cover image Bantam of the Opera

Bantam of the Opera

Mary Jane Auch. Holiday House, $17.95 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-8234-1312-6

Rigoletto proves the inspiration for the rooster hero of this comically feathered tale, penned by the punny author of Hen Lake and Peeping Beauty. Most barnyard fowl are content to cry ""Cock-a-doodle-doo,"" but Luigi ""get[s] bored crowing the same old thing."" He'd rather sing--to the tune of ""La donna e mobile""--""Cock-a-la-DOOdle-lay."" When the farmer and his wife attend an opera performance, Luigi sneaks in and leans breathlessly on the stage watching a famous tenor perform. Later, Luigi lurks in the rafters and crows during rehearsals. The lead tenor becomes jealous of the rooster's perfect pitch and pursues Luigi ""with murder in his heart and a skillet in his hand,"" but true talent prevails: Luigi finally struts his stuff onstage after the star and his understudy mysteriously contract chicken pox (the final page depicts a bill--featuring Luigi on a pedestal between the two--captioned ""Three Tenors""). Auch wryly captures the petty preening and pecking of the performers, and she sends up The Phantom of the Opera not just with her title but by costuming Luigi in a cape and white mask. Orange, gold and brown overtones muddy the illustrations, yet Luigi's gleaming eyes, smiling beak and upraised plumage exude hard-to-resist enthusiasm. Auch earns a feather in her cap for her deadpan presentation of absurdity and triumph. Ages 4-8. (Sept.)