cover image June 29, 1999

June 29, 1999

David Wiesner. Clarion Books, $16 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-395-59762-0

Caldecott Medalist Wiesner once again presents an offbeat premise and unconventional artwork to tempt youngsters into his deliciously skewed landscapes. In this thoroughly winning flight of fancy, it seems the strange events that occurred on Tuesday still continue. Wiesner here leaves the boggy, froggy swamp for suburbia and beyond, setting this work in ``Ho-Ho-kus, New Jersey.'' There Holly Evans sends boxes of planted vegetable seeds into the ionosphere as part of her ambitious third-grade science project--``her classmates are speechless.'' What happens next may or may not be the result of Holly's experiment, but the country is never the same. Giant specimens of produce begin to bombard various regions, as ``cucumbers circle Kalamazoo,'' ``artichokes advance on Anchorage'' and ``cauliflower carpets California.'' (On the same date, it turns out, a space-ship's cook has inadvertently jettisoned mega-vegetables from his galley. Perhaps a bizarre coincidence, perhaps not.) Wiesner's dry humor, irony and artistic wizardry have been masterfully marshalled into a visual and literary feast. Kids will relish rolling amusingly alliterative phrases off their tongues almost as much as they delight in these wryly rendered paintings. From the huge broccoli reminiscent of the fallen tree in Hurricane to the Mount Rushmore-like faces carved from potatoes, readers will adore this imaginative romp. Though several picture books of late have attempted to combine drollery and sophistication, only to end up with results far over youngsters' heads, this work succeeds notably on several levels. Spectacular to look at, great fun to read--it is, in sum, executed with consummate skill. Ages 5-up. (Oct.)