cover image DINNERTIME!


Sue Williams, , illus. by Kerry Argent. . Harcourt, $16 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-15-216471-3

A voracious fox pursues a half dozen bunnies throughout sunlit, rolling farmland, as the ominous titular cry fills the air. "Run, fat rabbits! Run, run, run!/ That fox wants to eat you,/ one by one!/ Dinnertime!" writes Williams (I Went Walking) in what becomes the book's refrain. Argent's (Wombat Divine) fox, a full-fledged menace, boasts spectacular leaping abilities and a fang-endowed mouth. One by one, the rabbits' number dwindles. Not to worry: attentive readers will notice that the rabbits are escaping down a hole and, at book's end, it's revealed that "Dinnertime!" (set in slightly larger type, off to the side) is actually the call of their exasperated but doting mother. The artwork explodes with anxious excitement and ever-varying mise-en-scene. In one spread, the fox bursts through bales of hay as the rabbits scatter in the foreground, and sheep, mice and scarecrow observe like a hand-wringing Greek chorus; in the scene that follows, Argent moves the pursuit to the background, while the animals' worried reaction takes center stage. She wisely tempers the high-stakes action with soupçons of anthropomorphized humor: one bunny uses the scarecrow's kerchief as a superhero cape, and a pair of sheep stand on their hind legs and clutch each other in fear as they urge the rabbits to run. A high-energy romp. Ages 3-7. (Apr.)