Stein's earlier books did not foretell an ability to pull off broad comedy, but this father-and-daughter bedtime banter is all the better for being a surprise. A little red chicken, lying in bed in her pajamas, can't help slamming on the brakes when Papa's read-aloud stories get too tense: "Out jumped a little red chicken," she cuts in as Papa reads Hansel and Gretel, "and she said, ‘DON'T GO IN! SHE'S A WITCH!' So Hansel and Gretel didn't. THE END!" Stein's spreads are thickly and energetically worked, the colors intense, and the lighting and shadows dramatic. For Papa's bedtime stories, Stein (Leaves) shifts styles, inking each scene in spindly ink; when the chicken interrupts, she bursts onto the sepia pages in full color. And when, after cutting short three of Papa's stories, she starts in on a tale of her own, Stein switches again to preschooler crayon, as her sleepy father interrupts in his own way. The delivery is Catskill perfect; readers will fall hard for the antics of this hapless pair. Ages 4-8. (Aug.) G unner, Football Hero James E. Ransome Holiday House, .95 (32p) ISBN 978-0-8234-2053-7 In the first half of this tale of an aspiring Pee Wee football star, Ransome (What Lincoln Said) has never been funnier or looser. From the very first page, in which the pear-shaped, beak-nosed Gunner strikes the famous Heisman pose and almost pulls it off through sheer force of personality, it's clear this is an unlikely hero worth knowing. But for all of Gunner's charisma, the third-string quarterback can't compensate for the story's saggy second half. Ransome's play by play of the big game, when Gunner finally gets a chance to play, feels almost clinical ("The running backs ran. Gunner passed, the receivers caught, and the offensive slowly moved down the field"). Although there are some stirring images of pigskin glory, especially a game-changing interception, there are also some striking disconnects between text and art. "Everyone on the Malden Tigers side of the field CHEERED!" shouts the narrator when Gunner throws a touchdown-scoring pass; meanwhile the crowd is shown sitting quietly, devoid of emotion. Readers will start out rooting for Gunner, but they may leave before the game is over. Ages 4-8. (Aug.)[Page ]. Copyright 2010 Reed Business Information.
PreS-Gr 2--In a picture book that is as charming and comic as Pouch! (Putnam, 2009), Stein again represents an affectionate parent's trials with a vigorous child. At bedtime, despite a rooster papa's best efforts to share classic fairy tales with his daughter, Little Red Chicken's soft heart means she can't help but jump into each story to warn Hansel and Gretel and then Red Riding Hood about impending danger, and to assure Chicken Little: "Don't panic! It was just an acorn." In each case, the story abruptly ends, wearying the father with what to do next. When he convinces his daughter to compose her own story, she fills four pages with preschool-style spelling and drawings about a chicken putting her papa to bed, but her tale is interrupted by Papa's snores. At the end, the pair cuddle together, asleep. Stein's droll cartoons use watercolor, crayon, china marker, pen, and tea. The rich colors of the characters perfectly contrast with the sepia pages of the storybooks. This is one of the rare titles that will entertain both parent and child.--Gay Lynn Van Vleck, Henrico County Library, Glen Allen, VA[Page 69]. Copyright 2010 Reed Business Information.