cover image We Sing the City

We Sing the City

Mary Beth Lundgren. Clarion Books, $14.95 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-395-68188-6

The opening page's flat rundown of the names of the 21 youngsters from various cultural backgrounds who here ""sing the city"" sets the torpid tempo of Lundgren's first picture book. Reproduced within Perrone's (The Rajah's Rice) full-spread illustrations, the choppy narrative reads as a free-association description of the sights, sounds and smells of most metropolises, giving a nod to ethnic diversity, workers, special events, flowers and trees, houses of worship and schools (including one named for ""Amelia Erhardt""). But the author's verse repeatedly reverts to humdrum listings--of specific neighborhoods (""Slavic Village, Warehouse District, Little Tehran""), types of birds and bugs, varieties of foods. The art is similarly erratic and also confusing--unlike the text, it has scenes specific to New York City. At their best, the illustrations show bustling, people-filled streets and imposing skylines. But a disappointing number of scenes, including one depicting particularly unappetizing ethnic foods floating in a cityscape and another showing a man raking stiffly while a boy examines a leaf nearby, lack the dash and dynamism of the environment they ostensibly portray. City kids may hear familiar strains in this song, yet too many notes are off-key. Ages 5-8. (Apr.)