cover image Wizzil


William Steig. Farrar Straus Giroux, $16.95 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-374-38466-1

Two masters of children's literature turn in an amiable, if not groundbreaking, performance in this madcap witch story. Bored, Wizzil the witch heeds her pet parrot's suggestion to ""go make somebody suffer!"" She transforms herself into a fly and relentlessly pesters an ornery old coot named DeWitt Frimp. Observing that DeWitt is a leftie, Wizzil returns the next day in the form of a left-handed work glove; when DeWitt puts the ""happy harpy on his hand,"" his arm misbehaves. The moment of truth arrives when DeWitt hurls the glove into the river, whereupon Wizzil is revealed--and true love blooms. Steig, whose Made for Each Other took a clear-eyed look at sentiment, cuts the romantic sweetness with an ample squeeze of sour lemon. He toys with tongue-twisters and kid-pleasing insults (DeWitt is a ""bald-headed fuddy-dud""; Wizzil's a ""hateful hag""). Blake (Clown) composes spiky, energetic line-drawings of DeWitt, who flails clumsily at the offending fly, and Wizzil, who struggles and spits when she lands in the water. In the wryly happy ending, newt-brown and froggy-green watercolor hues give way to sunny shades of yellow and blue. Steig and Blake start with unrefined nastiness, then blindside their characters (and readers) with a comical but sincere look at love. Ages 4-8. (Aug.)