Heavy contrivance and clumsy language sink this French tale of a small, indeterminate animal searching for a lost toy.
Frightened and desolate after the prized red balloon he calls “Ball” sails off into the night, Zebedee gets help tracking it down from an owl. He predicts that, “as we search hard for Ball, / You will make not one but ten friends in all!” In Philipponneau’s informally carved wood engravings the dark forest is anything but comforting, being eerily lit first by the owl’s huge red eyes, then by a similarly glowing thicket of red flowers, a bunch of wild strawberries and the apples in a tree. None turns out to be Ball, but the lights lead in succession (with the “ten friends” line repeated each time) to two doves, three snails and four worms. The narrator abruptly concludes that Ball can live its own life, because with ten newfound buddies “everything is alright [sic]. / Zebedee is no longer afraid of the night.”
Some readers may be weirded out by the art; more will find Zebedee’s sudden change of heart forced and artificial. (Picture book. 5-7)