The Fantastic Frame: Danger! Tiger Crossing
Samantha Kallis, Illustrator
Penguin, 2016 116 pages
The Fantastic Frame series #1
Tiger, a boy who enjoys tinkering with mechanical parts and creating inventions, meets Luna Lopez, the artsy girl on the other side of the family's new duplex. The two new friends realize that they both saw the same impossible sight: a talking orange pig wearing a fancy black hat. Tracking down the pig leads them to the house of their next door neighbor: an eccentric old woman, Viola Dots, who is an artist. One painting of a jungle, a copy of Rousseau's Surprised! has an interesting looking old frame. While Viola Dots tells the inconceivable, yet tragic, tale of her thirteen-year-old son disappearing into a painting through that frame fifty years ago, Tiger manages to fix the clock stuck to the front of it. At exactly 4:00 the clock strikes and magic happens. A huge hole appears in the canvas and sucks Luna and Tiger through to the land of Rousseau's jungle where a tiger awaits. The friends must escape the tiger and get help from an unexpected source: Viola Dots' son David, who has been bouncing around from painting to painting for fifty years, yet hasn't aged. After many close calls, David helps the two escape back through the painting before the magic hour has passed, but is unable to get through himself. Viola Dots is determined to get her son back and requests that Tiger and Luna return for another adventure through a less dangerous painting she plans to move into the magic frame, leading readers to the next series entry.
Love this new series! Imagination, time travel, art, and adventure all rolled up into a neat transitional chapter-book package. The concept is unique and original. Sure to appeal to Magic Tree House fans, it feels a little easier, less intense, and adds a dimension of humor. Featuring both a male and female character, both boys and girls will enjoy the story and includes, represented by Mexican-American Luna, a nod to diversity. The chapters are short, the margins are wide and the print is big, welcoming readers new to chapter books. Cartoon-like illustrations are on an average of every two pages and are eye-catching and add to the story. The book's design is modern and clever with pictures sometimes layed-out in unconventional ways. When the children are in the real world the illustrations are in black and white and then go to full color when they are in the painting. As they pop in and out the colors are mixed, depending on which world body parts are through the frame. This Wizard of Oz technique is effective and will further appeal to the audience who will easily catch on. Tiger and Luna fall next into Saurat's A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte, which is one of my favorite paintings, so I was anxious to check out this next adventure. Alas, it was checked out of my library, which in my humble opinion says it all about this series. Currently three titles are presently available and number four is set for a July 2017 release.