cover image Traffic Jam

Traffic Jam

Seymour Chwast. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (HMH), $15 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-395-97495-7

The centerpiece of this book is a fold-out, six-panel cartoon image of stopped traffic, with dialogue bubbles providing the thoughts of frustrated passengers. The merest suggestion of a narrative sets up and issues from this image. While mother cat Babs is busy talking with her friends, her kitten wanders into a manhole and is summarily fished out by a man working inside it. A police officer then stops traffic so Babs can carry the truant kitten home. Chwast (Mr. Merlin and the Turtle) exhibits an ear for dialogue and a sense of humor in the time-lapse scenes of the traffic jam, which appear as readers peel away each section of the giant fold-out illustration of the jammed intersection. A dog thinks, ""Somebody better walk me soon or I'll wet the seat"" as its owner glares from the driver's side; three clowns complain, ""Josh's birthday party will start without us""; the firefighters worry about getting to their destination before the house burns down. The last page returns to the smaller world of the cats, as Babs stops to gossip and her kitten wanders off again. The variety of people in the central tableau--the bikers, farmers, wedding guests, ambulance, race car driver--may well give kids something to think about the next time they are stuck in traffic. Ages 4-8. (Sept.)