cover image It's Simple, Said Simon

It's Simple, Said Simon

Mary Ann Hoberman. Alfred A. Knopf, $15.95 (40pp) ISBN 978-0-375-81201-9

In the tradition of clever heroes who outwit wily animals, this agreeable picture book features an unflappable hero who is anything but simple. When challenged by various animals, Simon can growl like a dog, stretch like a cat and jump like a horse. ""It's Simple,"" says Simon. But when a cunning tiger asks the boy to demonstrate his skills, Simon needs all his wits about him to wriggle out of becoming the big cat's supper. Like the work of Ardizonne or Zemach, So's (Tasty Baby Belly Buttons) watercolor-and-ink illustrations feature loose lines and a strong sense of movement. Unfortunately, the expressiveness of her animal characters is often more appealing than that of Simon himself, whose face sometimes seems inconsistently drawn. Hoberman's (A House Is a House for Me) text borrows devices used by familiar fairy tale and nursery rhyme characters with plenty of repeated phrases and actions. But Simon so effortlessly outmaneuvers the tiger that the outcome doesn't come as a surprise. Nonetheless, So's swirls of color and animated black lines, her deliciously sly tiger and the varied design of the spreads and end papers all provide a sense of energy and excitement. Ages 4-8. (Mar.)