cover image SO HAPPY


Kevin Henkes, , illus. by Anita Lobel. . HarperCollins/Greenwillow, $15.99 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-06-056483-4

Henkes (Kitten's First Full Moon ) here concentrates on the text, interweaving the stories of a magic seed, a bored boy and a stranded rabbit into a spare narrative. Lobel (On Market Street ) gives the threefold tale a Mexican or South American setting, conveyed with an illustration facing the title page: the boy and his mother, dressed in brightly patterned clothing, wave goodbye to the vaquero father as he rides off into a desert landscape. Lobel inventively emphasizes the trio of themes with pages often divided into three panels that visually tell the concurrent stories, which unfold in brief, declarative statements: "The seed was thirsty./ The rabbit was lost./ The boy was bored." Swirls of Van Gogh–esque brushwork emphasize the imminent drama in nature, while the boy's sterile white environment stresses his inactivity. The three subjects begin to intersect after a rainstorm in which the boy plays, the seed grows and the rabbit becomes trapped by a quickly filling creek bed. In complementary contrast to the minimalist story, which could take place in any setting, Lobel uses deliberate, heavy brush strokes to depict the desert's flora and fauna (purple hills, spotted frogs, prickly cactus) and vividly evokes the movement of sky and water. When the amaryllis-like flower bursts from the seed (the boy picks it for his mother, who planted it) and the rabbit arrives home (courtesy of the boy's playtime endeavors), young readers will be left with a comforting feeling of the world's interconnectedness (even the father returns in the final spread). Ages 2-up. (Mar.)