cover image Hedgie's Surprise

Hedgie's Surprise

Jan Brett. Putnam, $16.99 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-399-23477-4

Brett's (The Mitten; The Hat) trademark, elaborately bordered paintings are once again the centerpiece of her latest tale set in timeless rural Scandinavia. And, as in her prior works, the author's endearingly expressive animal characters, depicted in meticulous detail, steal the show. After viewing Goosey-Goosey's brood of chicks, Henny the hen longs for her very own offspring. But each morning a greedy, elf-like ""Tomten"" steals her newly laid egg, insisting he needs ""a little yummy for my hungry, hungry tummy."" Henny awakens her friend, Hedgie the hedgehog, with a loud wail, ""No eggs, no chicks, no peeping babies,"" and he offers to help Henny put a stop to the Tomten's thievery. On successive days, her pal plants in Henny's nest an acorn, a strawberry, a mushroom, a potato and--in the ultimate deceit--hides himself in the straw, rolled into a ball, which sends the rogue running after he picks up the prickly fellow. Thanks to Hedgie's cleverness, five eggs hatch into fluffy chicks, fulfilling Henny's wish for a family of her own. Youngsters will be happily diverted by the busy goings-on in both Brett's mainframe illustrations and elegant borders, which feature a red-and-white needlepoint background and egg-shaped spot art that tactically foreshadows the narrative. Ages 4-8. (Sept.)