Gr 4 Up Previously successful comic collaborators Jones and Foreman ( Fairy Tales 1982, The Saga of Erik the Viking 1983, both Schocken) team up once again to tell the tale of Nicobobinus, ``. . .the most extraordinary child who ever stuck his tongue out at the Prime Minister.'' Unfortunately, what sounds like a promising antic romp quickly turns into an increasingly frantic gallop. For in Jones' busy hands, the delicate, invisible mechanism of comedy is transformed into a great Rube Goldberg contraption with its all-too-visible, frantically spinning works spilling out everywhere. Everything is moving but nothing is working. Thus, for example, the good idea of turning Nico's limbs to gold to motivate his journey to the Land of the Dragons is compromised by its clumsy implementation: the introduction of a deus ex machina gold man who, without any viable motivation, performs the transformation necessary to get the plot creakily underway and then is unceremoniously dumped into the nearest canal. ( Nicobobinus is set in Venice ``a long time ago'' for absolutely no discernible reason.) On the positive side, the characters of Nicobobinus and his friend Rosie are engaging, the chief villainsan avaricious Abbot and his band of murderous monksare frightening, and the illustrations are occasionally inspired. Unfortunately the plot is so contrived and so unbelievable and the tone so relentlessly whimsical that by the time of the author's coy admissionon the last pagethat Nicobobinus did not stick out his tongue at the Prime Minister, readers will be too tired to care. Michael Cart, Beverly Hills Public Lib .