cover image The Magic Cornfield

The Magic Cornfield

Nancy Willard. Harcourt Children's Books, $16 (48pp) ISBN 978-0-15-201428-5

Marching determinedly to her own drummer, Willard (A Visit to William Blake's Inn; The Good-Night Blessing Book) once again emerges with an unconventional picture book. Pairing carefully crafted photographs with fictitious postcards (replete with themed postage stamps and postmarks from such quaint corners of the world as What Cheer, Iowa and Hungry Horse, Montana), she spins an eccentric yarn about Bottom and Tottem, cousins bent on a 100th birthday get-together. En route, Tottem strays into a magical cornfield and wanders for months in a Wonderland-like world where everything is peculiar and nothing is explained (and where angels--clearly still Willard's muses--appear with regularity). Tottem is accompanied by an assortment of bizarre traveling companions and followed by a mailbox, which helps him keep his cousin posted of his whereabouts. While there's much to intrigue here visually, the story feels contrived, as if it might be merely a means of stringing together groups of historic stamps and oddball postmarks. Too, the cleverness of this weird journey reflects an adult sensibility, and young readers, who generally demand more than a threadbare story line, may be left cold. Ages 6-10. (Apr.)