cover image HOTEL JUNGLE


Donna Jo Napoli, Shelagh Johnston, , illus. by Kenneth J. Spengler. . Mondo, $15.95 (33pp) ISBN 978-1-59336-002-3

In this dubious comedy about clever primates and dunderheaded tourists, baboons operate an African hotel while its owners and regular guests are away. Before the baboons take over, two Hotel Jungle vacationers write an enthusiastic postcard to their California friends, praising their posh digs. Stateside, two children read the card and beg their mother for a family trip. The obliging mom "call[s] Dad at the office" and tells the kids, "Pack your bags." Little do the intrepid travelers know that the Hotel Jungle manager has won a lottery and shared the spoils with his guests. "Drop everything," he says. "We're going to the coast for an all-expenses-paid cruise." Everyone spontaneously departs, leaving the hotel empty, and in sneaks a pack of playful baboons. When the four newcomers arrive, they assume the baboons run the place: "We're in the wild. Let's go for it," shrugs the daughter, as she and her mom get Flintstones -style hairdos in the salon. Spengler (Kissing Coyotes ) overemphasizes the tourists' wackiness, but his rich greens, fruity golds and macaw blues capture the safari setting, and his tilted perspectives energize the pages. At first, the curious baboons and dimwitted tourists are good for a laugh. But this tale doesn't go anywhere as Napoli (Rocky, the Cat Who Barked ) and Johnston resurrect clichés about dopey Americans who seem to expect the most bizarre behavior when they get to deepest Africa. Ages 4-8. (Feb .)