This book reminds me so much of when I was growing up. I was a pretty imaginative child and would always tell myself stories (a habit that continues to this day. :-)). And in my stories I was always the heroine in some amazing adventure story. I was never one to play house, more interested in playing pirates, or archeologist explorer. I would describe the places and dialogue, so much like Edward does in this story.
The book follows Edward who loves to read adventure stories, particularly the Tarzan books. He even has some play animals just like the ones Tarzan hangs out with. One day Edward is reading on the shore when a crocodile (the only animal that Tarzan doesn't like) comes up and tries to eat Edward. He is afraid but then his literary hero saves him. A very real Tarzan sweeps down from the trees scoops up the boy and rescues him. Then he takes him to meet his animal friends and shows Edward how to call the animals to his aid. When Tarzan is called away to help a friend animal, Edward is chased back to the river where he was saved. There is the crocodile again but this time it is being taken by two men. Edward debates what to do but finally calls the animal friends to him and saves the crocodile.
I love the seemless blend of reality, Edward's house and figurines, and fantasy, Tarzan and the animals. This is exactly the kind of story I would have made up for myself as a child. The moralistic story is done with a light hand and Edward is a wonderfully believable character. He is not a hero like Tarzan is and McPhail makes him very unsure of himself in the story. Edward is just a normal shy bookish boy who gets involved in an adventure.
The illustrations are wonderful. They images are somewhat dark, like the jungle should be, with a rich palette of colors. The colors are well blended, giving a bit of a fuzzy appearance to everything. This provides a sense of energy and movement to the book. And in all honesty this is a book about action. The story is about living out an adventure that you have in your head. The book seems very much like a dream. I loved it. For a girl who has read and reread The Jungle Books over and over, this was a wonderful story. Now I have to go back to the library and pick up more David McPhail.