cover image That Is Not a Good Idea!

That Is Not a Good Idea!

Mo Willems. HarperCollins/Balzer + Bray, $17.99 (48p) ISBN 978-0-06-220309-0

Willems, whose Goldilocks and the Three Dinosaurs also operated on a balance of threat and humor, models this suspenseful picture book after a silent movie. The sequence concerns a dastardly villain, played by a smirking fox in a top hat, and an ingenue, played by a coy duck in a blue headscarf. The fox invites the sweet-looking duck “for a stroll.” When she agrees, he asks, “Would you care to continue our walk into the deep, dark woods?” “Sounds fun!” she answers. Each time the duck accepts the fox’s invitations, an increasingly alarmed audience of six yellow peeps pops up to shout some version of the title: “That is not a good idea!” This being a Willems vehicle, a sudden twist reveals which character the peeps have been addressing all along. Cinematic conventions, like neatly framed white-on-black intertitles and gauzy iris-eye close-ups of the eyelash-batting heroine, join allusions to classics like “Henny Penny,” Rosie’s Walk, and perhaps even Mighty Mouse. Trust Willems to blend silents, animation, and comics for a wickedly droll poultry-in-peril yarn. Ages 4–8. Agent: Marcia Wernick, Wernick & Pratt. (Apr.)