cover image Toestomper and the Caterpillars

Toestomper and the Caterpillars

Sharleen Collicott. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (HMH), $15 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-395-91168-6

In this cursory tale, a hard-hearted hellion magically turns into a touchy-feely pushover. Toestomper hails his pals, the Rowdy Ruffians, with a ""Hello, you lowlife rascals""; they share a mutual bond of behaving in ""a mean, rude... and disgusting"" manner. Collicott (The Chicken Sisters) paints an almost three-dimensional village bursting with wildflowers and shrubs just waiting to be flattened by the team of troublemakers. Toestomper, sporting a red bandanna that telegraphs his tough nature, dislodges a family of caterpillars from the bush they call home (""Get away from me, you creepy creepers!"" he hollers). But then he inexplicably undergoes a personality shift. Suddenly he's making a box lined with a blanket for the fuzzy fellows and offering them water to drink. He even shuns his friend Nightmare's offer to ""go to town and be rude"" and Barfy's invitation to ""go to town and be disgusting."" After the Ruffians tie Toestomper to a tree and attempt to feed the caterpillars to the birds, the improbable happy ending finds Toestomper playing cards with the Rowdy Ruffians, side by side with his freed fuzzy friends (they all sport the requisite red bandanna). With such an unlikely turn of events, readers may not care that this superficial cast of characters lives happily ever after. Ages 4-8. (Sept.)