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by Julia Van Nutt & illustrated by Robert Van Nutt

Age Range: 6 - 10

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 2000
ISBN: 0-385-32565-7
Publisher: Doubleday

Lucky Hart, ten, lives in the fictional 19th-century town of Cobtown, a village peopled with colorful characters. The story, told through Lucky’s diary, tells the tale of the day the Adapulgus, a horrifying, bloodthirsty monster came to town. Captain Ragg, a slick con man, and his sidekick Short Tooth announce to the town that they have captured a fearsome beast that they will display to the town for the small fee of 25 cents per person in a tent erected for just that very purpose. The excitement in Cobtown builds all day until most of the townspeople, some considerably nervous, are sitting inside the tent listening to frightening noises emanating from behind the curtain. Just as Captain Ragg is about to introduce the beast, a commotion occurs backstage and Captain Ragg, feigning panic, tells the crowd that the beast has disappeared and is on the loose and urges everyone to run for their lives. The people flee in terror and Lucky takes refuge in her friend Fliberty Jibbert’s shed. Unfortunately for Captain Ragg and Short Tooth, the two swindlers also decide to hide out at Fliberty’s, where Lucky overhears the two crooks gloating about how they’ve fleeced the townsfolk. But ever resourceful and creative, Fliberty has a plan of his own—he performs his famous hand shadows, creates a terrifying shadow monster on the wall, and scares the bejeezus out of the two rapscallions. Thinking the monster is real, Ragg and Short Tooth flee in fright, leaving behind the bag of coins they’ve cheated from the gullible townspeople. The title page and the last page with the hand shadows on it are the most visually interesting and attractive pages, more interesting than the rest of the illustrations, which are overly slick and clearly owe a great deal to Disney animation. Lengthy text makes this a fun story that works as a read-aloud for younger children and which older children will enjoy reading themselves. (Picture book. 6-10)