cover image Tidy Lady

Tidy Lady

Anne Morrow Lindbergh. Harcourt Children's Books, $13.95 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-15-287150-5

In a picture book with an unusually long text, Lindbergh tells a story illustrating the folly of regiment. A girl and her brother watch a tidy lady move in next door. The overgrown lot was a wonderful place to play, they tell her. But she decides to clean it up, and (for no apparent reason) they help her. Nothing's good enough. Trimming bushes isn't enough--she finally rips them out. Birds are a ``dreadful nuisance,'' so she banishes their nests. The clean sweep continues, until the lawn itself is rolled up like a carpet, the trees are gone and the place is finally as ``tidy'' as the lady wants it. But she isn't through. She rakes the stars out of the sky and peels off the sky into a trash bag, and then it occurs to the tidy lady that children are a nuisance, too. When she walks away that night with her house folded neatly under her arm, the children slip back next day and restore everything to its natural state. This is a thin story, dependent on cumulative exaggeration for effect, and without understandable motivation for the rather passive children. Still, the illustrations are well done, the visual effect is pleasing and the lesson of laissez - faire is clear. Ages 4-8. (Sept.)