cover image The Giant

The Giant

Nicholas Heller. Greenwillow Books, $15 (24pp) ISBN 978-0-688-15224-6

An artist's dreams become reality in this eccentric tale by the creators of Goblins in Green. Evan's grandma has a peculiar painting over her sofa featuring a giant in purple striped overalls. When the oversized fellow emerges from the canvas and runs away one night, it's up to Evan and his grandma to track him down. The trail leads them back to the artist's studio, where figments of the painter's imagination--including a five-foot-tall pigeon and a tiny banana man--habitually escape from the canvas. Eventually, the artist paints their prey back into the picture--this time clad in his drab brown overalls (Evan points out that any deviation in appearance allows the subject an escape route). The tale's quirkiness seems a bit forced, and the text is lengthy for a picture book, but Heller's enterprising premise will likely hold readers' interest. The story is bolstered by a gratifyingly ambiguous ending (Evan unwraps a gift from the artist--a painting of a baseball-capped dinosaur). Smith's understated illustrations play straight man to the story's energetically bizarre elements: he humorously juxtaposes a colossal frog and a barn-sized giant against a homey New England-style backdrop (a standout shows the giant's enormous eye peering out of a hayloft window). Readers may wish for more of Smith's paintbrush (it is, after all, a story about an artist), but it's an amiable outing. Ages 5-up. (Oct.)