cover image Nicholas Cricket

Nicholas Cricket

Joyce Maxner, Maxner. HarperCollins, $14 (25pp) ISBN 978-0-06-024216-9

The too-sweet language of this bedtime rhyme is belied by Joyce's dark and atmospheric illustrations. Every night Nicholas Cricket plays his banjo with the Bug-a-Wug Cricket Band. ``Moonlight glows and summer wind blows,'' as ``peep-peep-peepers come dancing through the vines'' and ``rabbits come dancing on tip-tippy toes'' because ``the music is just so grand.'' The poem's meter is annoyingly irregular--``In the blue blue night / when the moon is bright / underneath the leaves of summer, / if we're quiet and quick''--and often predictable. But Joyce ( Dinosaur Bob and His Adventures with the Family Lazardo ; George Shrinks ) cleverly evokes the dimly lit speakeasies of Hollywood. Monocled, zoot-suited insects frequent Nick's Cafe where a lady bug wears a red fez, a turtle sports a top hat, and at dawn ``the Bug-a-Wugs grow sleepy and still.'' Ages 4-8. (Sept.)