cover image Mathew Michael's Beastly Day

Mathew Michael's Beastly Day

Deborah Johnston. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt P, $14.95 (0pp) ISBN 978-0-15-200521-4

The concept of how it feels to be in another animal's skin is explored here, as a boy begins a day full of change. Slow to awaken, Mathew Michael soon discovers the reason for his dawdling: during the night, it seems, he has turned into a sloth. He scarcely has time to adjust to this new identity when bearlike rumblings of hunger impel his metamorphosis even further. In additional transformations he becomes a white rabbit, a lion and ``the terrible Tyrannosaurus Rex.'' At the end of the day Mathew Michael decides that being himself is ``the very best of all''--but not for long. Though the premise here seems promising, Johnston's rather charmless execution is as two-dimensional as Chwast's artwork. The illustrations' vivid coloring and crisp outlines unfortunately cannot bring a needed sense of cheer or good humor to this lusterless work. Ages 4-8. (Oct.)