cover image Jigsaw Jackson

Jigsaw Jackson

David F. Birchman. HarperCollins, $16 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-688-11632-3

Mired in the winter doldrums, potato farmer and fix-it man extraordinaire J. Jupiter Jackson is convinced by a smooth-talking puzzle peddler to parlay his lightning-quick jigsaw-solving skill into fame and fortune. The two hit the road, dazzling crowds as varied as fans at a Wild West show to the United States Congress, but despite the peddler's assertion that ""You're big potatoes now,"" Jackson grows homesick for his animal friends and eventually realizes that life on his farm was more fulfilling. This rattling fine yarn has elements of a tall tale (in one memorable scene, Jackson puts the jigsawed ice on Central Park pond back together), and Birchman (The Raggly-Scraggly No-Soap No-Scrub Girl) relates the story with gusto, its gleeful excesses mirrored in San Souci's merry watercolors. The artist zeroes right in on the heart of the tale with his character portraits, from the feckless Jackson (whose goofy charm recalls a young Dick Van Dyke), hands a-blur as he displays his talent, to the unctuous peddler and the lively potato farm menagerie. It's a romp if ever there was one. Ages 4-up. (Apr.)