cover image Last Licks: A Spaldeen Story

Last Licks: A Spaldeen Story

Cari Best, DK Publishing, Diane Palmiscano. DK Publishing (Dorling Kindersley), $15.95 (40pp) ISBN 978-0-7894-2513-3

Best's (Taxi! Taxi!) nostalgic paean to the Spaldeen, the pink rubber ball that was once a playground staple, has ample bounce at its start, yet its one-note narrative stretches the concept a bit thin. Fortunately, Palmisciano's (previously teamed with Best for Getting Used to Harry) oil pastel pictures keep these busy pages fresh; she endows the animated, amusingly exaggerated characters with plenty of silly antics and facial expressions. City gal Annie would rather play ball with her ""lucky Sky-High Super Pinkie"" than do anything else, much to the chagrin of her teacher (who would prefer that she focus on the spelling lesson) and her aunt, father and mother (who wish that she shared their respective interests in knitting, bugs and exercise). Annie and her friends play punchball with her Pinkie only on Sundays, when the superintendent of their apartment building is away; he has already confiscated all the other kids' balls. Though Annie's ball meets the same fate, its journey there takes a surprising twist, and the girl becomes somewhat of a neighborhood celebrity. Best writes in a cheerful, colloquial voice, but the repeated bouncing, squeezing and smelling of Annie's balls here grows tiresome, and seasoned ballplayers may find her easy parting from her beloved Spaldeen suspect at story's end. Ages 6-up. (Mar.)