cover image BIG BEAR BALL


Joanne Ryder, , illus. by Steven Kellogg. . HarperCollins, $15.95 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-06-027955-4

As Ryder's (Each Living Thing) rollicking rhythm makes clear, it's hoe-down time in the forest, and troupes of gussied-up bears arrive by hot-air balloon to cavort and caper by the light of the full moon. The bears believe everyone needs to boogie—on the forest floor and atop the tree trunks: "Now thump those stumps/ and wake the moles," proclaims the fiddling bear who serves as both the dance caller and narrator. "Let's rouse the foxes from their holes." The poor foxes wave a flag of surrender, and moles are clearly not amused ("Kindly do not disturb," reads a sign on the door), but on the next spread they, too, are cutting a rug. A few pages later, a huge gator also joins in, transforming the festivities into a pool party. With the blue hues of moonlight predominating, Kellogg covers every inch of the spreads with layers of translucent watercolor. He captures the bears' amiable plumpness and the unfettered high spirits of all the partygoers. Ryder's square-dance cadences will reward listeners of any age willing to assume a jaunty country-western twang. Ages 3-6. (June)