Seymour (The Gulls of the Edmund Fitzgerald) has some fun with that old saw, ""stubborn as a mule"" in this leisurely paced picture book. Farmer Puckett plans to use the ""hu-mon-gous"" Jake Johnson to ""haul fireworks to the fairgrounds for the Independence Day Social."" Jake has other ideas. The mule plants his prodigious behind on the lawn, refuses to do a lick of work and stomps a hole in a water pipe when he gets thirsty. Jake doesn't budge until the Fourth of July, when Mrs. Puckett hitches him to the fireworks wagon and lights a blaze beneath him; subsequently, a strategic move from the mule starts the festivities ahead of schedule. Seymour's narrative adopts folksy inflections as the farmer attempts to prod Jake into a standing position (""Now you'd think a mule could only weigh so much""). Newcomer Carrington nods to Grant Wood's American Gothic with images of pitchfork-toting Farmer Puckett and his sourpuss spouse. The exaggerated acrylic paintings, which feature a blinding blue sky and summer-green grass, foreground the saucer-eyed, bucktoothed Jake and his stymied owners, and heighten the tall tale. Mrs. Puckett, who suggests that starving or beating the mule with a plank will get him to budge, proves the perfect foil for the kind farmer (""I wouldn't want to hurt the poor, sweet animal""). And Jake makes the most of the situation, eventually finding a new place to sit undisturbed--Carrington's closing shot of a sedentary Jake effortlessly bring readers full circle. Ages 4-7. (Mar.)
Reviewed on: 03/01/1999 Release date: 03/01/1999 Genre: Children's
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