Gary Bowen, Author, Warren Kimble, Illustrator , illus. by Warren Kimble. HarperCollins $17.95 (48p) ISBN 978-0-06-028408-4

Rendered in paint on wood, Kimble's (Warren Kimble: American Folk Artist) antique-looking folk art occasions this attenuated, hokey tale about an unnamed animal portraitist who wanders the Vermont countryside looking for work during the summer of 1846. Both the credibility and flow of the narrative stumble as Bowen (My Village, Sturbridge) strains his plot to accommodate the pictures. Traveling from town to town, the protagonist learns that animals of all species—and of all colors save white—have been disappearing. The only witnesses are other animals, and though he has a knack for interpreting animal language, the artist cannot decipher the word "Ite-osh-urr," which each of them repeats (most readers will quickly connect the phrase to the whitewasher hovering around the scene of the crime). Despite some threads that are left hanging, the dual mystery of the missing animals and the unintelligible utterings is solved during an auction of white livestock at a county fair. Presented as a series of dated entries, the prose attempts to capture a period feeling while adapting a tongue-in-cheek humor: "A tragedy was suffered by the residents of Hinesburg when red hens disappeared from numerous coops, leaving young chicks as orphans!" Locals may enjoy the references to Vermont cities (in order of their appearance, their initials spell "whitewasher"), but the chief appeal here will be to existing fans of Kimble's art. Ages 6-10. (May)

Reviewed on: 05/14/2001
Release date: 05/01/2001
Hardcover - 48 pages - 978-0-06-028407-7
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