A braggart gets his comeuppance in this debut picture book about otherworldly strangers and marble games.
Bluff is a white, golden-haired marble player. He keeps his prize marbles in a gold matchbox tied with a red ribbon. He defeats every player in town, making sure everyone knows that he’s the best. Finally, Bluff becomes so obnoxious that the supernatural world begins to notice: The sky becomes black; the sea turns red; and a crevasse cuts its way right through the marble circles where Bluff has played. Suddenly, a dark-skinned, yellow-suited stranger appears and challenges Bluff to a game. Predictably, Bluff is defeated and ridiculed by the marble players he has beaten and the town’s children. When he cries out to God, asking why he’s being punished, a “dirt colored angel” appears, explaining that Bluff’s own arrogance led to his downfall. In this series opener, Kind provides a valuable lesson to readers. But the author employs an off-rhythm verse, with frequently rhyming words that don’t fall nicely into any of the poetry forms children may recognize. Some of the word choices (describing the red ribbon as “locks” for his box) don’t quite work. The caricature-like images against a sepia background by debut illustrator Pollitt enhance the rich retro flavor of the story, which brings to mind folk tales from the American South. Unfortunately, the two-dimensional style gives readers little to look at beyond the first read.
While it delivers a worthy moral, this supernatural tale offers some awkward rhymes and flat imagery.