cover image The Carnival of the Animals

The Carnival of the Animals

Jack Prelutsky, illus. by Mary GrandPré, music by Camille Saint-Saëns, Knopf, $19.99 (40p) ISBN 978-0-375-86458-2

Along with Peter and the Wolf, Saint-Saëns’s suite has long been the go-to piece to introduce children to classical music. This delightful collection of new poems by Prelutsky serves as both helpful libretto and stand-alone treasure. The poems correlate to the animal-themed movements and neatly capture each creature’s essence. Staccato verse mirrors the hens’ frantic pace (“They scurry scurry scurry/ They fuss and fret and fret and fuss/ With feathers in a flurry”), while humor spotlights the rooster’s machismo (“He seems to think a chicken egg/ Was something he invented”). GrandPré’s (Tickety Tock) vibrant acrylic and paper collage scenes exude the same imaginative insight. The feathers of the egocentric rooster curl into a finger that points to himself as he balances an egg on his beak. Wild donkeys, who “haven’t any manners,” are crazily disruptive at a birthday party, with one inhaling the food, sporting whipped cream and sprinkles on his head. This nod to the familiar pin-the-tail party game reveals just how deeply child-savvy these two talents remain. An accompanying CD contains music performed by the Württemberg Chamber Orchestra and poems read by Prelutsky. Ages 6–12. (Aug.)