cover image Under Your Feet

Under Your Feet

Joanne Ryder. Four Winds, $14.95 (0pp) ISBN 978-0-02-777955-4

Like their Step into the Night and Mockingbird Morning , Ryder and Nolan's quiet picture book portrays a child observing natural wonders. This time Ryder asks readers to be aware of creatures who live under the earth's surface--moles, worms, salamanders, snakes, otters. The tone is reverent and hushed, the illustrations splendidly vibrant and accurate. A cross-section of earth reveals the boy above tying his hiking boot while below him ``Thousands of worms / huddle in balls / deep in the ground, / breathing quietly / through their soft skins.'' Ryder attempts to unify the book structurally with frequent mention of the seasons and by repeating the refrain ``Can you feel them?'' but the devices often seem strained. Rather than suggesting that the reader imagine scenes below, the author becomes overly literal when she asks, ``Can you feel jumping mice dreaming / of warm spring nights?'' or ``Can you feel worms resting / safe and warm / all winter long?'' Nevertheless, both language and art offer an intriguing look at the world under children's feet. Ages 5-8. (Mar.)