cover image Incredible Ned

Incredible Ned

Bill Maynard. Putnam Publishing Group, $15.95 (40pp) ISBN 978-0-399-23023-3

""Watch what you say!"" has unusual implications for this far-fetched picture book's title character, whose words conjure objects in midair. Ned is an amiable boy with a shock of red hair, a shy smile and a humble demeanor, yet his talent labels him a troublemaker: ""When Ned said `giraffe,' you could see a giraffe,/ And its neck was so long it made everyone laugh./ ...No wonder the children didn't get their books read:/ It was so much more fun just to watch what Ned said."" Several solutions are suggested to curtail Ned's talent and thus make for a more conducive learning environment (the principal commands Ned to keep quiet; the nurse, in a disturbing double-page spread, suggests pills, which tumble and float by the hundreds in the accompanying artwork) but an art teacher proposes the winning solution: Ned learns that when he expresses himself with a paintbrush, his words no longer materialize. Maynard, in his picture book debut, readily explains Ned's magical abilities (""When your head's full of pictures, they have to come out""), while Remkiewicz (Froggy Gets Dressed) fills the volume with homogenous caricatures of friendly zoo animals and cheerful children. But the uplifting pro-creativity, be-yourself message is not enough to compensate for a one-joke text. Ages 4-8. (Sept.)