cover image PIE IN THE SKY


Lois Ehlert, . . Harcourt, $16 (40pp) ISBN 978-0-15-216584-0

Keenly aware of the cycles of the natural world, Ehlert (Waiting for Wings ) focuses her eye for vibrant hues and her ear for fascinating rhythms on a cherry tree and its many fruitful characteristics. An unseen child narrator is dubious when Dad says that the large tree in the family's yard is "a pie tree." ("I've never seen pie growing on trees. Wouldn't that be something?") But as the seasons pass, the child observes a bustle of activity in the tree at every turn: honeybees buzz around flowery cherry blossoms, birds nest in the branches, caterpillars hatch from chrysalises—and, finally, the red fruit ripens, attracting birds and other al fresco diners ("It's a cherry feast!"). By book's end, Ehlert moves from the outdoors in, depicting how the family harvests and prepares the cherries for a luscious pie (measuring out ingredients, which add up to a complete recipe—except for the crust). In this clever blend of field guide, artist's notebook and cookbook, the author/illustrator creates a series of intriguing seek-and-find collages composed of rich acrylics and pastels, cut, handmade papers and, yes, real cherry tree branches. Throughout, an economy of words and the narrator's chipper tone keep Ehlert's vision on track. Extending the basic elements of the story, she challenges readers to locate various creatures or objects on each page, prompted by small type that follows the pattern, "I see.... But no pie." All in all, a delicious outing. Ages 3-7. (Apr.)