Actress Lilly makes her picture-book debut.
Opening with a slant rhyme, the
preface claims Selma discovered a “wagon-like ride,” though how this is
possible when she’s just “wandered away from a fair” is puzzling. A disembodied
voice welcomes her and—over the course of 10 action-void pages—introduces the
nine creepy Squickerwonker marionettes. Verse peppered with odd word choices
and awkward phrasing makes it clear that rhyme takes precedence over story.
While the illustrations only occasionally succeed in highlighting the
Squickerwonkers’ unsavory qualities, Fraser-Allen does a commendable job of
creating an eerie atmosphere. When Selma bravely joins the Squickerwonkers
onstage, they purposefully pop her balloon (evidently prized, though it is not
mentioned in the text before this). Her subsequent tantrum gets her labeled a
brat and turned into a Squickerwonker herself (with very Coraline-esque
coin eyes). Readers may wonder why a girl who stands up for herself is
characterized as spoiled and punished. Is this book a cautionary tale? Perhaps,
but its moral is uncertain, especially given the rushed and unclear ending.
While it’s gratifying to see a story that trusts readers with fear, the lack of a substantial plot and poor rhyme quality make this one to pass by, Peter Jackson’s imprimatur in the introduction notwithstanding. (Picture book. 5-8)