cover image The Terrible Hodag and the Animal Catchers

The Terrible Hodag and the Animal Catchers

Caroline Arnold, , illus. by John Sandford. . Boyds Mills, $15.95 (32pp) ISBN 978-1-59078-166-1

A blueberry-eating monster's lumberjack friends devise clever strategies to protect him from capture in this tale inspired by a Wisconsin logging camp legend. Sandford's dramatic and often comical black-and-white pen-and-ink drawings abound with finely wrought patterns and resemble woodcuts in their precision. In the opening illustration of lumberjack Olee Swenson toppling a tree, for instance, the artist renders bark, flesh, grass, boots, pants, shirt and axe all in distinct, intricate line designs. A line of red text begins each page's passage, with the illustrations opposite framed by a thin black, occasionally permeable border. When the Hodag "swished his scaly tail from side to side, and, crash , the tree came tumbling down," both tail and pine needles escape the frame. Captions appear underneath each illustration: when the Hodag learns of a plot against him by some men outside the camp, his alarmed face fills the frame and the caption reads, " 'Oh, no!' cried the Hodag." Lumberjacks wear fur-skinned caps, boots and suspenders; the Hodag catchers sport knickers, round spectacles and bowler hats. The artwork may initially frighten some younger children, though readers knows from the start that the Hodag is peaceful, and the Hodag catchers, hilariously ill equipped for their task, with a butterfly net and a small wooden crate with breathing holes, also seem unthreatening. This tale is more sweet than spinetingling. Ages 5-up. (Feb.)