cover image RUB-A-DUB-SUB


Linda Ashman, , illus. by Jeff Mack. . Harcourt, $16 (40pp) ISBN 978-0-15-202658-5

A pint-sized Jacques Cousteau plunges down into the ocean depths in an orange submarine to explore its treasures: "Diving with a silky seal./ Darting by a dancing eel," writes Ashman (Babies on the Go), her couplets set in undulating type. Mack, making an impressive debut, populates his brilliant turquoise backdrops with comically exaggerated critters intrigued by the aquanaut's presence. At the same time, the artist skillfully combines neon-bright colors and intricate textures (like the patterns of brain coral or spines of a puffer fish) to heighten the setting's exotic beauty. When a big blue shark sizes up the sub for a snack (a scene where Mack has great fun with contrasting scale and hues of blue), the boy decides to make a quick exit, bidding farewell to all he's encountered: "Good-bye grass!/ So long, wrasse!/ Flee the jaw!/ Clip the claw!" Some readers may not be surprised by the ending ("Rising quickly in my sub,/ to the safety of my..." accompanies the telltale brightness of the water's surface), but all will appreciate being asked along for this enchanting ride. Ages 2-5. (May)