cover image Willie and Uncle Bill

Willie and Uncle Bill

Amy Schwartz. Holiday House, $16.95 (40p) ISBN 978-0-8234-2203-6

Aunts and uncles offer an impish alternative reality for children, and Willie’s hipster Uncle Bill is a case in point. He rocks the geek chic look (rolled jeans, fluorescent socks, retro button-downs); he doesn’t blanch at wearing one of Mom’s ruffled aprons while whipping up tacos from scratch; and he’s a keen judge of haircuts, especially when dictated by Willie’s attempt at self-barbering (“It’s very... Now”). And in the last of the book’s three short stories, he takes Willie on a surreptitious subway expedition to jam with a garage band (“The woman with the crazy pants did a split. So did Willie”). Schwartz’s (Tiny and Hercules) cartooning runs the gamut from crisp, distilled images that are as cool as her hero to extravagantly detailed scenes that capture the sensory overload of his genially outré mindset (she draws every brick on every building on the garage band’s block). Her poker-faced, reportorial prose is marred by somewhat corny wordplay in each story’s wrap-up, but otherwise this is a stylish and loving tribute to a modern-day, male Auntie Mame. Ages 4–8. Agent: Jane Feder. (Apr.)