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Hey, Al

by Richard Egielski

School Library Journal : K Up The theme here is, ``be happy with who you are,'' or maybe, ``there's no free lunch.'' Al, a janitor, lives a meager existence with his companion (dog) Eddie in New York City. They complain to each other about their lot and are ready to take off to a better place with a huge bird who just pops in and invites them. This ``island in the sky'' is perfect. All its inhabitants are friendly birds, and there's nothing to do but enjoy the tropical paradise. But when they both begin to sprout feathers and beaks, they realize that there is a price to pay, so they take off, Icarus-styleincluding a plunge into New York Harbor. Safely home, they discover that ``Paradise lost is sometimes Heaven found.'' Egielski's solid naturalism provides just the visual foil needed to establish the surreal character of this fantasy. The muted earth tones of the one-room flat contrast symbolically with the bright hues of the birds' plumage and the foliage of the floating paradise. The anatomical appropriateness of Al and Eddie plays neatly against the flamboyant depiction of the plants. Text and pictures work together to challenge readers' concept of reality, with touches such as the stacks of delivered newspapers outside Al's door when he returns fromhis ``dream''? Kenneth Marantz, Art Education Department, Ohio State University, Columbus

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