cover image The Big Adventure of the Smalls

The Big Adventure of the Smalls

Helen Stephens. S&S/Aladdin, $15.99 (32p) ISBN 978-1-4424-5058-5

Stephens (Fleabag) opens with an ordinary scene, a pair of pajama-clad children spying on a grownup gathering. "They crept onto the stairs. Paul held up his teddy, Mr. Puddles, so he could see the party starting downstairs too. %E2%80%98He'll fall,' warned Sally... but it was too late." This is no ordinary house, though. Stephens's imaginary Small Hall is a British estate on the scale of Versailles, with fountains, chandeliers, and a staff of liveried servants. The opulence only adds to the excitement as Sally and Paul set off joyously to rescue Mr. Puddles, hiding under the lid of a large serving dish, shimmying up a statue, and swinging across the dining room table. Stephens's ink-and-wash drawings channel Edward Ardizzone and Quentin Blake, reaching their zenith with a magnificent foldout spread of the dining room. The glittering fixtures of the Small's stately home and the cheery liberties Paul and Sally take with them (adults stay conveniently out of the way) are at the very heart of childhood fantasy. Stephens's story casts that rare spell%E2%80%94the feeling of finding a lost childhood favorite. Ages 4%E2%80%938. (May)