Anton and the Battle

tr. from German by Catherine Chidgey. illus. by author. 32p. Gecko. Mar. 2013. Tr $18.95. ISBN 978-1-8775-7926-4.
PreS-Gr 1—Anton's in a great mood. He strolls onto a sparsely decorated white page in his enormous Musketeers hat, humming a tune. "Here comes Anton." But when Luke arrives on the following page, insouciant in his horned Viking headgear, Anton's face darkens. Trouble starts immediately. One is stronger than the other; no, he isn't. One is louder; no, the other's even louder than he is. With imaginary props (outlined in blue for Anton and red for Luke)-boulders, logs, drums, and eventually weapons of mass destruction-the boys' rivalry escalates. "I'll blow you up!" "Dare you! Dare you!" Only the entry of something both Luke and Anton are actually afraid of slows them down-a small dog-but not for long. While it's uncomfortable talking about weapons, even imaginary ones, in relation to children, this funny story is a refreshing admission of the way children interact with their instinct for dominance. The layout features generous white backgrounds against which Anton and Luke look small, bright, and wonderfully alive. A small treasure.—Susan Weitz, formerly at Spencer-Van Etten School District, Spencer, NY
In this European import, a happy-looking boy in a plumed red Cavalier hat strides confidently across the first page: "Here comes Anton." Turn the page, and Anton's carefree expression darkens: "And here comes Luke." Luke, sporting a Viking helmet with horns, laughs when Anton declares he's stronger, and a battle of one-upmanship begins. Anton (from Anton Can Do Magic, rev. 1/12) says he can lift a stone "this big," so Luke hoists a boulder over his head. Anton counters by carrying three heavy logs; Luke hefts "a whole piano" on his back and plays it -- loudly. Anton pounds on a big bass drum: "Louder! Louder! Louder!" Things escalate from noisy instruments to (cartoonish) exploding bombs, and if it's not obvious right away, readers will soon figure out that these displays of strength and derring-do are imaginary: there's no actual violence, just a lot of posturing talk. Könnecke's clean minimalist illustrations clearly outline Anton's accoutrements in blue and Luke's in red. By the time they're slaying a four-headed dragon (cunningly drawn in both red and blue), these frenemies look as if they're having a grand time. Even united against a common nonimaginary threat -- a puppy (friendly but unknown) -- they can't help playing the game. Könnecke has a keen sense of how children play and of the fluid boundary between what's real and what's pretend. For this book's two winsome combatants, the battle isn't over -- and that's just fine with them. kitty flynn

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