cover image Cook-A-Doodle-Doo!


Janet Stevens. Harcourt Children's Books, $17 (48pp) ISBN 978-0-15-201924-2

Stevens (Tops and Bottoms) and her sister cook up a boisterous romp as four animal friends set out to bake a strawberry shortcake. Rooster, tired of pecking for chicken feed, remembers that his famous great-grandmother (the Little Red Hen) wrote a cookbook, and in it he finds the recipe. Turtle, Iguana and Pig volunteer to help. If left solely to the text, the rest of the comedy-cum-cookery lesson would be fairly predictable: Turtle, reading the recipe, announces they need flour and Iguana rushes outside to pick a petunia; asked to beat an egg, Iguana hoists a baseball bat. (Handsomely illustrated sidebars explain most of the directions in depth.) Rooster sets Iguana straight while Pig keeps wanting to taste everything in sight. The illustrations, however, are startling in their pop-off-the-page dimensionality. In her characteristic style, Stevens mixes media, seamlessly combining paints, photos and computer art to witty effect; readers will want to look very closely to determine what's from real life and what's from a palette. Wearing their silly chef's hats (an inverted saucepan, an oven mitt, a kitchen towel and an apron), the four animals create a whirlwind of activity on every spread. Presiding adults should note that the strawberry shortcake recipe at the end is not as foolproof as the story would imply, even with the information in the sidebars; kids, enthused by the kitchen frolics depicted here, will surely want to attempt it. Ages 4-8. (Apr.)