Eric Carle, . . Scholastic/Orchard, $19.95 (40pp) ISBN 978-0-439-41659-7

This collaboration between two artists, Carle explains in an introductory note, "required an artistic balancing act that still kept the project spontaneous." The result of their efforts is a resounding success.

Each author/artist relates the same cumulative story about a dog on its way to a human friend, gathering other animals along the way. With minimal text featuring an exuberant refrain (" 'May I come with you?' 'Yes, come along./ Our friend is your friend' "), each artist renders the scenario in spare artwork, rendered in his own distinctive style. Carle's English version begins at the front of the book and Iwamura's (the Fourteen Mice series) version, as is the custom in his native Japan, begins at the back. The two tales meet in the middle with a gatefold spread that unites the two human friends (Carle depicts a boy with a guitar, Iwamura a girl shaking a tambourine); youngsters open the gatefold to find the respective menageries in tow, and a song—with melody line provided—that incorporates all of the animals' sounds (in their order of appearance: "Bow Wow Wow/ Meow Meow Meow/ Cock a dood-le doo/ Baa Baa Baa/ Hop Hop Hop") in both English and Japanese. Inventively, as the story progresses, a small icon (a bunny with long ears; a boy with a baseball cap; etc.) designates each speaker's voice.

The remarkable achievement here is how well the two artists' styles—so different in media and execution—mesh. Carle uses his signature bold paint strokes and collage, Iwamura employs a fine black line and delicate watercolor wash; but each makes brilliant use of the white space surrounding the characters. When all of the animals join at the center, each pairs off with its alter ego; Carle's bold collage rooster, in fauvian greens, blues and reds, regards Iwamura's finely drawn, realistic counterpart, while the two dragonflies flit about. Eyes closed, Carle's boy strums his guitar, lost in song, while Iwamura's girl looks directly at readers, as if telling them to "Come along. Our friend is your friend." A charming ode to friendship and an ideal showcase for two varied and vibrant artistic styles. Ages 3-7. (Apr.)