cover image The Rattlebang Picnic: 8

The Rattlebang Picnic: 8

Margaret Mahy. Dial Books, $15.99 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-8037-1318-5

The distinguished duo behind the droll The Boy Who Was Followed Home offer another absurdly amusing but less satisfying tale. The newlywed MacTavishes forgo the purchase of a reliable new car in favor of ``an old rattlebang'' so that they can also afford to have seven children. The whole family, including Granny MacTavish, piles in the rattlebang on picnic adventures. Granny is known for baked goods that are ``tougher than old boots,'' and at Shark Park her picnic pizzas are more useful as Frisbees than food. Kellogg's boisterous, detailed illustratons underscore just how tough the pizzas are by showing a shark whose teeth fly out of his mouth after one bite. (Discerning fans will also chuckle over subtle cameo appearances from players in other Kellogg works.) When the family picnics at Mt. Fogg, the hot springs and geysers provide hours of fun--until Mt. Fogg erupts, and the rattlebang loses one of its wheels. As the ``sinister hiss of red-hot lava'' moves threateningly close, the children rally to the rescue by proposing that one of Granny's pizzas be used as a tire. While many will enjoy Mahy's spirited family, abrupt transitions may prevent the reader from forming more than a superficial connection to the story. Ages 4-8. (Sept.)