A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that kids love the simple felt-tip cartoon illustrations. The story is clever, though filled with coincidence.
What's the story?
Sometimes, you can try too hard to be liked. Mr. Grumps and his cat don't like Lyle. When Lyle and Mr. Valenti, his old performing partner, do an impromptu show in Mr. Grumps's department store, Mr. Grumps has Lyle put in the zoo, but he escapes in time to save Mr. Grumps from a fire. The ever-ingratiating Lyle charms again.
Is it any good?
The illustrations are at the peak of Waber's detailed and distinctive style, more sophisticated than in The House on East 88th Street, as is the fun-to-read text. Lots of patterns, watercolor highlights, and expressive faces, as well as detailed building interiors, create a world of imagination and believability with simple bold lines and colors.
Although some readers may wish Mr. Grumps got some comeuppance for his curmudgeonly ways, Waber's own gentle nature keeps him from vengeful themes: In the end goodwill and courage win out, and our crocodilian hero is restored to his family and is once again loved by everyone. However, given Mr. Grumps's determined hostility, Waber is forced to resort to that old chestnut of plot construction -- the timely lifesaving act that turns enemies into friends. Parents may wish Lyle could solve his problem in a way more accessible to real children, but by then the story is verging on melodrama, so the dramatic resolution is perhaps inevitable.