cover image SLITHERY JAKE


Rose-Marie Provencher, Rose Marie Burns, , illus. by Abby Carter. . HarperCollins, $15.99 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-06-623820-3

The star of this mildly diverting rhyming tale gives its young human owner the slip almost as soon as it arrives in the house. Comic chaos and paranoia quickly set in, as the entire family simultaneously searches for and seeks to avoid the snake named Jake: "Grandmother fainted while stirring the stew,/ For one of the noodles looked like—you know who," writes Provencher (Mouse Cleaning ). Carter (The Invisible Day ) renders her daily-life-run-amok situations in translucent washes of color, but the combination of exaggeration and delicacy does not quite coalesce. Still, the illustrator wins points for gamely playing up each vignette's slapstick quotient for all it's worth—in one scene, a terrified Aunt Annie flies down the stairs and almost off the page, her eyes bugged and every molar in her gaping mouth delineated. Just when things look darkest for Jake ("I hear they exterminate snakes," says Aunt Annie as she departs indignantly), Pa proposes that the family "camp out till we find where the danged thing is hid./ .../ We'll sleep where he ain't till we know where he is ." Even youngest readers will anticipate that this strategy will have the opposite outcome, but they'll get a giggle from Jake's reappearance all the same. Ages 4–up. (Jan.)