cover image How to Grow a Picket Fence

How to Grow a Picket Fence

Mary Louise Cuneo. HarperCollins Publishers, $15 (0pp) ISBN 978-0-06-020863-9

The opening page of this whimsical volume tips off readers that it is no ordinary how-to manual: ``Follow a sidewalk until you find an empty lot. It's been on the corner for years, beneath the noticing of its neighbors, who are three-story houses.'' Following the text's directions, a boy and his yellow-and-green spotted dog gather white sticks and plant them at the edge of the lot. The child then mixes fertilizer in a giant watering can: ``You nourish the sticks with something vanilla, like daisy pudding with milk.'' The sticks are then covered ``white socks as old as a grandmother's bag of scraps, and laundered, and dried on the grass.'' The sticks grow until they reach ``a sudden height'' and become full-fledged pickets, ``all of them friends, and holding hands.'' The boy harvests the crop, which wins him a first-prize ribbon at the fair for Best Fence. With its droll perspectives and vivid hues, Westcott's (illustrator of Dinner at the Panda Palace ) art is as fanciful as first-time author Cuneo's lilting lines. This adventuresome collaboration will plant new thoughts in fertile young imaginations. Ages 5-8. (May)