cover image Our Neighbor is a Strange, Strange Man

Our Neighbor is a Strange, Strange Man

Tres Seymour, Walter Lynn Krudop. Orchard Books (NY), $15.95 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-531-30107-4

Seymour's (Hunting the White Cow) triumphant tale of Melville Murrell, who in 1876 built the first airplane, champions pioneers who dare to step outside familiar territory. The narrator is a boy in Murrell's Tennessee hometown whose obvious fascination with his eccentric neighbor vies with the disapproving local gossip. Krudop's (Black Whiteness) puckish gouaches emphasize the contrast between Murrell and his neighbors: e.g., he is seen, nose buried in a book, high-stepping past a farmer plowing his field. Thoughtful cropping and imaginatively skewed perspectives draw attention to the elements likeliest to intrigue kids: pulleys in Murrell's workroom; Oz-like balloons in his living room; Murrell, clad in hat, suit and tie, up in a tree, taking notes on birds in flight. Seymour's details are equally well chosen (""They say he used to jump off the old stone wall/ flapping cabbage leaves to FLY, for goodness' sake,/ when he was a boy""). The title line repeats throughout and at the end, when Murrell signals for takeoff: ""And he expects the clacking, whumping, whizzing thing to go! Our neighbor is a strange, strange--OH!... It FLIES!/ For goodness' sake."" Sure to pique readers' interest. Ages 5-9. (Mar.)