Mammoths on the Move
Lisa Wheeler. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt P, $16 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-15-204700-9
Cyrus's (Avalanche Annie) spectacular scratchboard-and-watercolor illustrations steal the show in this rhyming salute to the giants of the Ice Age-so much so that he makes the perky rhymes feel almost superfluous. Wheeler (Wool Gathering) has clearly researched her subject well, and her text bubbles with the enthusiasm of an elementary school teacher. But the cheery tone and factual presentation at times seem at odds. In one early spread, Wheeler writes: ""Their feet like snowshoes, wide and flat,/ had rough-skinned soles designed so that/ they would not slip on ice and snow./ Steady mammoths-time to go!/ Stepping, stomping,/ marching, tromping-/ Watch out,/ woolly mammoths!"" What Cyrus depicts in the accompanying illustration, however, is more complex, dramatic-and poignant. As snow swirls around an icy green-blue sky, a line of mammoths trudges across the spread; at the far left, only an enormous leg can be seen placing its foot in the snow, while at the other end, a baby mammoth gamely follows the company's huge leader. As in all the pages, Cyrus renders the mammals' shaggy hides with a gorgeous chiaroscuro effect, using hundreds of closely placed silvery vertical scratches to evoke the thickness and warmth that enveloped and protected the creatures. There are many more extraordinary pages in this book (including an underwater view that shows readers what the mammoths looked like while swimming) that will wow fans of the prehistoric beasts. Ages 4-8.
Reviewed on: 04/03/2006