventions that govern people and anthropomorphic animal characters. The four-legged heroine uses strictly two-legged tactics to rescue her friend, and her behavior is inconsistent with the lush figurative paintings of African wilderness. The result is a discomfiting blend of zoology and fantasy, with talking animals vanquishing very real-looking poachers and then throwing ""an enormous party"" to celebrate. Ages 3-6. (Oct.)