Top Banana

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Siblings or pets routinely compete to be "top banana"; the rivals in this tale, however, are far from the usual suspects. Benny is a parrot whose middle-aged owner, Flora, dotes on him. He feels uniquely beautifulthat is, until Flora introduces Scarlett O'Hara, a delicate orchid. Next to Scarlett's "flaming red blooms, yellow spots, blue stripes, and frilly fringes," Benny doesn't feel very exotic. But when Scarlett starts to wilt, so does Benny's jealousy. The bird ultimately rescues his petalled nemesis by building her a tropical greenhouse. Benny's forest-green plumage and yellow beak stand out against a rose, peach and purple whirl of watercolor and colored pencil. Best (Taxi! Taxi!) writes good-humoredly, with judicious doses of alliteration: The eager-to-please Benny "fanned [Flora} when she was faint. He helped fertilize her ferns. He fluted the edges of her fruit pies." Yet while she establishes Benny as a vibrant character, Scarlett never blossoms as a viable personality. Debut artist Oller's low-contrast palette, while pleasing to the eye, does Scarlett a similar disservice, as the flower's supposedly traffic-stopping good looks do not stand out in any particular way. The chief interest in the illustrations comes from the stylized figures, especially the potato-sack-shaped Flora, and the sense of motion Oller so robustly invests them with. Ages 4-8. (Mar.)
School Library Journal
PreS-Gr 3Benny the parrot is top banana in the home of his owner, Flora Dora. The woman pampers her bird to no end, even though "he was just the chirping kind." Benny can read, however, and when his owner takes him out into the world on the back of her bicycle, he is thrilled. When Flora spots an exotic orchid (named Scarlett O'Hara) and brings it home, trouble starts. At first, the parrot tries to share his happy home with the flower, but when Flora states that both orchid and bird are "the sweetest, most beautiful creatures on earth," jealousy sets in. Benny dreams of harming Scarlett. When the flower droops and wilts, though, he shows his true colors. Using his reading skills, he discovers that the rain forest is where an orchid like Scarlett belongs and sets about transforming the bathroom into a "warm, wet, and windy" jungle. When he does his howler monkey impression, the change is complete and the orchid recovers. The offbeat characters add a bit of punch to the common theme of jealousy. Still, Benny's anger seems contrived, and the plot lacks tension. There is some visual humor in the watercolor illustrations, particularly when the parrot shares his activities with the potted plant, including hopscotch and pie baking. Despite the mild warmth and humor in the characterizations, it is still hard to get very involved in the antics of Benny, Flora, and Scarlett.Steven Engelfried, West Linn Public Library, OR
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780531300091
  • Publisher: Scholastic, Inc.
  • Publication date: 3/28/1997
  • Pages: 32
  • Age range: 5 - 8 Years
  • Product dimensions: 9.11 (w) x 11.31 (h) x 0.38 (d)

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