cover image A Beasty Story

A Beasty Story

Bill Martin, Jr.. Silver Whistle Books, $17 (40pp) ISBN 978-0-15-201683-8

""Nick's Tricks and Hank's Pranks, Incorporated"" are the words painted on the side of a truck rolling through the forest on the front endpaper of this mischievous caper; mice Nick and Hank themselves surface on the title page, offering observant youngsters a clue to the plot that lies ahead. In large type well geared to beginning readers, the text sets the scene for each spread--and reinforces knowledge of colors: ""In a dark, dark wood there is a dark, dark house./ In the dark brown house there is a dark, dark stair."" Appearing in speech balloons within the whimsical illustrations, the ingenuous, rhyming dialogue of four wide-eyed mice supplements the narrative. The intrepid mice venture into the shadow-filled house and creep down a dark, dark red staircase to a cellar with dark, dark blue walls, and so forth, until they find a dark, dark green bottle. The ""beast"" that floats out of it is only the first of the book's surprises. A high-spirited balance of concept book and adventure tale, this should find an enthusiastic reception among the many fans of Martin (Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?) and Kellogg (Is Your Mama a Llama?). Both artist and illustrator shine as they playfully illuminate this ""dark, dark"" setting. Ages 3-7. (Aug.)