Wright (The Secret Circus) gives readers their first laugh on the title page, as a family of sweetly dressed raccoons tiptoes past an overturned garbage can. They have fat raccoon bodies, but their arms and legs are black ink lines, the combination of spindly appendages and sly, squinty eyes proving especially hilarious. In loose blank verse, Wright explores the issue of raccoon banditry: "They sneak and they creep./ Doing just what they please./ They snatch and launder whatever they've found." Dark blue night surrounds the masked creatures in their striped T-shirts and lace-edged dresses as Wright parodies westerns ("They head for the hills to split up the loot"), painting the villains solemnly enjoying a basket of fruit on a patched picnic cloth. Fantasy elements proliferate: the raccoons' human adversaries live in cottages shaped like beehives, while the raccoons return to a tree house that rivals that of the Swiss Family Robinson. It's clear that these raccoons are very family oriented and wholesome—except for that powerful compulsion to overturn garbage cans. Readers are meant to cheer for the raccoons against the humans, and they will. Ages 2–6. (Aug.)
Children's Literature - Ken Marantz and Sylvia Marantz
The masked "bandits" of this book's title are nicely-dressed raccoons that "prowl through the night" after the moon comes up. "They sneak and they creep. Doing just what they please." As raccoons do, they not only snatch but "launder" whatever they take. Carelessly leaving clues, they get caught. Then they run, "head[ing] for the hills to split up the loot." Under the starry sky, across a double-page spread, they enjoy their picnic on a blanket. Then, as the town awakens, they "make their greatest escape." It's back to their hideout for them, to rest until the sun goes down, when we know they will be back in action. The stylized illustrations emphasize the "masks" of the frisky critters whose homes include a rug, drapes, and an armchair. The youngsters play on swings in a playground as their parents forage under the crescent moon. The conical roofs of the houses are a bit puzzling, but the romp of the raccoons is unmistakable fun. Reviewer: Ken Marantz and Sylvia Marantz
School Library Journal
PreS-Gr 2—Bandits are rarely presented in as endearing a manner as in Wright's delightful book about six troublesome raccoons that prowl the neighborhood digging through trash, stealing, and leaving a mess. The text reads like free verse, and it's clear that the words have been carefully chosen. "But those bandits are careless/Leaving clue after clue/And when they are caught/They will never confess!/Back on the run." The true star of this book is the amazing artwork. The textural, expressive paintings are full of life, movement, and humor. While the artistic process is evident through visible canvas texture and messy lines, each illustration is fully realized. The spread showing the raccoons as "They sneak and they creep" exaggeratedly toward the village at dusk perfectly introduces the rascally animals. Children who have experienced these nighttime visitors will enjoy seeing their version of events and the fanciful depiction of their activities. This quirky little story is best suited for one-on-one or individual reading. Given the chance, these bandits will easily steal readers' hearts with their charming mischief.—Anna Haase Krueger, Antigo Public Library, WI
Rascally raccoons plunder and play in the night without consequence in Wright's (The Secret Circus, 2009) latest work.
At sunset, the masked marauders—shifty-eyed and mischievous—tiptoe toward town. As the sky darkens, they boldly gather booty and make the local hot tub their washroom. Caught by flashlight, the nocturnal crooks escape to picnic and party elsewhere. Paint and black pen on canvas are Wright's media of choice. There are no hard edges to her artwork, and paint is often applied in such a way that it allows the raw texture of the canvas underneath to be seen or appears as strokes of solid color. Very simple figures describe both humans and raccoons, which have stylized, stick-figure appendages. Everything in Wright's compositions is equally detailed, whether in the foreground or background, creating a flattened effect. The text itself is short and playful but, strangely, at times does not match the illustrations, particularly at the story's climax, when the pranksters make "their greatest escape." In the artwork, the raccoons seem far from trouble; indeed, they are casually packing up their evening's picnic. The author, however, does pay close attention to the passage of time, clearly delineating day, dusk and night, making it a good title to discuss the different parts of the evening with young readers.
An enjoyable take on a nocturnal, urban animal's habits in an accessible story that, with illustrations in better sync, might have resulted in a refreshing outcome. Unfortunately, the result here is pedestrian.(Picture book. 2-5)