cover image The Bird, the Monkey, and the Snake in the Jungle

The Bird, the Monkey, and the Snake in the Jungle

Kate Banks, Tomek Bogacki. Farrar Straus Giroux, $16 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-374-30729-5

Delicate, dense color and a mannered geometric layout politely call for attention in this rebus picture book by Banks (And If the Moon Could Talk) and Bogacki (Cat and Mouse). Small squares, like softly drawn computer icons, neatly contain symbols for the characters and objects in their environment. Mingled with the printed text and the full-bleed illustrations, these visual labels introduce a red-winged bird, autumn-brown monkey and gray-striped snake who share the same tree as their jungle home. Every morning, the bird sings, the monkey wakes to eat nuts and the snake complains when falling shells rain on his back. As a group, the three set out to find separate, private homes, but discover that the jungle's choicest branches are already occupied by the likes of squirrels and bats. Bogacki conceives of the wild setting as a grid of rectangles and curves, with mottled greens and dappled blues suggesting gentle sunlight filtered through a rain-forest canopy. Banks provides plenty of nouns (sun, bananas, leaves, etc.) to be included in the rebus. There's no flipping pages back and forth to read a master key; instead, at the top right of each spread, a helpful mini-key presents the pages' discrete symbols and what they represent. The text is laid out inventively--vertically, diagonally, etc.--but always clearly. This strategically structured volume, more puzzle than plot, makes an aesthetically pleasing introductory study in grammar, jungle life and cooperation. Ages 3-up. (Mar.)