cover image MANNEKEN PIS: A Simple Story of a Boy Who Peed on a War

MANNEKEN PIS: A Simple Story of a Boy Who Peed on a War

Vladimir Radunsky, . . Atheneum/Schwartz, $15.95 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-689-83193-5

In the spirit of Catch-22 and The Butter Battle Book, Radunsky (Table Manners; Howdi Do) tactically plays the fool to address the ugly issue of war. His inspiration is Brussels, Belgium's famous statue of a peeing boy, which appears as a photo-collage element in this cheeky revision. He begins in fairy-tale style: "A long, long time ago, there was a small, beautiful town behind a tall stone wall." An anonymous boy, with peach-tone skin and orange-red curls, lives there happily with his parents. "But then something happened. The War. Enemies came to destroy the beautiful town." In the flamboyant spreads, dollops of sunny yellow, aqua and pale green paint give way to smears of smoldering black and red. The townsfolk, wearing breeches and ruffed collars, engage in swordplay with green-faced, black-helmeted men, who bare their teeth and stick their tongues out. (Notably, there is no talk of retaliation, just self-defense, and three Christian crosses—the only religious symbols to be seen—decorate the town's towers.) "Poor little boy, he was scared. He needed his mother and father. But more than that he needed... to pee." When the boy lets loose, from high atop the town wall, the soldiers start laughing uncontrollably and cannot continue fighting. Although this book's title and theme may give pause at read-aloud time, the only real obscenity here is the war itself. Ages 3-7. (Sept.)