cover image When I First Came to This Land

When I First Came to This Land

Harriet Ziefert. Putnam Publishing Group, $15.99 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-399-23044-8

With the same jolly spirit of last year's Caldecott Honor book, There Was an Old Lady, Taback and Ziefert interpret another classic American folk song. The cumulative verse tells of a man who arrives in America with next to nothing and cheerfully makes the most of adverse conditions: ""I called my cow/ No-milk-now!/ I called my shack/ Break-my-back!/ I called my horse/ I'm-the-boss!"" Lest anyone take the narrator's complaints seriously, Taback's boldly colored and zestily skewed illustrations deliver the comedy, as when the narrator's newly introduced spotted pig (""Too-darn-big!"") stands on its hind legs, hugs its owner and seems poised to deliver a sloppy lick on the face. The artist handily acknowledges the historic aspects of the verse as well. Cleverly exaggerated folk-like paintings subtly incorporate foreign objects--for example, in the opening scene, which shows the narrator making his landing on U.S. soil, the bottom of the picture is strewn with canceled stamps, snippets of ticket stubs and a tiny newspaper facsimile trumpeting ""Immigrants Arrive!"" Readers are treated to playful perspectives as the horizon curves crazily or as the interior of the shack lists at impossible angles. All that's missing is the music; happily, the art has rhythm aplenty. Ages 4-8. (May)