cover image THE MAGIC BED


John Burningham, . . Knopf, $16.95 (48pp) ISBN 978-0-375-82423-4

Burningham's (Hey! Get Off Our Train) many fans may be disappointed with this underdone caper. When Georgie outgrows his little-boy bed, his father takes him to an antique store, where the shopkeeper sells them a bed that he says is "magic," and adds, "you could travel in it." Faint writing on the headboard offers instructions to "say your prayers" and then say a word that is no longer entirely legible, yet begins with "m" and ends in "y." Georgie has no luck guessing the magic word the first night, but on the second he gets it right and soars over the city in his bed, transported to a field where gnomes and fairies read him a bedtime story. On other flights he visits the jungle and helps a lost tiger find its parents, discovers a pirate treasure chest in a cave, gives a ride to some tired geese, etc. The story loses its sparkle after the lad's last journey; his family goes off on holiday and when they return the boy's granny has bought him a new bed and has taken "that nasty old bed" to the dump, where Georgie retrieves it. Burningham's illustrations range from fanciful and luminous to sketchy. The ending, in which readers are told, "If you lie very still in your bed and find your magic word, perhaps you could travel far away like Georgie," seems a weak bridge to the fantasy elements here. Ages 3-8. (Sept.)