THE MARZIPAN PIG
Long ago, Hoban wrote several quintessentially sensible picture books about Frances, a badger. Of late, he writes novels, which may be as experimental and critically acclaimed as Riddley Walker, and slapstick, satirical picture books. Here, he returns to the gently philosophical mode of A Mouse and His Child, in a whimsical fantasy whose primary appeal is the comic surprise of incongruity, enriched by other levels of meaning. The marzipan pig, still sweet within but dusty, crusty, and forgotten, mourns beneath a sofa till a mouse consumes it and is in turn consumed by love--for a clock, which can respond only with the time. The mouse, giving up on the clock (which then expires in despair), is eaten by an owl, causing it to fall in love with a taxi meter--and when this love is requited, after a fashion, a bee picks up a bit of the magic, which is then transferred to a flower and thence to another mouse that eats another marzipan pig--and survives. Each new turn is the occasion for some entertaining repartee as well as implicit ruminations on love between two beings that may not share a language or seem to communicate. This is all more accessible and fun than it may sound in summary. Hoban's deft, poetic style is perfect for sharing aloud; Blake's many humorous illustrations (black-and-white and thus more subdued than usual) enliven the attractive format. A good choice for young readers who enjoy fantasy.