From Publishers Weekly
This comical yet awkwardly realized volume imagines how four circus clowns, their elephant and their dog pass their downtime, including forays to beach and desert destinations. Each spread poses queries that demand a close look at the images, which are a muddle of intense colors and cutout photos. One page pictures a five-star resort next to a brick tenement with an Always Vacant sign: Along the way, Where do they stay? In a fancy hotel Or a bad one that smells? The answer is neither, as it turns out. Four pairs of floppy shoes rest outside a patched Little Top tent, suggesting that the clowns bring their own accommodations. Laden's (Bad Dog) jokes are in the details. At the shore, a girl clown buries the elephant in the sand while her brother digs for seashells and unearths a cell phone. Their father sips lemonade from a water-cooler while their mother covers her shell-white face with clown tan (they never remove their red noses or makeup). Before returning home, the group finds the treasure of Billy the Kidder, drops by Las Vegas, and gets stuck in traffic when a glue truck tips over. Laden's book is chockablock with tepid sight gags, but her uneven rhymes and the garish colors and clutter of some of the collages are off-putting. Clowns are known for organized chaos, and this book needs better choreography. Ages 4-8.
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.
From School Library Journal
PreSchool-Grade 1-Readers follow a clown family-complete with dog and elephant-on hiatus as they flit from locale to locale and experience the sights in a uniquely antic fashion. The clowns are fired from cannons for air travel, have a choice of "Clown White" or "Clown Tan" for sunscreen, and sleep in a tent called "The Little Top." By juxtaposing typical tourist experiences (getting lost, buying souvenirs, sending postcards, and taking photos) with exaggerated interpretations, Laden gives free rein to visual humor both broad and subtle. Travel-savvy adults, however, may catch more of the manic humor than children. The full-page, double-spread illustrations done in photomontage and gouache are bright but so busy that readers may find it hard to follow the action. Although the cartoon style lends itself to the circus theme, the rigidity of the facial makeup results in an eerie sameness to most of the clowns' faces. In places, the rhyme is forced and, by trying to incorporate a wide range of tourist clich s, the text becomes overlong and drags, slowing the book's pace. Like an acrobat just missing the flying trapeze, this offering has a lot of flash and dazzle, but ultimately falls flat.Marge Loch-Wouters, Menasha's Public Library, WI
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.