Friday, October 21, 2011

5. Gibbus Moony Wants to Bite You

Written by Leslie Muir
Illustrated by Jen Corace
Atheneum, 2011
$15.99, ages 4-8, 40 pages

When a little vampire wiggles out his baby fangs and sees the tips of big ones coming in, he flaps his wings in glee. Now, at last, he can bite something.

And not just anything. Gibbus Moony wants to sink his teeth into a nice juicy neck. The problem is, necks aren't what Moonys bite -- unless they're those of pears.

"We're fruit suckers, my boy," corrects Grandpa Waxing Mooney, a Wilfred Brimley-like fellow in an argyle-print sweater. "and proud of it."

That means, according to his prim-dressed Dad, Moonys are nectarians. "Not to be confused with those other vampire relatives," he adds, referring to portraits of caped bloodletters on the wall.

But as Gibbus flaps around in his cape, he hears only what he wants to hear, and adds a "k" to "nec" in nectarian. "I'm a necktarian!" he cries, dashing off to find his first victim.

Mom, all dolled up with an up-do and red lipstick, suggests Gibbus swing from the rafters like a good little vampire. But Gibbus is a big boy now and he's got his eye on his stuffed gargoyle Werner.

Jumping into his toy box, Gibbus pounces on Werner and begins to gnaw away at his stitched neck. "Stop chewing on your toys," Mom interrupts in a frantic tone, just as Werner has grown soggy.

Like a puppy with an insatiable need to chew, Gibbus bites into the first things he sees. He chomps into the family album, even goes after the family's Stradivarius, as strings pop off and curl.

However, none of those things satisfy Gibbus's longing. What he really wants is to tip-toe up on something that's alive and attack it. Then he sees Grandpa snoozing on the lounger.

Creeping up behind his chair, Gibbus whispers, "Beware!" in his ear, then leaps up out and bites his ear. But Grandpa's not the least bit scared. What's worse he giggles.

Gibbus is suddenly feeling very cranky. Nobody seems to take his fangs seriously; even the gardener just waves him away. And all this scaring and pouncing is tiring Gibbus out.

So he plunks down by his thinking tree and drifts off to sleep. But suddenly a big slobbery thing with three teeth startles him awake. It's a little girl cutting teeth, and next to her is a boy.

As Gibbus scrambles up the tree to get away, the boy calls out to him not to worry. The girl, he explains, is just his baby sister Mandy -- otherwise known as "Mandibles" because she chews everything she sees. 

Gibbus swings back from a branch, hooking the backs of his knees, and considers his next move. Could this new boy from next door be the perfect bite? Or is biting really what big boys do?

Newcomer Leslie Muir puts an adorable spin on the significance of those first adult teeth to a child, while illustrator Jen Corace gets us doing the unexpected, cooing at vampires.

Corace, the illustrator of the best-selling Little Pea, Little Hoot and Little Oink by Amy Krouse Rosenthal, makes Gibbus into a vampire version of Little Lord Fauntelroy, only without the velvet and lace.

His orange jumper shorts, striped knee-high socks and slip-ons make him look so sweet and well-mannered, while his widow's peak, pointy little ears and wide eager eyes give him an air of mischief.

This one's perfect read for any boy who's chomping at the bit to be treated like a big boy.

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