Archive for Sunday, March 7, 1999

RESCUE A SUPERHERO FOR YOUNG READERS IS READY TO WIPE OUT EVIL-DOERS WITH THE SPRINGIEST ELASTIC AROUND.

March 7, 1999

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Get ready for a new superhero who will lead legions of youngsters into the underworld of comic book fun.

Author and artist Dav Pilkey must be flushed with pride by his latest literary effort, "Captain Underpants and the Attack of the Talking Toilets." This sequel to "The Adventures of Captain Underpants" promises young readers "More Action," "More Laffs" and "More Flip-O-Rama." This much is true: "Captain Underpants" speaks a language that gradeschoolers love, full of undergarment humor, crazy antics and a dual-personality school principal.

Parents who believe it's a good thing whenever children read will love this book, too. With a black-and-white illustration on each page, young readers ages 6 to 9 will breeze through the 139-page epic and feel a great sense of accomplishment at the end. Very perceptive readers may even pick up a few pointers on the perfect wedgie.

The heroes of the story, young George and Harold, seem to create their own brand of trouble. But quick thinking, teamwork, good elastic and a mean principal with a benevolently briefed superhero alter-ego manage to pull them and the rest of the students and staff of Jerome Horwitz Elementary School back from the jaws of talking toilet terror.

An exciting feature of the book are the six Flip-O-Ramas, which use state-of-the-art flip-book technology from the turn of the (last) century to create "animated" scenes that are sure to amaze. With a quick hand, children will be able to see pounding, pulverizing and plunging action brought to life. (Who needs computer animation anyway?)

Pilkey deserves a plumber's friend prize for this swirling novel for children. "Captain Underpants and the Attack of the Talking Toilets" (Blue Sky/Scholastic, $16.95) will bowl young readers over.

Twenty-six letters.

Two-hundred-and-six words.

One sentence.

Infinite fun.

There are 26 letters in the English alphabet and every child must master them all. But how do you write a new alphabet book that will give the ready-to-learn set the motivation to make it through that mouthful of letters? You make it awful -- but even more important, you make it awfully fun.

"The Absolutely Awful Alphabet," written and illustrated by Mordicai Gerstein, puts a fresh face on a tired genre of children's books.

Gerstein pairs fancifully ornate letter creatures with a vocabulary-building alliterative text that is a page-turner throughout. And yes, it is all one sentence (don't forget to breathe). Children, ages 4 to 8, will be introduced to a bashful, belching bumpkin and a quivering, quarreling, quizzical quacker -- not your everyday warm and cuddly alphabet animals, or vernacular.

"The Absolutely Awful Alphabet" (Harcourt Brace, $15) is absolutely awesome.

Think of it as a kind of sword-in-the-stone story, only in this case it's the tooth in the gum.

"Andrew's Loose Tooth," written by Robert Munsch and illustrated by Michael Martchenko, is a fun tale about a tooth that looks and acts like it's ready to enter the world but still holds tight to its roots.

Munsch gives young readers losing teeth of their own a wild ride through town with a hippy-dippy dentist and motorcycle mama tooth fairy. "Andrew's Loose Tooth" (Scholastic, $10.95) is packed with sound effects making it a story that's meant to be read aloud for best results. And Martchenko's fun-filled illustrations keep the action grinding along.

Word of mouth has it that this story is worth chewing on.

Poor "Silly Sally." For all these years she has been pawed over by 1- to 3-year-olds. Now, seven years after she was first released, "Silly Sally," by Audrey Wood, is available in a seemingly indestructible board-book format that will hold up to the rough-and-tumble life of a toddler.

And that's important, because Silly Sally's life is already like a circus act.

In this charming, rhyming short story, Sally starts out heading to town, walking backward, upside down. She meets animals -- talented in their own right -- along the way and adopts their zany antics.

The vibrant illustrations are crowd-pleasers among the binky brigade and set a fast pace for this joyful journey.

"Silly Sally" (Red Wagon/Harcourt Brace, $6.95) is a great tale that youngsters will want to hear a thousand times. And now they can, because that board book will last forever.

-- Jill Hummels is features editor of the Journal-World and the mother of Haley, 7, and Tess, 5. Her phone number is 832-7150. Her e-mail address is hummels@ljworld.com.

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