cover image LATE FOR SCHOOL


Mike Reiss, , illus. by Michael Austin. . Peachtree, $16.95 (32pp) ISBN 978-1-56145-286-6

Featuring a catchy cadence, Reiss's (How Murray Saved Christmas ) rhyming tale and Austin's (The Horned Toad Prince ) pleasingly exaggerated artwork introduce a fresh-faced narrator: "My name is Smitty./ I come from the city/ And I live by one simple rule./ I may not be smartest—/ No athlete, no artist—/ But I've never been late for school." The narrative gives way to kid-pleasing nonsense as absurd incidents conspire to threaten the student's perfect punctuality record. Snowmen wearing vintage aviator gear plummet from the sky; crossing a flooded Times Square in a makeshift boat, the boy is swallowed by a whale; he decides against boarding a bus on which "all of the riders/ Were poisonous spiders"; he then gets snagged by a "gigantic ape" climbing the Empire State Building. Austin's wild and wily airbrushed illustrations make use of electric hues and skewed perspectives; large scale views present the earnest, wide-eyed hero manifesting an array of entertaining facial expressions. A surprise ending—complete with graphic details—wraps up this satisfyingly silly caper. Ages 6-10. (Oct.)