A Day at Damp Camp

George Ella Lyon, Author, Peter Catalanotto, Illustrator Orchard Books (NY) $15.95 (1p) ISBN 978-0-531-09504-1
Part visual puzzle, part linguistic romp, this collaboration by Lyon and Catalanotto (Who Came Down That Road?, see below) contains a slight, implied story about two girls at camp, but tells it in an unusual way--with no dialogue and no narration, and with images that nest inside one another like Russian dolls. The reader infers, for example, that the two main characters are named Megan and Sarah, but knows these names only because they are stenciled on the camp clothes shown on the endpapers. Like a staccato accompaniment to a wordless story, the text is a series of three, two-word rhymes that appear in bold black letters--""frog log/ bug tug/ snake shake."" Catalanotto's luminous paintings, like a trio of different-sized cards, lie on top of each other, the top card seen in its entirety and the other two visible only as borders; e.g., an outside border reveals the campers' intent faces as they watch a frog (""frog log""), the inner border features a closeup of squirming ants (""bug tug""), and the full-view painting in the center shows the campers running away from a snake (""snake shake""). Lyon occasionally strains at rhymes (what is an ""own stone""?), but the alert reader can piece together the activities the girls share at ""Damp Camp."" The sparse plot, based almost entirely on pictorial cues, will frustrate readers who want something to sink their teeth into, but visually oriented readers may enjoy the challenge of finding a story between the rhymes. Ages 6-8. (Mar.)
Reviewed on: 03/04/1996
Release date: 03/01/1996
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