cover image Jack and the Box

Jack and the Box

Art Spiegelman, . . RAW Jr./Toon, $12.95 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-9799238-3-8

A skeptic might not think that the Pulitzer Prize winner who made a graphic novel about Auschwitz could also write and draw for the not-quite-literate set—but rest assured, this comic gem of a picture book demonstrates Spiegelman's ability to conquer his audience, no matter its constituents. Sticking to his well-developed aesthetic, Spiegelman introduces a bunny hero, Jack, who receives a jack-in-the-box. This jack-in-the-box can talk, and its appearance registers somewhere between goofy and clownlike sinister (see its crocodilian upper teeth); its features gain extra oomph by virtue of being the only ones in a spread to receive high-contrast color treatment. With Jack's parents out of the room, the toy performs Cat-in-the-Hat/Marx Brothers–like slapstick tricks timed to perfection. This book choreographs jokes with an exquisite understanding of climax and denouement. As with the other books from this publisher, the design is sophisticated, making elegant use of panels, an easy-to-handle small format and subtle, low-contrast hues. That the vocabulary and the matchup of dialogue balloons to the action are geared to beginning readers is icing on the cake. Ages 4–up. (Oct.)