Ten classic tales serve as backdrops for one primate’s book-hopping adventures at a local library.
Every time Willy walks through a pair of nondescript black doors, he knows to expect “something incredible” to happen on the other side. Aboard a ship he hides inside an apple barrel and overhears a sailor named Long John Silver plot for treasure and murder. In a forest, he encounters an old woman who asks him to plunge into a “very deep and very dark” hollow tree trunk to retrieve a tinderbox. Browne applies subtle stylistic differences to each world he re-creates, reimagining well-known stories for adult and child readers alike. Half the thrill arises from wondering what will come next for Willy. The subsequent momentum steadily encourages curiosity, an effect heightened when the chimp directly poses questions to readers (“Can you guess what happened next?”). Whether in Wonderland or the Wild Wood, actual books appear as trees, houses, and even the teeth of a monstrous sea creature, hinting at the underlying role of books in shaping imagination. Details specific to each story vary in degree from spread to spread, but Willy remains a constant source of amusement during every excursion. His good-humored facial expressions say more about each tale than words do.
This chimp is a worthwhile companion; young readers will no doubt answer his call. (Picture book. 5-8)