cover image Up the Wall

Up the Wall

Nicholas Heller. Greenwillow Books, $14 (1pp) ISBN 978-0-688-10633-1

Heller ( The Tooth Tree ; The Monster in the Cave ) once again exercises his uncommon ability to tap into children's playtime fantasy worlds and indeed to render those worlds as if through a child's eye. His hero here triumphs over a familiar predicament--being banished from various rooms because his play is disruptive to parents and siblings--by collecting food, toys and the dog and scaling the walls to the ceiling. There he can cavort without disturbing a soul and enjoy fringe benefits, too: he can make a big mess (there's no one to see) and he doesn't have to wash (no sink or tub). Heller's first-person narrative is pointedly understated, its quiet humor and overall restraint complemented by ebullient illustrations popping with offbeat details and patterns and rendered in electric colors. His bug-eyed characters are oddball but endearing and his upside-down world, where one can bowl in the hall or nap in a doorway, is well-nigh irresistible--worth revisiting whenever the fancy strikes. Ages 3-up. (May)