cover image Albert Goes to Town

Albert Goes to Town

Chronicle Books, Jennifer Jordan. Chronicle Books, $13.95 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-8118-0860-6

Just as miniature train sets and toy race tracks invite daydreaming, a suburban diorama inspires this disappointing story's title character. Albert loves his collection of toy cars, and wishes ""that he could climb inside their tiny doors and drive them."" On Albert's birthday, woodworker Mr. Appleby builds Albert a scale model of their neighborhood, complete with tiny streets and homes. When Albert confides, ""I wish that I could drive there myself,"" Mr. Appleby returns to the workshop to make a soapbox-derby convertible: "" `Take her for a spin,' he said."" Albert cruises through town, but gradually notices that the local dogs and birds are as still as wooden statues. Jordan leaves in doubt whether Albert's drive is a fantasy (although Albert finds a wooden apple in the car once he pulls into the driveway). Likewise, even though McNeill's panoramic spreads--painted in autumnal shades of mossy green, muted yellow and apple red--are lighthearted and playful, they make little distinction between Albert's everyday and imaginary environments. Author and artist fail to fully explore the book's more surreal elements, and the result is a perplexing ride. Ages 2-6. (Nov.)