cover image King Snake CL

King Snake CL

Wendy Slotboom. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (HMH), $14.95 (0pp) ISBN 978-0-395-74680-6

Two mice learn the real meaning of the phrase ""captive audience"" in this pedestrian offering, a first for both author and illustrator. The garrulous King Snake, who resembles the sinister boa of the Disney Jungle Book, sidles up to mice Henry and Tinkerton with the command ""Let's talk."" The snake, exuding false bonhomie, encircles them with his tail and proceeds to regale them with a stream of inane chatter; his blathering might bore the reader as much it does Henry and Tinkerton. The mice finally outwit the deadly dullard by sewing two mouse likenesses and making their getaway as King Snake prates on. Manders, using swooping lines and exaggerated perspectives, contributes vertiginous pencil-and-watercolor images. The extroverted snake dominates almost every spread with his grinning green-and-yellow face, while the roly-poly brown mice cower and try to hold up their end of polite conversation. However, as the tension builds, so does the level of nonsense; the anticlimactic finale finds the mice free and the snake, paradoxically, delighted. Ages 4-8. (Mar.)