cover image Truman's Aunt Farm

Truman's Aunt Farm

Jama Kim Rattigan, G. Brian Karas. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (HMH), $14.95 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-395-65661-7

Karas's strong signature style adds punch to Rattigan's ( Dumpling Soup ) sweet but befuddling tale. On his birthday Truman receives a mail-order ``ant farm'' from his Aunt Fran. But homonyms, for some reason, prove his downfall--pretty soon, he's overrun by hordes of generous ``aunts'' who shower him with affection. Truman treats them much like a cute but unexpected litter of puppies; he eventually allows a crowd of lonely kids into his house, and each pairs off with his or her ideal aunt. In the denouement, Aunt Fran arrives, apparently knowing what's happened (``He saw the twinkle in her eye. `You did a wonderful thing,' said Aunt Fran''), but she never explains the strange gift. Karas's unique compositions make bold use of rich color, flattened perspectives and amiable, ruddy-cheeked figures. Still, the illustrations can't help but seem subdued in comparison with his adventurous work in Frances Minters's striking Cinder-Elly (reviewed below) . This may be attributable to the written material: try as it might to offer warmth and wackiness, Rattigan's narrative doesn't take risks--or, for that matter, make a clear point. Ages 4-8. (Mar.)