cover image Harlequin and the Green Dress

Harlequin and the Green Dress

Laura Fischetto. Doubleday Books for Young Readers, $15.95 (1pp) ISBN 978-0-385-31073-4

The art has the sophisticated merriment of Venice at Carnevale and the flavor of the text is equally authentic, but this European duo's (Michael the Angel) latest doesn't make a smooth Atlantic crossing. Inspired by commedia dell'arte, Fischetto and Galli stage a slapstick adventure starring the stock characters Harlequin, Punch (Pulcinella) and other mischief-makers. The story, involving mistaken identities at a costume ball, sneaky servants and a pair of lovers, moves forward in broad strokes, with the best comedic bits reserved for the illustrations (e.g., Punch is shown casting his fishing rod for a plate of pasta). The diction is occasionally imprecise, however, and the transitions defy the narrative's own logic. It's hard to follow the rapid actions of the many characters without some familiarity with commedia dell'arte; there is a helpful note by writer/performer Geoff Hoyle, but while it appears to have been written as an introduction (""in our story we shall meet...""), it has been relegated to the end of the book. Alas, Fischetto and Galli's good efforts come apart at the seams. Ages 6-10. (Sept.)