Three: An Emberley Family Sketchbook

Edward R. Emberley, Author, Michael Emberley, Joint Author, Rebecca Emberley, Joint Author Little Brown and Company $17.45 (64p) ISBN 978-0-316-23506-8
This uneven project from the talented Emberley family brings together too many experiments to serve readers well. Each Emberley gets a separate section; the prolific Ed Emberley goes first. Using stiff, computer-generated images of people and animals, he lists ways of counting to three (""once, twice, thrice""), considers the ""tri-"" prefix and demonstrates how to use the bumpy ""3"" shape as a basis for drawing. Yet his segment bogs down in a 12-page simultaneous telling of the Three Little Pigs, the Three Bears and the Three Billy Goats Gruff, arranged one on top of the other in cartoon panels. Next, Ed's daughter Rebecca (Three Cool Kids) changes the tone with a series of poems, recipes and multimedia collages. ""Being able to illustrate whatever I want rather than having it all fit one story or concept is very unusual and wonderful,"" she writes cheerfully, typifying the volume's underlying note of self-indulgence. Un-fortunately, her pedestrian rhymes, about ""three peas in a pod"" and three ""slippery-slimy"" snakes, don't do justice to their arresting cut-paper-and-applique backdrops. Her brother Michael (Happy Birth Day!) offers more poems, with drawings inked or penciled on white negative space. The poems lack originality, but the artwork showcases a different style on each spread, from a preschool parable, ""Three Honey Bunnies,"" with thick black line and bold blocks of color to whirling color-pen sketches pulsing with a jazz beat in ""The Music Makers."" Taken individually, none of these units would be up to publishing par, and the combination here doesn't multiply the reader's enjoyment. Ages 7-10. (Sept.)
Reviewed on: 08/31/1998
Release date: 09/01/1998
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