cover image PINOCCHIO, THE BOY: Or, Incognito in Collodi

PINOCCHIO, THE BOY: Or, Incognito in Collodi

Lane Smith, . . Viking, $16.99 (40pp) ISBN 978-0-670-03585-4

Consummate jester Smith (Baloney [Henry P.]) revisits the classic tale of a misbehaving puppet, and needless to say, this ain't 19th-century Italy. Smith summarizes all of the Pinocchio story in two pages of 50s-retro cartoons, then zooms in for a gauzy close-up of the Blue Fairy changing the marionette into a flesh-and-blood boy. There's one minor glitch: "That nutty fairy had changed him while he was asleep," and Pinocchio doesn't look in the mirror when he wakes up. He's too preoccupied with poor Geppetto, who's "sick and wet from that fish's belly," and he needs to buy some chicken soup in Collodi City (a dense comic-book metropolis and a subtle reference to the original author, Carlo Collodi). Smith's playful subtitle begins to make sense. As a real boy, Pinocchio is persona non grata to his friend Cricket and gets booed offstage at "the puppet theater where just last week he was a Big Sensation." Luckily, he finds one friend, a bratty urchin with a surprise connection with his magical benefactor. In addition to providing a sumptuous visual presentation of the events, Smith's artwork places the adventures in an edgy modern space of steep angles and flat geometric planes, chockablock with shop signs, laser-sharp beams of light and cascading snowflakes and polka-dots. Pinocchio heads for home after hearing Geppetto's all-points-bulletin on TV, and eventually his father recognizes him without the wood-grain finish. Smith sidesteps the novel's moralizing and the movie's heartstring-pulling in this airbrush-sleek, sharply designed comic sequel. Ages 4-8. (Sept.)