WHICH WOULD YOU RATHER BE?

William Steig, Author, Harry Bliss, Illustrator
William Steig, Author, Harry Bliss, Illustrator , illus. by Harry Bliss. HarperCollins/ Cotler $15.95 (32p) ISBN 978-0-06-029653-7
Reviewed on: 05/20/2002
Release date: 06/01/2002
Hardcover - 978-0-06-009151-4
Library Binding - 32 pages - 978-0-06-029654-4
Paperback - 32 pages - 978-0-06-443792-9
Prebound-Other - 32 pages - 978-0-606-33316-0
Prebound-Sewn - 978-1-4177-0269-5
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In this wonderfully economical exercise, a shrewd question-and-answer format harmonizes with fine-tuned images. On almost every page, a big gray rabbit faces two children across an upside-down top hat. The rabbit is matter-of-fact, not cute. Voice bubbles contain its deadpan questions ("Which would you rather be?/ A stick/ or a stone?/ …/ A cat/ or a dog?"), as each possibility emerges from the hat and the children react with a word or a gesture. When the dog chases the cat, the girl shoots an irritated look at her laughing friend, who shouts, "A dog!" As a hockey player crawls from the hat ("A boy"), the displeased girl crosses her arms. Her scowl turns to a competitive smirk when the next question ("or a girl?") suggests the skater could be female. After "an elephant" fills the page, only the boy's departing foot can be seen as the children retreat; when "a crocodile" lunges out, a well-placed voice bubble and the croc's gaze indicate that all three players have exited stage right. Bliss (illus. of A Fine, Fine School) composes his wry illustrations on a blank white ground in the fluid style of Charles M. Schulz or Crockett Johnson, and he loads his characters' every movement with subtle meaning. As in his Pete's a Pizza, Steig provides many more options than hard-and-fast rules, leaving the continuation of this game to the bemused audience. Ages 3-7. (June)

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