cover image Charlie Malarkey and the Singing Moose: 9

Charlie Malarkey and the Singing Moose: 9

William Kennedy. Viking Children's Books, $14.99 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-670-84605-4

William Kennedy ( Ironweed ) and son Brendan Kennedy follow up their Charlie Malarkey and the Belly-Button Machine with this effort, which, though amiable, is lengthy for a picture book and occasionally strained in its tone. On an outing to the circus, Charlie and his friend Iggy discover a morose moose named Barnaby who, with the aid of a magic polka-dot necktie, sings such crowd-pleasers as ``Moosie in the Sky with Diamonds'' and ``Here's to You, Mooses Robinson.'' Barnaby is being forced to perform against his will by a couple of thugs, however, and when the boys stumble upon the magic tie, they hatch a plan to set him free. Several plot twists and a few close shaves later, they do exactly that. There are some deliciously funny moments (a singing box of fishsticks provides one), but the cast of characters is somewhat predictable (the nosy neighbor; the short, pudgy, sly thug and the tall, skinny, dumb one, a la Jasper and Horace in 101 Dalmatians ; the bemused, inattentive parent; etc.) . The antic plot, moreover, tries a bit too hard. On the other hand, Schindler's exceptionally dynamic illustrations, with their punchy perspectives and playful layouts, maximize the truly comic elements here. All ages. (June)