cover image Deep in the Jungle

Deep in the Jungle

Dan Yaccarino. Atheneum Books, $16 (40pp) ISBN 978-0-689-82235-3

In perhaps his best-realized picture book yet, Yaccarino (Zoom! Zoom! Zoom! I'm Off to the Moon) takes a tongue-in-cheek look at an arrogant king of beasts. This lion bullies his subjects, including frowning brown monkeys and irritated blue elephants. "" `I'm afraid I must eat you,' he explained, `if you don't obey me....' The animals couldn't stand him one bit."" One day, a city slicker arrives in the jungle and appeals to the lion's ego, promising to make him a big star if he leaves the jungle. The lion agrees, and Yaccarino cuts to an image of jubilant creatures, who are ""more than happy to be rid of"" their annoying boss. With their rounded bodies, rendered in curving strokes of gouache, the characters resemble plush toys, but their black-button eyes and single-line smiles express their moods. Rather than taking a Curious George or The Story of Babar approach, Yaccarino upends the traditional tale of captivity. The lion resents being put on a leash and forced to do circus tricks. Such humiliating treatment forces him to take extreme measures; having eaten his would-be tamer, he gallops home to apologize to his old companions. With short, sharp sentences and mild sarcasm, Yaccarino humorously twists the savage-versus-civilized formula. Ages 4-8. (Mar.)