cover image What Floats in a Moat?

What Floats in a Moat?

Lynne Berry, illus. by Matthew Cordell. Simon & Schuster, $17.99 (48p) ISBN 978-1-4169-9763-4

Archie, a goat, and Skinny, a chicken, are trying to reach a castle. The castle has a moat around it, and Skinny suggests the obvious: “We could just take the drawbridge.” Archie, whose knight’s helmet gives him an air of crusading zeal, has bigger plans. “This is a time for science!” he proclaims. Berry (Ducking for Apples) spins her tale with lighthearted, Gilbert and Sullivan–style patter: “ ‘To cross the moat,’ pronounced the goat, ‘we build a contraption to float!’ ” Experimenting with barrels and different quantities of buttermilk—Skinny reluctantly guzzling the excess—the two discover that a full barrel will sink, an empty barrel will roll, but a boat built from a half-empty barrel (the “S.S. Ballast”) will sail. The process of discovery entertains throughout, aided by Cordell’s (Hello! Hello!) loopy ink-and-wash vignettes, which he enlivens with hand-lettered “klunks” and “splashes.” Incidentally, Berry’s exposition of Archimedean discoveries about the displacement of water gives the scientific process of trial-and-error genuine drama. Mostly, though, it’s a highly enjoyable read-aloud whose characters are both eccentric and loveable. Ages 5–9. Agent: Rosemary Stimola, Stimola Literary Studio. (July)