Chris Conover, Retold by . FSG $16 (40p) ISBN 978-0-374-38043-4

A market square, a riverbank house among the tree roots, and a pumpkin patch make up the charming animal village that Conover (The Lion's Share ) conjures. A furry, bright-eyed otter keeps everyone dancing. With a text based on a traditional British song (the music appears on a final spread), the pictures recount the miracles the otter Tom brings about with his pipes. He lightens the load of weary travelers, and entices the fish out of the pond with his joyous notes. Conover drafts polished, winsome pictures that record baby Tom's first faltering notes, his young otter-hood, his courtship and wedding to Molly, and the birth of his namesake—who gets his start on the pipes while cradled adorably in Molly's arms. When Tom blows ("Tom played his pipes with such a fine skill,/ That those who heard him could never keep still"), rabbits, raccoons and even pigs in breeches and waistcoats take off dancing after him. The refrain ("Over the hills and a long way off/ The wind shall blow my top hat off") provides another visual subtext for children to trace. Decorated capitals show Tom growing taller; skillfully rendered Arthur-Rackham-style silhouettes run along the bottom of the text pages. Youngsters will pore over the pictures again and again. Ages 3-6. (Nov.)

Reviewed on: 01/10/2005
Release date: 10/01/2004
The Best Books, Emailed Every Week
Tip Sheet!