cover image Guess What?

Guess What?

Mem Fox. Harcourt Children's Books, $16 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-15-200452-1

Just as actors are occasionally miscast, so too can authors and illustrators be mismatched by the powers that be in publishing: Fox's latest picture book is a classic example. Her bare-bones storyline, in which she poses and answers a series of questions about a witch named Daisy O'Grady, isn't the problem--although it is surprisingly pedestrian--rather, the blunder is with the choice of illustrator. In a book aimed at very young children, Goodman's surreal visions, at times reminiscent of Hieronymus Bosch, far too often overstep the bounds of good taste--and even stray into the Freudian, as in one instance where a dead fish dangles from a pair of panties hanging on a clothesline. The sophomoric humor (a jar is labeled ``Porksnot & Co.--Mucus Pickle''), of the sort that delights readers of Mad magazine, will go right over the heads of the intended audience. They, unfortunately, will more likely focus on the book's nightmarish elements: insects crawling in the witch's bed, an owl with a dead mouse in his beak and the frightening visage of Daisy O'Grady herself. On all counts, this is a peculiar production. Ages 3-up. (Sept.)