cover image I Smell Honey: Family Celebration Board Books

I Smell Honey: Family Celebration Board Books

Andrea Davis Pinkney. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (HMH), $6.95 (8pp) ISBN 978-0-15-200640-2

The Pinkneys (Alvin Ailey) celebrate African American family life in this pair of board books. In I Smell Honey, a toddler watches her mother prepare a meal of sweet potato pie, fried catfish, red beans and collards; in Pretty Brown Face, a father and son, with the help of a mirror, enumerate the charms of the toddler's face. Andrea Pinkney's text for the more enjoyable Honey has a cheerful lilt--""We boil the greens./ Stir the beans./ Flip the fish./ Slice the pie""--and captures much of the simple ritual satisfaction of preparing a meal, as when the child narrator says, ""Feel wet leaves/ of collard greens."" But while the books convey palpable, affectionate warmth between child and parent, overall they may disappoint the Pinkneys' fans. The plain, literal illustrations are a departure from Brian Pinkney's more usual strong, dynamic work. In striving for a simpler style, he produces relatively monotonous settings and somewhat inexpressive faces. Ironically, the characters' features in Face are unattractively askew; and the wavy ""mirror"" in the back cover distorts readers' faces as much as in any funhouse. Ages 6 mos.-3 yrs. (Apr.)