cover image Aunt Ceecee, Aunt Belle, and Mama's Surprise

Aunt Ceecee, Aunt Belle, and Mama's Surprise

Mary Quattlebaum. Doubleday Books for Young Readers, $15.95 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-385-32275-1

Chesworth's (Archibald Frisby) cartoon artwork, an homage to the Jazz Age, adds an effervescent charm to Quattlebaum's (Jazz, Pizzazz, and the Silver Threads) tongue-in-cheek tale of an eccentric family attempting to pull off a surprise party. The narrator, a ""take-charge kind of girl,"" has to overcome the inefficiency of both Aunt CeeCee, who ""slapdashes at the very last minute"" (she's too busy reading movie magazines to mail the invitations), and Aunt Belle, who ""nitpicks the tiniest things"" (finding just the right streamers becomes an obsession). The artwork brims with period details, from spats to flapper dresses and cloche hats. Dialogue boxes add a comic-strip-like element to the cartoony artwork: ""Remember, I don't want a party,"" declares the narrator's mother, throwing up her hands in disdain; ""You said that yesterday,"" observes the narrator, as the idea takes root. Other witty touches include a band of unruly cats who up the ante as the moment of the honoree's arrival approaches: ""They were playing Tarzan with the streamers and hippo with the punch"" (from the hilarious illustration, ""playing hippo"" seems to involve standing eyeball-deep in the punch). The book conveys the narrator's pride in saving the day, but makes that, too, part of the book's humor: the last page shows the narrator, mouth wide, telling the story for the umpteenth time while her mother and aunts laugh along. Like them, readers will be happy to hear this tale of teetering on the brink of party disaster over and over. Ages 5-8. (May)