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Boris and Bella
Carolyn Crimi, illustrated by Gris Grimly
Harcourt/Voyager Books, 32 pages

Boris and Bella
Carolyn Crimi
Carolyn Crimi was born and raised on Long Island, New York, and now lives in Evanston, Illinois, with her husband Alfonso, and their two cats, Oscar and Mama. Carolyn received her B.A. from Lake Forest College. The author of several previous children's books, a travel guide, and numerous magazine articles and stories, she also teaches adult education courses in writing for children.

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Past Feature Reviews
A review by Charlene Brusso

"The Odd Couple" gets a spooky romantic spin -- with just enough grue to make the kids cheerfully shiver in this charming book. Picture two warring neighbors. Dapper Boris Kleanitoff, with his crisp, bat-winged suit and an eternally dour E.A. Poe-ish expression, is a die-hard neat-nik. So persnickety is he, that he vacuums his bats and keeps his yard swept clean by enchanted brooms all day and all night. But his neighbor Bella Legrossi is the exact opposite. In her funereal finery, with flies eternally buzzing around her tousled yellow locks, she is known far and wide as "the messiest monster in Booville." Day in and day out these two find new ways to annoy each other.

Then comes Halloween, and Boris and Bella each decide to throw a bash certain to make the other jealous. Unfortunately everyone goes to Harry Beastie's party instead, because "his dust bunnies don't bite," and he doesn't fret about claws scratching up his hardwood floors. Consumed with righteous rage, they stomp into Harry's party and meet face to face -- only to discover, grudgingly, that their anger has finally given them something in common.

The artwork, by Gris Grimly, will remind you of a trip through Tim Burton's headspace circa The Nightmare Before Christmas, referencing neo-Victorian goth spoofers Edward Gorey and Charles Addams, with its sepia tints and ghoulish leitmotifs: off-kilter houses, boil-covered gargoyles, mummies, and monsters, and bats, bats, bats!

Like all good "children's books," this one really has something for everyone. The publisher recommends it for readers ages 4-7; my five year old gave it a thumbs-up (I think he was in a serious "bat" phase at the time) but every grown-up who has seen it has also loved it.. The book came out in time for Halloween, but a nice cheerful story about making friends should really should be a year-round read, shouldn't it?

Copyright © 2007 Charlene Brusso

Charlene's sixth grade teacher told her she would burn her eyes out before she was 30 if she kept reading and writing so much. Fortunately he was wrong. Her work has also appeared in Aboriginal SF, Amazing Stories, Dark Regions, MZB's Fantasy Magazine, and other genre magazines.

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