cover image Mud


Mary Lyn Ray. Harcourt Children's Books, $16 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-15-256263-2

The eye-catching cover of this cheerful homage to the coming of spring features a splendid close-up of chubby toddler feet happily stuck in ""gooey, gloppy, mucky,/ magnificent mud."" ""One night it happens,"" Ray (Pumpkins; Shaker Boy) begins mysteriously. ""...Someone opening/ a door will notice:/ earth comes unfrozen."" Stringer, in her auspicious picture book debut, portrays a solitary child viewing the brown leaves that ""loosen/ from their frozen drifts and run/ rattling in the flapping wind,"" then playing in a gigantic mud puddle (""Stir it. Stick it./ Dig it. Dance it""). The reader sees the child's yellow boots and red socks give way to muddy toes and a single, full-length portrait of the child almost flying through the inviting springtime air. The bold acrylic paintings burst from their full-bleed spreads like tulips, with skewed perspectives and scalloped, abstract designs representing the grass and clouds. If not in the same league as e.e. cummings's famous ""mudluscious"" tribute to spring, Ray's brief poem nevertheless captures the joy of seeing winter ""Squish Squck Sop Splat Slurp/ melt in mud./ Happy mud."" Ages 3-8. (Apr.)