cover image Engelbert Joins the Circus

Engelbert Joins the Circus

Tom Paxton. HarperCollins Publishers, $15 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-688-09987-9

This lackluster sequel to Engelbert the Elephant is just not up to Paxton's usual jaunty standards. The plot, about how Engelbert steals the show while visiting his cousin Edgar, a circus performer, is relayed through verse that's often strained and sometimes downright awkward (""So Engelbert set sail--/ The vessel rocked from side to side./ Poor Engelbert! The ocean seemed/ A million miles wide!""). Comparisons will inevitably be drawn between Wilson's (Brer Tiger and the Big Wind) egg-tempera paintings and Steven Kellogg's more successful artwork for the original book. While skillfully executed, Wilson's illustrations, with their soft palette and subdued style, tone down the action; they don't deliver the jolt of energy that might have helped jump-start this bland book. Ages 5-up. (Mar.)