cover image Tenrecs Twigs

Tenrecs Twigs

Bert Kitchen. Philomel Books, $20.95 (24pp) ISBN 978-0-399-21720-3

Tenrec is a small creature, ``resembling something between a shrew and a hedgehog'' who wakes up one morning knowing that it is a great day for building. So he happily assembles some twigs, until a grumpy warthog mutters, ``Useless! A Waste of Time!'' and ruins Tenrec's mood. Tenrec needs a second, and then a third opinion about whether he is wasting his time, and the answers he obtains run the philosophical gamut: the parrot relies on word-of-mouth for his opinion, the giraffe has his head in the clouds and can't be bothered to respond, the pangolin is wrapped up in himself and just can't say, the two-toed sloth falls asleep before he can answer and the stork is so overcome by his own importance he can't speak. Finally the owl gives Tenrec's creative act a favorable review and the little fellow can go back to his task. Kitchen's animals, as in his Animal Alphabet , are sharp and defined on the page; he plants each of the central and southern African inhabitants against a pristine white background, and depicts their gestures with personality and charm. The story moves well, although adults may be troubled by Tenrec's need for the approval of others. But for those who can get past the preachier aspect of Tenrec's dilemma, Kitchen provides an unusual tale with many humorous flourishes. Ages 5-9. (Apr.)