cover image Clown


Quentin Blake. Henry Holt & Company, $15.95 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-8050-4399-0

Mimes need not speak to communicate their stories; accordingly, Blake (Simpkin) chooses a toy clown to gesture his way through this wordless picture book. Despite some slapstick humor, the story belongs to the tragicomic tradition. On page one, an elderly lady tosses Clown and five other rag dolls in the trash like so many limp vegetables. Clown drops over the side of the can and onto a city sidewalk, dusts off his white cloth pants and runs to get help. Each page shows multiple vignettes of Clown in frantic action. Several children befriend him-he's only slightly shorter than they are-but adults are less congenial. One glamorous woman flings Clown out a window draped with elegant purple curtains, and, after Clown escapes a guard dog, its punkish owner pitches him high into the sky, where his beanbag-loose silhouette soars above a bleak city backdrop. Clown often wears a look of concern, but, after the heroic conclusion, the gray clouds light up with sunset splotches of bright pink. The overall message is one of loyalty: those who find their way out of the garbage have a responsibility to those they leave behind. With a few brushstrokes and scribbles of ink, Blake conveys moods, contrasts economic situations-and praises those who appreciate secondhand items. Ages 4-8. (Mar.)