cover image Down the Dragon's Tongue

Down the Dragon's Tongue

Margaret Mahy. Orchard Books (NY), $15.95 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-531-30272-9

Mahy and MacCarthy (previously paired for 17 Kings and 42 Elephants) team up for this story of a buttoned-down businessman who literally kicks off his shoes at his children's urging. Mr. Prospero informs twins Miranda and Harry that ""fathers wearing white shirts, shiny shoes, and hand-painted silk ties that look like fruit salad"" do not ride down huge slides at the park. But after some initial fears, Mr. Prospero discovers he can ""Whooosh!"" with the best of them, and the twins have a hard time getting him to go home. Mahy's language is offbeat, verbally dexterous and chock-full of repeated metaphors and accumulating jokes. The father's clothes mirror his gradual awakening in both art and text as he loses his buttons and nearly eats his fruit salad tie. MacCarthy's acrylic paintings focus on action and character, but at times seem out of sync with the text. Mahy frequently hints at magic (naming the father Prospero, invoking images of a city that lies ""out beyond like a land in a dream"" and glows ""like a fairyland in the last rays of sunlight""), but MacCarthy largely ignores these metaphors, so that the somewhat flat ending lacks a dreamy punch. Nonetheless, this is still a charmer. Ages 4-7. (Sept.)