November 24, 2005


In My World. By Lois Ehlert. Voyager Books/Harcourt. $7.

King Bidgood’s in the Bathtub. By Audrey Wood. Illustrated by Don Wood. Harcourt. $17.95.

     All Lois Ehlert’s worlds are wonderful and filled with wonder.  In My World starts with a remarkable cutout cover that seems to put the whole world in the reader’s hand, then continues with page after page of cutout shapes accompanied by no more than a word or two.  Ehlert introduces the shapes by saying, “My world is made of things I like.”  A cutout of an insect says “creeping” on one side of the page and “bugs” when you turn to the other side.  Other cutouts are described as “wiggling…worms,” “singing…birds,” and so on.  It is the layering of these designs and their colors that produces the appearance of a whole world when you close the book and look again at the cover.  The effect is splendid.  Some individual cutouts are exceptionally clever, such as one that says “splashing rain” on one side of the page and “glittering stars” when you turn to the other side, and one of the “glowing moon” that also shows stars.  Ehlert is an expert at producing complexity through the layering on of simplicity.  By the end of this book, when she returns to narrative form to urge readers to touch, hear, taste, look at and pick up the real-world versions of her cutouts and to love them all, there is nothing a sensitive reader would rather do.

     Ehlert’s world is the real world seen differently.  Audrey and Don Wood’s world of King Bidgood is a different world seen exceptionally realistically, thanks to Don Wood’s meticulously detailed drawings.  Audrey Wood’s story is a delightful bit of absurdity.  The Page who attends King Bidgood in his bath announces that the king refuses to come out of the water.  A succession of nobles tries to persuade him to leave, but each of them merely ends up in the tub with the king.  The Knight tells the king it is time to battle, but the king insists on a battle in the tub, complete with beautifully rendered toy ships and medieval fighters.  The Queen says it is time for lunch, but the king insists on having an exceptionally sumptuous meal in the water.  The Duke says it is time to go fishing, but the king insists on fishing in the tub, and the Page ends up burdened under a huge mound of flopping fish.  In the end, it is left to the Page himself to figure out what to do – and he comes up with a very neat solution indeed.  This edition of King Bidgood’s in the Bathtub comes with a wonderful bonus: a CD of six original songs that tell parts of the story to music.  Now the tale is great fun to read, to look at, and to hear – a veritable multimedia extravaganza.

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