cover image Green as a Bean

Green as a Bean

Karla Kuskin, , illus. by Melissa Iwai. . HarperCollins/Geringer, $16.99. (32pp) ISBN 978-0-06-075332-0

Kuskin's 1960 text, Square as a House , gets a new title and, thanks to Iwai's (B Is for Bulldozer ) velvety, fanciful pictures, a new lease on life. With a bespectacled, wide-eyed boy serving as a pretend tour guide, the book unfolds in a series of rhyming "What if" musings. Instead of riffing on the usual sort of role-playing, Kuskin asks readers to think in more abstract, thought-provoking arenas—such as colors and textures, sounds and sizes—and consider the array of possibilities this opens up to them. "If you could be green/ would you be a lawn/ or a lean green bean/ and the stalk it's on?/ ... / Tell me, lean green one,/ what would you be?" A few pages later she wonders, "If you could be loud/ would you be the sound/ of thunder at night/ or the howl of a hound/ as he bays at the moon/ or the pound of the sea?/ Tell me, proud loud one,/ what would you be?" Iwai smoothes out the lines between reality and fantasy in her lushly colored vignettes, depicting a full moon smiling at the boy's pooch as he sets sail over a swirling sea. Kuskin's internal rhymes and highly visual examples set the stage for Iwai's solid, simple shapes. The recurring refrain ("Tell me...") subtly conveys to readers that while imagination is a powerful tool, they are fully in control of it. Ages 3-8. (Feb.)