cover image Willy


Geert De Kockere, illus. by Carll Cneut. Eerdmans, $14 (32p) ISBN 978-0-8028-5395-0

It's not apparent at first where Belgian newcomer De Kockere is going with his story of Willy the elephant, though it's clear that Willy's unbecoming physique figures centrally: "Willy had legs like pillars. Four of them.... He also had a tail... with a ridiculous little brush at the end." The message unfurls slowly, with quiet wit. Willy, it seems, has used his ungainly body to make himself useful and beloved. The ridiculous little tail means that he is "invited everywhere to paint. Especially the really fine details." He pushes reluctant students to school and sits up straight at all performances, no matter how boring%E2%80%94and he is loved. "So if you have legs like pillars or ears that flap in the wind," De Kockere concludes, addressing readers directly, "then think of him. Think of Willy." What might otherwise be a "handsome-is-as-handsome-does" moral is launched into new territory by the calm, arm's-length tone of the narrator and Cneut's (Ten Moonstruck Piglets) simultaneously ridiculous and dignified paintings. Special mention should be made of the unnamed translator, who has rendered the narrator's voice with grace. Ages 4%E2%80%938. (Aug.)