cover image Five Creatures

Five Creatures

Emily Jenkins. Farrar Straus Giroux, $16 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-374-32341-7

Three people and two cats form a cozy quintet in this volume, in which Jenkins (The Secret Life of Billie's Uncle Myron) playfully appraises a family's varied talents and tastes just the way a child learning to count might do. A girl, the diminutive version of her red-haired mother, does the accounting. She notices that of the ""five creatures"" in her family, there are ""Four who like to eat fish.... Two who like to eat mice. Only one who likes to eat beets."" A dinnertime image reveals each individual's preferences; purple vegetables fill the narrator's white plate, while the cats monitor a telltale hole in the wall. Round-the-clock glimpses of the household show ""One who sings loud late at night"" (a charcoal-gray cat in a moonlit window) and ""one who sings in the morning"" (the girl's father, standing over the sink in his striped pajamas). When her father falls asleep on the couch with the cats, the girl lists ""Three who nap with the Sunday newspaper."" She sits nearby, imitating her bookworm mother by flipping through a picture book: ""Two who can read, and one who is learning."" Bogacki (The Bird, the Monkey, and the Snake in the Jungle) suggests contentment with a subdued palette of autumn orange, sea green and creamy, pale yellow. His tranquil illustrations provide clues to Jenkins's narrative, which encourages deductive reasoning. Jenkins smoothly weaves logical analysis into a narrative that exudes warmth, and the book concludes with a gentle scene of togetherness: ""Five who sit together in the evening by the fire."" Ages 3-6. (Apr.)