cover image Bartleby Speaks!

Bartleby Speaks!

Kevin Hawkes, Robin Cruise, , illus. by Kevin Hawkes. . FSG/Kroupa, $16.99 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-374-30514-7

Bartleby Huddle, a winsome three-year-old with jug-handle ears, is the joy of his opera-singing mother, his cello-playing father, his tap-dancing sister and their enthusiastic poodle. But he won't talk, no matter how much they clamor to show him how. It's not until Grampy Huddle visits on Bartleby's birthday that the boy's real soul mate is revealed (no coincidence that Grampy has jug-handle ears, too). Out on the porch swing “they listened to the lilacs swish in the breeze. They swung. They held hands... And they didn't say a word.” Hawkes's (The Road to Oz ) clear, sunny watercolors lift the story to pleasing heights, like the balloons at Bartleby's birthday party. There, like an oracle, Bartleby speaks at last: “Listen!” is his first word—and his family does, hearing sounds they've never heard before. The story brightens considerably when Cruise (Only You ) introduces Grampy. The dual themes—accepting children as they are, and understanding the meaning of silence—could easily compete for readers' attention. Fortunately, in this duo's hands, they appear as a satisfying whole. Ages 4–8. (Aug.)