cover image Mr. Mumble

Mr. Mumble

Peter Catalanotto. Orchard Books (NY), $16.95 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-531-05880-0

Catalanotto ( Dylan's Day Out ) offers up lifelike paintings whose realism is offset by striking, gently surreal perspectives and laconic expressions. They are a happy complement to this story in which puns and absurdity reign. A persistent tickle in the throat one day leaves Mr. Mumby prey to egregious misunderstandings. The baker gives him a ``dozing beagle'' instead of a ``dozen bagels,'' the grocer a ``panda bear'' instead of a ``pound of pears.'' His menagerie grows rapidly, until a doctor remedies the problem and Mr. Mumby and company head to the pet shop for provisions. Especially in his incarnation as ``Mr. Mumble,'' Mr. Mumby inhabits a world in which the bizarre is met with unblinking equanimity: his strange requests are matter-of-factly accommodated, and his troupe causes nary a disruption in his rounds. A view of the animals solemnly testing scales and blood-pressure cuff in the physician's office is particularly memorable, and encapsulates the drollery used to rousing effect throughout. Ages 4-7. (Aug.)