cover image Squash It!

Squash It!

Eric A. Kimmel. Holiday House, $15.95 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-8234-1299-0

Elaborating on ""The Flea"" in Ruth Sawyer's Picture Tales from Spain, Kimmel weaves a hilariously tall tale about friendships between men and bugs. A tiny louse bites the king of Spain, who refuses to squash it (""It has royal blood in its veins,"" says the king. ""We must treat it with respect""). The king makes a favorite pet of it, and the louse reaches the size of a horse before it dies. The mourning king has it made into a guitar, proclaiming that anyone guessing what the instrument is made of can marry one of his daughters. A clever peasant befriends a grasshopper, a beetle and a flea who help him solve the riddle. But he is already married, so he chooses a strong mule and riches instead of a princess and returns to his wife and children. Crisp, comical prose assures a laugh on every page: ""My dog and I were going to Madrid to see the sights,"" complains the flea to the peasant. ""I fell off and got left behind."" Rayevsky's (Three Sacks of Truth) illustrations seem effortless and full of brio. The distorted, jolly characters are heavily tinted with blocks of solid color: beards are blue, soup is yellow, horses are red. Patches of uncolored paper peek out everywhere, as if the paint had been laid down by a tipsy amateur, but the effect is both balanced and dramatic. A nonsense tale with bite. Ages 5-8. (Apr.)