cover image Frank Fister's Hidden Talent: Story and Pictures

Frank Fister's Hidden Talent: Story and Pictures

Paul Brett Johnson. Orchard Books (NY), $15.95 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-531-06813-7

Perversity for its own sake seems the overarching principle of Johnson's ( The Cow Who Wouldn't Come Down ) thoroughly sour story of a boy with a magical ability. By sticking out his tongue and crossing his eyes, the unfortunately named Frank Fister jinxes things. First, he prevents his mother from making her specialty, banana-tuna chow mein; later, he puts the whammy on an ice cream truck so that ice cream pours from the machines and every kid gets a free cone. Narrative logic, never solid, utterly disappears with the introduction of diabolical ice cream vendor Mister Freezee: ``Mister Freezee was not really an ice cream man. And he was anything but nice. In truth, he was an out-of-work chicken thief.'' Freezee--disguised in a shower cap and rubber nose--kidnaps Frank, ties him up and puts a piece of tape over his mouth (``So you don't try anything funny with that tricky tongue''); then Freezee forces Frank to use his skill for the evil purpose of chicken-stealing. Adult readers, incidentally, won't need dirty minds to spot classic examples of S&M. This graceless work never coheres, but simply jumps from one inane detail or development to the next. Ages 4-7. (Mar.)