Tinker and Tom and the Star Baby


By David McPhail

Little, Brown, 1998

Tinker and Tom couldn’t get to sleep, so they sat on the edge of the bed, gazing out the window. They had not been there long when a small, bright object went streaking through the sky. “What’s that?” gasped Tom. “That’s a baby star,” Tinker told him. “It probably got lost and now it’s looking for its mother.”

Books are a bit like ice skating routines. Some are technically perfect, but lack artistic style. You can tell the skater’s practiced her (or his) ass off, but she (or he) doesn’t really seem to be enjoying the process. David McPhail is absolutely not one of those skaters. In each of his books, he seems to be enjoying the hell out of himself instead of obsessing over where his characters (or story) will land. That can make for some disappointing third acts or undeveloped characters, but not in the case of Tinker, a hilarious, uproariously fun accomplishment. Tinker, a mechanically-minded boy, and Tom, the bear who lives with him, find a Star Baby who’s crash-landed in their backyard. While the Star Baby happily gobbles down cat food in the kitchen (illustrated with drawings that made both me and my son cry with laughter), Tinker and Tom mix some rocket fuel to send their little visitor back to its awaiting mother. Who knew rocket fuel required orange juice  and a pot of baked beans?

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