cover image Who's in the Hall?: A Mystery in Four Chapters

Who's in the Hall?: A Mystery in Four Chapters

Betsy Hearne. Greenwillow Books, $15.95 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-688-16261-0

Billed as a mystery, Hearne's (Seven Brave Women) picture book hybrid is more successful as an example of how to proceed when strangers call at the door. A quartet of brief ""chapters"" centers on the doings in an urban apartment building, where a shadowy personage calling him/herself ""the janitor"" lurks in the hallway. Hale's (Juan Bobo and the Pig) cartoon-like illustrations play up the mystery angle--and sinister undercurrents--with lots of ""fish-eye"" angle shots through apartment door peepholes. The janitor first visits the apartment of a girl named Lizzy and her dogs Wag and Wave, on the top floor, then twin siblings Rowan and Ryan and their pet rat, on the ground floor, in both cases claiming that a sink needs fixing. Also in both instances, the baby-sitter in the respective apartments has stepped out briefly, leaving their charges with strict instructions not to let anyone in--and they don't. When the children along with baby-sitters Nelly and Nick meet to play, they unravel the secret of the janitor's identity. The children's responses to the janitor could serve as useful role-playing script for parents or caregivers to practice with readers; however, it's a fairly slim hook to hang a story on. Ages 5-up. (Aug.)