cover image The Flying Garbanzos

The Flying Garbanzos

Barney Saltzberg. Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers, $17 (40pp) ISBN 978-0-517-70978-8

When the Flying Garbanzos throw a birthday party for two-year-old Beanie, they don't need to rent a clown or circus animals. A trapeze already hangs from their kitchen ceiling, and an elephant, seal and monkey live with them in their multicolored Victorian abode. They require only a special cake. After Beanie's birthday breakfast, attended by trained poodles and a dancing bear, the acrobatic family bounces to the bakery, where a juggling accident sends the cake flying out the door. A melee ensues, involving a unicycle, a mountain road, a red biplane and a bright-yellow parachute. Saltzberg (Phoebe and the Spelling Bee) builds anticipation for the elusive confection: ""Are you going to sing to your cake?"" Beanie's mom asks. ""I bet you're going to kiss your cake when you get it!"" says his brother. Big, bold exclamations and smaller narrative text mimic the spectacular swoops and tumbles of the Garbanzos, who always land on their feet. Saltzberg's watercolor and cut-paper images may be inconsistent in their composition, but their genuine ebullience makes up for any aesthetic shortcomings. Fast action and shouted dialogue ensure that the pages turn in a hurry, and Beanie culminates this amiable tale like a true Garbanzo: with a death-defying swan dive into the icing. Ages 3-7. (Sept.)