June 17, 2010


Animal Soup: A Mixed-Up Animal Flap Book. By Todd H. Doodler. Golden Books. $10.99.

Dancing Feet! By Lindsey Craig. Illustrations by Marc Brown. Knopf. $16.99.

Happy Birthday, Little Pookie. By Sandra Boynton. Robin Corey Books. $5.99.

Pinkalicious and the Pink Drink. By Victoria Kann. HarperFestival. $3.99.

     Silliness rules in these books for ages 3-7, or (in some cases) even younger. Todd Doodler (whose real name is Todd H. Goldman, but Doodler certainly fits) creates side-by-side pictures of googly-eyed creatures in Animal Soup, then uses full-page flaps on each right-hand page to combine the critters into something super-silly. Bird plus turtle equals “birdle,” complete with wings sticking out of the holes in a turtle’s shell; flamingo plus monkey equals “flamonkey,” with pink bird body and brown money head and tail, standing in the water on one monkey leg; and so on. The funniest drawing answers the question, “What would I be if I liked to eat nuts – and swim in the deep blue sea?” The answer, of course, is “squale” (squirrel plus whale), and the creature has gray fur and a huge fluffy tail, plus a whale’s mouth, with two squirrel teeth at the front – and it spouts water with an acorn on top. Young kids will have a lot of fun with the individual pictures (the octopus is especially adorable) as well as the combinations (add the octopus to a crocodile and you get a “croctopus” with scaly skin, eight legs and a bewildered expression). Animal Soup is yummy from start to finish.

     Animals are featured as well throughout Dancing Feet! Here, everything from the small (ladybug) to the huge (elephant) is tripping the light fantastic, bouncing along to Lindsey Craig’s rhythmic poetry: “Slappity! Slappity! Webbed orange feet! Who is dancing that slappity beat? Ducks are dancing on slappity feet. Slappity! Slappity! Happy feet!” There is no plot here, just a series of animals and insects dancing along until, at the end, children join in – dressed in ways that let them imitate the sounds of the critters’ feet (a girl wearing swim fins makes the “slappity” of the ducks, for example). The fun continues right over to the inside back cover, where each child is dancing with the animal whose feet make similar sounds. Marc Brown’s paper-collage illustrations – which include a caterpillar homage to Eric Carle’s very hungry one – match the book’s wonderfully upbeat mood and add to the fun because of the way Brown creates the tracks of the feet (the “clickity” lizard footprints are especially good). This is a get-up-and-dance book that even very young children will surely enjoy.

     Children and parents alike will get a kick, if not a dance, from Sandra Boynton’s Happy Birthday, Little Pookie, which is filled with adorable Boynton pigs doing adorable Boynton piggy things. In this case, everything focuses on Little Pookie’s birthday, which starts when it is still pitch-black outside, because little Pookie is too excited to sleep. But he does finally go back to bed, at the urging of his mom, who promises him “a whole day of birthday surprises.” Well, then, how about a day starting at 5:32 a.m.? That is the time at which “the birthday Pook” leaps atop his parents’ bed and insists they get up – which, bleary-eyed, they do. The rest of this short board book is about little Pookie’s birthday surprises, which include pancakes in pig shape (“with blueberries, lemon, and strawberry cream”), a balloon, a nap (which the parents need more than little Pookie does), and finally a birthday cake and a special present: “a FUZZY FROGGY” that little Pookie quickly names Irving. Filled with gentle humor and typical Boynton expressiveness, Happy Birthday, Little Pookie will delight even the youngest child – as long as he or she knows what a birthday is.

     The silliness is in a different style in the new adventure of Pinkalicious, Pinkalicious and the Pink Drink. Victoria Kann’s pink-loving girl wants to make some money to buy 35 pink gumballs, so she decides to sell pink lemonade – but when her mom helps her assemble and mix the ingredients, the result turns out to be “yummy. But it wasn’t pink.” So when mom is busy somewhere else, Pinkalicious goes to the refrigerator and finds everything she can that’s pink or pinkish: “pink grapefruit, pink watermelon, pink frosting, and a bowlful of purplicious beets.” She stirs everything into the drink, which her brother tastes and pronounces “kind of chewy. I like it.” Others are not so sure – and then the concoction spills, and when Pinkalicious goes to make some more, her mother notices all the stuff that Pinkalicious intends to use and suggests a different way to make the drink pink: strawberries. Problem solved; drink pinked; gumballs bought (only nine, not 35, but that’s okay); and Pinkalicious starts thinking about her next pink project: a bake sale featuring pink cupcakes. Simply and amusingly told, with a central character whose misunderstandings harm no one and actually turn out to be fun, Pinkalicious and the Pink Drink will be a warm-weather favorite for pink promoters everywhere.

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