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Paul Fleischman, like Wesley, constructed his own alternate world during his school years. Kevin Hawkes says that Wesley's world reminded him of Robinson Crusoe, one of his favorite books as a child.


This fantastical picture book, like its hero, is bursting at the seams with creativity. Wesley's imagination sets him apart; not only does he sport purple sneakers and glasses, he thinks football is stupid and refuses to shave half his head like all the other boys. "He sticks out," says his mother. "Like a nose," bemoans his father. Ironically, a banal aside from his father gives Wesley an idea for a summer project: he establishes a new civilization in his own backyard, eventually attracting his former tormentors and befriending them. Fleischman (Joyful Noise) and Hawkes (My Little Sister Ate One Hare) offer a vigorous shot in the arm to nonconformists everywhere. A droll, deadpan text describes how Wesley prepares the soil for a seemingly magical influx of seedlings. Unable to identify the new staple crop, Wesley names it "swist," gathers food from its fruit and tubers, weaves clothing from its fibers and fashions suntan lotion and mosquito repellent from the oil of its seeds (which, in a Tom Sawyeresque business maneuver, he allows his now-curious foes to grindÄand then he sells the product to them). In vibrant, puckish acrylic paintings, Hawkes captures the entrepreneurial essence of Wesley. From the makeshift shield that protects him from garbage-throwing classmates to his cluttered bedroom overflowing with inventions and science projects to the giant red-flowering jungle he cultivates, Wesley's universe clearly exists on a slightly parallel plane. Yet Hawkes introduces the outlandish elements so naturally that they seem organic. For instance, an ingenious conception of Wesley's alternative to "traditional sports" shows a lacrosse-like game with a unique scoring feature. And a subtle visual metaphor takes shape in an aerial shot of a cookie-cutter neighborhood in which Wesley's wildly fertile backyard sticks out "like a nose." It's difficult to imagine a better pairing than Fleischman and Hawkes to bring this one-of-a-kind kidÄand his universeÄso vividly to life. And readers will relish the tongue-in-cheek ending in which Wesley's ex-rivals conform to the nonconformist. Ages 4-9. (June) Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.

K-Gr 4Wesley marches to a different drummer. Looking for the perfect summer project, this social outcast remembers reading that every culture has a staple food crop. He decides to plant some seeds in his suburban backyard. In Robinson Crusoe fashion, he finds uses for each part of the unique and unusual plant that emerges (he calls it swist, from the sound its leaves make). By the time school starts again, he has created an entire civilization, including a language, complex games, a counting system, and a sundialall based on the plant. In a very satisfying turn of events, the mohawk-topped kids seen tormenting Wesley in the opening scene march behind their fearless leader, outfitted in Weslandic togs, at the conclusion. Hawkess highly tactile acrylic interpretations of Fleischmans ideas are detailed and clever, his palette brimming with tropical tones. His caricatures of the myopic protagonist, the nosy neighbor, and Wess dim-witted parents are quirky and fresh. The spread of Wesley, surrounded by a jungle of lush red flowers, roasting the tubers and drinking the nectar from his own squeezing device, is any kids idea of paradise. From the personal hieroglyphs on the endpapers to the lacrosse-like game played on pogo sticks, ideas present themselves, ready to pollinate fertile young imaginations. While this book offers a highly inventive approach to any number of topicsbullies, anthropology, individuality, gardening, summer vacationdont wait for a reason to share it.Wendy Lukehart, Dauphin County Library, Harrisburg, PA Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.

K-Gr 4-Young Wesley, who marches to a different drummer, decides to create his own civilization. Glowing acrylics highlight the cookie-cutter conformity of his neighborhood and the extraordinary and exotic details of his new and flourishing domain. (June) Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.

Wesley is a nonconformist suffering rejection from classmates . . . until he puts his school lessons to use and founds his own civilization--Weslandia . . . Combining the allure of fantasy and science fiction with the dismissal of socially acceptable norms creates a true paradise for today's pre-teen and terrific fodder for social studies classes. At another level, the story works for younger children, who will be drawn to the art and appreciate Wesley's inventiveness, idominitable spirit, and ultimate triumph.
--The Horn Book (starred review)

This fantastical picture book, like its hero, is bursting at the seams with creativity . . . a vigorous shot in the arm to nonconformists everywhere . . . It's difficult to imagine a better pairing than Fleischman and Hawkes to bring this one of a kind kid--and his universe--so vividly to life.
--Publishers Weekly (starred review)

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