Silly Sally. By Audrey Wood. Red Wagon/Harcourt. $10.95.
To Market, To Market. By Anne Miranda. Illustrated by Janet Stevens. Red Wagon/Harcourt. $10.95.
It’s a neat idea to re-release amusing books for young children in oversize board-book form. These lap-size books are easy to handle – although too big for the very youngest children, for whom traditional small board books would be better. The big board books are great to share, with a parent reading as a child points to the large, clear pictures and enjoys the amusing rhyming stories. And as kids get interested in having books of their very own, these are sturdy enough to be read again and again – and dropped, bounced on, thumbed through and generally handled less than gently. They’re super-sturdy and stand up well.
The stories stand up well, too. Silly Sally, originally published in 1992, is Audrey Wood’s deliciously ridiculous story of a young lady who “went to town, walking backwards, upside down.” She meets various silly animals along the way: a pig (which dances a jig), a dog (which plays leapfrog), a loon (which sings a tune), and a sheep (which falls asleep – as does Sally). The joy of the first half of this book lies in the bouncily ridiculous positions of Sally and the animals as they cavort. The mid-book picture of Sally and all the animals sleeping upside down is priceless. Then along comes Neddy Buttercup – a young man dressed as a flower – who awakens the animals, one by one, and then gets Sally to wake up by tickling her, and then gets tickled himself, and then joins the whole group in an upside-down romp the rest of the way to town. The whole book is nonsensical, including the final page – which shows the townspeople and town animals joining the upside-down procession.
To Market, To Market is delicious nonsense, too. In this book, originally published in 1997, Anne Miranda starts with the Mother Goose rhyme about going to market to buy a fat pig – which the grandmotherly protagonist struggles to bring into her kitchen. Things go rapidly downhill from there, as each return to the market – for a red hen, a plump goose, a live trout, a spring lamb, a milking cow, a white duck and a stubborn goat – leads to greater chaos at home. Each time an animal arrives, the other animals are loose or running around or eating what they shouldn’t or generally making pests of themselves. They’re adorable pests, though, thanks to Janet Stevens’ endearing illustrations. “THIS IS THE LAST STRAW!” the shopping grandma finally shouts, as she finds the animals all over the place (the duck is on her head). “This place is a zoo!” she exclaims. “I’m hungry, I’m cranky – now what will I do?” But this grandmother is nothing if not resilient, and she takes all the animals back to the market (in fact, they take her, pushing the shopping cart in which she rides)…not to return them but to buy some delicious items that do not walk around or eat shoes. The eventual result is a lunch that everyone enjoys, followed on the final page by a much-needed nap, with everyone in a big pile. The oversize board-book display works especially well here, allowing the cluttered and chaotic scenes to be displayed in all their glorious messiness. It’s all silly, it’s all fun, and it’s all in a very apt format.