Someone has snatched the tender roast from the top of King Lion’s meaty birthday “cake,” so chef Tarantula sets out to find the culprit.
To a chorus of “Who is the beef thief?” (reminiscent, to parents and grandparents at least, of the old “Where’s the beef?” meme), Tarantula investigates by intrepidly climbing into the notably unclean mouths of Gorilla, Giraffe and other invited guests. The prose clumsily switches between past and present tense, and Bat’s reply when Tarantula asks permission to look in his mouth—“I’d rather not”—isn’t the only off-kilter line. Still, Tarantula’s loud “Busted!” when he catches King Lion sneaking a further chew gives the ensuing messy party an appropriately emphatic kickoff. Faas illustrates the quest with scribbly, lightly spattered cartoon scenes featuring a small, very untarantulalike spider in a toque and a menagerie of much larger creatures. These are first seen engaged in assembling party dishes of their own, then amicably gathering at an outdoor table to sip aperitifs and chow down.
Despite the awkward writing, children will have no beef with King Lion’s inability to wait for the guests. (Picture book. 5-7)