Angelino Brown—an actual angel—finds a home and grows into a real boy in Almond’s latest.
Almond’s not-overly-reverent look at the transformative power of a pure heart is both sweet and broad-humored. Bert Brown is generally disgruntled with driving his bus (“Passengers! Who invented passengers?”), but then he finds a small angel in his pocket. Somehow the day gets better. Angelino, as Bert and his kind wife, Betty, name the winged child, is fond of such foods as cake and gumdrops, and he farts gently with some frequency. At school, where Betty is the cook, Angelino confides to young Nancy, “I don’t know who I am,” but he plays soccer with heart despite his size. Bert and Betty, who lost a child long ago; students Nancy Miller, Alice Obi, and Jack Fox; and the lovely art teacher, Ms. Monteverdi, become Angelino’s champions and defenders. Most characters appear to be white, but Alice is illustrated with dark skin and hair arranged in puffballs, and school secretary Samantha Cludd, also dark-skinned, wears a headscarf. Almond pokes fun at the self-important and the needlessly important, employing terrifically silly names: for example, Professor Smellie (formerly of the University of Blithering-on-the-Fen). A badly behaved pair of young men kidnaps Angelino, hoping to sell him to the highest bidder, but Basher, a bully as a boy and worse now, represents the dark side of the heart and brings out Angelino’s fighting spirit.
A wise and tender comical adventure. (Fantasy. 7-10)