cover image Lucky's 24 Hour Garage

Lucky's 24 Hour Garage

Daniel Kirk, Dorling Kindersley Publishing. Hyperion Books, $14.95 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-7868-0200-5

This portrait of New York City circa 1939 tracks the colorful customers (and classic cars) that visit Lucky's 24-Hour Garage in the wee hours. Angelo, the sole night-staffer, looks snappy in his blue jumpsuit, tidy bow tie and brimmed cap--and he's ready with an Indian-head nickel when a guy needs spare change. The story could be the setup for hard-boiled fiction--all the potential players are here, from the femme fatale on the motorbike to the traveling swing band to the man in a rumpled tux. However, these folks are just passing through, to the lively ""Dingding!"" of the air-hose bell (""Michigan, Texas, Delaware, Ohio--the plates told where they had come from but not where they were going""). Kirk's (Skateboard Monsters) airbrush-smooth, stylized oils mimic American scene painting; a melancholy image of Angelo napping in his chair, his yellow-lit office a beacon amid quiet buildings and empty sidewalks, draws inspiration from Edward Hopper's Nighthawks. The author powerfully evokes the mysterious hours before dawn, and augments his humid summer atmosphere with a well-timed thunderstorm. Although this volume offers a series of scenarios rather than a conventional plot curve, it's a captivating slice of Americana, complete with antique autos. Ages 4-7. (Sept.)