cover image ONE WIDE SKY: A Bedtime Lullaby

ONE WIDE SKY: A Bedtime Lullaby

Deborah Wiles, Debbie Wiles, , illus. by Tim Bowers. . Harcourt/Gulliver, $16 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-15-202334-8

The expansive summer sky that hangs over an idyllic backyard may get the title mention, but the real stars of this outdoor counting book are two young squirrels that appear in every spread (and who are referenced only once, as "two sleepyheads" near the end of the text). They cavort, observe, scavenge and stay a few steps ahead of a trio of boys and a mother, while Wiles (Love, Ruby Lavender) enumerates the backyard's charms forward and backward in rhyming couplets: "Nine clovers for a crown./ Ten whirligigs spinning round./ Nine shadows butter the yard./ Eight fence posts standing guard." Bowers's (the Little Whistle series) velvety oils chronicle the changing summer light as it deepens to a starry indigo. At the same time, he seamlessly blends detailed, heightened realism (seven sandbox dump trucks look as if they've been marooned in mounds of sugar) with subtly anthropomorphized comedy (the squirrels sport Chip and Dale–like expressions, and one beams a proud smile as it exhibits a nearly unbroken bread crust discarded by one of the children). The visual and verbal elements weave together all the components into a kind of sunlit tapestry: a clover garland made by a child in late afternoon transforms into a goodnight gift for the human mother, just as the squirrels' booty becomes a late night snack shared with the mother. A fitting tribute to the pleasures of a perfect day. Ages 2-5. (Apr.)