The Perfect Gift

Mary Newell DePalma, Author . Scholastic/Levine $16.99 (32p) ISBN 978-0-545-15402-4

Lori the lorikeet (a small parrot) tries to fly across a river carrying a strawberry for her grandmother, but suddenly—“hip hop plop!”—it's gone. A chipmunk, goose, and frog all help get it back, but it's then lost to a crocodile in order to save the gang from certain doom. Now without a gift, the animals “put their beaks and jaws, feathers and paws together” and make a storybook for Grandma about their adventures. DePalma's (A Grand Old Tree ) scratchy-textured acrylic illustrations depict the river in cross-section, as blue-green drops, splashes, and waves convey drama. The crisis with the crocodile has the grace of a ballet, but the story seems top-heavy with big themes: the loss of something precious, escape from an enemy, and the collaborative storybook effort. Lori grows as a character, though; the loss of her berry makes her sit down and cry like a toddler, but she saves her friends from the crocodile and coordinates the book project with a cool head. Lots of action and a satisfying ending will please young readers. Ages 4–8. (Jan.)