cover image JIMMY DABBLE


Frans Vischer, . . Dutton, $16.99 (160pp) ISBN 978-0-525-46671-0

Vischer's artwork provides a context and rapport among the characters that is often absent from the text of his debut novel, set on the Dabbles' farm. The story strikes a precarious balance between a hard-knock real world and fantasy. Jimmy, an only child, acts as foil to his hard-working, joyless parents, Hank and Maggie. Their battle to keep the farm provides the realistic backdrop to an otherwise farfetched plot. The couple confines Jimmy to his crib day and night after he crawls off into the forest as a baby and returns with a report of having met a "hairy creature" (he began to talk at the age of five months). But the farm animals, with whom Jimmy can communicate, help him escape from his crib. Over time, the boy becomes their caregiver, playmate and confidante—and teaches them to sing opera. Among the disparate strands Vischer works into his meandering plot are Jimmy''s rapport with Oma, his eccentric grandmother who arrives from Holland, his several encounters with the bizarre forest creature (named Beebo) who inspires Jimmy with his magic and several dramatic calamities at the book's close. Predictably, the singing animals save the day, but the narrative along the way is at times clumsy and cliché-riddled. Nevertheless, Vischer's drawings of Jimmy communing with Beebo and the other animals may tempt readers to give this a try. Ages 7-10. (July)