cover image The Hokey-Pokey Man

The Hokey-Pokey Man

Deborah Kogan Ray, Steven Kroll. Holiday House, $14.95 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-8234-0728-6

In the summer of 1904 on the Lower East Side of New York, peddlers sell sour pickles, hot pretzels, fancy buttons--and hokey-pokey, otherwise known as ice cream. Ben and Sarah befriend Joe, the Hokey-Pokey man, who tells them the story of his cousin, a St. Louis ice cream man at the World's Fair who shaped pastries--zalabia--from another peddler's cart into the first ice cream cones. This elaborate set-up seems pointless, so far, until Joe asks Ben and Sarah not to tell his story, because his cousin is coming to New York to make and sell cones with him. But Ben and Sarah don't keep the secret, and soon other peddlers unsuccessfully try to cash in on the idea. When the Joe and his cousin open for business the first day, they are greeted by a long line of customers. The happy ending doesn't mask the problems of this book: the reprimand for Ben and Sarah's betrayal of the secret is hardly just--they are told that they ``shouldn't have told,'' and then get hugs. And the earnest, intriguing beginning (about the origins of a popular treat) gives way to broad slapstick and silliness. As for the pictures, they are some of Ray's best; readers accustomed to her pencil illustrations will find special joy in her ebullient use of color. But while they hoist the spirits of the tale somewhat, they cannot save it. Ages 5-8. (Apr.)