A streaming parade of wild animals pours into Harold Snipperpot’s posh home, wrecking the place but ultimately delivering the birthday party the boy’s always wanted in this French import.
Harold Snipperpot’s never had a birthday party because his parents abhor parties (and hugs and kisses, for that matter), but their anemic, bespectacled son’s excruciating yearning for a real party prompts them to reach out to Mr. Ponzio, the neighborhood problem-solver. Mellow, flat gouache, oil, collage, and wax pencil illustrations describe Harold’s tweedy, polished world while also delivering delightfully expressive portraiture of the animals Mr. Ponzio sends over. Harold’s first-person narration (breathless, conversational, and authentic-sounding thanks to Gauvin’s translation) drives the story, which gains momentum with each page turn. Mr. Ponzio's carousing caravan of creatures will keep readers spellbound as they wreak havoc on the Snipperpots’ well-appointed home. Birds break Harold’s grandmother’s china; turtles chew up the rare-book collection; a giraffe eats the art deco chandelier; an armadillo tries on Harold’s mother’s pearls; monkeys vamp in tulle and silk; a hippo floods the bathroom. The uptight, neurasthenic Snipperpots present white while burly Mr. Ponzio presents black, with a large Afro and flamboyant garb. Mr. Ponzio appears only peripherally and doesn’t say much, and while extremely alluring, he is also sadly reminiscent of the “magical negro” stock character whose unexplained mystic powers have helped whites in their journeys for too long.
Wondering how this exhilarating disaster can possibly fulfill Harold’s birthday wish keeps readers puzzling right up until the culmination. (Picture book. 4-8)