Picture This...

Alison Jay, Author, Alison Jay, Illustrator, Janet Lawler, Author Dutton Books $16.99 (40p) ISBN 978-0-525-46380-1
Nostalgic images of a country landscape disguise this picture book's visual complexity. At first glance, nothing seems out of the ordinary. British author/artist Jay provides a set of gorgeous illustrations in the American primitive style, each labeled with a quaint word such as ""tortoise"" or ""umbrella."" However, the author has more than a spelling lesson in mind. The sequence begins with the lowercase word ""clock"" and a picture of the face of a grandfather clock, a pairing that looks easy until ""Hickory Dickory Dock"" enthusiasts notice the hour (almost one o'clock) and the gray mouse atop the timepiece. Decorative images surround the clock face, alluding to the four seasons and to forthcoming pictures of, for instance, a ""snail"" and ""cat."" Later in the volume, a yellow tabby refers back to the opening image of the cat pictured on the clock and also directs readers' attention to new objects, including a fire engine-red ""airplane"" loop-de-looping in the summer sky. Meanwhile, other visual allusions (to Jack and Jill, for example, and the Tortoise and the Hare) draw on nursery lore. The concluding winter scene, captioned simply ""snowman,"" again recalls the clock and reactivates the book's cycle. Jay sets all the scenes in a seaside orchard among rolling hills; her luxurious palette includes custard colorsDavocado green, robin's egg blue, vanilla white and peachy goldDand the paintings have the crackled surface of antique porcelain. Fans of such brainteasers as David Wiesner's Tuesday and Joan Steiner's Look-Alikes will be charmed by this pictorial puzzler. Ages 2-5. (May)
Reviewed on: 05/01/2000
Release date: 05/01/2000
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