cover image A Strange Day

A Strange Day

Iris van der Heide, , illus. by Marijke ten Cate. . Front Street/Lemniscaat, $16.95 (24pp) ISBN 978-1-932425-94-9

Miffed that he's heard nothing from the sponsors of a drawing contest, young Jack wanders around his neighborhood in a cranky mood. "So I didn't win," writes Dutch author van der Heide, nicely channeling the mindset of her aggrieved hero. "They could at least have sent something. Just a short note, saying, 'Dear Jack, we really liked your drawing but you didn't win.' " At this point, the book's two extended jokes begin to unfold. The first centers on Jack, who is so put out that he doesn't realize he's committing heroic acts wherever he goes: he inadvertently stops a runaway baby carriage, rescues a bird's egg from certain death and saves a dog from a bicycle collision. The second comic thread, portrayed strictly through illustration, follows the mailman on a courageous quest of his own: it's his job to deliver Jack's letter. But it's a very windy day and the letter has given chase, forcing the poor civil servant to sprint in pursuit of it. Dutch artist ten Cate's landscapes may be delicate and winsome, but they also brim with scenes of farce and slapstick. She does a terrific job of visually intertwining clueless Jack's tale with that of the dogged mailman. It all adds up to a clever comedy of coincidences and misadventures, with ample rewards for attentive youngsters (and Jack). Ages 2-up. (Apr.)