cover image The Red Racer

The Red Racer

Audrey Wood. Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing, $16 (40pp) ISBN 978-0-689-80553-0

With the nonstop visual assault of a Saturday morning TV ad, this spirited romp speaks the language of its young audience. That's probably because each over-the-top page betrays Wood's (The Napping House) childlike eagerness to experiment in her first digitally illustrated book. Thankfully, the story is strong enough--and indeed hyperbolic enough itself--to hold its own in the whirlwind of color and pattern. When some ""brats"" tease Nona about her clunker of a bike, she asks her parents for a new Red Racer. They decline, and she hatches several devious schemes to ""lose"" her bike--but people keep finding it and returning it to her. The ""wicked thoughts"" that tempt Nona are depicted as oozy, green monsters that gain in size with each inspiration; the brats are looming, purple-, green- and blue-haired hellions; every page has a different, eye-popping background. For all the new-fangled technology called into use, however, the story emphasizes the importance of community, thrift and other traditional values. Ages 4-8. (Sept.)