cover image The Great Zapfino

The Great Zapfino

Mac Barnett, illus. by Marla Frazee. Beach Lane, $17.99 (32p) ISBN 978-1-5344-1154-8

An unassuming performer gets a stupendous second chance in a lighter-than-air story from Barnett (John’s Turn) and Frazee (the Farmer books). Circus performer the Great Zapfino doesn’t look as impressive as the name suggests. The paper-white high diver has a head like a bowling ball, ears that stick straight out, a cape, and a striped bathing suit. “Prepare to gasp as Zapfino dives ten terrifying stories through the air, landing on a tiny trampoline!” cries the circus ringleader from far below, as the Great Zapfino peers with dread over the edge of an impossibly tall diving board. A moment later, Zapfino’s gone, sprinting from tent to airport to a brand-new, beachside life far away, rendered in vignettes crammed with tiny, surprising scenes as the figure dons an elevator operator’s suit, and takes life’s ups and downs more slowly. Then fate conjures a situation eerily like the one Zapfino has left, giving the figure another chance to shine. Worked in pencil on matte film, Frazee’s lightly smudgy comic line drawings convey relief, repose, terror, suspense, and, at last, Olympian-level physical skill in this droll comedy. Ages up to 8. Agent (for Barnett and Frazee): Steven Malk, Writers House. (Apr.)