School Library Journal - School Library Journal
Gr 2-4On a visit to the natural history museum, Ms. Leonard-Brakthurst quietly gets her rampaging class's attention with a cautionary tale about Harry Walfish, her mischievous classmate who was once locked in the museum. Harry's initial glee changes to terror when the animals slowly come to life; fleeing wildly through the darkened halls, he ends up in the monkey room, where guards and his teacher find him at midnight, cowering in an exhibit case surrounded by animal specimens pressing on the glass. The creatures that regard Harry unblinkingly in Floca's cartoon illustrations seem more surprised and curious than menacing, and though Ms. Leonard-Brakthurst waves her arms dramatically, she tells the tale in a detached, precise way, inserting an occasional scientific name or fact, finishing with the assurance that, of course, she has only Harry's word that any of this happened. Children aren't likely to be as spooked by the episode as Ms. Leonard-Brakthurst's class is, but most will get the gently delivered point about behavior in public places.John Peters, New York Public Library
For his first solo outing, Floca (illustrator of Avi's Poppy, 1995) has created a whopper that operates on a number of levels: as a zoological exploration, as a wry cautionary tale, and as a story of just deserts.
Rambunctious young Harry Walfish, whose legend lives on in the tale delivered by Ms. Leonard-Brakthurst to her rowdy charges at the Natural History Museum, made an extraordinary pest of himself when his class visited that very same institution. Harry, following a day of havoc, is inadvertently locked in the museum when it closes for the night; the exhibits come to life and scare the willies out of him. When he is finally rescued, he is a new Harrya quiet Harry, permanently humbled. Ms. Leonard- Brakthurst's class, not surprisingly, shifts into a quiet mode, too. Floca drolly insinuates a wonderful bestiary into the storyfrom the rufous-rumped woodhewer ("Xiphorhynchus erythropygius, I believe," notes Ms. Leonard-Brakthurst) to a pygmy marmoset (Callithrix pygmaea), while his crisp, animated watercolors add to the fun.