cover image Alvah and Arvilla

Alvah and Arvilla

Mary Lyn Ray. Harcourt Children's Books, $14.95 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-15-202655-4

The cheerfully offbeat tone of this picture book renders it both an homage to and a send-up of farm life. Because of the demands of their farm, Alvah and Arvilla are never able to take ``trips they could send postcards from.'' Then Arvilla, overcome by a desire to see the Pacific Ocean, devises the perfect solution: ``If it's the animals keeping us here, we'll take the animals with us.'' They build a greenhouse-type contraption onto the back of their wagon, load it with furniture, clothes, food and animals, and set out on a cross-country journey. Root's (The Araboolies of Liberty Street) watercolor and gouache illustrations expand on the book's outlandish premise. One hilarious spread shows the teeming menagerie as its members crane their necks out the windows, curiously taking in the changing American landscape. Ray (previously teamed with Root for Pumpkins) delivers the tale with mock-serious aplomb: ``And the next day, observing local custom, they all lay on the beach while Arvilla wrote postcards.'' A wacky celebration to inspire road-trippers everywhere. Ages 5-8. (Sept.)