cover image The Rooster's Gift

The Rooster's Gift

Pam Conrad, Eric Beddows. HarperCollins Publishers, $15.95 (0pp) ISBN 978-0-06-023603-8

As ""yellows pirouetted into the clouds"" and the ""sky ran from black, to indigo, to blue,"" Young Rooster is sure that his ""Cot Cot Cot Cot Ca-toodle tooooooo!"" has made the dawn appear: ""I make the day. That's my Gift."" But when he is late getting to the roof one morning, Rooster is surprised to discover that the day has begun quite nicely all the same. ""How could you go on without me?"" he cries. He is devastated, until Smallest Hen proves that although his ""Gift"" is not quite as important as ""pulling the sun out of the night,"" his ability to announce the day splendidly is ""a Gift nonetheless."" The late Conrad's (The Tub People) barnyard tale is exceedingly well-crafted--filled with shining descriptions of sunrise, engaging characters, captivating dialogue and a storytelling voice that rings true. Beddows's (Joyful Noise; Zoom at Sea) eschews his characteristic black-and-white drawings in favor of dazzling full-color paintings that both support and extend the story. He portrays small Hen's concern and Rooster's well-feathered plumage with gentle humor, and at book's end, when the sun rises over the glowing patchwork countryside ""like the most glorious egg in the world,"" the reader, like Smallest Hen, will enthusiastically say, ""Well done."" Ages 4-8. (Sept.)