cover image My Mother's Secret Life

My Mother's Secret Life

Rebecca Emberley / Author Little Brown and Company $15.45 (32p

Emberley (Three Cool Kids) recounts a girl's glittery fantasy of the big top, where the trapeze artist hides a secret identity. The story opens as the narrator, her cat and her dog have just made a royal mess at home. ""Holding her head, my mother said, `Enough. This place looks like a three-ring circus!' "" After Mom stomps off to her room, the narrator retaliates by painting the refrigerator. She then takes a nap and dreams about attending an actual three-ring circus. The scene turns nightmarish when the dreamer angers a fellow circus-goer, but calm returns when a masked performer whisks the girl to safety. "" `Mother!' I cried. `Who else?' said the lady."" When the girl wakes, all is forgiven. If the text is disjointed, energy erupts from the dazzling illustrations, rendered in color-saturated, mixed-media collage. Emberley adroitly assembles cut-paper shapes and uses novel props like mesh fabric and tinsel. Metallic surfaces gleam without glaring, shadows peek from between each handcrafted layer, and readers practically feel the textures of fuzzy feathers and plastic beads. This could inspire some cut-and-paste projects for those days when the house seems overtaken by Barnum and Bailey. Ages 4-8. (Apr.)