cover image Second Banana

Second Banana

Keith Graves. Roaring Brook/Porter, $17.99 (32p) ISBN 978-1-59643-883-5

When is it all right to boss people around, and who gets to do it? Graves’s (The Monsterator) tale about scaling the hierarchy offers sharp writing, polished artwork, and some unexpected character development. The Amazing Bubbles is a shrewd monkey who stars in his own circus act. Oop, an oversize gorilla with an underslung jaw, is Bubbles’s faithful helper. Patronizingly, Bubbles explains why Oop can’t be the star: “Obviously, I am the Top Banana. The Big Banana. Numero Uno Banana. You are Second Banana.” Then Bubbles gets a “boo-boo,” and Oop volunteers to step in, crashing Bubbles’s clown car, smashing the diving pool, hammering the keys off of Bubbles’s toy piano, and—unexpectedly—delighting the audience. Clouds of smoke, colossal explosions, and comic-book exclamations could overwhelm the pages, but a milky pastel palette keeps them restrained. Quieter scenes, meanwhile, explore the relationship between Oop and her mouse sidekick. In the end, Bubbles warmly acknowledges Oop’s achievement with a promotion, while Oop starts to assume Bubbles’s overweening personality. It’s a neat ending, though a slightly chilly one. Ages 7–10. Agent: Liza Pulitzer Voges, Eden Street Literary. (Feb.)