Magazine article The New Yorker

For Kids; Briefly Noted

Magazine article The New Yorker

For Kids; Briefly Noted

Article excerpt

A Room with a Zoo, by Jules Feiffer (Michael Di Capua; $16.95). Julie, the nine-year-old narrator of this novel for children (whose father happens to be a cartoonist named Jules), has an urgent desire to own a Chihuahua. Instead, she winds up juggling a menagerie of substitutes--cats, hamsters, turtles, and the like--each with its own propensity for calamity. Not all the animals in this book survive. Julie's attempts to read her parents are richly nuanced--she knows to pay more attention to silences than to the things she's actually told. She also worries about how to love her reclusive, gangster-faced fish, works on her canine acquisition strategy, and gets caught up in some engaging slapstick. The cadences of Feiffer's writing are a pleasure to read aloud, and his pen-and-ink drawings propel the story by being simultaneously squirmy and lovely.

The Clouds Above, by Jordan Crane (Fantagraphics; $18.95). After heroically escaping his beastly teacher, Simon and his cat, Jack, enter a dream world that only a child unburdened by school could conjure. Like many great adventures, this one begins with a passageway--here a rickety staircase--to a universe situated just beyond the familiar. As Simon and Jack climb, they befriend a helpful cloud, battle heavy weather, trick a flock of belligerent birds, and question their own existence. Crane's drawings are clean, yet full of nuance; his writing is playful and sharp. The artistry is in the detail: Jack's movements are consistently catlike, and the teacher is a mangy figure surrounded by flies, an amalgam of the forces that oppose creativity and imagination.

The Bear and the People, by Reiner Zimnik, translated from the German by Nina Ignatowicz (New York Review Children's Collection; $16.95). Zimnik's emergence in the decade after the Second World War, his parallel careers as a writer and as a visual artist, and his birthplace in a region transferred from Germany to Poland after 1945 make it tempting to think of him as Gunter Grass for kids. …

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