Is There Really a Human Race?
This circuitous tale from the creators of It's Hard to Be Five opens with a series of questions: "Is there really/ a human race?/ Is it going on now all over the place?/ When did it start?/ Who said, 'Ready, Set, Go'?/ Did it start on my birthday?/ I really must know." Cornell quickly livens up the proceedings, however, with a spread of newborns lined up in a nursery, suggesting clues to their futures. One sunglasses-sporting infant holds an Oscar statuette, another chews on the tassel of a graduation cap. The relay race metaphor plays out as Cornell pictures a diverse spectrum of people dashing about madly, and the narrator poses more questions: "Is the race like a loop/ or an obstacle course?/ Am I a jockey,/ or am I a horse?" After asking why he is doing "this zillion-yard dash," the lad observes that if we don't help each other, we're all going to "crash." Switching to the mother's perspective, the narrative emphasizes the importance of taking one's time, trying one's best ("that's more important than beating the rest") and making the world a better place "for the whole human race." Curtis's message has merit, yet its singsong delivery seems muddled. Yet fans of this duo may well be carried along by Cornell's bustling, whimsical art, overflowing with quirky particulars that celebrate the diversity of people everywhere. All ages. (Sept.)