Lucky Lazlo

Dear Blog, remember me?  That would be your author writing here.  It’s been a while, and I’ve left you unfed and out in the cold for too long.  Let’s just say that while I was picking up the pace on the dissertation, I left a few other things by the wayside.  You could commiserate with my knitting and sewing projects, if you like; you’d all have plenty to complain about.  And yet I made some real progress on my dissertation, and, well, just know that I never forgot you, and here I am, back again with a new tasty book for you to sink your teeth into: a book from one of my favourite children’s book authors writing today, the great Steve Light.  We’ve met him before with his wonderful books Have You Seen My Dragon? and Swap!.  I spotted his new book, Lucky Lazlo, at the Harvard Book Store last week and snapped it up like the treat it is.  It’s a little gem, and I’m sorry I only got to posting about it the day after Valentine’s Day!

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Dear readers, Lucky Lazlo is sheer fun, and truly fun for all ages, a term I don’t use lightly.  There’s plenty in here for parents and children alike, and, while I think it’s perfect for kids around the age of four and up, I’d be tempted to try reading this even to a toddler.  I think the bright splashes of colour and zany antics might be a real delight for little ones.

“Zany antics?” you inquire.  Well, yes, let’s talk about the content of the book now, shall we?  Lazlo, our protagonist in this oeuvre, is a young gentleman who is shatteringly in love with a young lady who is starring in a production of Alice in Wonderland.  (Anyone who knows me will also know that this automatically endears the book to me.)  And so he buys her a rose from the flower-seller: “The last red one– how lucky!”

Then misfortune strikes: as our young hero rushes off to see his beloved perform in the play– bam!  He runs straight into a post, drops the rose, and a cat snatches up the rose and runs off with it, straight through the stage door of the theatre.  Oh no!  Poor Lazlo runs in hot pursuit of cat and rose.  The dastardly cat gets into a mess at the theatre, tangling himself in the tailor’s thread and trying to hide in a tuba, and then rushing straight into the orchestra as the play was about to begin.  The mess continues until he’s distracted by something more interesting: a mouse!  Lazlo snatches up the rose as the cat pursues the mouse, but then– oh no!  Lazlo steps onto a ball.  But luckily he soon picks up the knack of balancing on the ball and glides straight across the stage, stealing the show.  Our last glimpse of Lazlo shows him receiving a nice kiss on the cheek from his lady love, who, after all of these adventures, gets her rose.

There’s a lot of “zany antics” going on here, as you can tell.  Of course, there are all of Lazlo’s misadventures with getting the rose to his beloved, but there are also plenty of adventures and misadventures going on in the illustrations around the theatre.  Steve Light, as usual, has positively jam-packed the backgrounds of each page with little surprises.  In this case, it’s full of hints and entertaining trails to follow for anyone who knows anything about theatre life, and good and bad luck in the theatre.  As Steve Light explains in the notes at the back of the book, he’s drawn references to every superstition he could, and it’s up to the reader to see how many they can find.

Now, I won’t say a toddler would be able to go on a theatrical superstition treasure hunt, but I’ll admit I had a good time flipping through the book looking for candelabras with three candles, broken mirrors, and all the other superstitions carefully listed in the back.  And I got a flashback to myself when I was a kid in love with the theatre (lo, these many years ago…).  I did a lot of babysitting back then and read a ton of terrible books and a meager number of very good books to the kids I looked after.  How I wish I could go back in time and hand myself this book.  I would have gotten a kick out of all of the theatrical lore packed into every page, the kids would have loved the surface story, and we’d all have been happy.

If “zany” is the first word which came to mind to describe this story, “sweet” is the second word I think of.  Perfectly sweet.  Sweet without being nauseatingly saccharine.  Lazlo engages our interest precisely because he’s a total sweetheart, stopping to buy his young actress a rose.  That opening image absolutely melted my heart.  But making him walk into a pole and drop the rose was frankly hilarious, and the chaos he and the cat cause at the theatre is just zany enough to keep the sweetness from overwhelming the story.

So, my dear Blog, I hope that this offering of a book perfectly balanced between the sweet and the zany, and 100% funny and engaging all the way through is enough to mitigate any anger you might feel over my seeming abandonment of you.  I never truly forgot you, and I brought you back one of the most charming books I could find as a gift on my return.  I hope you enjoy it, even if it is past Valentine’s Day.  I love you every day, so here’s Lucky Lazlo, his darling red rose and the mischievous cat, all for you.