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THE GREAT ZAPFINO by Mac Barnett Kirkus Star


by Mac Barnett ; illustrated by Marla Frazee

Pub Date: April 5th, 2022
ISBN: 978-1-5344-1154-8
Publisher: Beach Lane/Simon & Schuster

A diminutive circus high diver loses his nerve.

Behold! Rendered entirely in pencil on transparent film and accompanied by hand-lettered text, this tour de force of visual storytelling features the Great Zapfino, an adorable little man with a pale cue-ball head, huge ears, and a striped bathing outfit. “Prepare to gasp as Zapfino dives ten terrifying stories through the air, landing on a tiny trampoline!” the ringmaster announces as Zapfino enters the circus tent and climbs a ladder to a diving board. Frazee’s grayscale spreads, which simultaneously capture the petrifying perspective and the details of Zapfino’s body language and expressions, leave readers unsurprised when Zapfino bolts from the tent in panic. The remainder of the book is almost wordless and utterly charming; a combination of full-page compositions and vignette panels present Zapfino’s new life as an elevator operator in an art deco high-rise by the beach. It’s a simple life: He rides the elevator (marvelous pages full of rectangles tell the stories of the various residents he encounters), makes toast, and gazes at the night sky. Until one day, the toaster malfunctions and he must evacuate via window. And there, 10 stories down, firefighters are holding a trampoline outstretched, waiting for him to jump. Behold! The Great Zapfino comes full circle, conquering his fear and illuminating the greatness within.

Perfectly plotted and visually superb.

(Picture book. 3-8)