cover image WHAT'S THE MAGIC WORD?


Kelly DiPucchio, , illus. by Marsha Winborn. . HarperCollins, $15.99 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-06-000578-8

Youngsters may well know the answer to the titular question, but the book's hero must learn the hard way. Bounced around the farm by gusts of wind, the newly hatched Little Bird seeks shelter with a variety of barnyard inhabitants. But each animal first asks to hear "the magic word" in its particular language (e.g., "Moo-moo" for the cow, "Buzz-buzz" for the bee). Consequently, whatever Little Bird learns in one environment doesn't carry over to the next. "Bow-wow?" offers Little Bird to a family of owls, having just been blown over from the doghouse. "No, no," reply the owls. "Haven't you heard? Hoo-hoo is the magic word, silly Little Bird!" At long last, the wind blows the poor chick back to his own nest, where his mother awaits with a hug and instruction: "Come in Little Bird. Get out of that breeze! And haven't you heard? The magic word is... Please!" The premise doesn't bear close scrutiny (Why would Mama Bird require a human word if none of the other animals do?) but DiPucchio (Liberty's Journey ) and Winborn (A Valentine for Norman Noggs ) smooth over the lack of logic. The brisk text swirls around the pages in imitation of the blustery winds, and gentle slapstick punctuates the meticulously detailed watercolors. It also helps that fluffy and ever-game Little Bird is an irresistible hero—even when he lands headfirst in the dog's water dish. Ages 3-6. (Jan.)