I'm Not Bobby!) continues his winning streak with this picture book about coveting thy neighbor's life. "Across the street from us there'"/>

THE HOUSE ACROSS THE STREET

Jules Feiffer, Author . Hyperion/di Capua $15.95 (32p) ISBN 978-0-7868-0910-3

Feiffer (I'm Not Bobby!) continues his winning streak with this picture book about coveting thy neighbor's life. "Across the street from us there's a big, big house/ where it's better than here," sighs a brown-haired preadolescent, seen from behind as he gazes out his window. In a reverse view, from the opposite curb, the speaker sits in the window of his aluminum-sided home, watching the larger house's grinning occupant. The young voyeur names all the things, real and imaginary, that make his neighbor's life so appealing. Images show the envied boy keeping the undivided attention of his mother, sister and baby-sitter, or laughing uproariously with 10 other boys: "He's all of his friends' best friend." In the kind of cumulative extravagance that makes Feiffer's By the Side of the Road so startling, the speaker matter-of-factly lists his neighbor's four purebred dogs and envisions the young master splashing in a backyard pool full of dolphins. Yet Feiffer ensures there is more to the speaker's longing than maudlin self-pity. The disaffected child admires the material trappings, but also desires things that cannot be bought: "Everybody laughs in his house./ Nobody argues. Or if they do/ they stop when he says so." In the end, the boy's idealistic portrait of a blissful home cannot be reduced to a grass-is-always-greener homily. Feiffer leaves the family and class issues unresolved, and ends with a modest fantasy to which youngsters can relate: "Sometimes... I pretend he invites me in." Ages 2-up. (Nov.)

Reviewed on: 10/14/2002
Release date: 10/01/2002
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