cover image JAG


LeAnn Rimes, , illus. by Richard Bernal. . Dutton/Preiss, $15.99 (40pp) ISBN 978-0-525-47155-4

Rimes, the Grammy-winning country music star and co-author of Holiday in the Heart, pens her first picture book; unfortunately, it's a poorly paced, saccharine outing. Jacqueline the Jaguar—Jag for short—dreads the first day of school in the rain forest. The tawny, dark-spotted heroine would much rather roar at butterflies and chat with wise Isabel the parrot than take fishing, climbing and swimming lessons. "Who needs that stuff?" Jag huffs. But Isabel predicts, "You're going to have to stand up to something very soon. Either your fears or your peers." As Jag enters school, Rimes describes jeering classmates and a hostile teacher. Conveniently Jag encounters another misfit, an all-black jaguar; in telling him to stand up for himself, she musters up the nerve to intimidate her classmates with a literally in-your-face roar. Bernal's (Fifteen Flamingos) sharp palette transports readers to a tranquil, lush setting. The strongly anthropomorphic jaguars, however, look less like majestic creatures than sports-team mascots. Both the text and the art drain the drama from the setting. Ages 4-8. (Aug.)