By Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen
Illustrated by Howard Fine
$16.99, ages 4-8, 32 pages
A hungry duck makes a late-night dash for a snack, as a fanged beast prowls the farm yard for his next delicious victim, in this hilarious story of misunderstandings.
Until now, no farm animal dared to step a talon or hoof out of its pen when the moon was bright for fear of becoming prey for a great cloaked hog known as Hampire.
They'd seen enough grisly remains from Hampire's feedings, the sticky red fluid dripping off the grass and the red stains on his canines as he returned to his pen.
But on this night Duck is too hungry to be sensible. The rumbling in his tummy is keeping him awake and all he can think about is snacking on the jelly rolls and ice-cream bowls in Farmer's kitchen.
So Duck slips out of the barn and into the farmhouse to pile goodies onto a tray to take back to the barn. But as he steps back into the night air, a haunting, ruddy presence rises up behind him: It's Hampire, "grim and dire."
Frantic, Duck flaps off to the chicken coop as Hampire lumbers in pursuit with fangs bared. Duck quickly rouses Red the chicken and yells for him to hide, then both fly the coop as Hampire snuffles his nose inside.
"As Duck raced Red to Pony's stall, / They heard the Hampire screaming. / 'I'm starved, of course -- / I'd eat a horse!' / His pointy fangs were gleaming."
Hampire's rant feeds their fears and they climb onto Pony's back and gallop off to an abandoned shed, as the tray of goodies teeters on Duck's wing. Inside they hear Hampire bellow out that he's hungry and plead with them to let him in.
But none of them trust the beast, so they slam the door in his face and run to the farthest wall to cower in a corner. As Hampire pounds on the walls, Duck drops the platter and covers his eyes with his wings. Then all at once the shed door bangs open. It's Hampire and he's charging toward them.
Too terrified to look, they squeeze their eyelids shut and brace for being eaten. But as they squeeze together and tremble, they hear Hampire begin to feast and not one of them feels his bite.
What could Hampire be sucking on? Could this barbarian actually be a vegetarian?
Deliciously silly, this rollicking read-aloud will have kids giggling to the last page as they discover what that red goo in the grass was really from.
Bardhan-Quallen's rhymes bounce along and amuse with funny plays on words, while Fine's interpretation of the chase looks like comedy in motion, as the animals bumble along and get all worked up over something they've only imagined.
My favorite picture comes at the climax of the chase, as Duck peeks out of his wings to see his fate. Feathers fill the page except where Duck has started to open them out from his eyes, revealing only Hampire's chubby snout opening wide.
Have a platter of jelly-filled doughnuts waiting in the wings for after reading this one and you'll have yourself some very happy Kidpires.