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The Adventures of Sparrowboy

by Brian Pinkney

School Library Journal PreS-Gr 1?Fretting over headlines in the newspapers he's delivering, Henry almost runs over a sparrow on the sidewalk. There's a flash of light, and suddenly, like his comic-strip hero Falconman, the boy is swooping through the skies fighting evil?or, at least, collaring a scary dog, rescuing a cat from a bully's clutches, and repeatedly snatching the temporarily flightless sparrow out of danger in the nick of time. Like newspaper comics, Pinkney's full-color scratchboard scenes are done in page-sized panels, with a minimum of text but maximum action, dramatized by swirling lines, wide gestures, and "THONK!" "ZAP!" sound effects. Henry's heroics will win readers over instantly; he may not save the world, but before he returns to Earth, he does make his suburban neighborhood "just a little better." That's a plausible goal for any actual or would-be superhero.?John Peters, New York Public Library

Copyright Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Publishers Weekly Though sobering front-page headlines worry a young paperboy, the comics?especially a strip called Falconman?lift him up. Quite literally, in fact. After Henry peruses a Falconman strip in which a magical falcon converts a police trooper into a superman by lending him the power to fly, the boy's bike collides with a similarly gifted sparrow. Suddenly airborne, the boy delivers his newspapers in flight while saving innocent neighbors from a menacing bully and his growling pooch. For the course of Henry's transformation, the book adopts a comic-strip format, accenting the boxed, action-filled pictures with brief, punchy text and a chorus of sound effects like "CHIRP!", "WHOOSH!" and "THONK!" In a final, satisfying coup, Henry comes to the rescue of the benevolent sparrow, vulnerable because it has temporarily relinquished its powers of flight to Henry, a development that readers will delight in discovering before the boy does. The plot unravels chiefly through Pinkney's (Max Found Two Sticks; see I Smell Honey, reviewed above) airy, motion-filled art, expertly rendered in scratchboard, transparent dyes and gouaches in creamy colors never before seen in a comic book. Clever quips and asides add humor and playful melodrama. Pinkney clearly had a blast creating this soaring story, and his high spirits are transferable to the reader?ZAP! Ages 4-9. (Apr.)

Copyright Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Book list Ages 4^-8. One morning while on his route, Henry the paperboy accidentally collides with a sparrow and discovers that he can fly--just like Falconman, his favorite comic strip superhero. The newfound power of flight enables Henry--excuse me, Sparrowboy--to deliver his papers by--er, airmail and also to right a number of minor wrongs in the neighborhood. When things magically return to normal, "everything felt just a little better." Since Henry lives on Thurber Street, some adult readers may be reminded of Walter Mitty, but that connection is hardly necessary to enjoy this lighthearted lark. Pinkney combines his signature scratchboard technique with comic strip format and appropriate typefaces to create the illustrations that accompany this affectionate fantasy, which will leave its readers feeling "a little bit better," too. --Michael Cart

From Booklist, Copyright American Library Association. Used with permission.