cover image Rock-a-Bye Romp

Rock-a-Bye Romp

Linda Ashman, illus. by Simona Mulazzani. Penguin/Paulsen, $16.99 (32p) ISBN 978-0-399-17150-5

Let’s face it: as nursery rhymes go, “Rock-a-bye Baby” is ominous at best. Beyond being a real cliffhanger, “And down will come baby, cradle and all” isn’t exactly fodder for sweet dreams. “Sweet little Baby, rocking with me—/ Who’d put a cradle high in a tree?” muses Ashman (Little Baby Buttercup) toward the end of her gently funny and eminently reassuring expansion of the original rhyme, which replicates the soothing rhythms of the source material. As her Baby makes a peregrinating journey—from treetop cradle, onto the back of a pig, down a river on a runaway boat, and so on—its journey feels more magical than perilous, as though nature itself were looking out for the wayward child. Mulazzini’s (Tree of Wonder) mixed-media paintings play right into the safe, secure mood. Her softly flowing shapes, subdued palette, and quirky details (like purple flowers nestled in the fleece of a sheep) create the sense of a dreamscape—a feeling enhanced by the animals and objects that appear in a mobile in Baby’s bedroom at book’s end. Ages 1–3. Author’s agent: Jennifer Mattson, Andrea Brown Literary Agency. Illustrator’s agency: Morgan Gaynin. (Jan.)