Children are apt to be bemused by this elegant but jumbled picture book, which opens as a dapper cat in tails and tophat hides a package atop the chandelier while a masked, caped mouse looks on. Next, various animals attend (or crash) a chaotic party where they search for the bundle, identified in the text as a clock. Although the story seems to promise a challenging hunt, perhaps even a bit of mystery, it delivers neither. Some of the ``hidden'' clock faces heralded in the flap copy may be oddly placed (e.g., on a tabletop) but all are plainly visible; and the whereabouts of the package are revealed at the start. Duranceau's opulent, detailed paintings combine realistic figures with oddly surreal touches, such as a cow jumping out of a painting and a trio of Dali-inspired melting watches. With a luxurious palette that ranges from innocent pink to darkest indigo, these visual adornments make provocative individual tableaux, but are so unrelievedly dense that cumulatively they overwhelm. The text, verses loosely patterned after the nursery rhyme (``Margery, bargery, bow, / The monkey stubbed his toe''), offers little clarification and sometimes generates its own confusion (for example, snippets of dialogue are sometimes unattributed). Ages 5-11. (Feb.)
School Library Journal
PreS-Gr 2-An original 12-stanza poem elegantly enhanced by superb illustrations. A curious collection of realistically rendered though anthropomorphized mammals have gathered for what may be a New Year's celebration, a birthday, or just a party. The cat hides a mouse-shaped clock, and a goat, sheep, wolf, and mouse search for it while a monkey valiantly tries to serve tea and pastries. The pandemonium that occurs suggests a stronger beverage than tea as guests and furniture collide and the hidden clock is broken and then mended, much to the relief of the little mouse who has fallen in love with it. Clocks abound in the detailed illustrations. Fans of Graeme Base or the pre-Base set will enjoy romping through Duranceau's game of hide-and-seek with or without adult assistance. Young tongues are sure to enjoy tangling with ``Rackety, knackety, knob'' and ``Fiddlety, biddlety, bime'' even if it doesn't make sense-or maybe because it doesn't. A must for patrons of pun and parody in a pretty package.-Jody McCoy, Casady School, Oklahoma City
Janice Del Negro
A nattily dressed gentleman cat is throwing a party, and when some unexpected guests arrive, events really start to whirl. Muller offers a takeoff on the traditional nursery rhyme, adding a verse for each hour of the day. Duranceau's extravagantly detailed, action-packed paintings, with hidden clocks galore to show the party hours passing, carry the rhyming text. The animal characters have more personality than the pages can hold, and there is enough adult humor (for example, a send-up of Salvador Dali on the title page) to keep grown-ups interested. An unusual title that may be useful in teaching children how to tell time as well as in keeping them amused.