cover image Young Larry

Young Larry

Daniel Manus Pinkwater. Marshall Cavendish Children's Books, $14.95 (0pp) ISBN 978-0-7614-5004-7

These two wry tales introduce a polar bear who's equally at home in the Arctic's Baffin Bay, at the Jersey shore and in a supercooled hotel pool. In Young Larry the cub's life changes dramatically when an ice floe takes him to Bayonne, N.J., where he finds a career as a lifeguard (""I have never so much as tasted a human,"" he assures a rescuee). Hotel offers a recap and adds more unorthodox adventures without dropping the deadpan tone: a rescued swimmer, out of gratitude, opens a hotel so Larry can continue lifeguarding and Larry also visits the zoo, where he re-unites with his brother Roy. Daniel Pinkwater (Wallpaper from Space) deftly shifts between nature-show logic and tall-tale exaggerations. When Larry's mother explains that Larry and Roy will one day fend for themselves, per ""Nature's way,"" her sons answer, ""Wow. That is harsh."" In Jill Pinkwater's (Superpuppy) minimalist pen-and-ink and marker sketches, as in the text, Larry has attributes of a real bear as well as a talking cartoon: he rests on his mother's paws, swims in the ocean, lies in front of a fireplace in bearskin-rug position, and dines out in a coat-and-glasses disguise. Yet the Pinkwaters resist lapsing into teddy-bear cuteness; Larry is edgy and likable without being too cuddly. All ages. (Aug.)