cover image PAUL NEEDS SPECS


Bernard Cohen, , illus. by Geoff Kelly. . Kane/Miller, $15.95 (32pp) ISBN 978-1-929132-61-4

In this tale of a common childhood ritual, an extrovert named Sally describes her younger brother's blurry vision. "Paul asked, 'Has the world gone fuzzy, Sal?' 'Nah,' I said. 'It's probably your eyes.' " Sally, the classic know-it-all sibling, tells Paul he needs glasses, so he goes for an eye exam. Kelly, illustrator of the video game story Power and

Glory , here making his picture-book debut, depicts the optometrist's office like a mad scientist's lab, with its dark purple walls and pink-and-green neon highlights; the slouching, squinty doctor looks a trifle sinister, despite his smiley-face lapel pin. As Paul tests various lenses, hallucinatory images and stretched-out text duplicate the experience of looking through bifocals. After Paul gets a prescription, Sally takes him to the store to choose frames. Kelly creates wildly active compositions of slashing lines, vibrating squiggles and electric colors. The orange endpapers, styled as an eye chart, spell out a seek-and-find game. Australian novelist Cohen (Condor ) explores Sally's point of view and neglects Paul's perspective. At the conclusion, for instance, Sally wants readers to see Paul in his specs, but he hides. When she finds him, she accidentally knocks him into a creek: "Paul's a bit cross," she says, as he frowns and drips. "But as you can see, the specs look good." Sally, who has 20/20 vision, hogs the stage; the intense illustrations exude her personality. Paul's shyness, which says much more about getting glasses, unfortunately goes unexamined. Ages 4-8. (Mar.)