cover image Victor and Hugo

Victor and Hugo

Robert J. Blake. Philomel, $16.99 (40p) ISBN 978-0-399-24324-0

In Paris, a street performer known as Maestro mesmerizes the crowd on a bridge spanning the Seine, where his dogs, Victor and Hugo, sing along with his accordion playing. In a chaotic sequence of events, a cranky organ grinder tosses a salami at the dogs, who fall off the bridge onto a barge along with Maestro’s accordion and wide-brimmed hat, which transforms into a rubber tire that traps the instrument. Back on land, where “all music” has suddenly stopped, the “accordion tire” rolls through the streets, chased by Victor, Hugo, and throngs of Parisians. Guided by the accordion’s notes, the dogs discover the instrument in the city sewers, and their howling beckons Maestro, who frees his accordion and returns music to the world. Blake’s (Painter and Ugly) rich oil paintings capitalize on the story’s madcap twists, offering bustling scenes of the frenzied crowd and cameos by individuals that include Albert Einstein, Louis Armstrong, Salvador Dalí, and Victor Hugo. But this contemporary fable is a bit too scattered and confusing, and the relationship between Maestro and his dogs gets lost in the shuffle. Ages 3–7. (Jan.)