cover image YIKES!!!


Robert Florczak, . . Scholastic/Blue Sky, $15.95 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-590-05043-2

In his first work as both author and illustrator, Florczak aims for the younger set with a nature fantasy written almost entirely in interjections. Each oversize spread features an encounter between a pith-helmeted boy explorer (who utters the exclamations) and different exotic critters and insects (an illustrated glossary on the final page identifies and describes each). "Whee!" says the boy as he swings through the trees with a family of orangutans. "Yikes!!!" is his response when the gaping mouth of a humongous Nile crocodile threatens to devour him in one gulp. Dispensing with the painterly style of his work in The Rainbow Bridge, Florczak inflates scale and employs heightened, sometimes psychedelic color to play up another forte: startling, photo-like realism. In one spread, the boy's hand—just larger than life, and cinematically lit—reaches into the frame and almost touches an Australian frilled lizard that's in a fierce defensive posture; the individuated blades of grass vibrate in a riot of greens and yellows, while the lizard is a swirl of hot-orange scales. Florczak occasionally pushes the hallucinatory feel over the top (a bat cave rendered in fluorescent lavenders looks like a black-light poster), but not without a purpose: the final spread shows the boy asleep, holding a book about dangerous animals. Kids who like their animals ferocious will be wild for this one. Ages 3-up. (Sept.)