cover image The Mysteries of Zigomar

The Mysteries of Zigomar

Allan Ahlberg. Candlewick Press (MA), $17.99 (64pp) ISBN 978-0-7636-0352-6

Sprinkled with Lawrence's breezy watercolor-and-ink spot art (adult readers may recognize the style from Watership Down), this fetching, if steeply priced, slender volume treats Ahlberg's (The Jolly Postman) fans to an entirely unpredictable roundup of short fiction and verse that is, by turns, nonsensical, macabre and affecting. The best of his poetry has a winning lilt and wide appeal: a boy who is obviously falling back to sleep tries to convince himself (and readers) that ""I'm nearly up for school/ Nearly up for school/ Nearly (really!)/ Out of bed for/ Rise and shine your sleepy head for/ Leave that snug and steamy bed for...."" Two of the most moving poems will strike a deeper note in adults than in youngsters: a teacher pays wry yet affectionate tribute to his students, who will soon be graduating; and a mother applauds her son, an aspiring actor who is clearly a star to her, though ""He doesn't get the better roles,/ Takes after me./ Sometimes he never speaks at all:/ My son, the tree."" Though several meander a bit, Ahlberg's stories provide ballast to this collection, which offers solid, engaging proof of his versatility as both writer and humorist. Ages 6-12. (Oct.)