cover image The Poombam of Badoombah

The Poombam of Badoombah

Dee Lillegard. Putnam Publishing Group, $15.99 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-399-22778-3

This tale's lavish imagery, borrowed from ""The 1,001 Nights"" and ""Aladdin,"" may lure devotees of Eastern exoticism, but the plot, unfortunately, fizzles like a dud firecracker. Lillegard (The Wild Bunch) prefaces the story with a definition: ""To poombah means to impart, or infuse with, extraordinary energy. A Poombah is one renowned for having this power."" Thus, the title character is a village wizard, an impish, bespectacled man whose snow-white turban matches his eyebrows and pointy beard. As he strolls among blocky, whitewashed houses, peering into their shadowy interiors, he uses a twisted wand to fire green-and-gold zaps: ""The Poombah sent a pudgy rajah/ swirling to the public bath./ The Poombah sent a nervous dervish/ whirling down a curvish path."" The townsfolk indulge his harmless pranks, but revolt when the Poombah causes an elephant to rampage through a bazaar; they then banish the trickster to the countryside, where he lives as a hermit and cultivates magical ""Badoombah beans."" Hawkes (By the Light of the Halloween Moon) saturates every spread with gorgeous, glowing color. His sunny midday skies, clay pots and bright cotton clothing set the scene beautifully. Likewise, Lillegard's inventive verse and vocabulary (""howdah"" rhymes with ""proud"") make for a peppy ride. Yet the abrupt conclusion is unsatisfying. The Poombah still uses his energies selfishly, despite hints that the Badoombah beans may provide an opportunity to make amends with his peers. There's no resolution besides the Poombah's unconvincingly merry solitude. Ages 4-8. (Apr.)