BY THE SIDE OF THE ROAD

Jules Feiffer, Author
Jules Feiffer, Author . Hyperion/di Capua $15.95 (64p) ISBN 0-7868-0908-6
Reviewed on: 05/13/2002
Release date: 05/01/2002
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On a two-hour car ride, Richard wrestles with his brother in the backseat despite his parents' angry glances. He reports the incident in disaffected sentences, while duotone images picture his refusal to heed the threats. "'If you don't behave,' my father said, 'I'm gonna pull over right here and you can wait by the side of the road till we come and get you.'... Who likes to be pushed around? 'I think I'll wait by the side of the road,' I said." After his family drives away, Richard isn't afraid. In fact, he enjoys the grassy shoulder. When his scowling, heavy-set father returns and snarls, "Learned your lesson yet, wise guy?" the boy coolly chooses his own destiny: "The way he said it made me unlearn the lesson I was right then in the middle of learning." He goes on living by the highway, where he digs a system of caves and becomes the envy of other children. It becomes apparent that the child has abandoned his parents, instead of the other way around, as Richard's disempowered mother and father humbly bring provisions for his new home. Whereas Feiffer's I'm Not Bobby! described a boy's noisy defiance in assertive statements and an oversize scrawl, this compact, horizontal-format book conveys equally intense passion in a quieter way. The cinematic sequence of blurred, ink-wash illustrations traces Richard's independent life into adulthood and concludes on an absurd but credibly contented note. All ages. (May)

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