Smile if You're Human) describes the prehistor"/>

OSCAR AND ARABELLA

Neal Layton, Author . Hodder $13.95 (27p) ISBN 978-0-340-79719-8

In this amiable volume, which recently won a bronze award in the 2002 Smarties competition in the U.K., Layton (Smile if You're Human) describes the prehistoric pastimes of two woolly mammoths. Besides "snacking on leaves and berries," chocolate-brown Oscar and caramel-colored Arabella enjoy "painting pictures,/ and getting in a mess." Holding a twig and chalk in their trunks, the tuskers graffiti a cave wall ("Oscar waz ere"), heedless of the Lascaux-style watercolors of elk and bison that decorate its gray surface. Afterward, they furtively investigate the cave ("They liked exploring,/ but didn't like the dark"), and come upon a grouchy caveman tending a fire. "They liked making friends,/ but not with wild and dangerous animals," so they flee across a snowy, mountainous landscape with the club-wielding Neanderthal in bumbling pursuit. Layton scribbles his naïve drawings in ink and crayon. He pictures Arabella with long curving tusks and tiny pink ears (technically, she might be a mastodon), and Oscar with short tusks, floppy ears and an anachronistic, brightly striped stocking cap. The author doesn't ruin the nutty comedy with any rude mention of extinction, other than to amend his statement "Woolly mammoths are cool" in favor of the past-tense "were." At the conclusion, the dejected caveman skulks away, leaving Oscar and Arabella to cavort in their icy habitat. Ages 3-5. (Feb.)

Reviewed on: 12/23/2002
Release date: 05/01/2002
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