cover image Rufus the Writer

Rufus the Writer

Elizabeth Bram, illus. by Chuck Groenink. Random/Schwartz & Wade, $17.99 (40p) ISBN 978-0-385-37853-6

Instead of selling lemonade, Rufus decides to open a “story stand.” He barters his stories for offerings from his friends, a diverse group of colors and sizes. Millie and her brother Walter are going swimming. “I’ll take one story, please. How much?” asks Walter. “Just bring me a special shell from the beach,” Rufus replies, and starts writing. “Red and Yellow got married and had a baby named Orange,” he begins, as the characters are shown as fish swimming among seaweed. Rufus trades a story about a cat for a newborn kitten, then remembers that his sister Annie’s birthday is approaching and writes a tale for her: “Annie could not pour the tea because the teapot and the cups would not stop dancing.” Groenink (Under a Pig Tree) gives the children simple forms and features, and the neighborhood’s trees pleasing, Matisse-like shapes. Bram, in her first children’s book since 1980’s Woodruff and the Clocks, questions the conviction that things only have value if they cost money, holding Rufus up as an unconventional hero whose creations draw his friends into community. Ages 4–8. Illustrator’s agent: Stephen Barr, Writers House. (July)