New in Town by Kevin Cornell (9780374306090)
One morning, the residents of Puddletrunk woke up to discover that their bridge had collapsed. It certainly wasn’t the first time. They were lucky to have Mortimer Gulch, who had built and replaced over 200 bridges for the town. Mr. Gulch said it was the termites again and they’d just all have to donate to replace the bridge again. He was willing to accept jewelry and cash. But the new traveling clock repairman refused to pay, instead saying he would pay by fixing the clock tower for free. So bridge #272 began construction! Everyone worked hard to build it while Mr. Gulch orated, drummed and motivated them. Then they ran out of wood, but the clock repairman had some. When he refused to share his wood with Mr. Gulch, lest it get eaten by termites, readers soon find out exactly what has been happening to the bridges. But the traveling clock repairman just may have understood it all along.
Cornell has created an atmospheric picture book of an isolated town built in a marvelously ramshackle way on a small circle of land surrounded by a pit. Readers will immediately know that Mr. Gulch is a bad guy, but they won’t quite understand how bad until it is revealed that bridges (and clock towers) are simply delicious. The quiet and reserved repairman has a plan of his own that results in a wonderfully satisfying ending, neatly solving the bridge problem in a permanent way.
Cornell’s illustrations are a delight. They play with light and dark, filling with ominous shadows. The ramshackle town is full of small details as are the people in town. The ending works particularly well because of the art, showing the height of the tower, how precarious it looks, and the rather sad wooden bridge that connects them to the world. Even the font used for the book is unusual and interesting, swirling with promise of a fantastic tale.
A great villain, quiet hero and one doozy of a solution come together to make this fantasy picture book pure joy. Appropriate for ages 4-6.
Reviewed from e-galley provided by Farrar, Straus and Giroux.